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Grandma Lee’s Funeral

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

My weekend might have been worse than yours. We flew to Athens, Georgia, for my grandmother’s funeral. Reed calls me the velcro member of “The Family” (the core family: my two sisters and our parents). I am the detachable/re-attachable obligation.

24 hours until the funeral:
Reed, Luc, and I arrive at Bob Hope International Airport relaxed, ready for caffeine, and determined to make the best of a funeral weekend. Michael, our Southwest ticketing agent, cringes as he breaks the news that we are at the wrong airport. Our flight will leave from LAX as scheduled, and we would need teleportation to board on time.

22 hours until the funeral:
The Great Wrong Airport Debacle of 2015 resolved (thank you, Southwest!!), we scuttle through security where I nervously present an expired driver’s license and my antique passport. A text from my sister pings that we should not stop by our parents’ house (both of my sisters are staying there) when we get to town because Mom is stressed. I figure she must only want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait. I am family.

11 hours until the funeral:
We hobble into the Holiday Inn of Athens, Georgia, at 1am. Luc is asleep. I am 18% alive. The empty bottle of saline surprises Reed anew, and he makes his monthly dash to a 24 hour drugstore.

4 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should not go to our parents’ house today before the funeral because Mom is overwhelmed. I figure she must want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait…

3 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should absolutely be on time for the funeral. The Family will arrive promptly at noon, and I’d better be there waiting. Or else. I silently question 5 hours of flying, 4 hours of laying over, and 3 hours of driving for this.

1 hour until the funeral:
The hotel iron is a union member who already worked 40 hours this week. My dress, covered in wrinkles and large ovals of iron juice, has reached a new level of suitcase chic.

11:15 AM:
We arrive at the church and debate parking in the spaces marked “Funeral.” My husband insists we can’t park there because “those spaces are for family only.” Really? Really?? Velcro Girl growls.

Noonish:
The Family arrives. Mom moves and speaks with a quiet fluidity. I think she is medicated. We file into a gargantuan sanctuary. Ambitious choice for a 99 year old’s funeral. Surprise baptism! My sister scheduled an adult baptism for herself. Today. An hour before our grandmother’s funeral. The Family is pleased and does not offer an explanation.

12:15 PM:
Miraculously, energetic, excited-to-see-each-other-after-a-whole-year 5 and 7 year-old cousins remain quietly pretend-somber. Sort of. Mom invites everyone to view a short, silent slide show of Grandma Lee through the years. It loops. And loops. For 45 minutes.

Grammy promises her fading grandchildren tiny, mysterious presents if they behave. Desperate parents hiss time-outs, shoot stink-eyes, and issue death threats to bring the impossible to fruition: happy, hungry, bored, quiet, calm children.

Post Funeral:
The service lasted in the neighborhood of 136 child-years. We file into a room with finger sandwiches and cookie platters. Luc takes a finger sandwich for show, and then shovels 80% of the cookies onto his plate. I pretend not to notice because, frankly, he deserves them.

Eventually we are dismissed and return to the hotel for food and swimming. A stressful, mandatory, The Family style dinner closes the day.

24 Hours Post Funeral:
Reed packed with an air of time abundance. We arrive at our gate hungry and just in time to board. Hopefully trail mix will satiate us for the next 5 hours. “Attention please: we have a passenger on board with a peanut allergy. No peanuts or peanut products will be permitted today. Thank you!” We survive on millions of pretzelito packs and thimbles of orange juice.

Was my weekend worse than yours?

Parenting Disapproval: My Son is a Hot Proton

My son has been asking about being baptized at church for a while (Read: many months.) (I’m not stalling, it’s just that schedule issues got in the way). Today was finally the day. We went over to the church office to talk about it with the youth minister. (She is wonderful!!)


Luc’s normal energy level is similar to a proton’s. Depriving him of sleep is like adding heat to the proton. We are on day [I’m-too-embarrassed-to-say] of late to bed and early to rise. On top of this, Luc is scared of the baptism process, he’s sure it means swimming naked in front of the whole church. (To any non-Christians: baptism is a clothing required activity.)

My little hot proton and his little hot attitude vibrated into the youth pastor’s office and found a giant stability ball to bounce! Two hot hydrogens and an oxygen. I’ve got boiling water on my hands. But the youth pastor handled my little Luc-ton beautifully. (It may not surprise anyone to learn that all of my chemistry teachers rock back and forth with their arms around their knees when they hear my name.)

We met for a long time. Luc revealed a lot about his beliefs and hopes and fears. We even came away with a pencil sketch of a plan for a future baptism once Luc makes his final decision.

By the time we said good-bye to the youth pastor, it was so late that someone else had to unlock the main door. They chatted with us for a bit. But Luc’s increasing fatigue had lowered his temperment to the red zone: kicking my purse. But wait, there’s more! And when I repeatedly asked him to stop, he smiled ear to ear, winked, and resumed kicking my purse!!

I was super embarrassed. It was one of those Mommy moments where you promise everyone that the behavior is unusual, and nobody believes you. I wondered aloud (rookie mistake) if his behavior was due to fatigue or an independence stage.

Response (closed-mouth smile with raised eyebrows): “Well, they behave if you give them what they need.”

(Wait. What? Am I being accused of neglecting my son’s needs? I’m being told to my face right now that my son’s behavior is unreasonable and that I’m a bad mom?)

Me (tension-relief joke): “Or if you give them what they want, am I right? Haw?”

Response: “Oh no, they’ll never behave if you give them what they want too much.”

Okay, well thanks. It was great chatting with ya! And I walked away with my terrible mom tail tucked between my terrible mom legs. Today, the answer to the name of my blog is evidently NO.

  • Observation: That last part sucked. And that person was out of line. But the implied insults hurt my feelings. And made me doubt myself and, worse of all, my sweet son.
  • Application: I need to focus on the fact that my son is an amazing, strong, kind, independent child. He thinks deeply about his faith. He decided himself that he wanted to be baptized! Plus, I appropriately and successfully taught him about faith in a God who is love.

Dear Peach Parents with Chocolate Children,

I ran into something yesterday that was a solid reminder to stay vigilant. Because sometimes people are just big, fat, ignorant honkeys. Nothing against white people, some of my best friends are white. (That’s a joke, because I’m white.) Anyway, I mistook a Smiling Face for a friend…

“Your enemy won’t do you no harm
Cause you’ll know where he’s coming from
Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I’m only tryn’ to school ya”
Read more: Temptations – Smiling Faces Sometimes Lyrics | MetroLyrics

It is a TERRIBLE feeling to get duped! Betrayed. Tricked. So I have compiled the beginning of a list that might (maybe) help adoptive parents to spot “Smiling Faces”…

#1: “Why isn’t there a White History Month?”
If your friend complains that the African American teacher facilitates constructive discussions about race too much, your antennae should go up. Teaching children to be “color blind” teaches them that color is bad. P.S. White History Month actually does exist! You can learn more about important white figures in the months of January through December each year.

#2: “The Sin of Provocation”
If your friend’s child bites your child and then she blames your child for driving her child to bite, your antennae should go up. Biting is never okay, and it is never the fault of the victim. Duh.

#3: “There is some truth in stereotypes, why else would they exist?”
If your friend ignores concrete evidence and assumes that your black, male child is a trouble maker who struggles with academics more than her white child, your antennae should go up. Everyone wants to think that their child is a genius, but it is nobody’s right to convince your child that he or she is less than what they are.

#4: “Mean People Suck”
If you and/or your child come away from play dates feeling inadequate, your antennae should go up. True friends will be kind to you and leave you feeling encouraged.

#5: “Microaggression Theory”
Suggest meeting at the library so that you can observe your children interacting with each other while they work on homework. If your friend shows up with the child’s Auntie who happens to teach the grade your children are in, you should run. Just run. Know you’ve been ambushed and run. It will end with the Auntie explaining why her niece or nephew is a saint and your child is a goading pre-criminal.

The fact that our children have been through too much too soon makes them survivors, not monsters. They are exceptional and strong. We must publicly celebrate them and stand up for them at all times.

Nobody gets to parent my child but ME.

To 31 year old Luc (if you have issues with cavities):

Note: If 31 year old Luc does not have issues with cavities, please totally disregard and immediately destroy the following babblings.

Dearest 31 year old Luc,

very tired mom

Mom under the influence of exhaustion (mental and physical).

I love you. You know that. You were always a high-energy, strong-willed child. You know that too. Strong-willed children can be tiring. When you were two, you caused mayhem. I’d sigh, “Aw Luuuuc…” and you would double over with laughter. I used to have a private Jerry Maguire joke with myself during times of friction; I would think to myself, “You deplete me.” But, no matter how frustrated or exhausted I became, I always made sure to tell you that I loved you without condition.

So, about the teeth. The guilt is really getting to me. I know I should scrape myself off the floor and brush your teeth after you brush each time, but the inevitable battle… Ohhh the inevitable battle. I just… It’s just… I never do it. I won’t say I can’t do it because we’ve all seen the You Tube videos of the blind or deaf, one-legged and/or no armed, three-toed hermaphrodite puppy climbing Mt. Everest while singing “Nearer to Thee.” Or something similar. Can’t is a big word. I could, but I don’t. I hold myself accountable.

The thing is there are a million things, like teeth, that I need to scrape myself off the floor to take care of: that bump in your nose, hair cuts*, pink sludge, soy, bathing, ash attacks*, pedophiles, room tidiness, holey socks, playing Wii until your eyes glaze over and you forget how to swallow, and on and on. I can find two degrees of separation from any activity and DEATH. Because I’m a Mom. It is a mother’s curse to know that everything can lead to permanent damage. God gave us the superpower of foresight, but He didn’t provide any antidotes!!!

You will probably read this and feel resentment. You might even show it to your future therapist. And you’ll both agree that I should not have let a 7 year old’s temper tantrums dictate my behavior: She should have ignored the rage, and brushed his teeth after he brushed. At least once per day, right? I mean couldn’t she manage even once per day??

No, 31 year old Luc and his future therapist, I can’t manage once per day. I can manage once per week. Usually.

But, no 7 year old can possibly comprehend the permanent consequences of dental hygiene!

I know. I tried to explain them to him.

But that’s insane!

I know that too. I’m sorry.

Sorry?! Say sorry to TSA as their wands go crazy over a mouthful of fillings!

If that would help, I will. Maybe. If I have the energy.

You really are unbelievable, you one-sided conversation having nut jo—

Don’t you talk to your mother like that!

I’m not!! I’m reading this! YOU are typing it!!

I need you to check your tone, son.

You are not a sane person.

I realize this. And sometimes I cling to one of the benefits of being an adoptive mother: I can claim with near certainty that enduring my neuroses is better for you than enduring [insert negative unknowable alternative]. It’s a low bar, but a moderately comforting one. Also, I know you know, and your future therapist knows, and you know your future therapist knows you know I love you. And love conquers all?

In conclusion, I love you very much. I’ve made sure you know you are loved. Your daily hygiene is an acknowledged suboptimal situation. But I love you very much. And I love you. Did I mention I love you?

Now, who wants ice cream?

*It’s a black thing.

Potential

Sunday: I call the number and enter the other numbers and press the numbers and eventually learn that I need to report for jury duty on Thursday.

Thursday: I arrive at 111 North Hill Ave to find a line of people in front of the building entrance. “Good,” I think, “they should make the criminals wait in line and watch all of us hard-working, upstanding citizens as we walk in to do our civic duty. Sadly, the line was for people with jury duty. I took my place in line and quickly grew so bored that I decided to start an Instagram account. Nobody cared.

Waiting in line for the privilege of jury duty. #first2ndhandcigoftheday #delicious

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

And I also decided to keep a log…

7:34am – Hour 1 has been unpleasant but I am still strong. I waited in line for about 30 minutes. The woman behind me told a listening ear (not mine) about her many, many, many, many, many ailments. She started with a lesson on how to know when it’s time to get that tooth pulled. Next we dove into the wrist injury (“massive break”) and the resulting bone degeneration disease that left her knees knocking bone on bone (“the doctors don’t even know how I’m walking around!”). Then came the story about the car accident where she suffered “whiplash times ten.” But the whiplash-times-ten had a name that involved the word “ovarian.” At this point, she was talking so quickly, that it was easy to miss such small details. I am growing dubious. Before she could launch into another adventure, the guards have begun to file us through the metal detectors.

7:46am – I set the metal detector alarm off, yet without so much as a glance, the guard robotically motioned me to proceed … as if she secretly hopes that I do have something on my person that will put her out of her misery. When I turned to ask her for directions, she intuited my question and interrupted with a stoney “SECOND FLOOR.” What a strange place.

A day will come when one too many people ask her where to go for jury duty...

A day will come when one too many people ask her where to go for jury duty…

7:53am – The scenery here is so oppressive that it appears to have drained everyone of the ability to interact.

7:55am – I walked down the most life-depleating hallway I’ve ever seen.

The long, despairing hall/haul of juror dutydome. #everyoneissofriendly

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

7:59am: I did the “Who goes left?” Shuffle with a woman who remained completely expressionless. I nervously giggled “Excuse me!!” but she remained silent and emotionless, much like a coyote I once saw negotiating a fence.

The Who Goes Left Shuffle with a lifeless shell of a woman.

The Who Goes Left Shuffle with a lifeless shell of a woman.

8:11am – When I entered “The Juror Room” a.k.a. “The Sea of Potential” (as I have renamed it), a sea of empty blue chairs looked like softly clapping waves in an ocean during a tidal change. Peaceful in appearance, but underneath you know that it will drown you if given a chance.

#seaofpotential

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

8:48am – They played a video. Then a judge who must not feel heard by his loved ones talked for a long time about the honor of jury duty. He made a confusing reference to the recent terrorist massacre in Paris where extremists murdered 17 innocent people, including the execution of 3 cartoonists. The judge said the event would have been “impossible … well, unlikely” in the U.S. because of our jury by peers system. You might need to read that part again because you are so confused, but he really said it. And nobody punched him. I almost did. Obviously we could all reference a little event in the U.S. that we refer to only by it’s date. I’ve never used this shorthand before, but it’s works here: SMH

8:53am – My strength is fading. They are clever here. They use long speeches peppered with rainbow suspenders level gags to break us down. I can see my comrades weakening. I’m amazed at how quickly the bright eyes of the living are dulled by this subtle and powerful torture.

8:04am – The hour hand of the clock sags so that it is difficult to decipher the time. This must be intentional. I almost believe that we are repeating the 8 o’clock hour, but I’ll try to remember that it is really the 9 o’clock hour. Must remember. I think it is Thursday, though all the days run together here. Since it is still Day 1, I am able to keep track.

8/9:07am – My body is beginning to feel at one with the chair. My mind seems to be breaking down. I almost joined in the bizarre North Korelian applause that happens after each speech. The Commander spoke about the rules and listed the stupid questions we are not permitted to ask. The implied conclusion seems to be that we are stupid and annoying. I believe her. I am stupid and annoying. Wait! No, I am not! It’s all getting fuzzy. I remember my son. I remember my husband. And the puppy. I remember them. Must not forget.

The Captain says "I LOVE YOU!!! I LOVE YOU!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!!!" #captaincutiepants

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

8/9:11am – I ration the last of my luke-warm tea. Lips so dry. Tongue swelling? Was this mole here yesterday? Distracted. I must remove this blasted chipped nail polish. Nail polish remover! Cupboard! Home! Memories of home! What is my family doing now? Do they miss me? How much has my son grown since I saw him last?

8/9:24am – They’ve replaced our names with dehumanizing numbers. I am now Juror 8095. Must remember my name, my humanity. I will fight for those memories. I am Allison Garwood!

8/9:29am – The sedative of boredom and ugly carpet is punctuated by bolts of terror. Will my name be called? What then?? I try to get some rest, but I can’t sleep. The silent screams of the Potentials (as I have named us) makes sleep impossible. Each time I catch the eye of a Potential I see more screams: “What if? What then?!” I try to concentrate on my family and making it back to them one day. My sweet son. Juror 8095 loves you, sweetie.

8/9:33am – They offered us a 30 minute break. A few people left. Where did they go? A break from what? How does one take a break from waiting? Is it a trap? Do they shoot the fools who leave for not appreciating the honor of serving this great country? Do they shoot the fools who stay for not needing to rest from the excitement of the potential of serving this great free country? I decide to stay.

8/9:44 – A flashback of my old life when I think I see a friend from behind. A friend from my old life. The woman turns, I realize I’m here in my new life. Keep forgetting this is where I live now.

8/9:47 – I brought some Cuties in my purse. Can I eat them? The Grammar Outlaw (yes! Juror 8095 remembers calling herself this in her old life!) wonders both: a. if eating in the Sea of Potential is allowed and b. if the starved stomach of a pitiful Potential is capable of receiving nutrition.

8/9:50 – In the name of everything that’s holy!! They are calling names right now!!! A TWENTY ONE DAY TRIAL!!! Oh the humanity!!!!

8/9:51 – My name was called.

Stopping by Boxes on the Moving Day

Whose boxes these are I think I know.
My house is in the suburbs though;
My husband will not see me stopping here
To watch the boxes fill up with crap.

My little plant must think it queer
To stay without a sane person to water him near
Between the park and busy road
The forgetfulest woman of the year.

He gives his saucer rocks a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of the puppy’s leg and furry shake.

The boxes are many, tan and deep,
But I have a mannie pettie to keep,
And miles of boxes to go before I sleep,
And miles of boxes to go before I sleep.

— by Allison AABA Garwood

(Inspired by Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost)

The Rules

A resident scowls on the other side of the hedges as he silently counts the number of people at the pool.

A resident scowls on the other side of the hedges as he silently counts the number of people at the pool.

The pool rules are few, but strictly enforced … when it comes to us. A resident is allowed to have 6 people (including said resident) at the pool. That is a great number if you are retired. If you are single, you can have five friends over! If you are a couple, you can invite two couples over! Very fair!

However, if you are a family of three, you can invite one family over IF they only have one child. Or you can tell them to leave a child at home.

If a resident wishes to have more than 6 people (including said resident) at the pool, the resident must submit a request in writing to the board two weeks before the event. If the “party” is approved, the resident must post their intent to party in several locations so that all residents can know about it and have an opportunity to complain about it and force you to cancel.

To be honest, I have never submitted a request. I think the rule is unreasonable for our situation and that the spirit of the law should be held rather than the letter. And that has been a problem for me.

I am currently in hot water and have endured several lectures because I invited our neighbor from across the street to the pool. My neighbor has 4 children. I have one. It was two moms and our kids. But uh oh! That means SEVEN people were at the pool! And wait, it gets worse! My husband got home from work, saw us at the pool and joined us. (Cue Psycho shower music.) Now we had EIGHT people at the pool! The horror!!! Three adults and five kids.

I’ve been yelled at by two different people and received several new copies of the pool rules.

Oh my goodness these people are killing me.