Life with Teenagers

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a little love

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“You sure you like the tree?” I ask nobody in particular as I set down my plate at the table. The new Christmas tree is adorned with a multitude of white lights and a few ornaments I stole from my ex’s stash. “Come over with your ornament box,” I pleaded to him in my cellphone the day before as I was snapping the three prelit pieces of plastic splendor together in my new living room. “Hey, I watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas with the boys this year and I really enjoyed it,” my ex replied with enthusiasm. I was focused on bending my tree’s wire branches into position. “Uh huh… so I think there are some I want and you’re not using them, right? And come over now if you can, I want your opinion,” I said. I clipped the cellphone shut, plugged in the cord, and stood back to get a better view.

The glow of the tree’s millionth mini light bulb gave it an overall neon look, less like the “faintly-reminiscent-of-snow covered” look it had in the Big Lots store. It was now looking even more fake than I thought.

“Mom, the tree is fine. At least you got a tree. I can’t believe you were thinking of skipping it. You can’t have Christmas without a tree,” says the younger teen walking past me with his plate of food in his hand. Across the table, the tea light candles shimmer in the new mercury glass holders and cast a glow on my partners face as she nods in agreement. It’s dusk outside on a mild December day and the horizon glows pink in the spaces between the pine trees in the far back yard. Two boxwood wreaths in each window, designed to match the ones from the page I tore out of the Olive and Cocoa catalog, hang from a red grosgrain ribbon. A green blinking triangle starts to form in the very corner of my eye, and I try to pretend I don’t really see the artificialness of the tree.

The younger teen plops himself down at the head of the long rectangular table and puts his plate down on the mat just as I’m sliding it into place. This is the room where my partner has traditionally hosted large dinner parties and holidays and the three of us now look slightly lost. We are crowded over at one end of the table, a large plate of italian sausage and white beans before us, the place settings flanked by cloth napkins, and the table center studded with three small flickering candles.

“Do you think you added enough olives to this, mom?” asks the younger teen creating a brown cone-shaped pile on the edge of his plate.

This recipe has olives and capers to give it that salty taste,” I say to him. “You like the rest of it though, right? You are eating the escarole right now.”

“Hey! what about me?” asks the older teen now emerging from the basement and sniffing out the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen stove.

“Go get yourself a plate,” I say to him. “But I”m not sure you will like it.”

“Mom, can we order the IPad now? I can show you the one I want,” says the younger teen.

“Hey, I left my Christmas list on the table too, did you see it, Mom?” asks the older teen.

“Do you like the tree?” I ask him as he sits at the table beside me.

Without looking up from his plate he says, “It’s great. Nice tree.”

“Should I put it in an envelope and send it to Santa?” ribs my partner directing her fork toward the older teen across the table.”

“Yah? you think you’re funny, huh J dog? And you over there, son, don’t say anything or I’ll hurt you,” he says, looking at his younger brother.

I tune out the flurry of Christmas list conversation and remember my mom’s text message to me as I walked the aisles of the Big Lots store days before. “I can’t believe you are shopping at Big Lots, you have changed.”

And she is right, in a way. A lot has changed this year. It’s been five months since my teens and I moved in to my partner’s house down the street from my old apartment. The house is different, the tree is artificial, and we are ordering high-tech toys from my laptop computer at the dinner table with a credit card and calling it Christmas cheer. But what’s really new is that I don’t know when I’m going to muster up some holiday spirit this year. And maybe it’s ok if I don’t try to fake it. Maybe it will arrive magically over dinner on Christmas day, when we all sit together sharing a meal like this one, and the sun sets in the backyard, the candles start glowing, and we are all suddenly and brilliantly reminded of how grateful we are to have each other. The same as always.

“Yeah that’s better,” I think to myself and look directly at the bright spectacle in the corner. I conjure up images of Charlie Brown and his unadorned real tree in contrast to my spanking new, pre-lit fake one.

It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

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Written by kmguay

December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm

what is wrong with my hair?

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The December sunlight streams through the slatted shades. The dog lies curled on his blue blanket. My youngest teen is sitting in the easy chair by the window with a macbook on his lap.

“Mom, it’s going to be $54.95 for more ram. Can I use your credit card?” he asks.

“My wallet is in my black bag,” I say, shifting my slippered feet onto the coffee table and pulling the wool blanket over my legs. The light in the room is exquisite and I don’t feel like moving except to maybe adjust my ball cap one more time and gather all my hair, pulling it through the half moon of the back into one curly ponytail while tightening the strap.My parents matching black wheelie-bag suitcases line up against the white wall. From where I sit, I can see the remains of our breakfast- a half-eaten apple, cherry and cheese pastry ring, and coffee cups still littering the dining table.

“It’s called the Elephant Bar,” says my father sitting in front of the PC on the desk in the dining room.

“Oh, the one we were thinking of was called the Elephant Walk“, I say.

“Yeah, I thought it wasn’t that big of a chain,” says my girlfriend sitting beside me on the couch. “I know there are few in the Boston area, but not Florida.”

“Pat, it’s called the Elephant Bar,” says my father again to my mother as she walks by the computer desk to stand in front of the large wall mirror in the dining room.

“What is wrong with my hair?” she asks the room. “It used to be thick like A’s,” she looks directly at the three of us flopped over the couch and chairs in the other room, “but now its feeling thin all of a sudden.”

“Patty, they have sushi style tuna for Barbara,” my father says again.

I take my ball cap off and let my hair fall in front of my eyes.

“What do you want to do today?” I ask my girlfriend and start listing the possibilities.

“Why don’t we wait until your parents leave,” she says.

“Mom, is the shipping address the same as the billing address? asks my teen.

“Yes,” I say to him.

“And what is the security code?” he asks.

My girlfriend gets up off the couch to show him the back of the credit card. I grab all of my hair in one fist and hold it above my head.

“I need to get this hair cut,” I say. “Maybe I should call the salon and see if Anthony can fit me in today.” I get up off the couch and take the cordless phone with me on the way to the bathroom. I put the phone down on the sink and peer into the bathroom mirror at my roots.

“Oh my god. Look at these roots!” I say.

I grab a swath of hair from my head and hold it in the air while returning to the bright light of the dining room again, passing my parents still huddled over the restaurant menu displayed on the computer monitor.

“Will you look at this hair?” I ask my girlfriend, bending over the couch with a fistful held high so she can see.

“Wow,” she says. “It’s a straight line.”

“I’d be completely white if I didn’t color this hair.”

“What’s wrong with that? asks my white-haired smirking father from the computer desk.

“I’m too young for this,” I reply disgusted and flop back down on the couch. I let go of my hair again and let it fall around my face and into my eyes in a tangle.

“You look just like you did when you were a little girl and you just woke up,” says my mother joining the conversation.
And to my girlfriend she turns and says, eyeing my feet that are now back on the coffee table “Do you like her slippers?”

“The thing is, I just did them. 70 bucks. And now I have to do them again. I should just pay the teen over there,” I say motioning to him still on the easy chair with his head fixated on the laptop screen.

“Mom, I can’t do your roots. I have to keep my dignity,” says my teen.

I look over at my girlfriend.

“Well… ” she says.

“Honey, you’d do my roots for me? How romantic!” I whisper while jabbing her in the side.

“Well, I can give it a try.” she says.

“I’m worried about Grandpa,” says my mother now walking over to the mirror again. “He’s not coming to Florida. He says he is comfortable being at home. Staying right where he is.”

My father gets up from the computer to stand next to my mother.

“Poppy, will you look at my hair? What the heck happened to it?” she asks.

From my spot on the couch I can see the computer monitor which has just switched back from the restaurant website to the family slideshow flipping through the very recent photos of Thanksgiving day dinner. Fifteen people at my dinner table and nearly four generations. And how is it that my youngest child can barely fit on the chair anymore? That my parents are on their way back to their golf course in Florida? That I insist on a little plate of black olives, celery and carrot sticks in the middle of a beautifully set table at Thanksgiving to help me remember my grandmother, that my own teenage self is more and more a distant memory?

“We had a nice visit,” says my mother gathering up some things from the table to add to her bag.

We did have a nice visit, I think to myself as I soak in the moment, the light, the laziness of a Saturday afternoon on the couch in December with a houseful of family.

“But now its time for us to go back to Floreeeda where it’s warm.” says my mother. “Poppy, we have to go back where its warm.”

And it is time. Time for the older teen to come home from drivers ed class. Time for me and my girlfriend to plan our day. Time for me to get the house back in order, to get ready for the coming week, to do a million things that adults have to do.

But first, I really need to take care of this hair.

Written by kmguay

December 9, 2009 at 2:54 am

Posted in family, holiday, mothers

who wants a roll?

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From my family to yours. Happy Thanksgiving

Written by kmguay

November 23, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Posted in family, holiday

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