Friday, March 27, 2020

The MAN-icure (Standing in solidarity)

I was in the checkout line at the supermarket and noticed the bagger’s manicure. He had bright red 
nails with a black design painted on each one.


I debated with myself, and ultimately, I couldn’t help but ask him about it. (It’s not like he’s a total stranger or anything – I’m in that supermarket two to three times a week.)

I said, “You got your nails done.” And I asked him what the symbol was.

He told me it meant Vox Machina, something to do with his Dungeons and Dragons group. I thought to myself, OMG, D&D, something my mom and her friends did when I was a kid! That’s still around!?

We bantered a bit and I asked him where he got his nails done (He said he went to the new salon next door whose WiFi my phone always tries to connect with when I’m grocery shopping) and whether it was a gel manicure. He said it was. I thought to myself, Good luck getting that off!

Ultimately, I asked him why, because I have never seen his nails done before. I have nothing against men wearing makeup or nail polish, it’s just not that common in my rural neighborhood. The first dude I ever remember wearing makeup was Lyle – a guy that worked at the same company as me after college. I lost track of him after he moved to Las Vegas. This was in the Dude (Looks Like a Lady) era.

Supermarket Guy told me that he is standing in solidarity with one of his friends from Dungeons and Dragons; that his friend had decided he wanted to paint his nails and people were making fun of him for it, and he wanted to be supportive.

“You’re a good friend.”

“Thanks. I try,” he replied.

It reminded me of this time in 7th grade where one of my friends, Jenny, had lost a bet to her 9th grade sister and she had to wear her pants rolled up to her knees all day. She was so embarrassed about it. Humiliated, even. To make matters worse, she was late for first-period science class and everyone turned to look at her when she walked in. She entered the room awkwardly, staring at the floor as she shuffled and bumbled to her seat.

Where I went to the first half of 7th grade was in Middletown, RI. (Leaving in the middle of 7th grade to move to a new state is a story for another day.) Middletown is not far from the Newport Navy Base, where my brother was born, and thus I benefitted from a good amount of international influence, as people from all over the world might be stationed there. I had friends from South America, Italy, and Peru and  my life was a lot less vanilla than it became when I moved to “Milltown,” Massachusetts (which is a lot nicer way to describe it than I am thinking in my head right now.) My 7th grade best friend and I tried to dress the same way every day. (It was a challenge for me because this was my free-hot-lunch era and I didn’t have that many cool clothes.) We also sewed the same book bag in home ec and made the same halter top, as well as created a secret code for all the girls in our class so no one could understand the notes we passed.

We exchanged glances, and then almost silently bent forward in our seats to roll our pants legs up to our knees. One by one, the other girls in the class followed suit. By the time lunch period rolled around, every girl in the 7th grade who was wearing pants that day had them rolled up to her knees. Jenny’s mean older sister’s plan backfired as we all strutted into the cafeteria, Jenny among the throng with her head held high.

Like Supermarket Guy and my 7th grade class, stand by your friends!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The other side of fear

You don't learn to be courageous by avoiding scary situations. You become courageous by facing your fears head-on.

My anxiety was so bad I could barely make small talk with the cashier and bagger in the supermarket without feeling that I was suffocating.

It was Sunday morning and I had just dropped my youngest son off at work. He is a hockey referee and it was his first time officiating an older age group. He was nervous about it, given how some parents and coaches behave at hockey games.

All season long he’d been reffing cross-ice mite games. It wasn’t super-challenging for him, but it was $30 per game, which is about double what his older brothers make per hour of work and pretty good for a 14-year-old.

Before he accepted the assignment on the scheduling app, I pointed out that it looked like it was a different age group. I suggested he review the positioning modules in the course he had to take to certify as an officiator.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

A week went by and then we were maybe one week out from the assignment. I mentioned reviewing again.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

The day got closer and my reminding increased, even though at one point I had said to both myself and him that I wouldn’t be doing any more reminding; that I was done being co-dependent with him.

Finally, we were down to 12 hours before game time and he hadn’t reviewed anything and told me he couldn’t remember his log-in. I told him all of the same material was in the manual. He told me he didn't know where it was. Since I was in the vestibule of his room (adjacent to the laundry room) where the bookcase and desk are, it was easy for me to spot the manual.

"Voila!" I pitched it to him and told him to crack it open.

The next morning was rough. The clocks had changed so his 7:00 wakeup felt more like 6:00. He got into the car without his referee bag and skates. He may have also had pirate teeth, but whatever, that is why I keep gum in the car.

“Got your gear?”


As we backed out of the garage, the awfulizing started.

Him: “I can’t do this.”

Me: “What?”

Him: “I’m dead.”

Me: “You don’t have a choice at this point. At least you won’t be alone.” (There are two refs at this level.)

Him: “I wanted to tell you during the week, but you were too busy.”

Me: “This has nothing to do with how busy I am. You are in charge of your own schedule.”

Him: Mumble, moan.

Me: “Look. You’ve been playing hockey much longer than any of these people you’re reffing. You are in charge. Just keep the game in front of you and stay on the opposite blue line from the other ref.” (Though I don't always get what off-sides is, there are some other things I know.)

We got to the rink and I practically had to drag him out of the car. “Get out.”

Then I went to hunt down the rink manager and get the key to the referee room while he stood frozen at the end of the rink staring at the dimly-lit, wide expanse of ice. When I returned, the other ref was there, presumably older, since he seemed to be independent of any parent, and I handed him the key. My son followed him and I bolted.

I seemed to have taken on all his anxiety. I had to practice deep breathing and positive self-talk as I drove away, headed for the supermarket. I had a lot going on that weekend as it was, because I was preparing to leave for Florida for the week in the wee hours of Monday morning, and two nights before our kitchen faucet had begun leaking through the ceiling into my son’s basement bedroom. Just about every moment was accounted for and the repair was an added stress I didn’t need. Then late Saturday afternoon, my husband’s car broke down. I also hadn’t done laundry or packed yet. Plus, just the day before I’d had an exchange on Facebook with someone about not heckling officials at games. My position was don’t do it. “How would you like someone to heckle your kid.” His answer was, “Awwww.” I let the guy have the last word, but thought to myself, Fuckinasshole.

So there I was in the supermarket, trying to buy food for everyone for the week while I was away, and I could barely breathe, let alone talk or pray for my son. I’ll have to do that silently. God knows what I am thinking (and yes, I know He knows I swear a lot.)

I put the food away and puttered around the house, until my “Pick up G” alarm went off. Waves of anxiety washed over me anew. I got to the rink and shored myself up and strode inside to watch the final few minutes of the game.

Was that really my son handling the puck drops? He and his partner seemed to have full control of the game. I saw a few parents I knew and they told me things like:

“Oh, I didn’t even recognize G! He’s so tall.”
“G did a great job. There was a bit of an altercation, but he handled it.”

I was standing there chit-chatting when my son came off the ice and gave me a little nod.

Phew, what a relief!

Because I was still talking with another mom when he came out of the referee room, my son had the benefit of hearing a 3rd-party endorsement on his officiating.

As we went out to the car together. He told me, “I’m never reffing another mite game again!” which may or may not be true, because hey, $30 is $30.

On the way home he recounted the highlights of the games. I told him about my anxiety and replied, “Yeah, Mom, that’s exactly how I felt when I stepped out on the ice.”

I said, “Well, think about how good you feel right now and imagine if you had just rolled over and gone back to sleep and bailed out on this assignment?”


“You wouldn’t feel very good about yourself.”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

"Well, I am proud of you. This is an important turning point."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." He had already moved on to catching up on Snapchat.

"Smile, Mom!" he instructed, as he included me in his snap.

Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, the rest of the hockey season is postponed or canceled, just like every other activity on our calendar. We don’t even know; Everything is uncertain.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Connecting with my boys

Here's a remember-when from four years ago when times were a little simpler. (Today, both of my boys are in college, but both have been told they are not allowed to stay on campus because of the coronavirus pandemic.)

⚾Today, I inserted myself into a game of catch with my 16 and 14-year-old sons. One of them said, "Mom, you should join a softball team." I was flattered, but aside from that, being right out there next to them noticing how easy they threw to me and how amazingly fast and skilled they are when throwing to/catching each other was really something else.

(I got my glove about a decade ago when they started tee-ball. It has a big split between the first and second fingers extending into the palm. Most of my experience with baseball is from this past decade as I only played one season of softball during Jr. High and didn't get a lot of playtime, which is why I moved on to other sports in high school.)

Playing catch with my boys wasn't really about baseball, though. It was a good opportunity to see into their world for a little while. It was better than car time because lately car time = driving instruction, fiddling with the radio, or SnapChatting.

I remember a friend told me a long time ago that one day the boys would come home, go straight the their rooms, and shut their doors. That time has I'll take whatever chance I can to connect. Two and three years from now and they'll be preparing to go to college!

(And I still remember them as they were when they first played tee ball on the Townsend Astros!) 💚💚💚

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...