Little Handprints

For Thanksgiving, I had a week without classes. So, I did some fall cleaning, which included washing the downstairs windows and French doors. Two days later, however, I walked into the living room, glanced at the glass in my door, and gasped at the sight of two handprints marring the recently acquired perfection.

My youngest is thirteen. I should be given more than two days before I have to stop patting myself on the back for my cleaning skills.

“Who did that?” I demanded.

Younger squinted at me from his sprawled position on the sofa. “Did what?”

“Those handprints.” I eyed him suspiciously. “Looks like they’re at about the right height for you, actually.”

“Nah,” he assured me, pushing himself onto his feet so that he could cross to the door. And before I could glean his intent, he slapped his palms smack-dab against the glass. “See. That’s where mine would be.”

Then as the are-you-kidding-me cloud lowered over my face, realization dawned in his eyes. Dipping his chin, he giggled then moved way beyond my reach, clearing my view of the now four handprints splayed across my glass.

I remember when his kindergarten teacher pressed his little handprint into plaster, the tug at my heart as I traced the indention of stubby little fingers already wondering where the time had gone.

Yeah, not the same feeling at all.

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The Wonder of Thanksgiving

The other night, it was just Elder and me at home, a rare occurrence. So, I let him talk me into Mexican, which wasn’t a hard sell. And then I let him talk me into watching an episode of Psych with him, which was.

But by the last fifteen minutes, he was leaning against my shoulder, eventually even snuggling a little further down against my side and tossing my arm around him. I held very still so as not to spook him into flight, my capricious sixteen-year-old. And so he remained tucked against me.

It was my own Thanksgiving miracle.

And I hope all of you experience your own wonder on this holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

The Towel Dispenser

It’s a wonderful age of technology that we live in. I can find a different version of towel dispensers and hand dryers in every restroom across the nation.

The old-fashioned metal box screwed to the wall, sometimes stuffed with paper towels. The box with the blue towel that revolves around a cardboard cylinder and is supposed to convince me I get a fresh section with just one tug. The box that reveals a jagged edge of a paper towel, so that if I pull just right I may get the whole towel but I usually manage to snag only a corner of it.

The blow dryers with the huge button I hit with my elbow for sanitary purposes. The automatic blow dryers that blast almost warm air as long as I stand in the right position. The overly motorized automatic blow dryers that reveal how the skin will flap around on my hands when I am 154 years old.

But my favorite is the box that automatically spits the next paper towel out at me while I’m still using the first.

“Why, thank you,” I murmured to the generous dispenser, accepting the offering. “How thoughtful.” And it automatically presented the next towel. And I automatically took it.

Then by the fourth towel, I realized I had to stop because the dispenser wasn’t gonna.

Returning to our table from the restroom of a local restaurant, I explained the difficulty of walking away from proffered towels. My husband ignored me. Younger rolled his eyes at me.

Fifteen minutes later, returning from his own trip to the restroom, Younger slid into his chair, murmuring, “It is hard.”

It’s nice to know my genes will continue.

Younger

While Elder considered me the captive audience for his wisdom, our younger son saw me as the damsel in need of rescuing.

When he was four-years-old, Younger caught me in the tiny hallway of the apartment where we lived, holding up his hands and demanding, “Who do I look like?”

So, I inspected his new red gloves that were decorated with spider webs and the name of a certain superhero and then I hazarded a guess. “Spiderman?”

“You’re right!” he declared. “What’s your name?”

“Mommy,” I answered.

“And what’s your problem?” he asked, preparing for battle.

Not having a ready answer, I borrowed from Ray Stevens. “Somebody grabbed me, and he’s tying me up, and he’s throwing me on the railroad tracks and, AAAAAAAH, here comes the train! HERE COMES THE TRAIN!”

Immediately, Spiderman a.k.a. Younger shifted into his superhero stance, thrusting hands forward, fingers folded into his palms, shooting webs from his wrists. And he saved me. Just in time for me to finish cleaning the toilet. I cannot describe the relief.

And so it continued. Soon, the entire apartment was littered with webbed bad guys that I had to vacuum and dust around.

Then Younger followed me to the front closet. “What’s your problem?”

“Oh, Younger,” I said wearily, trying to shove various cleaning products back into my bucket. “I don’t know.”

But Younger had not yet finished with his rescuing. So, he glanced over his shoulder then leaned furtively towards me to whisper, “Is it the man sitting on the sofa?”

Biting back a grin, I too glanced over his shoulder at my husband who was sitting on the sofa. “I gotta tell you, Spiderman, he’s one of my biggest problems.”

So, Spiderman webbed him.

Oh, yeah, definitely my hero.

Elder

At the grand age of twenty-four, I became a mother to my elder son. He looked so much like my husband that I should have known that he was trouble. But I was fooled by the tiny packaging.

When he was not even quite four years old, we had a debate on the way to the babysitters, who only lived about three minutes from our house. It all started with his comment, “Mommy bulls are mean, did ya know it? But Daddy bulls are nice. You can ride ’em.”

Now, I had so many objections to that statement, I barely knew where to begin. I mean, really, Mommy bulls are mean? Because they’re mommies? Never mind that they don’t exist. It’s the idea. Then, you can ride Daddy bulls? Who said? Not while I have breath left in my body. Huh uh.

But I started with what would seem to be the least controversial. “Elder Son, there are no such things as Mommy bulls. Bulls are boys and can’t be Mommies.”

“Mommy, you’re messing up my words. I don’t want ya messing up my words. Listen. I saw Mommy bulls.”

“Elder, honey, no, you didn’t. There aren’t any such things as Mommy bulls.”

He paused, then, in a rather scandalized voice, asked, “You mean you’ve never seen ’em?”

And so I lost. To a three-year-old.

It was a bad sign.

I’m the grown-up…

I remember the time when I thought the grown-ups had life all figured out.

Yesterday really wasn’t that long ago, after all.

But I can no longer lie to myself. The forty-year-old that stares at me from the mirror is actually me –– in all my fading glory. I’m the grown-up. And I don’t have life figured out.

At all.

In 2010, I accepted a job at a local army installation. For the first time in the fifteen years since receiving my undergraduate degree in history, I was working in my chosen field. I was an archivist assistant. The title sounded appropriately drudge-and-dreary. And I was being asked to research and write about history. I know, right? I had managed to snag a dream job. Well, my dream job, because I’m strange that way.

It only had one catch. Two, actually.

The first –– I had to be in school. No big deal. I would just get a master’s in professional writing. A second degree to bolster my climb up the civil-service ladder.

The second –– the contract had to be renewed every year. No problem. It was all routine. Student hire contracts were always renewed. Student-hires always stayed in the program. Student-hires always advanced into a permanent position.

I thought I had life all figured out.

No promises were made, of course. Every possible contingency, every possible if was explained.

But the ifs were irrelevant. After all, always is, well, always.

And then one of those oh-so-carefully-explained contingencies ripped my dream job right out of my hands, leaving me with a half-finished master’s degree and no real employment prospects.

And that is how I got to where I am today.

I’m home, in case that wasn’t clear. I’m home today. And tomorrow. And probably next month.

I’m the grown-up…

But I’m just pretending I’ve got life figured out.