Appreciating the Classics

I finally bought myself a Kindle. And I downloaded a few of the classics, which, as a writer, I am apparently supposed to appreciate.

So, I opened Jane Eyre. And I discovered more than 400 pages of text.

Already my appreciation ebbed to a new low.

Then I noticed, in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, Kindle’s estimate on the length of time I would need to complete the book.

Fifteen minutes to finish the first chapter. Nine hours and several more minutes to finish the book.

And then it became a challenge.

That’s right. I read Jane Eyre, not to identify with her struggle between love and independence or to gain insight into the disparities between social classes during Bronte’s time. But to best Kindle in her little guessing game.

It may not have been my most shining intellectual moment.

But I won.

Get It, Mom?

Last Saturday, Younger had a math contest. Apparently, the bus driver took a right when he should have hung a left, and the math sponsor, trying to recover from a long night spent at a track meet, did not realize the mistake until they were an extra hour further from their destination.

Yet, I highly doubt they had gotten quite as far as Younger later implied.

“We saw camels,” he told us on the way home from the contest.

“My, you did get off the beaten path,” I responded, drily.

“That’s what I said,” was his quick reply. “I said, ‘Hey, we’re in the desert. Let’s visit the pyramids.'” Gathering momentum from my husband’s laughter, Younger continued, “One of the kids told me I didn’t see no camel. But I told him, ‘Sure, I did. They were brown and furry, had long legs, and were smoking cigarettes.'”

And then my husband barely managed to navigate the road while succumbing to bouts of hilarity.

Disappointed that I merely shook my head at him, Younger explained through his own giggles, “Get it, Mom? Cigarettes? Like Camel cigarettes?”

I get it.

I get that I have a son with a wild imagination and a quick tongue and a husband who encourages him.

Trust me, I get it.

Two Years

It’s been two years since my mom “fixed” the arrangement of dirty tableware in my dishwasher. Two years since she calculated how much money I could save if my husband stopped buying sodas at the gas station. Two years since she perched beside me on a bench cheering for whichever kid was running for his life with the football, regardless of whether the particular kid was on our team or not.

Two years since I heard her laugh.

Or heard her sing.

Or her voice on the telephone.

Or her playful arguments with Younger over which one of them actually loved me the most.

I miss her.

In the last two years, Elder turned sixteen and obtained his driver’s license, Younger became a teenager and earned a seat in the middle school’s jazz band, and I started and finished graduate school. All accomplishments I never had the chance to share with her.

I miss her.

Grief recovery isn’t an event. It’s a process. A cycle, in which the emotions return to batter and bruise the mourner until the pain eases from a sharp thrust to a dull ache.

There’s no over it.

There’s simply through it.

Maybe this year I won’t unconsciously wait for her phone call on my birthday.

Maybe.

But I still think of her every time I load my dishwasher.

And I miss her.

It’s a Dog’s World

I’d like to know how I decided a dog for each son on his birthday was a good idea. I think the hamster may have just been too tired to run the wheel on that particular day, because it has become painfully obvious that not every synapse in my brain was firing.

Having lived five of his six years in an animal shelter before we met him last July, George still prefers the protection of his little corner, often refusing to venture even from the porch when I release him during my lunch break. So, Monday, taking advantage of the warmer weather, I strapped leashes to him and Dusty and hit the road, almost literally as the two wound their leashes around my legs in their own diabolical plot to thwart me. And when I paused in our trek and bent to tug at the straps hindering my movements and threatening my balance, Dusty immediately launched at my face to deliver some enthusiastic kisses, forcing me to close my eyes and my mouth so that I worked the knots blind and mute. Meanwhile, George, considering his exercise complete for the day, twisted in the direction of the house, stretched the leash I was trying to unwind as tight as he could, and locked every muscle in his body.

Having had a halfway engaged hamster for that episode, I learned a lesson. And the next day, I cajoled Younger into taking one leash and the attached dog. I think I said something real enticing like, “Get your shoes. We’re walking the dogs.”

And so, Younger and Dusty, both with the energy of the very young, pranced and wriggled and danced their way down the road. George and I preferred the more dignified, sedate pace of him lurching to a dead halt every ten feet and refusing another step. Then I would encourage, beg, and drag him until he decided I might be the boss for another ten feet.

When I had finally wrestled him the intended distance, with Younger and Dusty circling us at regular intervals, I urged George around a loop until we pointed in the direction of home. And George didn’t bother with the encouraging or begging. Nope, he went straight to dragging me. And I learned the difference between walking a dog and the dog walking me.

And I think the hamster has taken a permanent vacation because, determined I will win this particular battle, I intend to pull him out for another walk today.

I can’t let a dog think he’s smarter than me.

Nope.

I have to prove it.