Barbecue Sauce with Compliments

Last night, I prepared roast beef with potatoes and carrots for dinner for probably only about the third or fourth time in my life. Then I remembered why I rarely made the dish.

Younger is not a dedicated fan of roast beef.

“I don’t hate it, Mom,” he assured me with a shrug. “I just don’t really like it.”

But then, later, as I worked on my computer, engrossed in writing a Christmas play, Younger wandered into the living room. “Mom, the reason I don’t really care for roast beef is because I feel like you chew it and chew it then finally just have to give up and swallow,” he told me. “But –”

And with the upturn in his voice, I was totally preparing myself for him to tell me my roast beef was chewable, a compliment of sorts, one I would have accepted, as I have no illusions of myself as a cook.

I straightened my shoulders a little.

I started to smile.

“But,” he continued, “if you put a little barbecue sauce on it, it just slides right down.”

Some sons brag on their mommas’ cooking.

Mine, they apparently suggest barbecue sauce to help it all go down.

That’s lovely.

Just absolutely, perfectly, fine-and-dandy lovely.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

That Thing

Younger identifies three categories of vehicles — cars, trucks, and vans. I have encouraged him to add a few categories, but he is happy with his three.

“Younger,” I have muttered with exasperation. “One day, you will witness a crime, and you will tell the cops that the criminal jumped into a white van, and meanwhile, he’s escaping detection in a white Chevy Blazer.”

But he says the odds of him witnessing a crime are low, so he sticks with his categories.

The other day, we were circling the school’s parking lot at halftime of the football game, watching for fans leaving early, when the lights of a van flashed in the darkness. Circling around one block of cars, we came back to search for the empty space.

“Is that where the van was parked?” I asked Younger, frowning.

“Yeah,” he assured me.

“Huh,” I mumbled. “I thought it was farther down the row.”

“Huh-uh, it was parked right by that thing.”

In the process of pulling into the empty space, I touched my brakes to glance at Younger then follow his pointing finger.

I blinked. Twice.  Unlocked my jaw.

Then finished angling into the spot.

“Younger,” I said quietly, killing the engine with a twist of the key. “I think you may be the only male in America who would point at a Corvette and call it ‘that thing.’ ”

“It’s just a car, Mom,” he reminded me.

Well, yeah, sure, just a so-shiny-you-can-spot-it-in-the-dark, blue, convertible, fairly expensive, sports . . . car.

The Corvette.

Or, you know, more commonly known as “that thing.”

 

 

The Philosophy of Life

So, Monday was the first day of Younger’s senior year. Monday, the day of the solar eclipse. The solar eclipse that Younger wanted to travel to see in totality.

Instead, he had to settle for a ninety-eight percent solar eclipse.

So, early Monday, standing outside his bedroom door, I took a deep breath then rapped my knuckles lightly against the wood. “Morning,” I sang lightly, poking my head in.

“Hmmph,” I heard from the pile of bedcovers.

“Hey, Younger, if you get ready quickly, I can take you to breakfast before school.”

One eye appeared, blinking at the light. “McDonald’s?”

And for a few brief moments, I was pleased that I had brightened his day just a bit. But, once he was begrudgingly prepared to venture toward his last high school year, I could not find my car keys.

You need keys to venture.

So, instead, after frantically searching for several minutes, I grabbed the keys to our 1996 Ford F-150. A bit of a rougher ride than the car. But, except for the steering wheel cover that long ago degraded into sticky rubber particles, not a completely bad drive.

Well, and except for that forgotten refrigerator in the back.

“I’m not getting McDonald’s, am I?” Younger commented as we stood shoulder to shoulder staring at the freezer door wedged at an awkward and askew angle between the refrigerator and tire well.

But we embraced our inner redneck and climbed into the ancient truck, not getting above fourth gear during the entire thirteen miles. But we, eventually, arrived successfully at the stoplight in front of the school.

“At least we beat the traffic,” Younger managed a bit of optimism.

“Yeah,” I glanced at the lo-ooo-ong line of cars snaking behind us and turned into the parking lot with a sigh. “Yeah, well, we might have actually been traffic.”

As he slid from the truck seat, Younger hiked his backpack onto his shoulder. “It could have been worse. That’s about all I can say about it.”

I think, sometimes, that is the philosophy of life.

It could have been worse.

And that’s about all I can say about it.