I Just Did Not See That One Coming

I have a lot of things to be thankful for. The first, of course, is my son, who brings me a kind of happiness that just can’t be described in words. Quite simply, I worship him. 

IMG_0638I thank God every single day for the gift I was given when Owen came into this world. His wit, his charm, his honesty, his sensitivity, his eccentricities. Just…him. He is truly my greatest joy.

Another great joy in my life is my job. One of the most wonderful aspects of being a teacher is when I get the opportunity to see former students grow up to become happy, successful adults. As an 8th grade teacher, there are few things I enjoy more than running into the once awkward, moody, hormone infested teenagers that not so long ago sat before me in class and seeing how they’ve transformed over the years to become wonderful human beings with thriving careers and children of their own. The special friendships that I’ve formed over the years with some of these “kids” mean the absolute world to me.

Recently two of my greatest joys in life collided when I had the pleasure of running into a student who I taught during my student teaching experience 22 years ago. She’s now 34 years old and has not one, not two, not three, but four children of her own. As is the setting of so many of the fiascos that I find myself writing about, I happened to be at a store with Owen when the encounter took place. At the grocery store, in fact, where I was somewhat unabashedly trying to decide whether I should buy the Crunchy Taco or Four Cheese Lasagna flavored Hamburger Helper to take home and throw together for dinner.

It’s true. Nothing’s too good for my family.

Already plagued by guilt because I was, once again, planning to serve a meal from a box (my son once told one of my friends that he was super impressed that she made homemade cookies because his mother only made cookies from powder that comes in a box), I was trying to be patient with him as he chattered on and on and on and on and on and…on about his latest Pokemon card purchase. When the conversation about the cards reached the official 25 minute mark, I decided it was time to beg him to please, for the love of all that was holy and pure, stop talking, just for one darn second, so that I could concentrate on the Hamburger Helper. And no…the profound sadness of that statement is not lost on me, but a decision had to be made (taco or lasagna flavored seasoning packet?) and I simply was not going to be able to make such an important call if my mind was clouded with thoughts about Pokemon water type attack moves…it just wasn’t.

I can only imagine how ridiculous I must have looked standing there in that aisle while holding each of the Hamburger Helper boxes about an inch from my face. As it turned out, I’d forgotten my reading glasses in the car, and in order to read the mouth watering descriptions on the boxes of powdered goodness, I had to do what I had to do.

And that, unfortunately, is the position I was frozen in when I heard a familiar voice say, “Miss St. Louis?” Still holding the boxes in the air, I turned my head to see the world’s most adorable family standing side by side in the aisle beside me. The first thought that struck me was that each of the children, though very clearly different ages and heights, looked nearly identical. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a set of nesting dolls all dressed in beautiful cream colored shirts with different variations of blue plaid pants and skirts. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they’d just stepped out of the cover shoot for Town and Country Magazine. The most interesting part was that two of the children were holding chapter books in their hands and were lost in reading. They hadn’t even looked up when their mom had stopped to talk.

I recognized my former student immediately, embraced her, and after a very quick discussion about how neat it was to be running into each other after 22 years, and a somewhat unexpected declaration from her that she was at the store looking for goat cheese for an organic recipe she was making (this revelation made the fact that I was still holding two boxes of Hamburger Helper all the more mortifying), the conversation turned to our children. She introduced all four of her beautiful little cherubs and they all smiled brightly and said their hellos. I commented on how impressed I was that two of them were reading in the grocery store and their mom assured me that reading was a passion for her children and then mentioned, as an aside, that they did not watch television or play video games. I would have started to explain my son’s limited exposure to video games, but the fact that he was standing there wearing a Minecraft t-shirt at that very moment seemed to speak for itself. Oops.

And that’s when the real fun began.

Realizing it was probably time for me to introduce my son, the one I just absolutely adore, the child who makes me proud in one million ways every single day, the same one I am always so eager to show off to the world…I was more than a little alarmed when I looked over to see him leaning up against a display of Rice-A-Roni, eyes lifted to the ceiling as if he were concentrating really hard on something, and while he was holding Pokemon cards in one hand, with the other he appeared to be using his index finger to drill holes into his head in a frantic circular motion.

What happened next is truly one of life’s mysteries.

The next thing I knew I was watching my child, who, because of the look on his face and the strangely contorted position of his body, looked more like a character from a Stephen King novel (you know, the creepy one in the insane asylum who’s crouched in the corner playing with a Jack-in-the-Box?) than a nine year old boy as he stood there twisting and turning a matted ball of his hair just above his temple.

Honestly, I would have been less horrified if he’d been picking his nose.

Thinking it couldn’t possibly get worse, I stepped toward him and asked, “Owen, what in the world are you doing?”

Are you ready for this?

With my former student and her choir of neat, clean, beautiful little angels watching intently, he removed his index finger from the knot he’d made in his hair to reveal a clump of brown gunk on the end of his finger. The very same finger that he then lifted to his nostrils and began sniffing.

Yes, I said sniffing.

When he was done taking several nice long whiffs, and with the brown stuff now outlining his nose, he held that finger out to me and asked, “Mom, does this smell like chocolate pudding to you?”

I can’t be sure, but I think I lost consciousness. The next thing I remember, my maternal instincts kicked in, and making the sudden realization that perhaps he was bleeding, I quickly grabbed his head and began looking for some kind of open wound. It’s going to make me sound like the world’s worst mother, but an open wound would have been more welcomed than what I found amid the mass of brown goop that was still dripping from his head.

Because what I found was a peanut.

That’s right. A peanut.

Though it took awhile, I eventually regained my ability to speak, and asked him where he thought he might have come into contact with chocolate pudding and peanuts over the course of his day. However, it seemed that he was as dumbfounded as I was and had absolutely no idea where he might have been in the general vicinity of either item. Seeing as we had been home together pretty much all day long, and knowing for a fact that there was no trace of either ingredient in our home, we were both at an absolute loss.

Completely flabbergasted, I decided that that moment was as good a time as any to introduce my son to my long lost student and her children. So, in as dignified a manner as was possible in a moment like that, Owen and I turned to look in their direction. The first thing I noticed was that both of the kids who had at one time been reading their books like their lives depended on it, now held each of the novels down by their hips as they stood wide eyed and gaping at my son. And while I’m not completely certain, I’m pretty sure the other three (mom included) took a few steps backward when we turned to face them.

Determined to have my moment to shine, I introduced Owen to the clan. To his credit, he was super polite…so polite in fact that he made the very valiant effort to swipe his index finger down the front of his Minecraft t-shirt in one long stroke to rid it of any excess pudding before reaching out to shake hands with my former student. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of him, and I really mean it.

I’m also not sure I’ve ever seen a more awkward handshake exchanged between two people in my entire life.

On my drive home I recapped the events of the last 20 minutes. I’d had the pleasure of reconnecting with a former student, one who had four children, all impeccably dressed and well behaved, and one who only cooked organic meals for her family. She’d introduced me to her children who had smiled politely and then returned to the novels they were reading or waited patiently for their mom to end her conversation. In turn, she’d had the opportunity to reconnect with her former school marm, one who is 9 years her senior, one who clearly cooks processed meals from a box, and one who has only one child who wears t-shirts displaying video game icons and who finds ways to mysteriously acquire gigantic blobs of chocolate pudding and peanuts in his hair without having the slightest clue how it happened.

As many of my current 8th graders would say, “Seems legit.”

In all of my 42 years on this planet, I have never, not even once, thought that the combination of chocolate and peanuts was a bad idea. Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups? Oh yes, I’m a huge fan. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies? Absolutely, bring them on. And finally, anybody who knows me can attest to the fact that I’ve always considered Dairy Queen’s Peanut Buster Parfaits to be the closest thing to Heaven this side of the Pearly Gates.

But chocolate pudding and a peanut in my son’s hair…in the middle of the supermarket…while meeting one of my former students? I just did not see that one coming.

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Really, I Do.

Note: 

August 25, 2014. The live version of The Sound of Music that Carrie Underwood starred in last year was up for a few Emmy Awards tonight. This seemed like a good time to get my original rant posted on my blog.

November 2013

Licking the remains of the last few specks of tart, Lik-m-aid Fun Dip powder from the sugary white dipping stick. Entertaining myself with my bright red, handheld Merlin game in the backseat of my mom’s car. Having my hopes dashed when the cakes that came out of my Easy Bake Oven neither looked nor tasted anything like the television commercials promised they would. Stepping on the brightly colored pegs from my Light Bright in the middle of the night on my way into pee (charming……I know). These are just a few of the memories I have of growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, and even though I’m fairly sure I still have shards of hot pink plastic lodged in the bottom of my left foot from that darn Light Bright, I love every single one of them.

As a middle school teacher, I’m constantly reminded of the differences between the world today and the one that existed when I was a teenager. We’ve traded Ocean Pacific, Members Only, Jordache and Esprit, for American Eagle, Under Armor and Abercrombie & Fitch. We’ve swapped IZOD’S alligator for Hollister’s seagull.

For the good, the bad or the ugly, gone are the days of Hammer Pants, rainbow colored leg warmers and “big” hair with teased bangs (the likes of which could easily poke one’s eye out if caught at just the right angle). Parachute Pants have been replaced by Cargo Pants, Jelly Shoes by Crocks, Banana Clips by Scrunchies, Stonewashed Jeans by Skinny Jeans and Boomboxes by i-pods. Hand written notes to friends now take the form of electronic text messages filled with variations of LOL, BTW, WTF (my apologies), ROFL and #Istillhavenoideawhatahashtagis.

How is it even possible that the decades that quite literally defined me as a person currently stand at #4 and #5 on today’s Most Popular Theme Parties Top 10 Lists? (It’s true. I GOOGLED it.)

I get it. Things change. Really, I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Growing up, there were a few things I could always count on…

  • Each year, on the morning of December 25, I found a book of Lifesavers Candy tucked away in my Christmas stocking.
  • I could accidentally sever a limb in a freak accident, but if it happened on a Thursday night between 8:00-9:00 pm while Mom was watching The Waltons, the medical attention required to reattach that body part would have to wait.
  • And last, but certainly not least, The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp, would air on TV every Easter weekend.

Watching The Sound of Music was a sacred experience in my house. SACRED. The excitement and anticipation that shot through me was palpable as I eagerly awaited ABC’s Special Family Presentation of the classic film. I can still smell the butter and taste the salt on the popcorn that my mother made just before the movie began. I remember scurrying to move the coffee table out of the way so I could spread the afghans (which had been knitted with love in the beautiful hues of gold, rust orange, brown and avocado green so popular in the 70s) across the living room floor. Once I’d marked my territory with the afghans, I’d arrange my pillows for maximum comfort in front of the television and just wait for the magic to happen.

There was no bigger thrill than when a commercial would end, the screen would  momentarily go blank and the clouds that hovered above the Alps would miraculously appear on the screen. The excitement would build when only a few seconds later the wind began whistling through those mountains as the camera slowly panned its way from sky to land. Unknown-1 Every year it was as if that very breeze transported me directly to Salzburg, Austria where I had a front row view of Maria twirling delightedly through the hills. At the end of the opening scene, the bright yellow script the movie title was written in faded into the background, and I sat back and watched as my beloved Maria began her transformation from bumbling nun-to-be, to the Von Trapp children’s favorite governess and eventually Georg Von Trapp’s wife.

In spite of my love and adoration for the film, and my many protests, pleas and promises to be cheerful and chipper the next day, Mom and Dad always made me go to bed right after Maria ran away, guitar in hand, after confessing to Baroness Von Schrader (yes, of course I know her name) that she was, in fact, desperately in love with Captain Von Trapp. Every other night of the year my parents were fast asleep on one of the downstairs couches, snoring away, but never, not even one time, did either of them catch a single wink when I was trying to just once, for the love of God, stay up and watch the rest of that movie. I honestly think I was thirteen years old before I finally saw the actual wedding, the performance by the Von Trapp Family Singers (thanks to the sneaky antics of Uncle Max), and the final escape the family made into the mountains after being saved by the devious shenanigans of Mother Superior and her band of outlaw nuns. In the end, the only reason I was able to finally see the the whole movie wasn’t because I was allowed to stay up late, but because it was the mid 80s and we finally got a VCR.

Looking back, the first time I saw the movie all the way through was memorable for a lot of reasons. Not only was I actually seeing the film in its entirety, but it was also the first time I remember having a true understanding of what that Nazi Flag symbolized. As if I didn’t already have a million reasons to adore Georg Von Trapp, making the discovery that he was a Nazi resister made him even more endearing than ever.

So, what in the world does all of this have to do with anything? A few nights ago I was sitting on the couch correcting papers. I always keep the television on to have noise in the background. It was getting late, my contacts were drying out, and I was ready to call it a night. Just as I was about to hit the power button on the remote, a commercial came on proudly proclaiming that on Thursday, December 5, Carrie Underwood would be starring in a live production of The Sound of Music.

The first thing I did was check the glass on the coffee table to reassure myself that I had, in fact, only been drinking ice tea and not something stronger. Then, when Ashton Kutcher was nowhere to be seen and it was clear that I wasn’t getting Punked, the second thing I did was rewind the commercial (DVR is one update I’ve welcomed with open arms). Much to my horror, I made the discovery that I was not mistaken, I had heard correctly. Carrie Underwood is definitely going to be performing The Sound of Music in front of a live audience in just a few weeks. Nope. Not kidding. It’s true. And every time I see the commercial, I die a little on the inside.

The last thing I did that night was cry myself to sleep.

Okay, not really, but I came pretty darn close. I tossed and turned and tried like heck to put the irrational amount of angst that this new development was causing me into perspective. I mean come on, there are certainly more important things to worry about, and I assure you that I do have my priorities straight. But this is THE SOUND OF MUSIC for crying out Christmas. One of the last unchanged remnants of my childhood. The movie I acted out in my back yard for hours on end. The reason I will go to my grave with a scar just above my right elbow because, as it turns out, running in circles on benches and singing about being sixteen going on seventeen isn’t as easy as Liesl and Rolph made it look.

In order to calm down, I tried to remind myself that the intention of the Underwood performance appears to be to replicate the original Broadway version of the play and not the film, but still, in my mind, Julie Andrews will always be Maria Von Trapp. And I mean always. When Julie Andrews wasn’t singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, she was starring as Mary Poppins and singing about spoons full of sugar.

What’s Carrie Underwood singing about when she’s not performing live on stage as Maria Von Trapp? Oh, that’s easy. She’s singing about digging her keys into the sides of pretty little souped up 4 wheel drives (again, GOOGLED it).

Please, don’t get me wrong. I promise you, I understand that things change. Really, I do. Just last evening, when I was walking around the local mall, I did a lot of reflecting about the good old days. I was momentarily saddened by the fact that the original Dunkin Donuts at the mall (with its memorable chrome and hot pink vinyl stools), is now a Ruby Tuesdays. If I want to get coffee at the mall these days I have to go to Java Junction and order from a menu that I can only make out with the help of my reading glasses. I’m okay with that. I’m even okay with the fact that the original Gap clothing store, with its orange storefront, is now in a different location and has been replaced with Hollister, the store my son refers to as “the haunted house” because of its unique entryway.

But ask me to think of Maria Von Trapp as anyone other than Julie Andrews and it’s not going to happen.

Not ever. No dice.

Having had a couple of days to let the reality sink in, I can’t help but wonder what’s next for crying out loud? Lady Gaga reprising the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind? Will the young and old alike flock to theaters to see Miley Cyrus (foam finger and all) replace Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Better yet…let’s plug Andrew Dice Clay into Gregory Peck’s role as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and see how that turns out.

Not that I’m bitter.

In case there’s any question, on the evening of December 5, I will be in the middle of my living room floor, making myself comfortable on my afghans and with my pillows piled high. And though I won’t have Mom’s awesome popcorn dripping with butter and salt, I will have my 94% fat free microwave popcorn by my side. I’ll also have my life size cardboard cutout of Julie Andrews there with me just in case I get overwhelmed and need some support.

Just kidding, that would be weird. I only bring that out when the actual film is being aired.

Finally, don’t get me wrong. I happen to think Carrie Underwood is a terrific singer with a wonderful voice. It’s nothing personal. Honestly, it isn’t. In fact, I give her a lot of credit for being willing to take on such a huge responsibility, especially in a “live television event” during primetime. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on her, that’s for sure, and when all is said and done, I wish her all the best. I hope, after all my ranting and raving about her taking on this role, that she does a phenomenal job.

At the end of the day, as it so often is, I hope the joke’s on me.

Really, I do.

Here’s to Jeanie…

“Got a problem with earwax? I was about your age, I figure, when I started having problems with earwax.”

Those were the first words out of the mouth of an elderly gentleman when he approached me in the Diabetic Needs, Ear Care & Bladder Control aisle on one of my recent trips to Target. Not wanting to be rude, but also not entirely sure I’d heard him correctly, I turned my head and simply said, “Excuse me?”

Seeming to have fully confirmed his suspicion that my ears were indeed chock full of wax, he took a few steps closer to me, got up on his tiptoes (still not sure why he did that since he was already about a foot taller than I am), cupped his hands around his mouth like he was getting ready to cheer on a batter at home plate, and loudly stated, “YOU MUST BE HAVING A PROBLEM WITH EARWAX! I WAS ABOUT YOUR AGE WHEN THAT SAME DARN THING WITH EARWAX STARTED HAPPENING TO ME. IT’S A ROUGH THING, THAT EARWAX!”

Now, I ask you…how is one supposed to respond to a declaration like that? My first instinct was to simply request that he please, for the love of God, stop saying the word earwax. My second, which is the route I ended up choosing, was to explain that no, it was not a relief to earwax I was seeking, but earplugs. Appearing openly disappointed that I wasn’t being plagued by serious earwax issues, he inquired further, “You tryin’ to avoid swimmer’s ear or is someone snorin’?”

This man, as it turned out, asked a lot of personal questions.

A few seconds into my explanation of why I was looking to buy earplugs (I still can’t tell you just exactly why I felt compelled to explain my purchase to him) I became aware of a woman’s voice, bordering on a shriek, calling, “Clark! Clark? Clark!? Where in the Hell are you this time? CLARK!” Having no idea that the man in front of me was, in fact, the Clark that the voice was so desperately seeking, I assumed it was a disgruntled parent looking for a child and continued with my explanation.

It was at that very moment that a red and sliver scooter came screeching to a halt at the end of the aisle. The woman driving the scooter had a bright red, shiny face that indicated her anger even before she spoke. Pointing directly at my new friend, she bellowed, “YOU!” and backed the scooter up until she disappeared almost completely out of sight…beep…beep…beep. Then, just like in a scene from a movie, she came cruising around the corner at full speed (at least a good 5 mph) and headed straight for Clark. When she’d driven the 6 or 7 feet and arrived at her destination, she came to a dead stop, shot an angry look my way, zeroed back in on Clark, and not so daintily exclaimed, “Well, Hell!” In response, Clark, who appeared completely unaffected by the scene, simply shrugged his shoulders and stated, “Sorry Jeanie, I just got sidetracked.”

Seeming determined to make an awkward scene just that much more uncomfortable, Jeanie switched gears (not literally, thank God, as the front wheel of the scooter was dangerously close to my newly painted toes) and turned her wrath on me. She looked me up and down, clenched the handles of the scooter just a bit more tightly (if it had been a motorcycle she was sitting on this would have been the equivalent of revving the engine I should think), spun her head back around to Clark and commanded, “When you’re done flirting with Little Miss Bedroom Eyes here, maybe you could come help me find my creams!” And with that, she was off.

The last image I had of Jeanie was of her zipping away on her scooter. I’m 100% sure that if that woman could have gotten up the speed to pull off a pop-a-wheelie on that thing as she shot away from us, she most certainly would have. As I watched her go, I found myself staring directly into the eyes of two kittens playing with an oversized ball of pink yarn, their images outlined in silver sequins on the back of Jeanie’s shirt. Anyone familiar with my history with cats knows that this was a very clear sign that things did not bode well for me. Not well at all.

As it turned out, I was right. The very first words out of Clark’s mouth after Jeanie rounded the corner and disappeared out of sight were, “Hey, don’t worry about her, she’s just grouchy these days because her hemorrhoids keep acting up in this heat.”

Too much information, Clark. Too. Much. Information.

For the second time that day I found myself stunned to silence, and though I searched desperately, I just wasn’t able to come up with a single response that seemed even remotely suitable for the occasion. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off a really heartfelt, “Oh, that’s a real bummer.” And, while I thought trying to relate to her situation might be the polite thing to do, somehow saying, “Been there, done that,” just didn’t seem all that soothing either. Instead, I bit the inside of my cheeks (whether it was to keep from laughing or dry heaving I still can’t be sure) and turned my full attention to a pair of Dr. Scholl’s socks that claimed to be the best product in existence for the circulatory health of anyone suffering from diabetes. The silence that hung in the air was interrupted only by the sound of Jeanie’s motor as she zoomed down another aisle.

Since all good things must come to an end, it was at that point that Clark simply gave me one last sideways glance, shrugged his shoulders again, and wandered off in pursuit of Jeanie’s creams. At least that’s where he should have been headed if he knew what was good for him.

As I tried to turn my attention back to the very elegant selection of earplugs after watching Clark wander away, I noticed for the first time a mother and her young daughter standing in front of the display of sugar free candies. The little girl was watching me pretty intently, so I assumed they must have witnessed the classy little scenario that had just played itself out. Trying to make light of the situation, I was just about to cross my fingers, hold them up in the air and whisper, “Good luck, Clark!” but before I could, the little girl turned away from me, looked up at her mother, and asked, “What are bedroom eyes anyway?” As you might imagine, the mom was not happy. Fiercely grabbing her daughter’s hand, she shot a stern look of disapproval in my direction and stormed off.

So, there I was. Alone. Thoroughly confused. And as luck would have it, surrounded by a massive and downright disturbing display of incontinence products all vowing to look, fit and feel like real underwear. It may just have been one of the most pathetic moments of my life. So many things had gone wrong in the last two minutes that I didn’t know where to begin counting. I’d disappointed Clark by not having a real problem with earwax, I’d angered Jeanie just by looking at her, and I’d made a mother upset by putting her in the position of having to explain what bedroom eyes are to her child. The fact that I’d committed all of these wrongs unintentionally didn’t seem to help.

Later in the afternoon, while scarfing down the last of the sugar free chocolate candy I’d purchased in my moment of despair, I was still thinking about the strange turn of events that had taken place on my otherwise routine trip to Target. However, it wasn’t just my unsettling interaction with Clark and Jeanie that I was pondering. No.That would be somewhat understandable. Instead, what I found myself contemplating was the fact that in my 42 years on this planet, I’d been called Bedroom Eyes exactly twice in my life.

And both times by elderly women.

I know…there I go bragging again. But honestly, how many people can actually make that claim?

The first time was on Christmas Day when I was 16 and was reintroduced to my best friend’s grandmother. I remember her hearing my name, rolling herself across the kitchen floor in her wheelchair, and taking a good long look at me before saying, “Ooooh yes, I remember you. You’re the one with those bedroom eyes!” At the time I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but the look on my mother’s face was priceless when I went home and asked her what it meant if someone had bedroom eyes. Better yet, I especially remember her expression when, after asking me why I wanted to know, I told her it was because Heather’s grandmother told me I had a pair.

That was a long time ago, and in my quest to get this story written down, I took the liberty to Google the exact definition of the term Bedroom Eyes.

Ginormous mistake.

While most of the descriptions I found were far too scandalous for my little PG rated blog, I did find one or two that I could use. According to my research, and I quote, “Bedroom eyes refer to a heavy-lidded or half-shut eye, reminiscent of a hazy, dreamy look shared during intimate moments. Bedroom eyes is a term often used to describe how a person looks at another when filled with longing and anticipation of…”

Okay, that’s just about enough.

You simply can’t imagine how wretched it makes me feel to think that Jeanie took one look at me and decided that I’d clearly set my sights on Clark. In my defense, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a little hard to resist all that talk about earwax and hemorrhoids, but I swear I was doing my best to keep things platonic. And maybe, just maybe, if the setting hadn’t been so darn romantic with all the adult diaper packages boldly displaying happy couples who were secretly wearing belted undergarments and plastic underpants, I would’ve been a little less likely to turn on the charm right then and there. I mean, come on, there’s only so much talk about leakage barriers a girl can take before she’s forced to act on her impulses and start throwing sultry looks around the geriatrics aisle of the local department store.

Considering the circumstances, I think I did one heck of a job keeping my behavior in check.

Truth be told, the “heavy-lidded or half-shut eye, reminiscent of a hazy, dreamy look shared during intimate moments” that Jeanie saw in my eyes was actually the result of not having had a good night’s sleep in months. I was heavy-lidded alright, but not because Clark got my hormones raging. The fact of the matter was, Clark was right, there was someone at my house who snored and the earplugs I was so desperate to buy were my attempt to solve the problem. And as far as displaying any “looks filled with longing and anticipation”? I can assure you that those looks were directed at the earplugs themselves. After all, they were, perhaps, my ticket to finally being able to get some much needed shuteye. But hey, if someone wants to confuse my overtired, worn out look of exhaustion and fatigue with a look of passion, desire and seduction, then so be it. Who am I to argue?

Anyway, here’s to Jeanie…..I sure hope she was able to “find some relief” in that heat.

Timing is Everything

Timing. It’s a funny thing when you think about it.

I don’t mean funny as in LOL or funny as in hardy har har. I mean funny as in bizarre. Strange. Extremely unfortunate.  Good timing is often given credit for helping people begin new relationships or careers; two of the most important contributing factors to a person’s happiness and well being. On the other hand, bad timing is often blamed for the demise of those very same things. We’ve all heard people say, “He/she would have been just perfect for me, but the timing was all wrong,” or “If the timing had been right, that job could have been mine.” And let’s not forget split second timing…the kind that wins or loses races for athletes. The same kind of timing, I swear, that makes the difference between really great tasting microwave popcorn or the charred remnants that make you think you’ve accidentally fed yourself ashes straight from a fire pit.

And then, my friends, there’s the kind of timing that simply can’t be described in words. It’s the kind that allows a UPS delivery man the opportunity to overhear an innocent, but nonetheless disastrous comment you’ve made through your open bathroom window on a rainy summer morning.

Oh yes, timing is everything.

Please…allow me to set the scene. This morning was a typical one at the Field house. Morning exercise rituals had been carried out, breakfasts had been eaten, and dishes had been cleaned and put away. My son and I were looking forward to a day filled with school supply shopping and lunch at a favorite eating spot. Having already showered and dressed, I was anxious to get a move on. Setting a fresh towel on the window sill for him to use when he was done, I asked him to please come into the bathroom to take a shower so we could get going. As he walked down the hallway he popped his head in and gave me the same response to that request that he’d already given me several times this morning, “Okay Mom, just give me a sec!”

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that he’s responded to me with that same statement about 3,948,509 times this summer. And you know what? I wasn’t in the mood to wait today. I just wasn’t. So, summoning my most authoritative tone, I loudly complained, “All I’ve been doing all morning long is giving you extra secs and I’m tired of it, now come in here and take a shower!” Even though my hands were still gesturing wildly from the dramatic air quotes I’d put around the word secs, the impact of what I’d said still managed to fully embrace me. I heard the unintended inappropriateness of it the second I said it. And so, surely, did the young man in the brown UPS uniform, who at that very moment in time, had the misfortune to be dropping off my new jeans on the back steps. The back steps that were only about 4 feet from the open bathroom window. The very same open bathroom window out of which I had actually just bellowed the words, “All I’ve been doing all morning long is giving you extra secs.”

Sweet Mother of God…what had I done?

Wanting to, as quickly as possible, right the very tragic wrong that was unfolding, I frantically pulled up the screen so I could stick my head out the window and show my face. I wanted the young man to see me while I politely and casually explained that all was not as it seemed…or rather, all was not as it sounded. My intent was to provide a calm and reasonable explanation of what he had just overheard. Unfortunately, any amount of intended serenity for that moment went out the window (if you will) when, by the time I pulled myself together to speak, I realized he was already down the steps and halfway across the walkway leading to our driveway. For some strange reason he appeared to be in a real hurry to get out of there. Frazzled and panicked, I stuck my head as far out that window as possible, and in the same frenzied voice that a parent trying to keep a child from running out into traffic would use, I screeched, “Just to clarify, I’m actually talking to my son in here!”

Yes. Well done. That made things all kinds of better.

For the second time in 20 seconds I realized the catastrophic implications of what I’d said and the downright failure of my use of language. As I dangled there awkwardly, I struggled to maintain my dignity as much as I struggled to maintain the balance of my full weight on my hips as they rested on the window sill. That unfortunate image, I’m afraid, is the last thing that poor driver saw as he halfheartedly waved over his shoulder, tossed me only the briefest of backward glances, and went into full scamper mode before disappearing around the side of my house.

What was I to do? After a quick scan to the left and right to make sure none of my neighbors were anywhere around, and in as refined a fashion as was humanly possible given the position I was in (imagine the elegance and grace an elephant might exhibit while making its way around a ropes course), I finagled the upper half of my body back inside the bathroom and slid the screen window back into place. Trying to figure out what my next move should be, I turned to face my inquisitive son who, as it turned out, was still standing in the bathroom door looking thoroughly confused. 2829310-630x383Torn between whether I wanted to run out the front door to see if I could catch the UPS driver (who at that point was very likely burning rubber to get out of my neighborhood) or respond to my son when he asked, “What just happened here?” I decided to answer his question. Knowing that the specific set of circumstances I found myself in at that moment didn’t exactly lend themselves to introducing the topic of the birds and the bees in the gentlest of ways, I decided to go the completely irrational route. Hands on hips, chin lifted in the air to appear somewhat virtuous, I responded, “He obviously thought I was going to the bathroom in here, and I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t.” With a somewhat incredulous stare, he said, “Mom, that doesn’t even make sense!” Becoming increasingly panicked and desperate, I furthered my explanation by making even less sense. ”Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if you thought the UPS man heard you peeing when it’s just about to rain?”

What?

And with that I stormed out of the bathroom and down the hall, but not before I looked over my shoulder and said accusingly, “None of this would have happened in the first place if you’d just taken a shower when I asked you to!”

There. I showed him. So much for remaining calm and reasonable.

So here it is, only a few short hours later, and as I sit here on the couch half expecting the authorities to show up at any moment, I can’t help but think about timing. It really is a funny thing when you think about it. In fact, any other Wednesday I might end a post by stating that I hope everyone enjoyed a happy hump day…but somehow, on this particular Wednesday…the timing just doesn’t seem right.

Some Things Are Just Better Left Uncounted

About seven years ago, when my son was two, he was learning to count. Like most kids that age, he counted everything in sight. Oranges in the fruit basket on the kitchen table, blocks in the middle of the floor, dancing animals in the pages of books…you get the idea.

Since I’m a teacher and it was close to the end of summer, we set out on a trip to the store for school supplies one day in late August. Things went smoothly until we arrived in the checkout line and encountered the cashier. A very well endowed cashier. A very well endowed cashier who was, and I’m not even kidding, wearing a necklace that boldly displayed the words Everything’s Bigger in Texas!

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If I’m being honest, the only time I’d ever seen a woman more…blessed was when I was about nine and I accidentally glanced at a calendar (I can only assume it was supposed to be hidden) hanging not so discretely behind the counter at a gas station; it’s an image that haunts me to this very day. And speaking of being scarred for life, I’ll never forget how the bottom of the cashier’s necklace fell, not so daintily, between her two…well, you know. Underneath her blue uniform vest, she was wearing a tight white V-neck t-shirt that covered a hot pink bra outlined in black leather (yes leather, not lace) the likes of which I’d never seen. It was an outfit that would have fit right in on the album cover of an 80s rock band.

Except for the fact that this woman was easily in her late sixties.

I’ll give you a minute.

Despite the blood gushing down the back of my throat because I was biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from roaring at the ridiculousness of the situation, I politely and casually piled my items on the conveyer belt of the checkout. Halfway through my attempt to empty my cart, to my surprise, I noticed that my son was doing some checking out of his own. I desperately hoped it was the necklace hanging from the woman’s neck that had him so enthralled. Either way, I was too busy to worry about it as there was a long line forming behind me.

Before I knew it, I’d placed the last of my purchases on the counter and was ready to cash out. The process went smoothly, but my concern deepened as I noticed my son’s continued interest in this woman’s bosom. The next thing I knew, eyebrows raised in curiosity, he held up a pudgy finger, pointed right at her (eyes still glued to her chest) and asked, “Wus dat?” Frantic to get his hand out of the air so that nobody, especially our cover girl, would notice what he was pointing at, I grabbed his little arm, kissed him, and told him he was silly.

I blame myself for what happened next.

Apparently feeling helpless after two more attempts at asking, “Wus dat?” and not receiving an answer, my precious son leaned forward, poked that same pudgy finger into each of the woman’s ample breasts, and proudly exclaimed, “One! Two!”

I honestly don’t remember much about what happened after that,  but I do recall the gentleman standing behind us keeling over and wheezing for what seemed like a full sixty seconds before he was able to catch his breath. His bellowing laughter echoed from the walls of that super mart, only adding to my mortification. He laughed so uncontrollably that he ended up excusing himself and standing in another line where his laughter continued until we left the store. The young couple that was standing behind him took pity on me and smiled a bit before the young man whispered, “He only said what we were all thinking.”

The cashier herself never blinked an eye. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I  discovered that she’d ever even been aware of what happened. All these years I’ve secretly wondered if it was really possible that she never felt the pokes…and believe me, there’s a question I never thought I’d find myself pondering. I mean, was it really possible that having her breasts counted in public was a daily occurrence, and therefore, when my son used them as an abacus it went unnoticed?

Either way, I remember not being able to decide if I should apologize to her or ignore what had happened as she seemed to be doing. After all, the question What should you do when your child counts the breasts on a large chested woman in public? wasn’t one that was answered in any of the books I’d read while preparing for motherhood. In the end, not wanting to make the matter any worse, I scurried away like a frightened rabbit as my son smiled and waved happily at the nice young couple behind us.

Over the years, though sometimes it’s been a bit of a trial, I’ve avoided going back to that particular cashier’s line during my return trips to her store. Even if it would have taken me less time to go to the 20 Items or Less aisle, I’ve waited a good 15 minutes behind someone with 58,876 items and 8 screaming kids to buy my 2 or 3 items in order to avoid facing her.

To be clear, it’s not that I’m embarrassed about what my son did, though it’s certainly not one of my proudest moments as a parent. It’s the fact that I didn’t apologize to her. I should have. I realize now that the fact that she didn’t acknowledge the incident probably had something to do with self preservation and that makes me feel awful. Also, in her defense, her fashion choices have become much more subdued over the years and even though it doesn’t show up very often, I’ve even seen her wearing the necklace a few times and it always makes me smile.

To make a long story even longer…yesterday afternoon I had a few errands to run and I was in a huge rush. Going through her line was going to save me a lot of time. I mean, for crying out loud, it had been almost seven years. It couldn’t possibly be an experience that she remembered, right?

Wrong.

With my head held high, I made my way to her line with my contact solution and York’s Peppermint Patty. I looked her in the eye, smiled, and thanked her after she asked me if I wanted the chocolate left out. After taking my bag, I turned and began walking away with victory bells ringing in my head.

And that’s when I heard her ask, “That boy of yours still countin’ to beat the band?”

Horror of all horrors.

I’m 100% sure that the blush that swept across my face left me looking like one gigantic, freckled, overripe raspberry. For a moment I was speechless, but then I managed to respond, “Yikes, you remember that do you?”

She smiled, chuckled, and said, “Oh yes, it’s one of my favorite stories. My grandchildren think it’s a riot!” And then, because she had more people to attend to, she grinned and said, “Don’t be a stranger.”

I’m not proud of it, but my first instinct was to say, “Oh, you can count on it,” but realizing it was probably too soon, and then remembering that I’m a 42 year old woman who should occasionally act my age not my shoe size when I’m in public, I simply returned her grin and waved my goodbye.

After all, some things are just better left unsaid uncounted. Well, both really.