Class Rank

The conversation started out innocently enough. We were talking about the grades my daughter earned in the third quarter, which ended on Friday. Of course, nowadays, with programs like PowerSchool, there really are no surprises when it comes to grades. If parents open that report card and don’t know what their kids’ grades are, they’re not paying attention.

But then my daughter stared talking about a student in her AP English class who was missing much of her work for last quarter because she just didn’t hand it in. Or something. This particular student was ranked number one in the class last year, but this year… not so much.

If you’re wondering why a child would choose to slack off junior year—the year that is probably the most important, as far as college admission goes—read on. The rest of the conversation is quite telling. While the subject continued on grades and class rank, the focuse shifted to my youngest.

“I’ll bet you’re valedictorian in your class,” my daughter said to her brother. Her tone was almost accusatory.

“No I’m not,” he assured her, and he named the student who is.

“Well, you’re just a freshman,” she told him. “Your classes are easy and you don’t even do any homework. Wait until junior year. The people who are working hard now will get overwhelmed and start to struggle. Then you’ll be valedictorian.” She seemed pleased with her logic.

There was a pause in the conversation, and I thought it might be over. Then she said, “But if you’re valedictorian, you’ll have to give a speech, and you won’t want to do that. You’ll have to slack off a bit. But not too much because you don’t want Guidance to notice and ask you what’s up.”

“If I’m a junior and I’m number one in the class, I’ll have to slack off more than just ‘a bit.’”

“No you won’t,” I inserted myself into the conversation. “The top few students are really close. If one grade slips just a little, you’ll slip to number two with no problem.”

“But you don’t want to be salutatorian, either,” his sister cautioned him. “There’s really no point. If you aren’t number one, may as well go for third. Then you won’t have to give a speech, and you won’t have to be second.” If there was such a thing as an audible wink, she would have inserted one here.

And that explains why the top student in the class might slack off junior year—apparently, it’s all about the speech. And this is where I insert an audible groan….

 

Winter’s Release

This is the time of year when winter releases the many captives it has taken during the long, snow-smothered months. One never knows what will appear when the snow melts, and sometimes the discoveries can be downright surprising.

Two winters ago, I recovered a cell phone that had been buried in the snow for the better part of the winter. When I turned it on, it still worked, though the service had been disconnected weeks earlier by its owner. My challenge then was to find the owner and return the phone, which I was ultimately able to do by finding common contacts.

When my children were young, I found a wallet plowed into a pile of gooey brown road-slush. I took it home to dry it out and find its rightful owner. The wallet contained cash, credit cards, and identification, and I don’t think the man’s wife was pleased that a strange woman was calling her husband relatively late at night—at least not until she found out the reason for my call. The next day, I delivered the wallet to the bakery cafe where the man worked, and he gave my children each a large cookie from the display case.

One night this week, when I stopped at our mailboxes on my way home from work, I noticed a pair of eyeglasses in a case sitting on top of the box. The case looked naggingly familiar. It pulled at the memories contained in my brain, and as I dragged out the heavy box in which I store all useless tidbits of memory, the lid squeaked from lack of use. Interestingly, memories can slip into the storage box nearly unnoticed, but getting them out again can sometimes take great work and strain.

The memory started to emerge: A month ago—maybe two—my BF appeared at my house with new reading glasses (because we are at that age, and reading without them is challenging). He had purchased a new pair because… well, because he misplaces them. All. The. Time. These new glasses were contained in a nice case.

But the next day, the glasses had gone missing. BF seemed to think he had left them at my house, and he launched a futile search. I tried to tell him the glasses weren’t there, but he wouldn’t believe me until he didn’t find them there. He then thought he had left them in his car, but I never saw the glasses again after that. Until now.

Because now, they were sitting on top of the mailboxes, dirty from the weeks spent in the snow, but they were intact, unbroken, and in good shape. Luckily, it seemed they had not been plowed into a snowbank or run over by a car. And the case had done a good job of keeping them free of scratches. BF now has them back. At least for now.

Sometimes, I am amazed that anything can emerge intact after months buried in snow. And sometimes, I just wish winter would give up the fight and release the spring….

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!

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}

Vacuuming

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Last month, I had a very interesting text exchange with my oldest child. He started out, “Do you remember the time you got that chest for my room back in the old, old house and you picked me up from school and told me you got something for my room and it was a surprise, but you said it was something to help keep my room clean?”

In fact, I vaguely remembered how I presented the situation, but as soon as he mentioned it, I knew what he was talking about. He was just a little kid at the time, probably four or so. After all, we only lived in that house until he was five. I had found a “treasure chest” at the Christmas Tree Shop, and I thought it would be the perfect addition to his room to contain his toys.

He went on with the text exchange to let me know that at four, he had thought he was going to get his own vacuum, and he was very excited. Now, on the one hand, I wish I had known that he wanted a vacuum because I probably could have capitalized on that. But on the other hand, I know he was likely only three feet tall, at best, and I doubt he would have been able to handle a vacuum of his own.

I wonder why it is that we don’t create child sized working appliances, like vacuum cleaners? Instead, we create toy vacuums and toasters, blenders and lawnmowers. I understand why some of these things could not be actual, functioning appliances (lawnmowers, for example). But hey, it seems my kid would have been all over vacuuming his own room at four years old because at four, a vacuum is a pretty cool item.

And if he were vacuuming himself at that age, he might have saved me some time on cleaning. Then again, I might have had to spend an inordinate amount of time searching the vacuum bag for trinkets that were accidentally run over and sucked up in his youthful excitement and inexperience.

Sadly, I will never know. But at least now I know what to get him for a housewarming gift!

Blurring

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Sometimes, I have to wonder. My children—even as teens, or maybe especially as teens—tend to shed their belongings as they walk in the front door and through the house. The shoes are the first to come off onto the boot tray. Then the backpack, landing on the floor by the chair. The jacket is sometimes hung up, but usually ends up thrown on the back of a chair or on the table. Sweatshirt, sweaters, hat, socks, etc. As my children shed these items, they get dropped along the path. It’s a blur of doors and limbs and kids and belongings.

At the end of last week, I had just returned home from work. I emptied and put away my lunchbox, and I made my way up to my room to change from my work clothes before I made dinner. As I raised my foot to step on the first stair, I heard, “Don’t step on my shirt!”

What? Ah yes. Someone had dropped a shirt, right there in the middle of the bottom step.

Perhaps the problem is not really me stepping on the shirt. It seems, the problem might be more about the shirt being in the middle of the steps where it doesn’t belong. Just a thought.

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.