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.