The Puddle of Nihilism

Every semester, for the first essay in Composition 1, following the design of the class, I ask each student to share an experience and analyze the impact the experience had on his or her life. And, of course, the experiences vary wildly from graduation or a senior trip to a grandmother dying to divorce and addictions to even child prostitution.

And, while I appreciate and respect every single student’s particular trust and courage in sharing his or her story with me, I admit that I am sometimes overwhelmed with serious, dark topics and the sometimes inevitable conclusion of “And I learned not to take life for granted.”

This semester, Younger is taking the same class in high school, receiving dual credit. He wrote, expressively in my opinion, of the experience that taught him intelligence actually requires work and study to be fully realized.

Apparently, his teacher offered the students in Younger’s class the opportunity to share their stories with the class in exchange for extra credit. And Younger thought he might like the extra credit.

“But then the first person read his essay, Mom,” Younger told me, his eyes wide.

“Did grandma die?” I asked.

“Every essay, Mom. Death, depression, and suicide. I couldn’t follow those essays with mine, Mom. I spent an entire paragraph on the weight of a duffel bag.”

“You might have — ”

“No, no,” he interrupted me. “The guy next to me wrote on a camp he went to. He had fun. When the other students started reading their essays, his face just –” Younger swiped a hand in front of his face, starting high at his forehead and ending below his chin, his facial muscles following the downward movement. “His face just fell. He didn’t read his essay, either, Mom.  I mean, some essays were good, but all of them were sad.  And,” he continued, “I started to feel sorry for my teacher.”

“You don’t feel sorry for me. I read those every semester, too. I have had to interrupt a student’s narrative describing grandma’s last days to explain the use of a comma splice. Which makes me feel like a genuine grammar Nazi — ‘so sorry grandma died, tough stuff, but you can’t use a comma this way.’ ”

“But, Mom, Mr. English was right there, right then. And I felt sorry for him.  And the other students were like, ‘Ooooh, that’s so deep.’ ” He dropped his voice a bit to quote one student, ” ‘And I was like a bird flying high above my problems.’ And then the others were like, ‘Ooooh, that’s so deep.’ And I’m like, no, no, you’re delusional and procrastinating.”

“Younger –”

“People mistake dark for deep, Mom. Nihilism can be a puddle.”

Well.

Perhaps I should consider using Younger’s words of wisdom next semester when I once again introduce this essay to a new gathering of students —

People mistake dark for deep. Nihilism can be a puddle.

Or maybe I’ll just try harder to get Younger to feel sorry for me.

That might have actual entertainment value.

 

 

 

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Technologically Challenged

Yesterday, our internet at home decided it did not want to play. So, I engaged in that time-honored ritual — I unplugged all the wires, counted to twenty, plugged in all the wires.

And still no internet.

Then after dinner, I had Younger pull all the wires. And we lived without internet for an hour or so.

Not really. We are no longer capable of living without internet. We actually drained the data on our phones.

But when we reattached all the wires to the modem, we still could not access the home internet. So, frustrated, I called the phone company.

After ten minutes of trying to answer the mechanical man who assured me I could speak to him in full sentences but kept asking me the same questions, I finally voiced, “Can you connect me to a real person?”

Then he put me on hold for eight minutes. Where another mechanical voice would randomly thank me for my patience. As if that would make me have some.

It didn’t.

The same voice would randomly tell me if I could access the internet on my phone or tablet, I could use the app to have my conversation with a service tech. After the fifth recitation of that bit of advice, I yelled at my phone that if I had the internet, I wouldn’t be calling them. But, of course, the only response was the mechanical voice once again thanking me for my patience.

I still didn’t really have any. I may have had less than what I began with.

Yeah, actually, I did have less.

When I finally got through to a real person, she asked me what state I was from and gave me the “correct” number to call. So, I politely thanked her and ended the connection. Only to discover that was the number I had called twenty minutes earlier.

And my patience was officially fried to a crumbly crisp.

So, I fired up my hotspot and logged into our account on the website and started a live chat with a nice lady who told me to “take all my time” as I kept sending Younger upstairs to search the modem for whatever number she was asking for at the time.

Eventually, Younger showed up at the bottom of the stairs, a bit sheepish. “Uhhhhhmmm, Mom? I think maybe the modem didn’t get plugged back into the outlet a while ago. I think the internet is working now.”

Apparently, maybe, we aren’t sure exactly, but I might have unplugged the modem from the outlet then forgot I had done so. Then I might have sent Younger upstairs to pull all the wires and he might have unplugged the wires from the back of the modem, not realizing I had done my damage first.

And, when he put all the wires back into the appropriate places, he was still unaware the modem was actually unplugged from the outlet.

Which is probably a rather important component of a working modem.

So, yeah, I guess I’ll work on my patience.

And, I suppose, my memory, too.

 

Over the weekend, we took a trip with my husband’s family to Branson, an outing that included seeing Moses, a live show that includes animals and special effects

While we stood in line waiting to enter our section of the theatre — Section C, my husband leaned towards Younger. “This is the dangerous section, Younger.”

Younger eyed him, having already expressed some concern as to our escape plan if the animals decided to improvise their roles. “Why?”

“Yeah,” my husband told him with confidence. “Didn’t you see all the advertising signs on the way down here? The C’s will part.”

And while my husband inelegantly guffawed at his own play on words, Younger looked at me. “Is he serious? Or is that a bad joke?”

I unclenched my jaw to mutter, “Bad joke.”

My husband nudged him with an elbow. “The seas will part. Get it?”

All these years with his father and Younger still had to ask.

That’s almost as bad as the joke.

Nekkid Horses

Here is an old story from 2001 when Elder would have been not quite five years old and Younger not quite two . . .

Younger loves Toy Story I and II and, therefore, he loves all the related toys — Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head, Rex the Dinosaur and Bull’s Eye, Woody’s Horse. One Saturday, the boys and I decided to visit Mama and Papa — and my sister and nephew who were also at the house. On my way out the door, I grabbed Younger’s toys but I deliberately left Bull’s Eye’s saddle at home, as I figured it could easily be lost among all of Mom’s toys.

Once we were at Mom’s, I scattered the toys on the table in front of Younger then proceeded to converse with my sister as she made cookies. After a moment, my nephew appeared at my elbow to inspect Younger’s toys. Pointing at Bull’s Eye, he told me, “I have one of those.”

“Oh, you do?”

“Yep.”  He nodded. “But mine’s not nekkid.”

So, later, having heard my nephew’s comment, Elder dug through the basket of toys beside our sofa until he found the saddle. Unaware that I watched, he firmly stuck the saddle on Bull’s Eye back, muttering, “Well, now he’s not nekkid.”

But, you know, if horses without saddles are nekkid, I pass a farm on my daily trip to work that has some sorely embarrassed animals.