Grade 9

It was all I could do not to title this, “This is me in Grade 9,” a lyric any even casual Barenaked Ladies fan would sing, rather than read, aloud.  But this is serious, people, maybe even Serious with a capital S: My son starts high school tomorrow.

He’d clobber me if I divulged his super secret identity–that’s mine, the tall sloucher on the right with two buddies he’s known since K4 and K5.

Is he ready?  In the technical sense, sure.  His new backpack is loaded with all the correct supplies direct from the prescribed list; we scored the insanely pricey graphing calculator at an insanely reasonable price; he received his eighth grade completion gift today, his new laptop; Friday morning, he and I completed a dry-run of his bus route together–his school doesn’t run yellow school buses, no.  He gets a County Transit bus pass and will hop mass transit, transfering about 25 blocks from here due south to high school; my husband is assembling his new IKEA desk as I type.  In every technical sense of the word “ready,” my boy is.

But he’s nervous.  Weren’t you before your first day of freshman year?  Were your parents dying the thousand deaths I am today?  Did you sleep even a wink??

Me, ACTUALLY in grade nine.  Yeesh.

En route to my last (better be my last?!!) stop to gather the boys’ last minute school supplies, I listened to the song Grateful, my summer jam by Better Than Ezra, and cried.  Like tears ran down my cheeks cried, thank you very much Kevin Griffin, Tom Drummond, and Michael Jerome.  Non sequitir:  You know how my dedication to my concentrated hobby has landed me in my superfan group, the Ladies Ladies?  Ultra-mega-mega fans of Better Than Ezra call themselves the Ezralites, a name that tickles me a whole lot–it’s awesome.  Anyway, Grateful.  It’s a nearly perfect song, just not long enough really.  Long enough to elicit tears it seems, but I always listen to it twice in a row because I wish it was longer.  Anyway,  after snapping up two college ruled composition notebooks, I became paralyzed with terror, right there in the checkout line: Who will he sit by at lunch tomorrow?

Will kids be nice?  What if they’re assholes?  What if he unknowingly plops down at the cool kids table and he’s treated the way kids are ostracized on television?  What if there’s room for eight kids and he’s ninth in line?  What if the reality of his school cafeteria is the scene out of every 80s movie, or worse?  What if he drops his carton of milk or can’t open his water bottle?  What if it really is more like the high school depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why?  Laugh if you must, but this is the kind of shit that steals my sleep.  I experienced a similar terror the first day he took hot lunch in four-year-old kindergarten.  Anxiety is not Johnny-come-lately to me.

I am inert, so I busy myself with mundane tasks around the house, and I’m not doing those well or with attention either for that matter.  I have failed to locate a very important work binder brought home specifically this summer with the intent it stay “safe,” that it not get lost at my office over the summer.  Yeah.  Super.  It’s my first student day as a speech-language pathologist (year 28, yo!) tomorrow too, and I’m what you might call distracted.  Sorry other students, my own kid is top priority today and tomorrow.

It’s OK though, right? I didn’t get to this ripe, old age without surviving freshman year, and neither did you.  He’s nervous, did ya hear?  He’s nervous, but his mother puts on one hell of a game face.  I tell him it’s OK to be nervous, a little nerves are expected, appropriate even, that it’d be weird were he not a touch butterflies-in-tummy.  We’ve discussed his 504 plan, about which his new school’s 504 coordinators have already contacted me, so he’s on the radar.  I’ve assured him that he won’t receive detention for being late to class, that he’s got a contingency if his fingers choose not to cooperate.  He doesn’t have physical education first semester, and I’m working on some alternatives for next semester in that regard, so thank STARS for that!

He thinks he’s nervous?  Jaysus, the boy’s got nothing on his mother.  He doesn’t catch me tearing up because I’m the mom, and mom’s gotta keep that shit together.  He doesn’t see that my Fitbit reads about 102 all the time (which, for what it’s worth, is not a sustainable heart rate for daily living–it’s exercise simply being me, ofttimes).  He doesn’t see this stupid blog and read how nervous I am.

But he also doesn’t know how excited I am for him too. It’s a whole new world, high school.

He, and every other kid matriculating tomorrow, gets a clean slate.  He gets to be the same kid he’s always been, or he gets to reinvent himself.  HE gets to pick.  What a gift and adventure on which he’s about to toddle those shaky first steps.

My fingers are crossed and I also kinda want to puke, but as the song says–

I’m gonna be grateful every day

Make a little wave and we’ll ride it

I’m gonna keep shakin’ off the shade

Make a little ray and then shine it, shine it, shine it on.

Shine on, my baby.  Oh, how I love you, and how grateful I am for the opportunities awaiting you.  Got a million things to do, what’s the point in trying, trying?  Keep trying anyway.  Go get ’em, Class of 2022!

So, Uh, Thanks

The cranberries are sugared up and boiled down into a compote, green beans layered with cream of mushroom soup and whatever the hell French’s does with onions, and the turkey’s stuffed. The aroma of the single biggest shopping day of the year wafts through the kitchen. Truth be told, my only culinary contribution for this year’s feast is one pumpkin pie.  I don’t even like pumpkin pie.  My kitchen wizardry is woefully underutilized this year. I feel incomplete, inadequate.

The real reason we collectively eat ourselves into a food coma, drunk on tryptophan and/or a nice Beaujolais or Gamay? The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys!! NO, silly, it’s Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving, America. And that would be a Happy Thursday to the rest of my friends around the globe.

If you’re my friend on any of the social media outlets or hey, if we actually get to speak to one another in the real world, you see I am pretty consistent in my expressions of gratitude.  I’m good at dishing it out, but I’m great at deflecting any expression of thanks directed back my way.  Why is it that gestures of thanks from others take such effort to accept?

I am grateful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  –Henry David Thoreau

Me too.  Nice job outta you, Thoreau, you beat me to it. I’d like to be reverent, but because I am a juvenile masquerading as a middle aged woman, this is what comes to mind any time I hear Thoreau’s name bandied about–

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Image from Wal-Mart. I don’t shop there, but I do appreciate having found this image on their webpage.

Henry David Catch! Baaaaahh!! Hi, I’m 12.  But I’m a grateful 12, and like Thoreau, I find happiness and gratitude in things great and small each day.  I’m happy that I make it to work every day after driving along Capitol Drive, the nearest I ever want to get to driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, here in the central city.  It’s disheartening to see how motorists have so little regard for life–mine AND their own–that they drive like something out of an action film, or maybe what’s depicted in Grand Theft Auto (I’ve never played the game, so I’m postulating here).  I’m glad I arrive at work not dead every day is the point.  I’m happy for tulips in the spring.  I’m happy my children are achieving academically.  I’m happy for Kopps Frozen Custard sundae of the month.  I’m happy my dog thinks antibiotics and pain meds are treats–he will chomp down and ingest whole tablets and even sit in order to receive them.  Good boy, Caleb!

But of course there’s more than the little things to be happy about.  I’d be remiss in not sharing some of my favorite turkey day thankful main dishes, so here goes: a few things I’m thankful for this Thursday.  My Thanksgiving not-list is neither perfect nor pretty, and come on, you know me. . .  it’s certainly not symmetrical.  But it’s sincere.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, or Happy Thursday if you’re not from ’round these parts.

  1. My best friend is flying from LA to Milwaukee IN DECEMBER to see me. She loves me enough (or is off-kilter enough?) to leave sunny SoCal in December, and all I have to do is loan her one of my winter coats.  You guys, my best friend is gonna be here next week!!
  2. My Barenaked Ladies besties love me enough to spring a ninja concert trip on me.  Nikki and Bek arranged a ticket and transportation to the December 9 Toronto gig I was absolutely not attending. The girls announced their scheme after the purchase was made so I couldn’t say no.  To be perfectly honest, I said nothing for a day or two. I am so undeserving of this kind of over-the-top generosity, so I sat mute.  I’m not very good at people being nice to me, so I was reluctant to come around to my “yes.”  I should try to get better at people being nice to me.
  3. Hey, speaking of Barenaked Ladies (who, me?) my coworkers, hale and hearty souls, are making it a team effort for the June BNL show in Milwaukee. “We don’t need to sit in the front with you, but let’s make a night of it!” They’re choosing to spend time with me when they don’t even have to. Of course, once the band hits the first note, I won’t turn around again until it’s time to leave, but we will be together in spirit. Well, they will be together, and I’ll be by myself, zoned out a bit closer to the stage. Christine will be the one silently dying in embarrassment for me while I sing & dance my butt off, but that’s cool.
  4. I’m thankful my husband who, not a huge BNL fan himself, gives me space for my unbridled, giddy glee when a new album is released, and shares some measure of excitement when I call him on the phone, all choked up shouting, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!! ED USES WESTLEY AND BUTTERCUP IN THE LYRICS!!!!”  If you don’t know the reference, Westley and Buttercup are the star-crossed, nothing-can-separate-true-love lovers from The Princess Bride, which happens to be the first movie Tom and I watched together at a time in my life I needed more than anything to believe in true love.
  5. I’m thankful my husband leaves me little notes like this one he wrote Saturday morning before departing for work.  I know, “you guys are so cute we wanna barf.” We get that a lot, but aren’t Westley and Buttercup what we’re all shooting for? You + Me Vs The World, baby.
  6. Got Weirs on my right and Wolfgrams to the left. Looking forward to a long weekend, spending time with almost every branch of fruit or nut of my extended family tree at some point.
  7. I’m thankful to the point of speechlessness that I have an all-star supporting cast of luminaries whose generosity helped me raise over $5000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 2017.
  8. I’m grateful for my friends, a cast of characters you wish you were your friends too. This year I offer special thanks to P.J. She killed it with her own shoulder rehab a couple years back, and within hours of reading about my injury, delivered a box of implements and tools designed to simplify life in the kitchen. And also wine, because wine! I opened that gift tonight, enjoying it in the spirit of thanks for her support and concern.
  9. I’m relieved that my friend Matt who was nearly killed in his home last spring, is safe and sound, and that two of his attackers have been sentenced.  You can hear Matt’s story about the sentencing here.  In related news, I’m glad his physical scars are continuing to heal as well.
  10. I’m fortunate to have a boss who says and means family first. This credo is especially important when your child has a disease that requires ongoing management and intermittent therapy appointments.
  11. I’m happy that a song can catch me on the precipice of the abyss and pull me back.
  12. I’m grateful I can read, write, and reason.
  13. And that you’re here reading.  Really.  THIS is my greatest wonder of the last several years: I write. You read.  There are so many ways to pass one’s precious time, and you’re here reading my words.  It means the world.
  14. I’m happy that I have enough.  I’ve never known hunger, and I’ve never had to worry about finding a safe place to sleep.  I’ve worked in the inner city for twenty-seven years, and finally I’m forced to acknowledge that I am struggling with the sequelae of urban poverty. The lack of basic needs being met, the language, hollering, the physical harm, the violence perpetrated–inflicted!–upon the city’s smallest people–it’s too much.  I’m increasingly less well able to handle a preschooler tell me, ‘F-off, white bitch! I ain’t gotta listen to you.”
  15. I’m happy that my children have enough. We do not live like royalty, but I can say that when mine were preschoolers, the worst I feared escaping their lips were “toot” and “fart.” Watch this. You won’t regret having spent the twenty-four seconds here, even with the poor quality videography. And yeah, to this day, the minute he gets home, he tosses off just the one sock.

https://youtu.be/YLgbJJS8ltY
For what are you thankful, dear readers? What wraps your heart up with contentedness the way this video of my no-longer-babies does for me?  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.  Can I make you a leftovers plate to take home?