Sunday, February 14, 2016

Yes, OK, I'm weird about Facebook sorrynotsorry

A friend of a friend recently asked for my cell phone number so she could text me some information.

"I'd get it to you through Facebook, but I know how you are about Facebook," she said.

I cannot tell you what a relief it was to hear her say that. Cannot. Tell. You. Because while there are 20 million ways Facebook has made real life even more socially awkward and stressful, here's one of the worst:

"Hey," says the vague acquaintance you barely know and just met and aren't even sure you like AT ALL. "Are you on Facebook?"

This is an intrusive question, in my opinion, but it is apparently socially acceptable. So here are my options:

1. The implausible lie. "No, I've never heard of it. What is this Facebook thing of which you speak?"

2. The sort-of lie. "Not really. I don't use it much. It's not a great way to reach me."

3. The truth. "I find that most people use Facebook in ways that make me throw up in my mouth and weep for the fate of our species, so I'm only Facebook friends with people I'm related to by blood or marriage, or people I would trust to raise my children if everyone else in my family died."

That third one is pretty heavy, so I usually go for the second option -- the sort-of lie. The vague rebuff. The unspoken 'don't-send-me-a-friend-request-because-it-will-die-a-quiet death' option.

But, occasionally, if I'm feeling reeeeaaaalllll bitchy, I whip out the third option and watch their faces. It can be fun, depending on just how bitchy I'm feeling. Ask an intrusive question, get a painful answer. Sometimes it just seems fair to me.

At a recent professional conference, a colleague asked me about this little blog. "Do very many people read it?"

I had to think about that for a minute. My instinct was to say, "No, and I could not give one single shit how many people read it," but I was wearing heels and make-up and trying to be a grown-up making polite, work-related conversation. Sometimes life is annoying like that.

"No, not many people read it," I finally said. "But having a lot of people read it isn't the goal. It's personal. I write it for me, for my family and friends, and if other people find it and like it, too, that's a bonus. But I don't even look at those numbers most of the time. Could not tell you the readership stats."

He looked confused. I get it. We work in communications, he works in marketing, and the whole point of LIFE is to get a lot of people to read/do/buy stuff. I guess there are ways I could use social media to try to get more people to read this. But it just doesn't matter to me. I'm not a product or a brand. When I'm off the clock, I got nothing to sell.

Because it's a direct reflection of my choices, Facebook is also personal for me, despite its insanely wide reach. I don't have lots of Facebook friends. I like to keep it sub-70. Sometimes the people who make the cut change, because life changes. I trim periodically. I even add very occasionally. And I keep some sentimental favorites around because we have interesting shared histories, they have interesting lives, and I like to know how they're doing.

Of course, I know that when my friends like my things on Facebook, those things go everywhere, and when they share those things, those things go everywhere. It's cool. This is an input issue for me. I am selective about what makes it into my field of vision because I am selective about what I put into my brain. That's all I can control, and so I control it.

Meanwhile, here are just a few things I do not see in my Facebook feed:

Hateful, ignorant fear-mongering by superstitious busybodies. For example, when the Supreme Court ruled (yay!) on marriage equality in July, my feed was a rainbowfest of Love Wins smoochyfaces. A few of my friends took to Facebook to lament all the hate they were seeing on their feeds, but I think that means they need to tend their Facebook gardens a bit more carefully. Time for some pruning. With a fucking chainsaw, y'all.

People posting pictures of the latest fancy, expensive thing they just bought. If there is anything I care about less than money, I do not know what that thing is. Yes, we need money so we can eat and have a dry place to sleep, but conspicuous consumption is boring, and displays of materialism are tedious. I tend to have Facebook friends who share that perspective.

The memememememememememememmeeeeeeee thing where every person has to document every meal and every thought and where they are and who they are with at every moment doing every pedestrian and predictable thing that ALL PEOPLE DO. These are not my folk. But I have a message for them: You guys. Live your lives. Put the phone down. Be in the moment. Be with the people you are actually WITH. Stop taking the same selfie over and over and over and OVER. We saw it the first 4,386 times.

That's all pretty harsh, so I'll dial it back and end with this. I know there are lots of fun ways to use Facebook, from networking to not working to building up your business and making sure everyone sees your craymazing nail art. I wish genuine godspeed and good vibes to all the people who have the hundreds and the thousands of friends and the millions of posts scrolling before their eyes all day long. My husband is among you! He is a total all-day-long Facebook junkie, and I want everyone to have a super terrific time together.

But, you know, if you want to reach me, I'd be happy to give you my email address.

Facebook? Well, yeah, I don't use it much. It's not a great way to reach me.


A really nice picture of Ben in one of our favorite places that I never posted to Facebook.
And yet, it still happened.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

44/11

Here’s a question my Ben asks with somewhat alarming regularity: Is that a rule or a law?

As in, If I ignore this edict, will I go to actual jail, or will I just get in trouble?

As in, Lady, I give zero fucks about the way people tell me things are supposed to be, but before I totally ignore this convention, I must weigh the consequences against the benefits of disregarding the tedious restrictions you people insist on reciting at me ad nauseam.

The real problem with this behavior is that I find it charming. It makes me swoon a little bit. And Ben can read me with terrifying accuracy. So I solemnly swear to you good people that I am dutifully reciting tedious restrictions and making serious mom faces at him. I really, really am.

For example: Do not use that bad word, I say to him. That is not a word kids are allowed to say.

But my brain is thinking, Yeah, that is a pretty dumb rule, and if you want to say the eff word now and then, it really isn’t that big a deal, man. It’s just a word. Words only have as much power as we assign them, you know? So don’t use it to hurt people. Don’t call them fuckheads or anything. But if you want to use it to express an idea more forcefully, or to register your disdain, or even your amusement, I happen to know it is quite effective. Also, you very quickly discover who in the room would be a fun friend based on their reaction to it.

So you guys, I am really saying the mom things and making the mom face, but Ben is looking straight into me with his blue, blue eyes and reading my mind and taking the lesson he wants from this encounter. That lesson being: Fuck it. This is a rule and NOT a law and I won’t go to jail for this bullshit.

If you read this blog, you probably know me, and this is the part where you say, Yeah, that kid is just like you. And to you I say, I know! Isn’t it great? (Also, please send help. Also, wine. Thanks.)

I tend to attribute this rule/law-challenging temperament to a high degree of rationality, which seems better than attributing it just being kind of an asshole. But it has always seemed to me highly rational to question things, and to refuse to blindly accept the widely assumed answer.

If you lift the hood on most generally accepted conventions and muck around in the guts of things, you tend to find fear in one form or another. Fear is the absolute worst. It’s a paralyzing agent, and the enemy of rationality. So let’s unplug some shit and rewire some shit and see if it still runs. (It mostly does. Don’t worry.)

That’s a nice story, right? The one about a high level of rationality being the reason Ben and I cannot seem to stop hot-wiring conventions and taking them drag racing? It’s a story I like to tell, but it’s some delusional bullshit.

As a kid, I fairly crackled with resentment at my powerlessness. All I wanted was to steer my own ship, and people kept telling me what to eat and when to sleep and making me sit all day in desks where I had to do math. I was so pissed, you guys. I was not rational.

And Ben is pissed. The other morning, I was hustling everyone into the car so we could leave by 7:30, which is when the goddamn train departs, and he just lost it. WHY DO WE HAVE TO LEAVE AT 7:30 WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT 7:30 WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE 7:30?

And then I also lost it and explained that WE LEAVE AT 7:30 SO I CAN DROP THREE KIDS OFF AT TWO SCHOOLS BY 8 BEFORE I GO TO WORK ALL GODDAMN DAY WHERE I EARN ALL THE MONEY TO PAY FOR EVERY SINGLE THING GET IN THE CAR OR I WILL LEAVE YOU.

So he got in the car (he was SO PISSED), but man, that kid just wants to steer his own ship and I totally, totally get it.

Growing up is the hardest work we ever do. My deepest reservation about having children was knowing I’d be inflicting the process of growing up on an innocent person who asked for none of this. But since I went ahead and had kids anyway, I try to be reasonable and empathetic about the messiness and inherent frustrations involved in escaping the heavy atmosphere of childhood. (Unless I’m trying to get their asses into the car by 7:30. Then I take no shit.)

It often kind of sucks being a kid, you guys. At least, that’s how I remember it. But at least it doesn’t last very long.

Proof that it doesn’t last very long: Ben just turned 11(!), and I’m about to turn 44(!!). I have decided (in totally irrational fashion) that this has special significance.

This is our first mutual repeating-digit age year. Ben and I will get one of these every 11 years and, yes, I know anyone who has a baby during a repeating-digit age year gets a mutual repeating-digit age year every 11 years. I suck at math, but I’m at least that alert.

But since this is our first one, and since Ben faces a lifetime of carrying around the curse that is my temperament, I feel like I should mark this year somehow. If I was a certain kind of person, I would dress us up in coordinating outfits and make him stand in a sunlit field and subject him to professional photography.

But I am not that kind of person, you guys, not even a little fucking bit.

I’m thinking more like we should get into some trouble together, and maybe co-author a story about it. He likes to read, and he likes to write (my boy mineminemine) and he likes to get into some trouble. The real question is, what kind of trouble should I pick for us?

Digression: Now I’m thinking about Ben’s most recent parent/teacher conference, a special called session of multiple teachers to discuss… well, Ben. It emerges that Ben starts work, but does not finish it, and is not impressed when the teachers tell him he HAS to finish it before he can start something else. He just… doesn’t. He just stops the work and gets up and goes to do something else and does not listen to them at all.

So they are telling me this, and I am nodding solemnly and expressing dismay and pledging my sincere devotion to working with the teachers to make sure this shit stops. And I’m totally going to do that. But I’m thinking, Goddamn it, I start and then wander away from work all day every day of my life and I still get my job done. I just don’t do my job in a linear way.

But my poor Ben has got to learn to do things the way the world wants him to right up until he doesn’t have to anymore, which is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

You guys, being a kid SUCKS .

Anyway, Ben is 11, I am 44, this year feels important and I’m shopping for some trouble for Ben and me to write about together. I welcome any and all ideas, though I’d prefer to focus on trouble where we break rules and not laws.

Or hey, let’s at least make sure we’re staying in the range of misdemeanors.

We could probably tunnel out of jail, anyway.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

The introvert's dictionary. It's not alphabetical because it's my dictionary and I didn't do it that way.

I took my boys to the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Zoo on Friday. It was Ben's idea. "Animal Day," he said, when I asked him what he'd like to do on this rare day off for all of us.

Ben did not enjoy the saltwater part of the Aquarium. There were a lot of people there. A. Lot. Crowds. Hordes. Mobs. He didn't complain, but he cringed a lot.

When we got to the freshwater part, he seemed far happier. "It's better here," he said. "I think more people go to the saltwater one so they can see sharks. I like the sharks, but I don't like all the people."

Oh, I feel you, honey. I really do. 

I took a long, solitary trail run on Thursday morning and, during that run, I thought about the specific reality of the introvert. Well, I primarily thought about how goddamn amazing it felt to be alone in the woods and pushing my body to the point of endorphin intoxication, but I also thought about how amazing it felt to just be alone. And while I did that, I also wrote this dictionary/glossary/guide to introverts thing. 

Mephoria: The intense rush introverts experience when they are all alone and can do whatever they want. And no one is looking for you or calling you and no one expects you to be anywhere and no one is even texting you because maybe the battery in your cell phone is even dead. Gah. Yesh.

Youphoria: The particular joy that accompanies abundant, unstructured time doing fun things with one specific someone who totally gets you on a mind-meld level. I am ridiculously lucky, so I have a few of these people. You know who you are. I miss you.

Regretrovert: What an introvert becomes when everyone leaves you alone because you told them to, but then you miss them. Dammit.

Ohdeerface: That thing where the people who know you best see that you are DONE, just can't. any. more. And their heads kind of swivel up, like a deer who detects a threat, and they come over to you and put a hand on your shoulder and excuse you from whatever agonizing conversation you have been forced to endure, and then they take you home and hand you a book and don't even bitch about what a pain in the ass you are. (Thanks, Jim.)

Charging station: The place introverts go to briefly isolate themselves in a social situation, whether we are temporarily hiding in a bathroom at a party or maybe curled up in the corner reading for a few minutes at a reunion or even taking a surreptitious little walk around the block during a conference when we pretended we were just going to the bathroom. It's OK. We'll be back. Probably.

The ghost: What happens when an introvert leaves for a charging station and decides not to come back. Introverts don't leave, exactly. They just ghost.

Defcon 5: That thing where you're in your charging station and someone busts in and says in that infuriating, unintentionally accusatory way, "What's wrong?" or "Why are you so quiet?" or "Where were you?" Well, hey, Bargey McRuderson, here's a question for you: Why don't you just mind your own dumbface business?

Untroversion: What introverts practice when they have to interact with so many people so much and so often, and have gotten so adept at it, that when they end up disclosing during a conversation that they are introverts, the person they're talking to say, "No way! I would never, ever guess that." Winning. Also, suffering.

NOTTHESAMETHING: That thing introverts have to clarify when people express surprise that they are introverts, and they say, "You don't seem shy at all." Right. Because I'm not shy at all. 'Shy' implies fearful. You don't scare me even a little. But in order to function optimally, I need you and everyone else to just go away sometimes. NOTTHESAMETHING.

Occupational therapist: Most dogs are extroverts. Not all of them, I know. But most dogs. And if you are an introvert with a dog, you probably take your dog to the dog park and out for walks and stuff, and that thing where you interact with other people with dogs is your introvert occupational therapy. No copay, lots of unconditional love. Good therapist. Stay.

Introcceptance: The state introverts achieve after they spend decades trying to figure out why everyone else seems to want to hang out in big groups and you hate it more than anything, it is hell, and whywhywhy? And then you realize that yeah, that's just life for the introvert, and you figure out how to happily introvert your way through life and it is amazing. 

Funtrovert: What the introvert becomes when you host a party, and the people you love best are at your house, and you're simultaneously with your best people on your home turf, and also having a high degree of social interaction, and it is bliss because everyone there knows. They KNOW. And they will never, at any point, wonder where you went if you walk around the block, and they will never go Defcon 5 on you.

Waterboarding: Small talk, elevator talk, cocktail party talk, people on planes who are apparently looking for new friends, people who want to know what you're reading, those dead minutes at the beginning of a meeting when people talk about weather/sports/the day of the week/payday. Also, meetings. Also, elevators.

Shocktrovert: That jolt of recognition the introvert experiences when you're being waterboarded, and you suddenly realize the person you're talking to is ALSO being waterboarded, and you mutually confess your misery, drop all pretense, talk about real shit that is worth actually talking about and maybe even make a new friend.

Ironictrovert: That thing where you know you will have to interact with groups of people in a surface, social way that makes you want to die, so you read books and articles about how to do that effectively. Alone. All by yourself. You read. About how to talk to people.

Saints, martyrs, gods among men: The people who know, love, understand and protect introverts. You guys are so awesome. I love you so much. Now please go away.


Ben and I engaged in a lively exchange of ideas.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Meet my drunk teenager

Because I am the world's best mother, I gave my cell phone to my 15-year-old son. I carried that phone for 5 years. He had it for 3 months and then jumped right into the neighborhood pool with it in his pocket.

Look, I wasn't mad (see world's best mother reference above). I know it's not technically his fault. The rolling wave of testosterone that's unfurling in his blood blocks oxygen to the brain. It forms an actual barrier somewhere just south of his neck. This is science, people. You can't fight it.

My boy is walking around in a paralyzing fog of hormones that makes him, for all practical purposes, drunk. He's exactly like me after five beers. Laughing too loud, interrupting everyone, walking into stuff, falling off of stuff, convinced everything he says is hilarious, jumping into the pool with his iPhone in his pocket.

But now that he's just like me after five beers, he can legally learn to drive a car? OK, people who make the rules. That makes total sense.

He used to smell of warm dinner rolls, fresh cut grass, clean laundry. Now he's shrouded in musky fumes whose origins I prefer not to contemplate. He used to hold up his tiny, dimpled hands to let me know he was ready to be carried. Now he's a head taller than I am and speaks mostly in grunts.

Well, except that time he jumped into the pool with his cell phone in his pocket. That event traumatized him into temporary talkativeness. 

"I'm so sorry! I'm SO SORRY!" he moaned. Pause for two beats. "So, can I please get another phone?"

The flip side of my drunk teenager is that he's super useful. He can mow the grass and spread the mulch and drag the garbage out to the curb and make lunch for himself and his little brother and carry ALL the heavy stuff. 

For years, I felt like a baby/toddler/little boy sherpa, forever schlepping their little bodies and all their gear everydamnwhere everydamnday. These days, when I pull into the driveway with a carload of anything, I just hop out and saunter into the house, leaving the cargo for the teenager to unload. 

Most of the time, he even greets me in the driveway. He knows the drill. He knows who buys the cell phones around here.

Well, unless there's something fragile in the car. I still carry that stuff. You really don't want a drunk teenager hauling your breakables.

Just leave that in the car. I'll carry it in. 


Saturday, July 11, 2015

In defense of those assholes who tell you to "enjoy every moment"

OK, I would never say that to the parents of young children. That's a dick move. I remember how exhausting it was, how unrelentingly needy they were, how scared I was that I was doing it all wrong, how sure I was I would never again sleep through the night/go to the bathroom by myself/finish the day without food in my hair/get to shave both legs on the same day. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have mild PTSD from those years. It. Was. Hard.

So no, I would never say that to the parents of young children. But here is a thing I would say: Have you ever had your heart utterly, completely broken by someone you missed long after you should have been over it? A romance that marked you, changed you, made some song or some movie or some season or some stupid little joke forever painfully poignant and fraught with loss? Have you just gotten crushed and had to eat ice cream straight out of the carton, seasoned with tears?

Well, those unhinged assholes telling you to enjoy every moment with your little, screaming, sticky children are caught in the throes of precisely that kind of heartbreak. They are looking at you and that soft, dimpled creature and they are remembering only the soft-focused best of that long-gone romance that will never, ever be back. They can't even Facebook stalk this ex because he/she is gone forever, transformed (and, yes, I'm sorry, but it DOES happen so quickly) into an utterly different creature.

Those clouds of soft, wild hair have turned into teen-age dreadlocks or that douchey boy-band hairdo they slick up in the front with gel. Those tiny, dimpled hands reaching for you -- and you, only you, no, not that one, YOU -- are waving 'bye over a broad shoulder as he grabs your car keys and the last $20 from your wallet. That back-of-the-neck baby smell that releases all those happiness chemicals in your brain will be replaced by a teen-age funk that, if weaponized, could bring entire empires to their knees.

Looking at old pictures doesn't really help. In fact, it's sometimes physically painful to haul out the images of those long-gone babies, to see in those round, guileless faces and gummy grins the faint outlines of the adolescent somewhere up ahead. Was he ever that small? (Yes, he was, and I was so, so tired…)

My 15-year-old son recently asked me if I wished he were little again.

"Not really," I said truthfully. "My life is easier now that you're so big and smart and strong, and you can help me with stuff and teach me things. It's a lot of fun to have big kids. But I would love a visit."

"A what?"

"I would love it if I could have 2-year-old you back for about 3 hours," I explained. "I would like to feel the weight of your warm little body in my lap again, and hear that funny immigrant English you spoke in that little helium voice….Just for a little while."

"Weird."

Yeah," I sighed. "It's weird."

But time doesn't work that way. And no, I would never tell the parents of young children to enjoy every moment, because wow, it's a tough time and that's a dick move. But I might say, hey, it's a lot more temporary than it feels right now. The good, the bad, the days that take months to drag by, the months that disappear in a flash. It's all so temporary.

They'll be gone soon. You won't enjoy every moment. But maybe try to consider these incredibly demanding years with the tenderness you would reserve for an intensely felt and ultimately doomed romance.

Because there just isn't enough ice cream in the world for this particular heartbreak.


Gone, baby, gone.



Sunday, July 5, 2015

My big-sister self is back, and she is mighty aggravated

There’s this desk in my room where I sit to write and work and pay bills and generally keep the wheels of our lives turning. I recently walked to that desk and found there was no chair.

“BOYS!” I screamed reflexively. “WHERE IS MY CHAIR?”

My younger son, who’s 10, hollered back, “IT’S IN MY BLANKET FORT. I NEEEEED IT FOR MY BLANKET FORT!”

OK, a couple of things to point out here. When I walk to my desk, I am mentally zeroed in. I am ready to pay the bills or do the work or write the thing, and I have dragged myself away from whatever diverting alternate activity I’d rather be doing (do you guys know about ThredUP? Seriously.), and I am ready. I mean business as I saunter up to that desk, y’all.

Also, I am the big sister. Granted, I am also a 43-year-old mother of two large boy-type children, but some part of me has apparently never gotten past those big-sister years when all I wanted in the world was to be left alone to read in peace and to find my things where I left them and to not have gross little boys always touching my things and moving my stuff and WHY ARE YOU EVEN IN MY ROOM? GAH.

When my kids were small, my big-sister origins were not a problem. I mean, they were little children and mostly helpless and pretty much always in either my lap or my line of sight. They did annoying shit, sure, but it did not generally involve moving furniture or surreptitiously taking my stuff to undisclosed locations, so I kind of forgot about the big-sister years. But as my boys have gotten big and strong and grabby enough to disrupt my environment in truly significant and bewildering ways, that 14-year-old version of myself is suddenly back. And wow, she is super bitchy.

“Son, I know you think you NEED that chair for your blanket fort, but you do not. I need that chair for my butt, so I can sit in it and pay our bills and finish my work. So please go get that chair and bring it to me. And do not take furniture out of my room. That is not OK.”

All of the other chairs in the house were also in this fort, by the way, so you would not think my little office chair would be critical to its infrastructure, but you would be wrong. In making him move that chair, I destroyed his life and proved myself the worst mother on the planet.

Which, to tell you the truth, is OK with me. Someone has to be the worst at this stuff. It can be me. That way it isn’t you! You’re welcome.

I also found that my free weights were a critical part of the infrastructure of this elaborate fort. I found that when, you guessed it, I went to lift my free weights. (That sounds so badass but, you guys, these weights top out at 8 pounds and they are coated in colorful plastic. They’re perfect blanket-fort ballast.)

And forget about being able to use my most favorite giant towel at the pool. That is not my towel anymore, and the way I can tell that is not my towel is that some wet child is constantly wrapped in it. I even bought a new version of it covered in giant pink flowers because I figured none of the boys I live with would want it. And now my reward for teaching them about feminism and gender equality is that they could give a shit if they have a pink floweredy towel. It’s cool, bro. Now we have TWO giant towels – perfect!

I recently took a business trip and, while I was gone, my husband took our older son to get his learner’s permit. Then he posted a picture to Facebook of our baby boy driving my car.

MY CAR. Driving. My. Car.

“Good job, buddy. I’m really proud of you!” I texted to my son that night.

“Thanks for taking him. So why the hell can’t he drive YOUR car?” I texted to my husband.

They didn’t respond. I’m pretty sure they were all in the blanket fort. Or out driving my car.


No, really, this is fine. Just let me know when you're done with it.







Monday, June 15, 2015

That one time I quit writing my newspaper column

I published my last TFP column yesterday. Thirteen years is long enough, you guys. I'm starting to bore myself a little, which suggests to me that I've been boring other people a lot for quite some time now. Enough already.

But hey, I'm kind of fake quitting because I will still blog. Writers gotta write, yo.

So I will blog when I feel like it, and I will say what I want (profanity goes here!). I may blog twice a week or maybe I'll blog twice a year. Hell, I don't know. But last month, when I decided to just blog what was in my head, it got picked up by Scary Mommy and that was pretty thrilling. So just blogging. Let's do this.

Meanwhile, if you want to read my final TFP column, I am pasting it below. I am not linking to it as a petty act of defiance because the newspaper keeps running this horrendous 10-year-old picture of me on their website. I am like 5 minutes postpartum and I am growing out a bad haircut and I have this sleep-deprived, thousand-yard stare. I look like the walking momdead. Why did I let anyone take a picture of me at that point in my life? Oh right. I was insane from giving birth, which has that effect on me. I'm really glad I stopped doing it.

Anyway, I keep saying, Hey you TFP guys. Run another picture. You've got several. Some of them are better than that. And they keep running that horrible, horrible picture.

So anyway, here's my last TFP column. Something sentimental goes here about the end of an important chapter in my life. I'll see you on the blog.

The art of knowing when to say when
I really thought I was going to make it, but the afternoon sun through the clouded glass finally did me in.
"I'm going to have to pull over and wash this windshield," I told my mother. "I hate to stop when we're so close to home, but I'm driving blind."
The windshield of my mother's 19-year-old car was caked with sand from Florida and road grime from nearly 10 hours of interstate driving. We rolled into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Ringgold and I popped the trunk. Mom rooted around in there until she came up with the giant jug of washer fluid she carries around, toted it to the front of the car and threw a few splashes of it on the glass while I ran the wipers.
"That's got it," I said. "Let's go."
My mother doesn't find this at all ridiculous, and I learned a long time ago to keep my mouth shut on the topic of her old-car fetish. She can't keep washer fluid in the reservoir of her car because no plastic reservoir is built to last through 19 years and 275,000 miles. They crack. If you try to repair them (and she has), they crack again. And, if you're my mom, you just shrug and start carrying around a jug of washer fluid in the trunk.
She's only driving this 1996 Camry because I bullied her into giving up her 1989 Subaru. It was around 2005, and I had a 5-year-old son and a newborn baby. My mom loved that tuna can of a Subaru, and she loved toting her grandsons around, but I wasn't happy with the idea of my little boy and my little baby in the backseat of that flimsy thing. So she caved and bought a 9-year-old Camry, which she still says is too big and heavy for her comfort.
Ten years later, I have a 15-year-old son, a 10-year-old son and a mother who will not give up her 19-year-old car. Every year, I drive her home from our annual trip to Florida, and every year there's a new quirk to accommodate.
"It's a good car," she says any time we talk about the possibility that a 19-year-old car is due to be replaced. "It has never once failed to proceed."
That's really how she talks. It's pretty cute. But still. Nineteen years, Mom?
As it happens, I think a lot these days about letting go. My sons are suddenly so grown up and independent. The first time my husband and I went out and left them at home, I felt disoriented and anxious. Now I don't think twice.
This year I've had to stop teaching the university media writing course I loved so much to accommodate a terrific career that requires more of me than I ever predicted. Maybe one day I'll have time for teaching again, but now is not that time.
This column is next. I've been writing it for 13 years — from the time I was barely 30, my older son was a toddler and my younger son was just an idea. I've written through the many joys of watching my boys grow up, through the challenges of illness, job loss, new careers and multiple moves.
I've loved writing this column, but I think it's time for something new. Thank you for reading what I wrote, and for all the times you wrote back to let me know how much it meant to you. Y'all have got to be the nicest readers anywhere, and it's been a privilege to share my stories with you.
Also, if you have any ideas for repairing the washer fluid reservoir in a 19-year-old Camry, I'll still be around and entertaining ideas.