Life with Teenagers

Posts Tagged ‘ex-husband

wrap me in a blanket

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hot-soup-bowl-md

It’s the end of another weeknight train commute home and J and I perform the same ritual as always. Both of us stand at the open hallway closet, only moments since entering the front door through the garage, and we take off shoes. Mine are complicated tonight. They are new and stiff and have a zipper on the back of the heel that only seems to be working on the left one. I stand balanced on my right foot with my right hand yanking at the zipper and with my free arm I simultaneously haul my orange leather handbag onto the kitchen counter. J has managed to stretch over me to slide the brown paper Hang Tai bag onto the counter at the same time. It sits at eye level with my contorted body- a neat compact square with the top folded over and stapled shut. I can smell the contents and I’m ready to rip it open right now, only the house is cold and we haven’t changed out of work clothes. I pry free both shoes and whip them into the closet and immediately open kitchen cabinets to find our yellow oval plates and place them side by side near the microwave.

“It’s here,” says J still standing in the doorway.

I see the Amazon box on the floor. It’s our third coffee maker in a matter of months. The recent Mr Coffee sits like a sentinel watching over the kitchen table. One of the teens seems to be using it, even though the addicted adults in the house have long since given up in disgust. I sometimes check the filter compartment in the morning and I find drying coffee grounds from the day before and a half full pot of cold coffee.

“Do you have high hopes?” J asks me as she starts tearing at the top of the box.

I don’t answer because I’m busy looking for our deep bowls, the ones specifically made for ice cream or cereal that are adorned with ornate Turkish or Indian designs on the outside. We don’t have any Chinese dish ware, but I want something to make this meal feel more important than one that is hastily dumped out of plastic containers.

I pour the silky contents into each bowl. Sliced mushrooms bob around in the shiny brown liquid next to tough fibrous matchsticks of chinese root vegetable. A heady, fragrant steam rises from each plate. There is just enough room for me to add a squat brown tube glistening with fryolater grease next to each bowl. I fight the urge to take the meal into the bedroom on a tray and plop it down on top of the comforter while I burrow like a mole beneath layers of sheets and cotton blankets. Instead, I heat up the plates in the microwave and set them on our glass-topped kitchen table that has a view to the garden. I arrange three wire candle holders with tea lights in the center of the table, grab cloth napkins from the basket and dim the overhead lights.

I sit at the table and wait for J to return from changing to join me. The heat has since kicked on in the house and the Native American dream catcher with the long eagle feathers that J has hung from the ceiling begins to undulate in and out. I stare dismally out the window. It’s late May, post Memorial Day weekend, and it’s cold, gray and freezing outside. A raw rainy mist hovers over the perennials which have started to burst forth from the ground but keep to themselves in contained bundles, not yet daring to stretch and collapse over each other in their usual tangled and languorous mess of color. The plants look as skeptical as I feel, like they just can’t bring themselves to trust the air and instead recoil tightly, stretching only upward toward the fickle sun, exposing bare circles of earth around themselves in a protective ring.

The teens are both home. I can see their cars in the driveway just beyond the garden, and if I listen intently, I can make out some muffled voices and the low rumble of a bass guitar. Both are already well into their summer lifestyle that consists of sleeping until the outer edges of the afternoon and driving away to places unknown after their work shifts. If they bring friends home, they all stay below and I usually regret later my awkward pajama-clad mom greeting at the basement entrance to a roomful of strange large male bodies and an occasional lithe female one in a very small shirt, lounging on the couch surrounded by amps and guitars and various open bags of fast food purchases. Better to stay in my sphere tonight, I think.

When J returns to the table, we slurp our hot and sour soup in silence, sniffles being the only sound as the steam and spices fill our nostrils.

After a while, J asks again, “So, do you have high hopes? We can’t keep buying our coffee at Panera every morning and just barely making the train. This is nuts.”

“Why don’t we try making a cup tonight?” I say, eyeing the hulking mass of coffeemaker number three looking imposing next to the sink and hanging over the silverware drawer.

J immediately gets into action grinding beans and I turn to the laptop I’ve left on the chair, grab it open, and start mindlessly liking posts on facebook, changing my profile picture for the millionth time and checking my gmail account. I anxiously resist the pull of the bed.

I’ve largely spent the last three months of late winter into spring under covers. I’m happiest in the safe realm of our large kingsize bed, surrounded by pillows, my computer and cellphone nearby, and with a book on the nightstand. J has been non judgmental in her cheerful delivery of oversized paper cups of Panera coffee to me on a tray on weekend mornings. I manage to stand up eventually, close to noon, just long enough to scramble us eggs and slice avocados and bring the plates back to bed. The robins dive-bombing at the window screen and the spring sunlight dancing on the newly unfurled vine leaves are no deterrent to my slothful non agenda.

“Remember this day,” I said to J last weekend as she was gathering up the Sunday paper, dishes, used napkins and coffee cups strewn about on our large expanse of mattress. “This is the day I never get out of bed again, the first day it happens.”

“Cut that out,” she said.

It has become a running joke with us. It started from my habit of watching too many late night reality TV shows over the winter when I couldn’t sleep. I watched alone in rapt attention as morbidly obese people were airlifted from their bedrooms and transported to a hospital for their miracle surgery, suddenly hopeful for life after years of eating themselves numb and comforted under debilitating fat.

Now as J starts brewing us a cup of coffee, I flip through my text messages to see if my ex has answered the ones I sent him on the train.

Have you seen the kids? I typed.

Nope. Not in a while, You? he typed back.

We are getting hot and sour soup and an eggroll tonight. screw the gym. too cold out. I texted back.

sm. veg. delight. sm white rice. jumbo fried shrimp. harry potter dvd. Under quilt. WTF? isn’t it almost June? he texted back.

J interrupts my cellphone perusal and hands me a coffee cup.

“What do you think? she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say after taking a small sip. “Seems a bit thin. Might be ok. Let me try it again.”

But I’m distracted and taking too long. I’m thinking about the yoga class I’m planning to attend the next day, where I will once again make an effort to listen to the little voice inside that I have squashed down to barely a whisper. Lately, just as the plants have no real choice but to tentatively emerge from the ground, my inner voice of unrest and suppressed action is starting to speak a little louder. I can almost hear it. I might even be ready to pay attention to it finally. But not tonight.

J takes a another sip and dumps the coffee into the sink.

“It’s going back,” she says.

“I’m going back too,” I say. “To the bed. I’m cold. Come wrap me in a blanket.”

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Written by kmguay

May 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

capstone

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“Hello Mutha,” the younger teen calls out to me as he spots me walking toward him. He is standing in a circle of friends at the end of the hallway near the blue painted doors to the auditorium. He is wearing his black skinny jeans that sag in the back and a black wrinkled t-shirt with a stain at the bottom. I stifle a frown.

Couldn’t he have dressed a little better for his capstone performance?

Instead I say cheerfully, “Hey, there he is,” and I run my hand through his thick wavy hair. “You nervous?” He doesn’t answer and turns to face his girlfriend who is standing close beside him twirling a piece of her hair around one finger and shifting her hips. I notice that she is wearing her cotton-candy pink short shorts. “I guess this is the dress code,” I say under my breath.

On my way in earlier, I grabbed a black and white copier paper flyer from the wooden podium and scanned its contents.

Great, I left work early and he is the last person on stage tonight. The absolute last one.

A few scattered family members, a couple of grandparents, and mothers holding the hands of toddlers mill about near the temporary gallery walls that have been positioned in front of grey painted cinderblock. They stand stiffly viewing the gouache painted skulls with blood dripping from the orifices, and flat watercolored self portraits of moon-sized blank faces.

Oh look, there’s one of my teen’s 2D projects.

I walk up closer to it and turn my head to the side and earnestly study the technique he used. It’s been a long time since I’ve stepped foot in his high school and that critical voice inside that doesn’t ever let up on me is now jabbering on full force about the subpar artwork hanging on the subpar school walls. Clearly nobody is planning to go to art school from this class.

Oh cut it out, they are only juniors! Don’t you remember your own high school portfolio?

I shush the voice inside. I do remember it. I gave myself only mere weeks before my application needed to be sent in and I rapidly went about the business of drawing everything that was directly around me. I got right to work on creating an oversized charcoal drawing of the corner of my unmade bed. And when that was finished, I grabbed colored pencils and opened the closet to startle all my shoes from whatever they were up to on the floor in the dark. There they were, laces undone, tongues hanging out, caught open mouthed and exposed to daylight. I drew them right then and pronounced it a finished work. The pleasure of hindsight is that I now get to say that I didn’t over think it, and it wasn’t that I waited until the last minute without a thoughtful plan and just got lucky. Not at all. I really do think, hindsight or not, that I purposefully didn’t give the censor inside any time to do the nasty work of chopping me down to size.

“I’m going to go in now for the performances,” I say to the group of teens. They follow behind me but keep a respectable distance and find their places off to the far right side. I squint around in the dark. A half dozen or so people sit in chairs spaced as far away from each other as possible. The room could easily hold a couple hundred. I pick a chair in the middle back row. As I survey the room, I see my ex walking in through the double doors. He is wearing jeans and a black sweater and black boots and looking every bit like a musician or an art student himself, I think. I pull at my Ann Taylor Loft maroon sweater and slump a little lower. I motion for him to sit down, but the wooden chair next to me is missing it’s seat.

“Where’s the J dog?” he asks me as we both move over.

“She will be here about halfway through. She is on the train still,” I say.

The room darkens to a pitch black and the first performance of the night begins. Humorous skits, a long and involved hip hop dance routine, a young girl singing her heart out at the piano. My ex and I perform crude sign language, giving a thumbs up or down or fist bump and catch each other’s wide-open eyes as Taylor Swift-esque song number five turns to six. By the time intermission is over, the auditorium is at least a quarter filled and my partner has since arrived. My teen is on after the Gypsy Blue Band performs a few electrified riffs. My partner sits beside me in my ex’s vacated seat and he is now pacing in the corridor behind us. “God, I’m so nervous,” I whisper to her in the dark.

During intermission, the teen and his growing entourage of supporters stopped to chat with the parents. “Honey, don’t forget to spit out that gum before you get on stage,” I said to him. “You got this, babe,” comforted his girlfriend with her hand on his back. “I’m going to get backstage now and get ready,” he said while walking rapidly away, his girlfriend taking a couple quick steps to catch up, shooting us a nervous glance back.

I grab my partner’s hand now and squeeze it several times in the dark while he is being announced. The audience grows silent while he calmly enters with his bass guitar and a stool to position himself center stage. A stage hand pushes an amp behind him and I let my mind wander a bit as he quietly starts hooking up to the amp. How many times had we listened to the same three pieces of music in the living room? Me, leaning back into the couch with my slippered feet on the coffee table, waiting patiently while he would stop and say, “Hold on” and start again, trying to make it through one flawless pass of his three song medley — a Victor Wooten piece that was supposed to seamlessly morph into a shortened version of Bach’s Cello Suite Number 1 Prelude and end with a piece he wrote himself. Overall, it was an unusual, six-minute long but oddly exciting percussive arrangement for solo bass guitar my teen had simply titled BASSic.

Athletes talk a lot about being “in the zone” and it happens for artists too. I think I finished ten new pieces for my art school portfolio over a period of days when I was clearly in that zone. And if you’ve ever experienced what it feels like, it’s not hard to miss it when it is happening to your kid.

“Wow, he is really doing this,” says my partner. “He is on.” I can feel my body relaxing a bit as the medley is near over. I turn back to look at my ex who is standing in the back to the room perfectly still and straight with his body tensed, his eyes closed, and a slight smile on his face. When the last note is played and my teen finally lifts his head up to survey the crowd, the entourage of friends on the right burst into loud applause and whistles. I can hear his brother’s voice hooting above the dull roar of the clapping.

I still have my own dreams of being in the limelight again, of experiencing the thrill of the printed byline, the book jacket, even the glossy exhibition brochure. And some of this I may very well realize still. But most of it I won’t. And as I get older, the disappointment over what I haven’t done is starting to sting a bit less. Because being a parent means I will have many opportunities to experience moments like this one, when I sit in a darkened auditorium and listen to my kid performing his very own creation and feel firsthand right along with him those sublime seconds of greatness.

And these are the real capstones in my life.

Written by kmguay

June 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm

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

what just happened here?

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“What just happened here?” My girlfriend shuts the front door and stands in the entryway still holding the dog leash and wearing her leather jacket. “I just saw a teen run down the street in his t-shirt,” she says. I’m sitting on the couch looking straight ahead at the other teen pacing in the dining room.
“No, I’m not talking to you until you calm down,” I say.
“Mom! we are talking right now,” the teen bellows.
“No, I’m not,” I reply.
“I’m not moving mom. You are going to talk to me now,” he says, flailing his arms and and trying to remain in a tough guy posture.
“Stand there all night then. I’m not talking,” I say again.
“Right now mom, right now,” he says. He paces back and forth in the dining room. I look over at my girlfriend who is still standing frozen in the entryway. I give her that I’m drowning look and say nothing to her as I start pressing my finger into the apricot pastry crumbs left on the plate on the coffee table. I take one of the empty tea cups and stack it on top of the other. I crumple a napkin. My girlfriend continues to stand in the hallway in her jacket.

“Do you want me to go look for him?” she says. It’s pretty dark out and the temperature has dropped.”
She lets the dog off the leash to sniff around and walk in circles. He stops to lie on his blanket near the couch, but after two minutes, he is back up again. “What just happened here?” he seems to be thinking as he wanders the new surroundings. One minute, I’m on a farm in Georgia and the next minute I’m here with all these strange yelling people. He travels from room to room, his little nails clicking on the hardwood floor as he passes.
“Yeah, thanks,” I say back.

When she leaves, the teen sits beside me on the couch with tears in his eyes hyperventilating.
“So how is this suddenly my fault, huh?” I ask him.
“Mom! you know how he is, you shouldn’t get mad at him,” he says.
“Im tired of you both right now. It’s Sunday. You’ve been playing all weekend. You both know the computer isn’t working right and you wait till 9pm to start your homework. What do you expect? Your brother is mad at himself, not at me,” I say. “So what just happened here?”
“He slammed the door in my face! So I pinned him to the ground,” he says.
“Did you hit him?” I ask.
“No, I pushed him and I pinned him. He was swearing at me,” he says.
“I know, I heard you,” I say. “And another thing,” I start to launch into a lecture. “I haven’t seen you do any homework lately. Want to know what I think? I think things are slipping in your world. There will be no drivers ed classes until I see your grades this semester. You want to be in clubs, want to have a job, want to see you girlfriend all the time? Well, something has to give, bub.”
“You are making too much of my grades mom!” he yells.
“You are damn right I am, it’s a priority.” I say.
“Well its not mine! Fuck this!” he yells.
“You better watch your language right now if you know what is good for you,” I say, my voice starting to raise. The teen loses all self control and punches the coffee table with his fist.
“And I don’t have any money for your broken hand either!!!” I yell back. “Get out of here right now!”

The teen slams his way into the tv room and I remain motionless on the couch staring straight ahead. I take a deep breath and recall the morning brunch with friends. November sunlight streaming through the windows, illuminating the colored candle holders in the center of the table, the four of us sipping port from tiny amber colored bell-shaped glasses and spooning into dense chocolate raspberry triangles, listening intently while our good friend choked out the words to describe an approaching dreaded birthday. “I’m going to be 45,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion, “and I think to myself, what just happened here? How is it that I’ve missed all that time in between?”

I pick up my cellphone and call my girlfriend. “Did you find him?” I ask.
“No, I’m headed back,” she says.

I walk into the tv room and tell the sullen teen on the couch that his brother is missing.
“He’ll be back mom,” he says but he sits up with a worried expression and starts tugging at his bottom lip.
“Well it’s dark, I don’t know if he has his phone, he didn’t answer. I don’t even know if he wore his shoes,” i say.
The teen gets up and grabs for his jacket.
“We’ll go back out again, I know where to look,” he says, just as my girlfriend enters the house again. He takes off out of the tv room with a shot.

I decide to do what any good mother does in a crisis. I walk into the teen’s bedroom and start to pick up laundry off the floor, start smoothing the sheets on the unmade bed, adjusting the curtains, and pulling down the blinds. I pick up the cordless phone from the floor near the desk and dial my ex-husband’s number and get his answering machine. I leave him a cryptic message saying “something just happened” and he should call back when he gets the message. And I think to myself, as I bend over to grab damp towels from the bed and start to hang them back on hooks behind the door, what just happened here? How did I go from having it all together, to the best laid plans for my son’s junior year, for my personal trainer this fall (I notice the exercise elastic with handles strewn across the dryer in the laundry room, the one I bought a month ago and never even touched) to this?

My cellphone starts to buzz in my pocket and it’s the younger teen on the line.
“I’m coming home,” he says.
“Do you realize everyone is out looking for you?” I ask.
“I’m on my way home” he says.
“Call your father from your cell, ok? I’ll let everyone else know. Are you ok?” I ask.
“I’m ok, mom, I’m on my way home.”
“Ok, don’t forget to call your father,” I say. “And tell him what just happened.”

Written by kmguay

November 4, 2009 at 2:04 am

chuck norris

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chuck-norris-002-thumb-400x498 When I get home my ex is already in the teen room flopped on the couch. His keys are on the kitchen counter next to the half empty 3 for $10 bottle of wine and the package of eight portobellos in shrinkwrap. The sink is full of dirty dishes and the dryer is full of unfolded clothes. I look at the clock. It’s already after 7:00.

This is the critical moment of despair, when I just want to give up and call for take out or get into my sweats, grab a container of hummus and some pita bread, and type a facebook status line that says “Mom’s not cooking. Fend” while I dig into the container with my scrap of bread and pretend to do something useful like online Scrabble. OR, I can rally and honor my bright idea to invite my ex to join us at the kitchen table for a little full family face time while whipping up a fast weeknight dinner of… of… (I look over again at the prepackaged portobellos I asked him to buy) something with mushrooms.

I begin washing dishes while my youngest teen walks through the kitchen.
“Hold on there, I could use some help. Start setting the table,” I say to him as I dig through the pile and haul out the dirty grill pan from the bottom.
“What’s for dinner?” he asks with a frown.
“I don’t know yet. I’m going to make it up,” I say back, now scrubbing my cherished pan like a madwoman. I can hear my ex and oldest teen screaming at the TV and I walk a few steps to the refrigerator, reach a soapy wet hand to open the door and look inside.

Sesame bread. Baba ganoush. A red pepper, those mushrooms on the counter, jack cheese. Paninis it is. And there is a container of butternut squash soup in the cabinet. Good. Curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, mexican chile powder.

I switch from the sink to the stove to heat up some olive oil in the now clean and dry grill pan. Next, I furiously chop the portobellos and red pepper, dump them in the oil, and blast on the burner flame to high just as my ex wanders through the kitchen with his box of crackers in his hand. He’s still yelling at the TV, now more than ten steps away from it, and pouring himself a second glass from the already half empty bottle.
“Hey save me some and get out of here – it’s not ready, and you’re in my way” I say.
“Thanks for inviting me, chicken” he says. I glare at him to get out. The sink is still a mess, and the younger teen has set a haphazard table, missing flatware and glasses.
“Go grab the extra chair and the big glass with the candle in it,” I say to the teen, sidestepping my ex while yanking the little pull tab atop the box of butternut soup. The soup pours out in big splashy glubs, showering the top of the stove with pinprick dots of bright yellow. I brush the hair out of my eye that has just fallen from my headband and back up into my older teen, who is now also standing in the kitchen and hilariously laughing in a silent, open-mouthed laugh while trying to get his father’s attention.
“Dad…” he taps him on the back of the shoulder while my ex is moving chairs into position and arranging glasses above each white plate and beside a napkin.
“Dad.” Tap. Tap. “Dad, my friend just texted me another one. Dad, you gotta listen to this. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a condom,” he says. His father turns around now and looks at him with full intent and his trademark Sponge Bob grin.
“Yeah?” he asks back.
The teen tries to compose himself and repeats the joke. “Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a condom, because there is no protection from Chuck Norris.” The room erupts in laughter. Teen number one stops to hold onto the edge of the chair while bending over. Father and older teen pat each other on the back with hilarity. I flip over the paninis I have since assembled in the pan.
“What’s so funny about that?,” I ask.
“Oh my god, mom, you don’t know Chuck Norris jokes?” one of them says back.
“No, I don’t,” I say and start ladling the butternut soup that is bubbling at the edges of the pan into small white bowls. I hand one to my ex who places it on the first white plate. He sits, and both teens follow his lead, pulling back their chairs to sit as well.
“Kris, it was the funniest thing,” my ex says to me, already spooning into his soup. “We’re in the car, me and my boy up front, and this one – he motions to the younger teen beside him – this one is in the back seat, and you know how he is, he’s like you, he’s so funny. Out of nowhere, he just says “Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door,” and we nearly drove off the road, we were laughing so hard.”
“That’s nice, boys,” I say, carrying a panini balanced on a spatula over to each plate. I slide them off one at a time, near the bowl of soup.

“If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more than you.”

“When Chuck Norris falls out of a boat he dosn’t get wet the water gets Chuck Norrised.”

“Chuck Norris counted to infinity-twice.”

“Chuck Norris doesn’t mow his lawn, he stands outside and dares it to grow.”

“Chuck Norris can fry ants with a magnifying glass. At night.”

And with that one, I choke on a little bit of crust and start to laugh myself. That one was funny. The sheer absurdity of Chuck Norris jokes at the dinner table start to wipe away any care I still have lodged in my body. Any aching between my shoulders, any stiffness in my lower back.

Chuck Norris can fry an ant with a magnifying glass. At night.

What do I care about my long train commute, my dirty kitchen, the undone tasks waiting for me at work tomorrow? Tonight, I have Chuck Norris at my dinner table. I look around and all three of my boys are laughing. I get up and go to the freezer and grab four packaged ice cream sandwiches and hand them out. For another five minutes, all of us silently unwrap our ice cream man treats and eat them slowly as they melt, ripped white paper wrappers strewn about over dirty plates, each person happier than anyone has ever been before.

Even Chuck Norris.

Written by kmguay

October 14, 2009 at 2:46 am

Posted in family

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statistically speaking

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n541933000_820157_846My 16-yr-old and his girlfriend sit side by side at the computer desk. She holds a paperback book in front of her face and he leans in front of her to grab and click around with the mouse on the opposite side. “Facebook isn’t homework,” I say on my way by, passing through the dining room still dragging the vacuum cleaner by the handle behind me. He flips the screen off and opens up a word doc. In the top right hand corner he has typed his name, the date, and the words “statistics paper”.

“I see you have made great progress in the last hour,” I say, pausing to grab the pile of paperwork on the dining table with my free hand.
The screen flips off and on again showcasing the drivers ed website.
“We’ve finished the schedule you wanted me to make,” he says, motioning to the papers on the desk “Take a look, mom.”

“The schedule?” I try not to sound as amazed and tense as I feel. Only days earlier, my girlfriend put her hand on my knee under the table in one of her “easy now” gestures as mom and teen both started to raise their voices. “No drivers ed until I see a detailed schedule of all of your commitments!” was my decree to a scowling overwrought teen sitting in front of a half eaten plate of food.

And then again the next night, I wailed in the darkness of the bedroom “He is overextended, It’s going to be like last year, He won’t finish homework, He will fail out of high school.”
“Shhhhh okay, okay,” she said. “But Kris, you are going to have to help him with this schedule, you know that right? He is going to need your help.”

“Mom, can you look at the schedule?” he asks again and from across the room I start firing questions.
“Did you fit in the three nights I need you home for dinner?
“Yep.”
“How about your leaders meetings?”
“Thursday nights.”
“And your job?”
“Three afternoons from three to six.”
“And is there time for homework?”
“Yep.”
“And what about your girlfriend, did you save some time for her?” His girlfriend gives him a playful nudge on his arm and he smiles back at me.
“Yeah she’s in there too.”

I don’t have a comeback for all this forethought and organization.
“Just get that paper done and I’ll look closely at it later,” I call out from the kitchen now while starting to clear off the cutting board. The front door opens and closes and I hear my girlfriend adressing the teens in the other room. I lean over to search under the cabinet for the metal mixing bowl as she turns the corner ranting about her exasperating day.
“And I get all the way there and I realize that I forgot the cleaning so I have to turn back again. Oh and then!”
I pull out the container of olives from the fridge, the block of parmesan cheese, a lemon, and the container of mesclun greens and start piling them on the counter. She stands directly in front of me for a moment, catching my eyes. “Enough about me, how was your day?”
“My son did his schedule” I whisper.
“What!? Oh my god, that’s great!” she whispers back. “God damn!”
I dump the greens into the bowl and douse them with a squeeze of the lemon and juice runs down my hand and arm.
“Wow! I’m really proud of that boy. Kris, that is great,” she says again handing me a towel.
“I know I know, but…” I say and the “I know buts” start to pour out of my mouth as easily as the olive oil that slides out of the overturned bottle I shake onto the greens.
“Kris,” she says again, “Really, it is great.”

And it IS great. So why am I so skeptical? Why is my first reaction so often a critical doubting one? I’m not like this with his brother.
“That’s because you have no faith in me, mom!” These words have often assaulted me, spraying forth from my oldest son’s mouth in the kitchen while both of us yell back and forth at each other. And he is right. I have a very hard time having faith in him.

He is a lot like his father and not much like his brother. He has his father’s easy loving way, his fast-talking storytelling ease, his humor. They both can light up a room, shine in the spotlight at a party, go out of their way to help a stranger. But I didn’t have any faith in his father either. For reasons I couldn’t even explain at the time, I wanted more from my marriage and I was sure he couldn’t give it to me. I wanted out.

We carry the plates of salad through the dining room and over to the living room couch, passing by the teen who is now rapidly typing away at his paper.
“So why are you writing a paper on statistics anyway?” my girlfriend asks taking a stab at the lettuce on her plate with a fork, “I thought this class was more about numbers and word problems?”

“Mr Fahazad wants us to write about why statistics matter, how they make a difference in the world, how they relate to me, “he says. He rattles off talk of how they are important to coaches, how you rely on them when you check the weather, etc…. and my girlfriend listens and nods in approval back at him while eating her salad. And as they talk, my mind starts to wander. What do I know about statistics that I can add to the conversation except that I am one? A divorced woman who just left another long term relationship only a year ago. I have read the statistics that say that pretty much half of all marriages end in divorce. And if you are foolish enough to even attempt to test fate again and choose to get remarried, according to the statistics, almost 70% of us hopeless humans will file for divorce again.

But in love and parenting, should you follow the statistical evidence? Or should you just follow your heart? What do I really care about what the statistics say when I look over and see my girlfriend patting my slacker teen on the back for his great job of thinking through the assignment and doing the work? No, my odds are on my third and last attempt to find the right partner. And I’d put all my money on my teen’s ability to surprise me despite what appears to be an overwhelming mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Now, just don’t anybody tell Mr. Fahazad.

Written by kmguay

September 16, 2009 at 1:26 am

tuesday night dinner

with 4 comments


dinnerStanding in cold kitchen with coat on, drop commuter bag on table and open refrigerator door. Feel good about the partially defrosted turkey meat on the shelf even as you notice the frostbite on the edges. Continue to thaw in microwave. Pour olive oil in big pan. Shit. Big pan is lounging in sink under grayish sudsy water. Wash pan. Dry with towel. Place on stove. Now remove coat and drape over one arm while pouring olive oil in big pan.

6:40 PM. On way to bedroom to change, still carrying coat, turn house heat on. Change clothes. Return to kitchen. Thank a god that there is red wine still on the counter from the weekend. Pour a glass halfway full. Look at it with dismay. Pour more in again to the top. Spy an onion on top of the microwave next to a lone garlic clove. Consider the ingredient list: Onion. Turkey Meat. Olive Oil. Fresh Oregano, Tomato Sauce. Whole Wheat Spaghetti. Parmesan Cheese. Crusty Bread. Garlic.

Boil the water. Take a big sip of the wine as son number one walks in the kitchen complaining.

"Spaghetti? when will it be ready?" he says.

Try not to notice the disgusted look on his face and say something snide like "Never."

Look at the clock. 6:45. Decide against the onion. Toss a frozen french bread boule in the cold oven. Crank the dial to 450. Listen for son number two and ex-husband making their entrance through the front door.

"Mom, we're home!" they say.

Notice that they've completely ignored your request to stop at Deluxe Tux in the center of town and take an even bigger sip of your wine when the grey shirt and the maroon tie spill out of the Men's Wearhouse bag and onto the table.

"I thought we decided on a simple rented tux for Sat?" you say.

Answer from ex husband, "Well this way he'll have a suit for special occassions."

Answer back from ex-wife "What special occasions? He'll grow out of it before the next occasion. I agreed to pay half of the price of a tux. What did this cost?"

And now it starts.

"You don't need to pay half"he says.

"But what did this cost?"you say.

"Just pay me whatever you were planning to pay me for the tux"he says.

"What did this cost?!"you say.

" 265 dollars"he says.

" 265 dollars!" you say.

Throw frozen turkey meat in pan of smoking olive oil and pulverize with a wooden spoon. Skip the fresh oregano. Toss pasta into boiling water while raising your voice to shrill ex-wife level.

"I'm not paying that and neither are you! We don't have it. And another thing, do we really want to reward him with a 300 dollar suit right now?! you say.

Now brace yourself for the teen to join in.

"MOM! I cant believe you! You are ruining my life!" he says.

Scream back. "Get out of the kitchen and let me be mad at your father right now!" you say.

"It was 265 dollars not 300" ex husband says.

Flash angry look at ex-husband while emptying jarred sauce into turkey meat with a splat. Ignore ex-husband as he leaves the house and the other teen starts to cry at the computer.

"And what's wrong with you now?"you say.

You are fighting with dad and I have a five paragraph essay to write and it was due Monday." says the younger teen.

"But its Tuesday." you say.

"My teacher is a bitch. She is making me do it anyway and there is no point now." he says.

Now lose your mind while brandishing a tomato-sauced wooden spoon in one hand as the sullen teen stops to text his girlfriend.

"SHUT OFF THAT PHONE AND SIT YOUR ASS RIGHT THERE AND DO ALL FIVE PARAGRAPHS! And GIVE ME THE PHONE. GIVE IT TO ME!" GIVE IT TO MEEEEEEEEEE!

Catch whipped cellphone with your free hand before it hits you and slam it on the counter. Look at the clock. 7:00 PM. Lower heat on sauce. Dump overcooked pasta into collander. Toss pasta and sauce together in a mixing bowl and place in the middle of the table. Arrange three plates. Set out forks and one spoon. Place plastic parmesan cheese container on table. Remove crusty bread from oven and try to cut even though its still frozen in center. Say fuck it and cut off one end and apply butter. Leave the frozen splintered bread mess on the cutting board indefinitely. Scream DINNER! and heap a large pile of totally unappetizing pasta onto your plate and don't make eye contact with either one of your spoiled, ungrateful, miserable teenage children. Eat furiously while waiting for your ex-husband to call you from the road.

"Mom, it's dad on the phone" says a teen.

Take another sip of your wine while listening to the phone ring.

"Mom, that's dad calling." he says.

Keep chewing while placing the phone to your ear.

"Uh huh" you say.

"I can"t return it now because I didn't pay with a check." says ex husband.

"How did you pay for it? In blood?” you say.

"I paid with a debit card" he says.

"You can get your money back. Just return it" you say.

"It will only be store credit" he says.

"I think you're wrong, read the receipt to me. You can get your money back." you say.

Drink more wine while you listen to your ex-husband read you the return and exchange terms on the store receipt.

"Ok, I'll return it tomorrow" he says.

"Yeah, I think that is best" you say.

Now notice the teen at the table turning red. Put your hand up in front of his face before he pops a blood vessel.

"Chill out. You'll get a tux for Sat and it will be fine."you say.

Turn your attention back to the phone and twirl more pasta on your fork. Listen to ex-husband say, "I'm an idiot"

Feel bad for him and angry at yourself for losing your temper.

"No you are not, I've done it before. They are good salespeople and the store is overpriced. That's why I don't go there anymore. We'll take care of it tomorrow. Good night." you say.

Place the phone down and survey the kitchen, the two empty chairs now, an empty wine glass, a massacred loaf on the counter, the sound of the tv from the tv-room blaring, the computer keys clicking away.

7:40.

1 hour and 10 minutes later and another Tuesday night dinner is complete.

Written by kmguay

August 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Posted in family, teenagers

Tagged with , , , ,