Friday, May 30, 2014

The Waters of the Afterlife Are Filled with Man-Killing Fish

I recently had a conversation with Littlest Son, now age 6. Somehow we got on to speaking of the meaning of life, and where he might have been before he graced us with his presence on the planet.

Mom: Where were you before you got here?

Son: In the Before Place. It's just grass. Grass and lots of darkness, and people talking in the darkness.

Mom: Babies about to be born—they're the ones who are talking?

Son: No, there are no ages in the Before Place. Well, actually, everyone is five years old.

Mom: What about life after you die—do you think there is an afterlife? What's it like there?

Son: How would I know?! I am not dead yet!

Mom: But what do you think it might be like there?

Son: Oh, it is all trees and grass and flowers! Everything is very beautiful. And peaceful. Half of the world is grass and trees, and the other half of the world is water. The water is blue. It's all beautiful!

Mom: And?

Son: And the part of the world that is water is totally filled with sharks.

Mom: Sharks?

Son: Oh yeah, sharks.

Mom: So, in the afterlife, you can't even swim because the water is completely shark-infested?

Son: Yes, but this is only including those sharks who have died. Not all sharks.

Mom: So, a reduced number of sharks?

Son: Yes.

Mom: What about the bunnies? Aren't there any bunnies in the afterlife? Butterflies? Nice things like that?

Son: Nope, only sharks!

In the category of "Where on Earth did we come from?" you might also like The Oeuf Room.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Manny Diaries, Part Ten: Tequila Farming!

I never thought I'd say this, but lately I have been finding Manny something resembling...invaluable. Every single day, he comes downstairs quite early, before we are even awake, and cuts up a plateful of fresh fruit for the boys. Then he waits, ready to spring into action and fry up bacon and make gourmet omelettes filled with things like fresh asparagus and feta cheese and some delicious sausage that he sourced out at the Italian deli.

By the way, he washes his hands religiously and insists on separate serving utensils for each dish. If a kid reaches out a hand toward a serving dish, he flinches and groans.

It's filled with Manny-ness!
Later, he has dinner ready on the table by 6:00 p.m. Skirt steak tacos, fresh salmon with dill and lemon, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted beets in some sort of astoundingly good salad with delicious unknown ingredients and pepperoncini poking out of the top.

One day, he made the boys a pork roast. It was absolutely fine and tasty, but one of the boys decided it wasn’t for him.

Middle son said, “I don’t really like this.”

Manny, distraught, said, “You don’t? You really don’t? Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“I dunno,” middle son shrugged. “It’s kinda flavorless and chewy.”

Manny wandered off in a tither, all the way into town. I got repeated text messages such as:

Should I try more spice??
Think they would like quiche???
Stir fry

I had the boys make a list of foods they wanted to try and the very next day, he set out to start cooking the items on that list, one by one. That night we had BLTs, except he used fancy prosciutto. They were awesome.

Let’s face it…aren’t you starting to wish that you had a Manny right about now? If you want one, you have to accept the whole package.

He hums while he cooks, and mutters to himself. He talks and doesn’t listen. He makes crass and unfunny jokes—and an occasionally exceedingly funny one. And he brought in these somewhat…unusual bookends to prop up his cookbooks.

We throw a cloth over these when people come to visit. Not that they are not, well, somewhat of conversation starters.
He mixes up his words all the time.

“I put the leftovers in the other refrigerator,” he says, gesturing at the oven.

“How about I make some guacacado?” he asks another time. “Oh! I mean, something with those eggstables. Eggpants! Eggplant hummos.”

“You mean baba ganoush, right?”

“Yeah, that!”

(The baba ganoush was excellent.)

But he is kind. He got in the habit of pushing the boys on the new tree swing that our neighbor built, and pushing them much higher than I ever could, such that they would call out for him to “give me another push” and he would comply, despite sore shoulders and aching back.

So when he said he was going to move to Oaxaca, Mexico, at the end of June and live on a tequila farm, I had some mixed feelings.

I can't wait to drink this!
One, hurrah! Two, the Manny Diaries may have to come to an end. Crap. And three, what kind of bonehead would choose to live on a tequila farm when he oughta know the one poison he should never, ever have is booze?

In fact, he got so excited about his new life as a tequila farmer that, on Sunday, when he was purportedly out buying some food for dinner, he must have wandered into a local drinking establishment. He came bumbling in at 6 pm with no food and with a bottle of tequila, made in his future hometown! He presented it to us as a gift. He stank of booze and slurred and denied having a drink, so we sent him to his room.

We can’t really kick him out now, with so little time between now and his departure. He has rented a place in Mexico and even paid for plane tickets. He says he’ll stay sober until he leaves, even during his four-hour layover on the way to his new home. If he makes that connection it will be a miracle.

I can imagine getting a tearful, drunken phone call from the Oaxaca jailhouse (do they even allow phone calls?) saying that we gotta bail him out because he insulted some Mexican dude and then got into a pistol duel over the man’s underage daughter. I can just kinda imagine that.  But I think that truth will be even stranger than my imagination can conjure at this moment. 

Don't you? WHAT do you think our Manny will do next?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spying on My Son at Recess

Today I went on a little run to blow off some steam, in the middle of the day. And my normal route took me past the elementary school playground where Eldest Son and Middle Son attend school. But lo, I'd arrived at an odd hour, for all the kids were outside for recess! I normally ran past this area much earlier in the day, but work had intervened.

I slowed to a walk, looking for the distinctive green shirt my son was wearing. Here was a rare opportunity to observe him in his native habitat. I might get a glimpse of something interesting. For, as he has told me, fifth-grade boys like other fifth-grade girls and vice versa. And there is lots of intrigue!

I am NOT a helicopter mom. This was a total accident!
I prowled along the fence line for a bit. I wondered if any of the teachers policing recess would think I was a creepy stalker-type, although stalker moms in jogging outfits are probably rare, so I decided that putting my hand to my forehead to shield the sun and actively looking for my son would make me appear to be more of a "concerned mom" who was just checking in on his well-being. I even affected that "concerned mom face" as if I might be a mom who had received a message just then about a child vomiting during recess and had been called to pick him up immediately.

I couldn't spot the little devil so I patrolled the playground border one more time. Then I spotted him! He was in a group of about four or five kids, smiling and talking and looking like he was holding court. Yes, this was good. I recognized one of the boys next to him. A possible ally, possible enemy. One never knew with this character. I'd have to keep a close eye on the fellow. Eldest Son looked pretty confident. He almost swaggered a bit, despite some run-ins with a chunkier bully that had caused a bit of trouble during the fifth-grade year. His long, blond, girl-magnet hair was gleaming in the sun. "Yes. Yes! Yes to never paying a barber's fees ever again!" I thought.

And! One of the girls standing next to him was the girl that he has told me he likes. She was hanging on his every word. He'd picked well. She was definitely the cutest girl in his class, in my estimation. Her back was turned to me, and I could see Eldest Son slouching and acting all cool and digging his hands in his pockets and scuffing at the gravel with the toe of his sneaker. Maybe this meant...she liked him too?? I'd pulled my headphones out of my ears in case I could hear a bit of the conversation, but the burble and cacophony on the playground blurred everything.

Then I saw one of the other girls in the group poke at Eldest Son and gesture towards me, and I read her lips: "Isn't that your MOM?" I tried to duck down but too late. Eldest Son gave me "the look" that said: "Oh good grief, what are you doing??!!" Before he could react further I shot off like a rabbit down the street, as if I'd not been on a little jog but actually a crazy, ass-burning sprint. Yeah, I'm trying to beat a personal record! I waved to him idly as I shot off down the street.

When I asked him on the walk home from school what they'd all been talking about, he simply said: "Oh god, Mom, what were you doing, anyway?"

"I was interested in seeing my son, as any mother would be! I care for your welfare and like to see how you are doing and all that! And I totally happened to be passing the school. So, um, does this mean that she likes you?"

He moved rapidly away from me, shaking his head, his backpack bouncing on his thin shoulders. "Whoo boy, mom, you really...I dunno. Mom! You are crazy," he said.