“Dude,” I ask, ” is this helping you get out the door on time? What are you doing?”
With five minutes until the bus comes, Matt has lost focus on making his lunch and is drumming out a song, bongo-style, on the bags of deli before him. Matt is one of those people who always has a beat in his head, is always tapping out a rhythm.
“What? I’m just slapping the meat. I’m a meat slapper!”
Remember the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Dr. Striker mistakenly created a new quickly-mutating airborne super virus which infected the entire crew except for Captain Picard and Data? And they finally beat the virus when Data created an antidote and administered it via the ship’s circulation system while Captain Picard was busy electrocuting Lieutenant Worf in the crawl space between floors? That’s the virus we have in my house right now. I’m sure of it.
First it feels as if Tasmanian Devils are ripping the inside of my stomach to shreds. Then it turns to a bad cold with aches and a fever. Then more Tasmanian Devils. Then I feel better, then more fever and cold and now wicked fatigue. It just won’t go away. Those around me have had various bits of my virus, but I’m special so I’ve had it all. I’m like the Anti-Picard, going down with my ship; he remained unaffected by the virus, while I must feel everything my crew members suffer through. I’ve just jumped Jean-Luc Picard on the badass scale, so I do have that going for me.
I’d say I’m patient zero, but my mother tells me one of the men she works with in The Hague has the same symptoms I do, and has for a bit longer (I did not even get to snog or have sex with that cute Dutch man to get his illness, and that is grossly unfair). I’ve been fighting this thing since my Christmas trip to my Mom’s in Pennsylvania, and in my stomach-shredding, fevery state I was rather pissed off with Pennsylvania. I hadn’t been sick in years….until Pennsylvania. Rat bastard Pennsylvania! But then after some Alka Seltzer Plus it occurred to me: my Mother, not poor Pennsylvania, is to blame. She is the common denominator between the Dutch man and myself, and so, as anyone who has had years of therapy already knew, it’s all my mother’s fault.
And my children’s. While I’d like to attribute the extreme fatigue to the virus, I think it might have something to do with my children and their need to keep me abreast of their own symptoms throughout the night. They need to keep me up-to-date on the status of the symptoms with which they went to bed. They need to share concerns about new symptoms, and speculate upon which symptoms they might have next. But most important, they need to feel out what my decision will be about school attendance the next day.
“Moooom? ” they whisper, “If I feel like this in the morning? Do I have to go to school?”
“Moooom? If I get that stomach thing next, should I stay home?”
“Moooom? If lemurs fly out of my butt? Can I stay home tomorrow?”
Yes, child. Then you may stay home, because the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school attendance policy clearly covers lemur butt-emergence.
Add to this one more topic for midnight discussions: a week of sub-freezing weather discussed by local weathermen for whom predictions of frozen precipitation are akin to masturbation, and I just haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep to help me shake this thing.
“Moooom?” The boys ask in the middle of the night, ” It’s starting to rain, and it was supposed to go down to twenty eight degrees. Do you think the roads will freeze?”
“Moooom? If the lemurs fly out of my butt and float up because they are warm, cooling as they go, only to come back down as frozen lemur-precipitation, creating frozen lemur black ice……do you think we’ll have school?”
Matthew has had quite a few orders for his silver ring. In fact, until two days ago, he had more orders in January than I did, and I’m beginning to wonder at what point encouraging your child’s hobby becomes child labor.
Matt is proud that he’s made something others find valuable, and he surprised me by asking if I thought people were buying his ring because he’s ten. He didn’t want that, he said, and he worried that they were. I’ve assured him that, no, people don’t buy thirty dollar rings because you’re cute. A twenty-five cent cup of lemonade? Sure, cute will sell that, but not thirty dollars worth of it.
He’s morphed into a no-nonsense professional metalsmith, casually tossing out the lingo. “When do I need to have that size 7 out? Where’s the new flux? Is this the medium solder?”
I love it; I love his new sense of accomplishment, the validation of skills these sales denote, the dignity he obviously feels. Being the youngest of three boys has not always been easy. There are always two older, more experienced brothers ready to correct him, ready to help even when he was not asking for help. But now he’s top dog. Now he, at ten, is more accomplished in this one area than both brothers combined, and it’s an important area: it’s Mom’s business.
With the success of his sales has come worry, too. He’s worried about getting his orders out in time, he’s worried when he makes mistakes. I’ve assured him that I’ll be there with him, I’ll walk through this beside him, picking up anything too heavy for him to shoulder, lending a hand if things overwhelm.
“Does that mean I have to give you part of my money?” He’s asked. Ah, the money. Out of every sale, five dollars goes to materials, and Matt keeps twenty-five dollars as profit. He’s a bit overwhelmed by his sudden wealth. That’s a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. That’s a lot of electronics he doesn’t need but wants to buy because he can.
I’ve been asked many times if we can go to Target.
“Why?” I ask.
“I want to buy something.”
“What were you thinking you wanted to buy?”
“I don’t know. Just… something.”
When I told him I wanted him to wait a week before purchasing anything, and I only wanted him to spend a quarter of his earnings, he seemed relieved. Whew. It is not easy being rich.
Matt seems to have gone through my catalogue of Everything Which Has Gone Wrong In the Studio In The History Of Ever, and is considering how he’d feel about these things happening to him. He hopes he doesn’t poison himself. He hopes his hair doesn’t get burned off. He really doesn’t want to get rouge in his eye.
And the clients, he’s worried about the clients. I’ve only had one really difficult custom order, but my upset over it must have made an impression.
When his second order came in, Matt lamented, “Oh, I hope I don’t get any crazy clients! If I do, I’m just telling them, No! I will not make a ring for you!” So basically, he’s a lot like the Soup Nazi, but with rings. The Ring Nazi.
I’m not sure how real these worries are, or if they are just a way of verbalizing the new grown-up dignity he feels, his new badassery. It’s the parfait-layering of his little boyness with this silversmithing gravitas which makes me smile.
“Mom, can I finish this ring later? I wanna go outside and play. ”
I look out the window a few moments later to see him rocket his soccer ball into the goal he was so excited to get for Christmas. He runs a circle around the yard, arms raised for his victory lap.
Synopsis of Nickelodeon’s new show, “Big Time Rush,” as told to me by Matthew, 10.
“There’s this new show and it’s about four dudes who have a band and they work for this other really famous dude , but first the one dude tried out for the famous dude and the famous dude said ‘get out of here, you suck!’ and he sang this really rude song– ‘you smell like a turd, you look like a turd,’ –you can look up the lyrics if you want, but then the next day he called him back and said he wanted him and the dude said, ‘No, not unless you take my friends, too.’ so the famous dude said OK and they all went to California.”
Can I tell you how much I love that “dude” is a perfectly acceptable noun in my house?
I’m working on dinner when, from the living room, I hear the vacuum cleaner being turned on and off, on and off, punctuated by raucous laughter. Vacuuming should not be this much fun. Huh. Are they giving themselves hickies again?
No, they are not. I walk into the living room to see Matt getting into a lawn and leaf bag, helped by his brothers. Jake , the vacuum cleaner hose in hand, issues directions.
“You have to get your whole body into the bag or it won’t work,” Jake tells Matt, but Matt is laughing too hard to listen. Which, I think, is good.
“Not everyone, just a couple of the smaller kids.” Jake says this as he continues to gently shove Matthew’s unwilling limbs into the bag. It reminds me of trying to dress them as babies….but really, really not.
Then, he sticks the vacuum cleaner tube into the bag.
“Wait! Are you vacuum packing my child into a trash bag?” I ask, ” Why are we doing this?”
And Jake calmly explains why he’s vacuum packing his brother into a lawn and leaf bag:
“We don’t feel the atmosphere’s pressure pressing down on us because it’s evenly distributed all over our bodies, but when you create a void by sucking the air out of the bag around your body, then you can feel it.”
“It’s science!” Matt shouts, his eyes insanely bright. “Vacuum pack me, Jake!”
“Mom, relax,” Riley reassures me, “if Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools says it’s ok, it must be ok.”
“Thank you Riley, that’s very reassuring.”
“You’re welcome. I’m going next.”
“So you’re putting my child into a trash bag for science?” I ask Jake.
“Yes, m’am!” And he turns back to Matt, holds the top of the bag closed around Matt’s neck, and turns on the vacuum. Nothing.
“You need to create more of a seal around his neck.” I shout over the noise of the vacuum, ” Here, I’ll hold the bag, and you do the vacuum.”
And so vacuum packing each other into lawn and leaf bags becomes the family activity for the night. Blogosphere, you must try this.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Jaaaaakkke, happy birthday to you!
Valerie is still here visiting (hence the lack of posting), and we are debating whether Jake needs to take his little tail end down to the post office to register for the draft. Val says no. I say yes. The workmen who are in my house installing a new air conditioner say yes, and they have Y chromosomes so I think they are more reliable on this subject than Val. We’re going with their judgement unless Valerie sprouts testicles and their accompanying authority on all subjects masculine.
Additionally, I’m going to divvy up all the house bills, divide them by four, and give Jake his fourth to pay. Maybe I’ll write the total on a pretty piece of paper and put it in a box with a bow to make it a more festive birthday present. I’ve consulted the workmen on this, also, and they think it’s quite fair.
If anyone else would like any guidance from the air conditioning guys, they’re here all day. They’re great. They’re like a Magic Eight Ball: you just ask them a question and shake them a bit, and voila (vwah-lah, y’all!) ! Cold air and guidance.
So there you go. Bills and patriotic responsibility. Happy birthday, Jakers!
You know what worries me? My children can’t get out of the car I’ve owned for six years unless I unlock the power locks for them; they just sit there and look confused if I don’t push the master button on my door. Once, I refused to do it and got out, leaving them in the car. They crawled into the front and climbed out my door. I was so proud of their problem solving skills.
These are the people who will be in charge of making medical and legal decisions for me when I am old.