Lockdown

It was one of those crazy conversations that starts at the dinner table. The cat was outside, sitting at the end of the walkway waiting to come in, as he so often does. W got up from the table and let him in. When he closed the door, he said, “There. Now we are in lockdown for the night. No one goes out. No one comes in.” He sat back down at the table to finish his dinner.

“If that’s the case, you’d better lock the door,” I told him. Rather than get up, he leaned back in his chair, attempting to reach the door. He couldn’t quite reach, and the chair nearly toppled.

“You’d better get up to do that,” his sister advised. “Or you’re going to be the one going out. To the hospital.” W heeded her advice and stood to lock the door. “Or maybe,” she continued. “We’ll have to explain to the ambulance drivers why they can’t come in. GO AWAY! We’re on lockdown!” she demonstrated.

“But then they’d just kick in the door,” W said. “Lockdown or no, they don’t care.”

“True,” I said through my laughter.

By the time I got up from the table, I had completely forgotten about the “lockdown.” The cat was once again meowing at the door, and I let him out, clearly not thinking.

A few minutes later, J spotted the cat out the window. “I thought you let the cat in,” she said to W. “What happened to the lockdown?”

W looked out the window. “Wait… how did he get out? I let him in!”

I turned from the sink to see two kids looking at me. I shrugged sheepishly. “I forgot about the lockdown.” But then we noticed the cat going after something outside. He had clearly spotted something of interest, and he was hurrying toward it. I had been baking for an event at work, and I was sweating, so I took the opportunity to go see what he was after.

“Mom, you can’t go out. The lockdown!” the kids reminded me.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I told them. “I want to see what he is after. DON’T lock me out. There is no lockdown.” And of course, in my mind, my word was the word in this house since I pay the bills.

Nevertheless, I returned to a locked door and a sticky note. “Sorry. We are in lockdown. Come back tomorrow at 6:00 am.” Are you kidding? That’s a long time to be outside without a jacket.

I knocked on the door. “Let me in!” I laughed. “There is no lockdown!”

Yeah, they let me in. If they hadn’t, I would’ve gone to the neighbor’s house. I keep a key there just in case my kids do something crazy—like declare a lockdown and refuse to let me in!

Missing…

Every now and then, I get a glimpse of one of the things that my children have missed in their lives. Because my children have been brought up almost exclusively by one parent, there will always be things that I could not provide and attention that they did not get.

This weekend, I took my daughter out to buy a prom dress. The dress was one she had picked out several weeks ago, and one that we almost didn’t get. Not because she didn’t want it, but because it almost wasn’t available.

As we walked into the store, we found only two of the desired style on the rack, and both were the wrong size. My daughter briefly seemed to think she could make the smaller of the two work, but I was doubtful. Nevertheless, we made our way to the fitting room to try it on. Because it is prime prom dress season, there were piles of cast-off dresses littering just about every available surface throughout the store. As we walked by the register, I spotted another dress like the one she was about to try on. Amazingly, this one was her size!

When we arrived home with the dress, I had this crazy flash of memory that caught me off guard and allowed me to glimpse something from my past that my kids are missing. When I was young, Mom would take us shopping for clothes (new school clothes, special occasion dresses, etc.). Later that day, when Dad got home from work, we would model our new clothes for him. He always had some approving comment like, “That looks sharp!” or “That’s a great dress!” Always, he was positive and supportive of our outfits and our emerging sense of style (no matter how odd or colorful). Always, he was supportive of us.

Back at home this weekend, I had the thought that my daughter should have someone so encouraging in her life, someone for whom to model her new dress. Every kid needs more than one person who will say, “Wow! That’s beautiful!” or “What a great choice you made!” or “You make me proud!”

Every now and then, I get a glimpse of what is missing, but I pause and remind myself of what my children have. Not all children have the same memories, but they will still have memories that are unique to them and to their experiences. Hopefully, no better or worse. Just different.

Student Emotion

I was walking through one of the study areas at work yesterday, and I passed by one of my student tutors. She was sitting at a computer desk, her homework spread out around her. The non-work items on the desk were few since it was a public space, but she had a brightly colored box of tissues next to her. The box sported pictures of cartoony-looking fish from Finding Dory, giving me the impression it was not the nondescript pattern typically associated with institutional tissue boxes. Because we are (hopefully) emerging from the thick of cold and flu season, I pointed to the box. “Are you bringing your own tissues to work with you now?”

She looked up at me from behind the large the desk where she sat. “Yeah. It’s that point in the semester.” She blinked sad eyes for effect. “I brought them in case I need to cry.” Her face was more serious than usual.

I stopped abruptly. “Oh!” I studied her face. “Are you all right?”

She smiled. “They’re not really mine.”

“Okay,” I released a relieved sigh. “That sounded just like something my daughter would say,” I added.

“Yeah. It’s a girl thing,” she shrugged. But then she considered what she had said. “No, maybe not. I think it’s an age thing.”

I studied her face for a moment. In it, I could see hints of my daughter, of several of the students I work with, of so many people I know, young and old. “Maybe,” I pretended to accept this explanation as I turned to walk away, but I was certain it wasn’t an “age thing.”

What I really wanted to say was, “I think it’s a life thing!” But some things are better left unsaid.

Controversy

Lately, I have been running cold. No wait, that’s not right.

If I am completely honest, I have been cold every winter since I can remember. It seems, every little draft finds me and circulates around me, tickling my neck and spiraling down my spine.

My daughter would disagree. She would claim that my … ahem, middle age … is ruining her life. Her controversy is that it’s cold in the house, I won’t let her turn up the heat so she can get warm, and blah, blah, blah…. In her case, it’s more about dressing in something that’s not minimal and tissue paper thin. And I’m always happy to let her borrow a sweatshirt … or two.

At home, my temperature is generally fine because I’m moving, baking, cleaning, etc. But at work, I freeze. I have often considered bringing in a blanket and spending the day under it. But I might fall asleep, and that would not be good.

This morning, as I sat in my office working, I suddenly realized I was somewhat chillier than usual. I turned on my space heater, which cut the chill a bit. But then I began to smell fresh air. My boss had come in, decided it was too hot, and opened her office window. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one shivering, and she closed it.

Ah well, such is cold weather life in New England. It’s a good thing spring is (slowly) creeping in!

Nuance

Last night after everyone had gone to bed, I found a note on my kitchen counter. This note was not written to me, however. It was a note written from one of the children in my house to another.

My daughter had come into the kitchen before bed to make her lunch, but then she realized she didn’t need a lunch. She had an appointment today, and we had arranged to stop and pick up some food on the way back to school. But she had forgotten… until she pulled out two sandwich bags into which she was going to pack lunch items.

Rather than place the bags back into the box, she left them on the counter for her brother. With a note, apparently, instructing him how to proceed.

But after her brother had come down to make his own lunch, the bags, and the note, remained on the counter. “Pack your lunch with these. They are not poisoned in any way,” she had written.

Huh…. If something wasn’t poisoned, why would you have to say it wasn’t? Wouldn’t that be the expectation?

Instead, I had to think the very thought that poisoning had crossed her mind might make her brother wonder at her true intent. It certainly made me wonder.

Poison or no, I think he was smart to leave the bags on the counter. (The note has been confiscated should it be needed for “evidence” at a later date).

{Written in response to today’s one-word prompt}

Skittles and Logic

I took my son to the orthodontist today, and when we emerged from the office, I was thinking about dinner. Mac and cheese—just in case the teeth were hurting—and … well that was where I was stuck.

“Do you want broccoli for dinner?” I asked. “Because the only option I have at home is zucchini, but we can stop and get some broccoli.”

I know he’s not a fan of zucchini, so I was not surprised when he said, “I’ll take broccoli,” even if it meant a stop at the market. But when we got to the checkout, he also took a Three Musketeers and a package of Skittles. He’d already been out biking after school, and I don’t buy him candy very often, so I bought them.

In the car, he opened the Skittles. I held out my hand expectantly, but he just looked at me, feigning ignorance. I raised my eyebrows, my silent gesture for, I-paid-for-those-I-can-take-them-away.

“What colors do you like?” he asked as he dumped a small pile into his hand.

“Red, orange, and yellow,” I answered, turning my eyes back to the road, but leaving my hand out. He plucked three Skittles from the pile and placed them in my hand. Two orange and a red. I ate them while we chatted about the day.

As we got closer to home, I held out my hand once more. Again, he placed three Skittles in my hand, this time, an orange, a red, and a yellow. We listened to the political discussion on the radio. He chewed away on his candy, but he didn’t offer me any more, and I didn’t ask.

We turned into our road, and he read the nutrition information on the package. “Whoa!” he exclaimed.

“What?” I asked.

“There’s one serving in this package, and it’s 250 calories!” He seemed momentarily surprised; then he hesitated while he considered the facts, a characteristic glint sparkled in his eye. “But… I shared them with you. That means I only had 125 calories!”

I opened my mouth to say something. Something about the six Skittles I had eaten to his all-the-rest. But I closed my mouth. I’d let him have his faulty logic. At least this time.

{Image credit: FreeImages.com / Ryan Vinson}

Music

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I’m not a fan of silence. In fact, I love listening to music. Or actually… I used to love listening to music. Recently, I have had to switch to talk radio. I have NPR blaring through the car speakers as I drive to work and back home again. The talk show hosts drone on and on and on about politics, the transition of power, the issues facing the present administration. Truth: I’m getting pretty sick of talk radio.

I used to enjoy listening to music. Usually on my way home from work, if not on my way to work, I would listen to music rather than NPR. I listened to music when I arrived home at night while I was preparing dinner. And I listened to music as I completed household chores.

However, when my sister and I were tasked with finding music for Dad’s service, the new reality of music became very clear. An entire song, a tiny line, a wistful melody, the dreamy intonation of the singer… any one of these things could turn on the tears like a switch.

Now, navigating a collection of songs is like walking through a minefield. A song will come on and I will be fine. The next song, and the next will not be a problem. Buried in the album, a line will be sung, and I will dissolve—suddenly and completely—into a puddle of tears. I never knew how swiftly these feelings could come and sweep me up into the tide of emotion.

And then subside just as quickly.

I used to enjoy listening to music; it would keep me company and drown out my own thoughts. But perhaps at least for now, I am better off listening to the sound of silence.