The Extroverted Feeler and the Terminator

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: grateful. I have a series of stories about my son and daughter. My son is the extroverted feeler….

 

The Extroverted Feeler and the Terminator

From the time the extroverted feeler is 3.5 until he turns 7, we live in Colorado, in Alamosa.

Alamosa is isolated high desert, in the San Luis Valley, at 7500 feet. We are surrounded by mountain passes, the lowest over 9000 feet, to the south. The San Luis Valley is named “Land of Cool Sunshine”. We have over 300 days of sun a year, but the temperature drops in this high desert valley every night, about 30 degrees. One day a fellow doctor announces that we’ve had a record high at night in the summer: 56 degrees. The locals complain about a heat wave when the day time temperature gets to 80.

My husband will talk to anyone, anyone and is interested in everyone. We get to know a German man, younger than us, I think through the gym.

He flies back to Germany to see family. Alamosa has a one gate airport and is really expensive to fly out of. He drives 250 miles, to Denver, to save money. Over a pass that is 10,000 feet plus.

He returns and is driving home.

He wakes up in a hospital. When the ventilator tube is removed.

We are visiting and he tells us about it. “When I woke up, they asked me what my insurance was.”

I said, “It’s in my wallet.”

“Where is your wallet?”

“In the glovebox. My truck.”

And then they show him a photograph of his truck.

He fell asleep and rolled his truck. Multiple times. There was no glovebox. Really there was not much left except bits of frame and wheels. And he’d rolled it about 17 miles from home. He almost made it the 250 miles. It was awful. Horrifying.

We are talking to him at his house a couple of months after the accident, when he is finally home. He was lifeflighted back to Denver after the accident. He’d broken an arm and his leg in multiple places and rib fractures and at home still has metal rods going into his arm. External fixation, holding bits of bone together.

My son is six. He keeps looking at our German friend and looking up above him.

Our friend notices. He is sitting in an armchair. Right behind him on the wall is a poster of the Terminator. Our friend is big and blond and has a Terminator build.

Our friend grins at my son when he realizes what the extroverted feeler is looking at. “Yes, that’s me. I am the Terminator. Part metal and part human.”

We laugh with him, glad that his sense of humor has survived….

…and had my son seen the Terminator? I suspect that he had, when I was off at work. His main sitter was a family across the street from us, a couple with teenagers. He loved hanging out with the teens. I think he got to watch a lot of movies that I didn’t know about….Our friend still had a bit of a German accent which would make it all the more compelling….

The photograph is my sister dancing with the invisible spirits… no, really we are on a road trip in the 1980s and stop for a hackysak break. She is gone from cancer.

Mundane Monday #183: getting ready

For Mundane Monday #183: getting ready.

This organized chaos is from 2010. I am thinking about parents and kids. Here we were getting ready for our yearly synchronized swim team show. This involves painting the hair to stay in place with thick very warm gelatin. We did that outside. It’s messy.  Synchronized swimming might not be mundane to you but we all have times when we get ready or help others get ready.

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My daughter is the one on the left: mom, you are bugging us.

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Ready. Pretty much. With a little trepidation.

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And ready hair.

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And the whole team in the water, in the finale, hooray, we did it!

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If you want to join in, I will list the entries next week.

For last week’s theme: kitchen close up:

KLAllendorfer with lots of lovely kitchen photographs.

 

the dark things in the world

When my son was about 12, a friend called and asked if he could babysit.

I froze up, silent.

He got it very quickly. “Um, we often come home really late, staying out until 3 am, so would it be ok if he stayed the night and we brought him home in the morning?”

“Yes,” I said, with relief.

What was I worrying about? Alcohol. I knew he and his wife drank far more than I approved of and the thought of them driving my son home drunk was NOT ok. I think that sometimes they took a taxi home. I hope so. I suppose they could send my son home in a taxi, but by having him stay the night, he would sleep too. Their children were five and six years younger than my son.

So I would take my son there, or they would pick him up, and he’d go to sleep when the kids did. I don’t know how late my son and the kids stayed up in that house. I do know the household reminded me of my childhood home, where the adults stayed up and partied. I did not party in high school at all. I didn’t want to. I was not interested in drinking alcohol illicitly. I could perfectly easily have drunk it at home: my parents were too tuned out by then to notice. I knew what people were like when drunk: why would I explore that with my peers? My father would break things in the house when he fell, there were burn marks in the floor from cigarettes, my parents would scream at each other at 1 am. I kept my head down and did very very well at school: I wanted out, even though it was not conscious. I loved my parents. Home was chaos and I escaped into books and schoolwork.

Parents need to think carefully about babysitting. Do they know the family? Do they need to drive their child to the house and pick them up? Once I went to babysit and the family had two enormous St. Bernards. The male growled at me. The owner said, “Don’t worry, he will attack anyone who tries to get in the house.” I was quite terrified of the dogs, and the male trailed enormous strings of drool into my lap. That night at 1 am I found Monty Python on cable and wondered if I’d wandered into another universe. We didn’t have cable, so it was surreal. I didn’t tell my parents about any of it. These were not people we knew: friends of friends.

Parents need to be careful as well to tell teens that adults can behave inappropriately and that a normally nice adult might behave badly when drunk. Many babysitting friends told me about the father of the kids they were sitting making sexual comments or putting a hand on their knee driving them home. This is not ok and teens need to be warned. They also should be warned about signs of drinking and inebriation and have taxi money or be able to call for a ride if they are not comfortable with the adult driving them home. And if the adult makes any sort of inappropriate remark or touch, they should NOT babysit there again ever. I would tell the offending adult why, though I think that would often get an angry or denial reaction.

I have various friends with 9 year olds. One parent made a comment that they don’t want their children to know anything bad about the world until they are ten. Another didn’t want their child to know what the term domestic violence meant.

I disagree. I would respond saying, “If your mother doesn’t want me to discuss that, then we will leave for her to talk to you about it later.”

How can we shelter our children with the magical childhood until ten and then send them to babysit at twelve? How can they recognize an adult is impaired or inappropriate behavior unless we talk about it? I have been asking adult smokers what age they started smoking for years: most of my older men started at age 9. The other day a woman said she’d tried cigarettes by age 7. Our children are not stupid, they hear things, they try to puzzle it out with each other: they deserve honesty from the start.

For a small child, that may mean a very simple explanation. My mother died of cancer when my daughter was two years and six months. By age four she had processed it to where she asked me “How old was grandmother Helen when she died?” I said that MY grandmother was 92 when she died, but grandmother Helen was 62. She asked, “How old are YOU?” I said, “I am forty. I hope to live as long as my grandmother, but none of us know how long we will live.” She studied me for a while and then went off.

They say that small children can’t process death. Clearly my daughter could! Maybe children can’t because we do not talk to them about it. We aren’t respectful. We try to hide all the dark things in the world, we try to keep them in a fairy tale. I feel angry on behalf of our children. To me it feels like parents lie: they will not tell their children what is going on. It’s not okay. And how can they handle the dark if no one will discuss it until they are ten?

 

Adults can be pretty weird sometimes, right? The photograph is from this year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race.

deep

today goes deep

I let it

when someone says “You are too emotional.”

it means “I am not comfortable with your emotions.”

it is them not me
I could care less
what they think
what they feel
whether they are comfortable with my emotions
they will be on my shit list
until they learn

I am comfortable with my emotions

today goes deep

I let all the darkness rise
grief
anger
disillusionment
humiliation

and my small child

is wild
with joy

this day is yours
small child

I am with you today
all day
you I the Beloved

no shoulds today
no list
nothing that you do not want to do

food
music
warmth
church
beach walk

I will not clean
I will not pay bills
I will not sit with fools
who say I am too emotional

we can laugh
or cry
or rage

would you like to smash a plate?

no
says small child

food
warmth
outdoors
birds
deer
music of the spheres

here
dear one

we go deep

speaking up 4

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sequelae. We don’t know what the sequelae to the Supreme Court vote is yet. But I am not going to stop speaking up and I hope more women speak up. And girls. So here are two experiences when I was a girl.

I start grade school in upstate New York. I am at the Northeast School. I don’t remember tons about it, except that it has ramps instead of stairs. I am failing to learn to read with phonics, which make no sense to me.

In first grade, I need to go to the bathroom. My teacher gives me a hall pass. This is not a kindergarten privilege.

Outside the girls’ bathroom are two boys. They are older than me. I don’t know them.

“You can’t go in unless you show us your underwear.”

I am wearing a dress. I stare at them.

“Show us your underwear.”

I go back around the corner and wait. Hoping they will leave. They don’t.

I need to go. I go and lift my skirt for a second, humiliation as they laugh. I hurry in to the bathroom.

I go back to the classroom.

I never go to the bathroom during class again. I am careful. I go before class starts and at lunch.

And I’ve never told anyone until now. And this was a grade school. How were the boys acculturated to behave this way already in grade school? And does this still go on? All the girls in my daughter’s school quit wearing skirts by second grade. Jeans only.

We move before fourth grade to another town.

The boundaries for the school districts change before sixth grade and I am bussed to a new grade school.

On the bus, a boy starts harassing me. I don’t know him.

“Show me your underwear.” he says. The other kids are watching.

I don’t answer, glare at him with scorn.

Each day he escalates.

“Show me your underwear.”

I pull a pair out of my bag the fourth day. “There. Now you’ve seen some.”

The other kids laugh, but it’s not enough. He keeps hassling me.

He starts reaching for my skirt from the seat in front of me.

I’ve had it. I play flute. But I also play piccolo.

The next day he starts up, “Show me your underwear.” He reaches towards my skirt from the seat in front. I have my hard piccolo case in both hands. I smash his hand as hard as I can, against the bus seat.

He screams and pulls his hand away, clutching it.

The bus driver looks in the mirror. He doesn’t slow down or stop.

The boy never bothers me again. And neither does anyone else on that bus.

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I took the photograph when school started this year. This is our “city” bus. The Redhawks are our football team. I can’t think that football is good for us, but I thank the adults for this support for the high school students…..

Music gives me hope: this.

vulnerable

For Impromptu Promptings Sandbox Writing Challenge 22: vulnerable.

I took this yesterday. She ran to the tree, no parent in sight. The parent was out of my sight but knew where she was.

Norah Jones : “a little girl with nothing wrong is all alone”.

Here: Seven years.

Prayers for the children who are frightened, and not safe, and lost. Alone or not alone.