Jackson’s school had Fifties Day a few weeks ago. I still don’t know why. We had Fifties Day when I was a kid because of American Graffiti and we were all addicted to “Happy Days,” plus all these girls’ moms had kept their poodle skirts. It sort of made sense. It made sense going back twenty years because it was like dressing up as your parents. But doing it now is just making your kids dress up like their estranged grandparents in Bakersfield whose house burned down in an oxygen tank fire. I wouldn’t exactly call it a history lesson.
I no longer remember why Jackson asked me to draw a picture of Mr. Freeze. I forgot to give him goggles: (more…)
The other morning, in addition to Jackson’s regular breakfast of — oh, let’s say oat bran and prune juice, since no matter what I say someone will judge me for it so I might as well pretend I give him one of those gerontological diets whose entire point is to pass through your body and out your colon completely unnoticed. So, the other morning in addition to all the foods he normally eats without the slightest reaction, I gave Jackson a nice, ripe pear. He ate it. And ten minutes later he had itchy red splotches on his legs, elbows, armpits, face cheeks, and butt cheeks.
“God is punishing you for touching yourself,” I said calmly. No, I didn’t. Ha ha! I took a wild guess and told him he might be having a reaction to something he ate, quite possibly the pear. I went and got him a Benadryl.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked, looking at the little pink pill in his hand.
“Swallow it,” I said.
He swallowed it. “That was easy,” he said.
“You have a great career in corporate catchphrases ahead of you,” I said.
I didn’t want to take him to school looking like he’d suffered through some sort of inscrutable beating, so since I didn’t have to be at work for another two hours, we just sat around and waited to see whether Team Rocket would defeat Pokemon for once. (Spoiler alert: Team Rocket’s victory was once again foiled by ineptitude and ego, and bizarre voice acting, and atrocious fashion sense.)
An hour later Jackson’s rashes, or hives, or whatever they were, were all gone.
“Great!” I said, rubbing my hands together gleefully. “Let’s get you dressed and get you to school.”
“I’m sleepy,” he said, burrowing into his bed. He began to weep softly. “Sooo sleeeeepy.”
Oh, Benadryl, you are so magical, with your healing properties and the way you make my son flop from side to side when I shake him.
I don’t endorse substance abuse in the under-twelve set, but desperate times. “I’ll get you a Coke.”
Just saying the word Coke perked him up. “Really?”
“Yes. Put your pants on.” I sprinted to the refrigerator: nothing but milk, beer, and an old Vitamin Water. I sprinted to the laundry closet: Cherry 7-Up with Antioxidants? Who the hell bought that? Back to the refrigerator, I dug deeper, pushing past a giant container of olives, and gasped.
“Okay,” I said, walking back into Jackson’s room, “I know I gave your father a speech about going to BevMo and buying this horrible crap, but it seems the time has come.” I held out a bottle of Jolt. Blue Jolt, to be exact. All the sugar and twice the caffeine.
In Jackson’s excitement to be chugging a Jolt at 9:30 in the morning, he managed to knock the bottle over and spill half of it, thank GOD. He drank the rest up, got dressed, and ran to the car. Once we got on the road, however, he was sort of unnervingly quiet.
“Are you feeling alright?” I asked.
“I feel kind of nervous,” he said, grinding his teeth into nubs.
When we got to school, Jackson zipped off to class and I went into the office to confess to the school secretary what I’d done.
“His poor little body!” she cried, “He probably doesn’t know whether to fall asleep or run around in circles like his ass is on fire!” No, she didn’t say that, OF COURSE SHE DIDN’T SAY THAT, but she did hoot with laughter, and when she was done wiping the tears from her eyes she promised they’d keep an eye on him and call if he did, in fact, catch fire.
Jackson got his hair cut in a barber shop where the pampering is old style. You can get a shave with a straight razor (which Jack will not do, as it gives him “the willies”), and a shoulder massage with one of those vibrating hand things that look like they can also polish your shoes and make a milkshake. You can also read an old Playboy and smoke a cigar while you wait. Jackson is only nine and is not allowed to smoke cigars. Jack used to smoke cigars but he gave it up. Hell, I used to smoke cigars and all I can say is that they’re expensive and get you so jacked up on nicotine that it’s hard to hear yourself screaming over the pounding of your own heart.
Jackson thinks putting on a hat is a funny thing to do when I want to take a picture of his new haircut:
(He just goes on forever, doesn’t he? He’ll be nine in less than a week.) Not everyone has their own personal Huck Finn, I realize. I realize I am priviliged, and I will try to remember not to lord my privilidge over those without free food dangling from the tree outside their window, and also I don’t know how to spell priveledge.
Recently it was Father’s Day, a day when we at the Kennedy compound pay obeisance to our lord and master, the refrigerator. We larded ours up with beer and bagels and not too many weird cheeses, and because Jackson had been practicing the gathering arts of his most ancient ancestors, we had a bowl full of these:
Our plums did not suffer this particular fate. Things may be rough all over, but they’re not yet so desperate that we’re scraping food off the sidewalk that’s been squished by children’s bicycles “because it’s fun, and remember when Boloni stomped on all those snails?”
At this point, readers new to the site may be thinking one or more of the following:
1. What kind of parent lets her child leave the ground without a helmet?
2. What kind of parent lets her child climb a tree without supervision of any kind, lest branches be broken, bird nests dislodged, or unripe fruit prematurely harvested?
3. Why didn’t anyone stop this Boloni person from stomping on snails?
4. What kind of people name their child Boloni?
5. This blog is ridiculous, and I think those ads might be fake.
Yes, even though it is incredibly onerous for me to answer imaginary questions in order to bring new readers up to speed, I will do it because it is a bad idea to take your readers for granted. (I don’t know why, it just is.) So listen: we live in a small housing development with lots of fruit trees that are treated as community property. Anyone interested in climbing these trees may do so, as long as the tree isn’t harmed in any way. The careful climber enjoys the opportunity to pick whatever fruit they can reach and then huck it at whoever’s in range. Not that you asked, since I hadn’t mentioned that the fruit tree pictured above isn’t actually ours and that I’m ignoring all your other questions, but technically I don’t think my son was stealing from anyone, insofar as all neighbors have equal access to the plums and lemons and whatnot dangling around our ears night and day, and half the time the stuff just falls off and rots on the ground. If my LAZY neighbors, so bloated with their own privileage that they do not BOTHER to take advantage of easy pickings (either because they lacked the wherewithal, courage, and/or foresight to birth some tree-climbing monkey-spawn of their own, or because they lack arms, or aprons with which to carry nature’s fruity bounty back to their kitchen), and so are deprived of pie, I am not actually sorry, because it just means more for me. However, anyone feeling fruit-deprived need only ask my son; he and a squad of excited children will have a bushel of plums and weird, deformed lemons on your doorstep in no time.
Anyway. I don’t know whose idea it was, but between the two of them, my husband and my son agreed that a tart must be made featuring the many plums Jackson had recreationally harvested. Thus an instructional video arrived in my inbox Saturday evening, which I promptly ignored. Everything went black until Sunday afternoon, when I drove to the store and spent $12 on pre-made pie crust, raw sugar, and fig preserves. THEN I watched the video, and that is when I realized I should have bought a flat roll of pie dough, or just sucked it up and made my own, rather than getting a pie crust pre-pressed into a foil pan with fluted edges. Problem-solver that I am, I popped the dough out of the pan and smushed it flat (as a sidewalk snail) on a cookie sheet. Jackson was then recruited to spread fig preserves in the center of the dough (a chore which “made him sick” — this from a boy who eats fried shrimp heads and raw fish eggs). I’d already pitted the hell out of the plums, so we piled them in the middle, pushed a rim of dough up around them, brushed a little egg wash on the dough, sprinkled a lots of of raw sugar all over the place, and baked it at 400° for 20 minutes.
And as you can see, it leaked all over the place because the stupid crust broke. Despite that, it was good and tasted all natural and wholesome and stuff, and I am not ashamed to admit that I ate half of it. HALF. OF. IT. Because, as you know, free food has no calories, so the only part that counts is the crust. But if you eat the crust in little broken pieces, it doesn’t count, either! I actually lost weight eating this. It was a Father’s Day miracle.
Two weeks ago Sunday: the second half of the new draft of my and Alice’s now-65,000 word manuscript was due the next morning. (How did we add 15,000 words? When did we find the time?). It needed fourteen more hours of attention before we could send it to our editor and go to bed in our respective time zones. Along with those fourteen hours of editing, Alice had to start packing up her entire apartment and I had to conjure up an additional five hours to take Jackson to his karate testing 20 miles south, in Ventura. I also hoped to find 6 to 8 hours in which to sleep before my new job started at 8:30 the next morning. I have long rued the day that our country rejected the metric system, trapping us in years bloated with 12 months and days that last a mere 24 hours. But I knew that, even though I lacked a clock divided into 100-minute hours, I could cram it all in somehow.
Since Jack had been shopping, cooking, and kid-wrangling for weeks to give me the space to work, and despite the overwhelming pressure that this was the last day Alice and I had to rewrite (and dear God, suddenly it seemed like there was a lot to rewrite), he needed a day off, so I sucked it up to go be a karate mom. It was okay. All that acupuncture I’d been having for my lady parts was having the side-effect of making me supernaturally calm. Plus I heard that some teenage girl black belt was going to be demonstrating the Shaolin Double Chain Whip! It was all going to be very Jackie Chan. I wasn’t going to miss it.
The testing was closed to observers, but after killing an hour (AN HOUR WITH ONLY 60 MINUTES IN IT) at J. C. Penney buying pillowcases and washcloths, I arrived in time to watch the belt-giving-out ceremony. Chinese lion dancers then came out and tossed an orange back and forth between their mouths. Getting hit by the orange would give you good luck for a year! Some karate guy muscled past all the kids to get up front, and then the lion dancers threw the orange right at him. However, the rest of us who had not TOTALLY RIGGED our luck and had thus avoided being bruised by flying fruit could still ask fortune to smile upon us somewhat more safely by sticking dollar bills into the lion’s mouth. Yes, there was shrieking. Adorable shrieking!
And then, of course, there were feats of strength. The sensei brought out a stack of 3/4″ plywood cut into 2′ x 2′ squares for people of various ranks to try and break. Some of the littler yellow belts set boards against concrete stairs and stomped to break them in half. An older brown belt with dyed red hair went KEEYAAAAH! and snapped one in half with her bare hand.
Then Jackson went up to his sensei and said, “My mom wants to break a board.”
Me: “No, I don’t.”
Jackson: “Yes, you do.”
Me: “Why don’t you do it? Mr. Orange Belt. Mr. Bossy Boots.”
Jackson: ‘DO IT, MOM! DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT.”
Sensei, sizing me up: “I can teach you what to do.”
Me: “Buuhhhh . . .”
Sensei: “You can do it.”
This was the guy who’d just performed an archery demonstration wherein he’d shot an arrow through an apple seventy feet away, so I figured maybe if he thought I could do it, I could do it. He told me how to stand and how to pull back with my left arm while thrusting through the board with my right, palm out flat. I took a couple of practice thrusts. They were terrible.
Sensei: “Twenty percent harder.”
I am here to tell you a couple of things about trying to break a board with your hand. One is, don’t close your eyes when you hit it.
Me (hopping up and down and clutching my stinging right hand): “I think I closed my eyes when I hit it.”
Sensei, trying not to smile, holding intact board: “I think you did, too.”
Jackson: “TRY IT AGAIN, MOM!”
Sensei: “You want to try it again?”
Jackson: “DO IT, MOM! DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT!”
Me: “Jesus Christ my hand stings like shit.”
Sensei: “Twenty percent harder.”
Me: “Uh, sorry about the cursing.”
Sensei: “Push through the board.”
And you know what? On the second try, I did it. I DID IT, I BROKE THAT MOTHERFUCKING BOARD INTO THREE GODDAMNED PIECES.
I was high for about a hundred minutes after I did it, too. Adrenaline is no joke, my friends. My hand wouldn’t feel right until Wednesday and I didn’t even care. I went home and edited the CRAP out of that manuscript, and after five hours of sleep, I went and had an absolutely stellar first day at my new job.
Jackson has definite opinions on how he wants to look, and he thinks long hair is cool. (Although I’m the one he argues with when it’s all tangled up in the morning.) He keeps it clean, though, and today he smells like candy watermelon.
Last night he said to me: “Mama scale of huggability: one billion. Sense of humor: negative 10.”
Me: “What?! I have no sense of humor?”
Him: “Not after 9:30 at night. Then you’re cranky and want to go to sleep without telling me a story.”
Me: “I’m cranky because it’s 9:30 and you’re NOT ASLEEP YET.”