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.


Written by kmguay

December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm


with 3 comments

I just texted my son from my bed at 7am. It went like this. “Hey I’m trying this foolishness.” And instantly, to the tune of one very annoying sound bite from a “Panic in the Disco” song that goes like, OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing…, my winged text is here. Here it is flying around on my cell phone screen. I open the envelope and it reads: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA  

I try again, painfully scrolling through the letters one at a time to form a tiny little word with my thumb. And while I’m doing this from the comfort of my bed, here comes “Panic in the Disco” yet again. OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing… Another little envelope with wings dances across my cellphone screen. My son, from the TV room, has expertly and instantly texted me again. It reads,  “Do u mean texting?” 

Now I’m sweating. I have to finish my sentence before noon. My answer reads. Yes (and then a space because I can’t find the comma) I cant find any punctuation. And can I just mention how long it took me to type the word punctuation? I’m a Web professional. I work with young hipsters on such marvels as UX interfaces and wireframes and I sit in meetings where we discuss CSS and the latest CMS. But I just can’t do this texting thing. It’s maddening. OOOOOOOH well imagine… as Im pacing… My son’s next text reads, “It’s ok, where are you?”

It should be obvious where I am on a Saturday morning at 7am when he has several teenage boys strewn across the floor of the TV room right now still in their jeans from last night’s sleepover. But one’s whereabouts are truly irrelevant in the brave new teenage world of text messaging and virtual family time. I concentrate fully and whip out a three word instant reply, “I’m in bed.” OOOOOOOH well imagine…as Im pacing…

And the next text back reads, “O haha, can we have breakfast?” 

That sums it up. I’m restored. Can we have breakfast? Now that I can do. I whip the cellphone on the bed, put on my flannel pajamas, and walk seven steps to the door of the TV room and peek my head in. My son is sitting on the overstuffed chair with the TV blaring and a cellphone in his hands in the text keyboard mode, headphones on, feet on the table, three other sleepy boys of all sizes lounging on every surface. He grins at me.  “How about cinnamon buns?” I ask in a real voice looking at my real son. Yep. There he is. He’s still a kid, but just barely. He’s still mine. I still have another morning. 

Cinnamon rolls coming right up.

Written by kmguay

August 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Posted in technology

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