A VHS Time Warp

 

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you and sometimes, it arrives in time to help.

Let’s hit the pause button.

We used to own an obscure Disney movie that was part of an extensive VHS collection. It lived in a box labeled “Mommy’s Sanity”. We dipped into it so frequently that my two year old could operate the VCR on his own. I should have asked him to program it so the time displayed correctly. Too late now.

Some of you may have seen “So Dear to My Heart” at one time or another. I suppose its popularity faded as fast as an actual Disney movie with morals – and Bible stories! – in it would. It’s as preachy as Pollyanna and as bathed in buttermilk as Charlotte’s Web. You might be wondering whether my kidlets picked up some nice manners or learned a few lessons on how to respect their elders.

But no.

Fast forward about sixteen years.

My baby boys are all grown up and can drive cars and everything, although I feel in my bones that driving the VCR was far less dangerous. A friend of theirs is flying into San Diego and my boys insist that they are going to pick him up at the airport. I attempt logic first.

“No problemo. I’ll drive you guys and you can load him into the car. Just ignore me, pretend I’m the chauffeur.”

“No, mom. So uncool. We don’t need a driver. We can do it ourselves.”

“You’ve never been to the airport to pick someone up before. The place is a multilayered pretzel on steroids. You’ll take the wrong exit and get all turned around and the clock will be ticking while your friend stands on the curb wondering where you are and YOU NEVER SHOW UP.”

“Mom. Jeez.” Eye rolls, pats on the head, and the casual mention of senility because apparently mama has forgotten that they are MEN and can DO this and just hand over the KEY.

“Look. Boys. You don’t have smart phones. I’ve never seen you read a road map. The place is crawling with one way streets. Just call me when you get lost. I’ll talk you in from where ever you are stuck and get you there, okay? Easy, peasy. Don’t panic. Just pull over in a safe location and call me. Please.”

Three hours of phone silence go by. I hold my head high because this very fact proves beyond doubt that they are, indeed, men. I am that super cool mom who refuses to call them and check in. Instead, I pace the house and stare for the millionth time at the map of the San Diego airport.

“Just turn on Laurel,” I tell it.

When the men return victorious, I pat their little egos on the head and take my key back. I’ll check the paint job and the gas tank level later. There is loud banter as they proceed directly to the kitchen to attack the fridge and scatter its remains throughout my kingdom.

But later, in the shadows, a snitch tells me the story. He is both joyful and triumphant as he hits the rewind button.

“Mom. Remember that movie when we were kids? The one with the black sheep? And the kid wants to find honey? Remember that? Well, we got totally lost downtown today and we pulled over to discuss our options when a plane went over our head. So we decided to follow the planes.”

“Follow the planes?”

“Yeah. Like the movie. He tells the kid to just find a bee and follow it home. That’s where the hive is. So, we just kept turning on whichever road went the same direction as the planes. And we found the airport!”

Now, isn’t that a dilly?

Growing Pains

Something I wrote a while ago and I want to remember it.

I’m in mourning.  My unsuspecting child hit the point of no return on his timeline.  The moment when a boy becomes a man.  I do not refer to the rite of passage wherein he must kill his first bear or be tied to an anthill to prove his valor.  He just turned 13.

And he will never be the same.

My biggest newborn was a hefty 9 pounds, 7 ounces, and a happier baby you will never meet nor a sweeter little boy.  My son has always looked out for others, taken his turn, held my hand, tried to please.  He followed my fashion advice.  He excelled in school.  My kind and gentle giant.

But not today.

My poor innocent was poisoned with testosterone overnight and in his place is the Dr. Jekyll of teens.  It is suddenly asking too much to make eye contact, let alone enunciate, when he speaks.  A conversation of grunts is the new norm.  My tall handsome son has taken on a hunched shoulder and a slovenly hairdo.  Burping and body odor are no longer unfortunate incidents but matters of personal pride.

Oh my lovely boy, where have you gone?

Bill Cosby once said that he and his wife had five children “because they did not want six”.  I whole-heartedly agree.  Five is a wonderful number if you can pull it off.  Mine span ten years and I only hope that’s enough.  The timing with our family plan was that when the younger children were entering the delusional entitled teen years, the older ones would be exiting them with a new-found sense of gratitude and maturity.  This way, there would always be somebody in the house who still thought I might know something.

*sigh*

Our eldest son just came home from a year-long commitment on AmeriCorps.  At the tender age of 21, he returned to much fanfare and chicken enchiladas.

Sometime the next day, he pulled me aside and confessed that during his wanderings he realized that his parents had actually “busted their butts” raising him and his siblings and he appreciated it.  He met many, many kids out there with parents that they themselves were having to parent.

Home is a place for our kids to be kids but that may be a rarer thing than I assumed.

I remembered all the times I wanted to throw in the towel, give in to them, give up on them, or run away from them….but didn’t.  You practice doing the ‘tough love’ thing until you can balance the ‘tough’ with the ‘love’.

And eventually, if you don’t die of a broken heart first, they grow up.

I spent some years praying hard and loving our eldest furiously.  Sometimes it wasn’t pretty. I hoped his latest adventure would get his feet firmly planted and his head on straight.  And now his head, while definitely set much straighter, sports a fresh mohawk celebrating his graduation from the self-imposed straight and narrow. He stands tall and is ready to move on to the next part of his story.

He is kinder, he is gentler, he is thoughtful.

We make eye contact.

So in one month, I have lost a son and found a son.  There are places where the transfer is not yet complete; both need a haircut and who doesn’t love a good healthy belch?

I am going to miss my younger son terribly while he’s gone.  I see days coming where I will have to go ninja on him to save him from himself or perhaps hold tightly to some line in the sand while he figures out up from down.  But we are raising men and women of courage and values.

They will only know what that looks like by looking at us.

Of course, there is our youngest, yet untouched by teenager angst.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He provided the last-born comic relief for our family.  With all of the changes in our growing brood, his enthusiastic smiles and guileless dedication to childhood is refreshing. It reminds me that, like Peter Pan, that little sparkle of youth inside carries through, no matter what our age.

Growing up is a process of someone’s heart deciding who it wants to be and when.

There’s faith and hope and love during the wait.

And thankfully, plenty of laughter along the way.

Maternal Opus

Mothers are the stuff of legend.

They teach you to reach for the stars, but they reside in your heart.

Since she’s in there already, all you had to do was whisper ‘love you, mom’ this weekend.

Yeah, she heard you.

On Sunday, I received a necklace with a charm that is recycled from an antique typewriter. It’s the letter “J” on a slightly concave black key.

It delights me.

It represents all the words that I’ve ever written, and particularly every time I’ve signed my name to them. It’s something, to know a unique combination of the alphabet can be claimed.

Like naming a star. Humble in the grand scheme of things yet totally feasible.

I have been a writer all my life.

I wrote plays complete with staging directions in elementary school. I enthusiastically took a typing class in middle school, where I regularly won prizes for both reading and writing.

My family moved just as high school began and I spent a year writing long and witty letters to my friends left behind while trying to find new ones in a new town. When I found them, I wrote them some of my favorite things.

One of them was a short murder mystery ‘novella’ that included each one of them as a character. Once you have met my friends, you will understand that each of my characters was not only rich in exaggeration but full of self-truths about each and involved situations that they would have loved to have acted out in reality.

I let them choose certain plot twists as I wrote, a bit like ‘Mad Libs’ on a larger scale.

The ‘book’ was quite popular for its little moment of fame.

It’s probably sitting around here somewhere in a box.

I was the copy writer for our senior yearbook, excellent interviews and bad poetry included.

The summer after graduation I enrolled in the local community college, where I had written and won a small scholarship.

My boyfriend bought me a shiny new Brother typewriter with all the bells and whistles for my birthday. He really knew how to get to this girl’s heart.

And also wanted her to type up all of his college English papers.

The man was both romantic and clever. How could I not marry him?

Years went by surrounded with kids and chaos, yet my laptop and I managed at some point to re-write an entire PTA music program and write and win a grant to fund it.

Thank you, kids, for inspiring me to keep writing.

All mothers are storytellers.

The passers-on of family lore and namers-of-stars.

You, by far, are her brightest.