The problem with not blogging for a week is that so much material builds up that I don't know where to begin. Do I want to share kid quotes? (Christopher, after my sister told him that she loved him & asked if he loved her, "Well...love is a strong word.") My gripes about leaky airconditioning? (me, staring at the dripping air unit with a blinking red light on it and asking my sister, "Hey, Steph? What do you think that red light means? You think it means everything's ok? Maybe it only blinks when everything's ok.") Or maybe the latest awkward divorce question thrown at me and my exhusband? (Emma, sitting at the table with me and Chris earlier in the week, "Dad, if you marry Michelle [his girlfriend] will she be my new mommy?")
Let's talk about donuts.
One of the traditions I grew up with in my family was that we got donuts for breakfast on our birthdays. Like most people, there are things I grew up with that I've chosen to keep as tradition and others that I've chosen not to. I've kept all the ones involving donuts. Today is my sister Stephie's birthday and so, like a good Rheams, I set out in the predawn hours to get the first box of donuts fresh out the fryer.
The place I went to is the same place that we've been getting donuts for almost 25 years - Take Away Donuts on Highway 90, the little shop with the helpful sign that boasts, "Take Away Donuts - We serve donuts." In my mind the only way to improve that sign would be, "Take Away Donuts - We serve donuts. Take them away." What I love about this place is the other customers. They're all men and all truck drivers so every time I walk in there I hear conversation similar to the one I heard this morning.
A trucker dude swiveled his stool to lean back against the counter. He pointed at the guy next to him with his mug of coffee and in a gravely voice said, "Heeeeeey, Super Cooper! Where you been?"
Super Cooper sipped his coffee and said, "Hmm. Where you been?"
"Woo wee!" he exclaimed, thrilled at the question. "Everywhere. Dallas, Florida..." then low, to himself, "Super Cooper."
The best conversation I've ever overheard was the one at a grocery store near my parent's house. I recently rediscovered this when I was cleaning out my inbox. Some of you guys might remember this from an email I sent years ago:
This middle aged woman and what appeared to be her teenaged escort were standing next to me in line. I couldn't tell what their relationship was. The way she talked to him didn't suggest that she was his mother or his aunt, unless their family is just THAT messed up. He looked about nineteen and she looked old enough to be his mom, but then she also looked like one of those women who could be thirty but looked fifty because she hadn't been kind to her body. Tanned fat rolled over the sides of her jeans, and hung below the edge of her shirt. Her shoulder length, frizzy hair was bleached blond at the tips and dull brown at the top. Her voice cracked in a way that not only told you that she smoked, but suggested that she might actually have a cigarette lodged in her throat. She asked the teenaged boy, who kept a steady expression of no expression at all, about where he went at night and what he liked to drink. The kid had black hair and a wispy mustache. He was only slightly more attractive than the woman who wanted to know all about his night life. After she spotted a bottle of Tequila Rose behind the counter, she said, "Oo!" and poked him in the side. "Tequila Rose, you ever drink that? That's some delicious shit."
He moaned, "No."
"Next time you come over to my house we'll have to get you some. What about you, baby, you ever drink you some Tequila Rose?" she asked the teenaged cashier.
The girl said, "Naw. A stripper cameback to my house once and got all messed up on it. She threw it up and I've never been able to get the smell out. I drink Jaegermeister, me."
I stood in line thinking, "I need to start bringing my notebook with me everywhere I go. This is fantastic."
And do I bring a notebook with me now? No. I've learned nothing. Except not to serve Tequila Rose to strippers, truckers like Dallas, and cashiers dig Jaegermeister.
But more disturbing than that conversation was a talk that my friend had with her son about love. You recall me saying that Chrisopher told my sister that love is a strong word? My friend's son said something similar. She has twin 8 year old boys and one of them, Ben, has decided that he hates love, hugs and kisses. I guess that's pretty typical for a little boy. But Ben's response is not typical.
When tucking her boys in the other night she told one of them, "Good night, Craig, I love you."
Craig dutifully said, "Good night mom. Love you too."
Then when she said, "Good night, Ben. I love you," Ben said nothing.
"Beeen," she sang. "I love you. You love me?"
"Mom," said Ben, exasparated because they'd been over this a hundred times. "I don't know how to love."
"Ben doesn't know how to love, Mom," Craig reminded her.
"Oh," she said, remembering. "That's right."
What is it with this new generation of boys and their complex responses to "I love you?" In my day, if you kissed a little boy they spit and ran. They didn't come back with answers like, "I don't know how to love," or "love is a strong word" or "Mom, I think we need to take a step back and re-evevaluate this relationship."
But bring up donuts, and suddenly you're both on the same page. Usually, getting Christopher out of bed is as easy as scraping old gum off the sidewalk, but this morning all I had to do was say, "I got birthday donuts this morning," and his eyes popped open. He was at the table in a matter of minutes. He sang "Happy Birthday" to Stephanie with us. He answered her when she told him she loved him! Suddenly he knew what love was and how to love in return! And all it took was one fresh chocolate covered sprinkle!
Donuts! The miracle food! I'll set a few on top of my leaky air conditioning unit!