Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Slippery Fish Won't Get Whacked

I went into the City on Thursday to meet up with a friend who was in town from Portland. It's been ages and I'm so glad we had the chance to catch up. Her 9 year-old son was with her and I was telling them one of my favorite New York stories about my son. 

Will has always been a dreamy kid as my mom puts it, just happy to be wherever he is at the moment. I remember that we were standing outside of Serendipity. It's the famous ice cream place where all the tourists go and have huge sundaes or whatever ice cream creation you want. Will was staring up at the sky or wandering or something and he got in this older lady's way. So she whacked him with her cane. And kept going. Not a hard whack, but it was odd. It was a first, even for New York.

So I asked Will if he was okay, and then I said, "Will, you've got to be a slippery fish in the City. You've got to weave in and out of the crowds of people looking for gaps where you can slide through and keep moving ahead. You have to pay attention to where you're going, watch for bike messengers. You can't just wander around."

You can always spot a City kid. They're still. They stand serenely on street corners holding their nanny's hand waiting for the light to change. They know the dangers of city streets unlike suburban kids who wander around looking up at the tall buildings touching every single filthy surface possible. City kids glide, kids from suburbia flail.

I met my friend and her son at Grand Central and by that time he was tired from walking -- there's so much walking in the City. I told him the story of the slippery fish. "You've got to be a slippery fish," I said. And my friend and I were laughing about that old lady whacking Will with her cane. And then this happened.

I was walking back to Grand Central to catch my train home. The sidewalk on 44th was a mess with scaffolding dividing the passage into two sides. On the right side, pedestrians were walking east and the left west. Well there were a lot of people walking east, so I decided to jump sides and walk in the opposite direction. There were a few people I had to dodge, but mostly I made it through well ahead of all those other poor people on the right. Until the very end.

At the very end of the block sat an older homeless woman who seemed to be directing traffic in that section of sidewalk. When she saw me walking on the left, she whacked me on the butt with her hand and said, "Get on over to the right side." Not a hard whack -- like the way your grandma might whack you to get in the house because it's getting late.  

I must be slowing down, because I never saw that whack coming. I used to be a slippery fish. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Here's to You Millenials

Over the holidays I interviewed for a job in the City. I haven't interviewed for a job in a long time, but this one really interested me because it was an educational start-up teaching kids through news and current events. Some day, I will get back into news. I don't know how yet, but I will. News is a profession you can grow old in. I often tell my younger friends, think about what you're doing. Because time flies and some professions don't want you when you're older.

For the interview, I went into the City to meet the marketing VP at their offices on 8th Avenue. He is a very nice man, even though he didn't offer me a job. Probably in his early 40's I would guess. Not so far off from where I am. 

He introduced me to his team, all very young people. And I could swear one of them let out an audible gasp when I was introduced, as in I didn't know people could BE as old as you are now. That's part of what led me to this blog about millennials. Hey, my son is one of them. Or maybe even younger. 

Here's what I thought when I heard the audible gasp, though of course I didn't think of it until later. "Good luck with that neck tattoo," I said in my own head much later. "It will serve you well when you're in your 50's." Because nothing looks better in your 50's than a sagging neck tattoo. Good luck with those earring things that are creating giant holes in your ears for what purpose I don't know. Good luck with your impending hearing loss caused by never removing ear buds from your ears. Ever. Good luck with your gigantic thumb pads earned from swiping and texting. 

And then I had this terrible thought. Make it an awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. Could it be that I'm the Grinch in this scenario? That soon every HR manager I ever meet will have a neck tattoo and something sticking through their ear. That I'm the one who looks strange without earbuds? That my thumb is lacking because it's regular-sized?

"And THEN They'd do something He liked least of all! 
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, 
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. 
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing! 
They'd sing! And they'd sing! And they'd SING! SING! SING! SING! 
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who ChristmasSing, 
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!" 
"Why, for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!" 
"I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?" 
Then he got an idea! An awful idea! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Act As If This Is Your Last Chance

My friend Julie and I had a pretty funny conversation this afternoon, or it seemed funny to us. Through crackling cell phones we had a series of "old people" exchanges as follows,

"I'm hot," I yelled.
"What?" she yelled back.
"I'm hot," I yelled.
"What?" she yelled back.

This went on for at least a minute. A glimpse of things to come. 

At the same time, Will, my son was trying to tell me something about his scholarship money from Loyola in New Orleans. Some extra financial aid had appeared out of nowhere. A gift from the heavens. Great. Fantastic. At last, we can relax.

Then I opened the mail. You, Will,  have 8 absences, of which you are only allowed 12 in English for the entire year.  Or you lose credit and I don't know, maybe lose your biggest scholarship opportunity at Loyola. That's $15,000. 

I panicked. I got mad. It's like all the stages in Death and Dying by Kubler-Ross. Really panicking because it is frightening trying to get a kid into college these days and then figure out how to pay for it. 

I'm trying to be Irish Zen like my friend Lou Lou Mulderrig or my other friend Mike Casey. Just breathe, take it easy and know everything will be okay.  But that's not really how I tend to think. I tend to think the worst, predict the worst, fret about the worst case scenario that I know lies just around the bend. 

Until the worst case scenario happens, and then my thinking switches into another level of panic something like, "What if this is it?" I've experienced these moments under positive circumstances, for example when you see a landscape like parts of Texas and Louisiana, or pretty much anywhere on the Pacific Coast Highway. It's overwhelming, the feeling of smallness and finite and wow. This is really it.

And sometimes it happens in an emergency room, when I see my son attached to tubes and oxygen meters. Or when the vet finds Daisy, our beloved Doodle, has swollen lymph nodes. Or when, or when. It happens all the time. 

Bargaining kicks in. Dear god, I will do this thing, if you'll do this one for me. And the one thing becomes another, and another, until I would sell my soul to have one more chance. As I sit here thinking about how to tell Will that the absences in English could sink his ship, I try to also think of what I would say if I had one last chance. 

"Dear Will," I hope I would say. "It has been my great honor and pleasure to be your mom. You have a kind heart, a wonderful curiosity, a strong body and voice, a magnetism that could work in your favor if used wisely, an oblivious in the clouds nature that I think has to do with the music in your head, crazy confidence, less than exceptional work ethic and organizational habits. You would give a friend your last dollar and way too much of your time, so choose them wisely."

You asked me today how Dad and I raised an awesome kid like you -- not your words but I won't repeat them because you're a teenager and sometimes you say stupid stuff.

I think your dad and I made conscious decisions about choosing each other and not making the not-so-great relationship decisions we'd made in the past. We avoided certain patterns that were not healthy for either of us. We also discussed up front very important issues like how to discipline, how to talk to you, what to do about media (or too much of it), getting outside to build strength, what was important for your development. Most importantly, and THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, we wanted to keep an honest, open relationship with you. So we made a decision early on that if you told us the truth, we wouldn't punish you.

From what I've seen with your friends, this has sometimes been perceived as a positive and often times a negative. Some parents don't want to know what's happening. We do.

Full circle back to my typical worst case scenario thinking. You can't miss any more classes Will or you'll risk your scholarship, or worse, graduation. I'm seeing Poseidon Adventure scenes now in my head - the old one with Shelly Winters

But what's really important is to put this in context. I need to spend more time thinking like it's my last chance. When I think that something is finite, when we're in the ER with you because you've been bitten by a dog, fallen down a water slide, are overcome by asthma, then I start to think clearly about what is important. 

Dear Will. It has been my great honor and pleasure to be your mom. 

(NB This is one of my favorite videos of you singing at Greenfield Hills Congregational)