Family Secrets

Family Secrets

Every family has secrets. Some are bigger than others. The ones I’m concerned with here are the ones designed to keep the daily emotional peace.

You know the type. It’s like the one where I tell my sister not to tell my mother that I’ve gone skydiving or otherwise engaged in adventuresome behavior, because my mom doesn’t get a say in my choice of activities, and I don’t want to have to fight about that, yet again.

It’s like the one where my wife doesn’t tell her mom when people she distantly remembers die, because her mom will worry incessantly about whether she’s next.

Perhaps most amusing about these secrets is what they sound like when their rules are broken. A friend yesterday described it best when retelling this conversation with her dad, who lives half a world away:

Dad:   Honey, I’m so sick, I don’t know if I’ll survive.
Friend:   Dad, have mom take you to the hospital
Dad:   I can’t, she told me not to tell you because you’d worry. So, don’t tell her I told you.

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A Summer I Remember

A Summer I Remember

I started my sophomore year of high school the summer of 1985.  Because my school was on a year round schedule, I’d spent most of May and June away from my classmates.  Being brought back together that July allowed us to collectively live the end of the Night Stalker’s reign of terror.
Back then, everyone, including high schoolers, read an actual physical newspaper.
Some classmates brought in their home paper, others stole them off the neighbor’s lawn, others just stole a stack from the newstand.
The four or five papers floating around class in the morning ensured that we were all talking about the Night Stalker.
“Where’d he kill today?” some asked.
“I slept with a bat by my bed,” said another.
“I slept with the windows open,” I said in my best badass, 15-year-old, voice.
Sleeping with the windows open was the one thing the police warned against.  Richard Ramirez got in through open windows and doors.
I didn’t explain it then, because tempting fate seemed much cooler. but I wasn’t as much tempting fate as dutifully obeying my mother.  That summer was HOT.
And I mean, sweaty, tossing all night, rats crawling out on the wires, not even a breeze hot.  And we didn’t have airconditioning.
“Si el no nos mata, este calor lo hara,” my mom reasoned.  I couldn’t argue with that.
One day, class conversation was about how the Night Stalker had been spotted at a diner up the street from the high school.
This proximity so captivated one classmate that he took to clipping the L.A. Times’ headlines every morning and wrapping them a la headband around his head.
“I am the night stalker” he yelled as he ran around the classroom.
We all laughed.  “Yeah right, you’re also the guy who burned off his arm hair when the meeting of hair spray and match went awry.”
Richard Ramirez’s death yesterday reminded me of what an odd summer that was, and of how I think I heard that that classmate with the headline headbands became a police officer.
It was a weird summer story to live and share with my classmates, so I guess it’s no wonder that it inhabits the “odd thing to fondly remember” space in my mind.
Names Have Been Changed to Protect Us From Our Mothers

Names Have Been Changed to Protect Us From Our Mothers

“So, your mother is coming to visit? Ready to have her dissect your life,” I teased.

“Yeah, you know she’s going to judge what you’re wearing as you walk out the door to work,” said another friend.

“And she’s going to call you all day while you’re at work and complain that you’re not there with her,” yelled another.

For about 15 minutes, we mocked Janet for what she was about to experience.

We had all been there before, dutifully enduring a mother’s awkward visit into a fully fleshed out adult life.  All of us, self described “good daughters,” love and honor our mothers, but we all understand there is psychic injury to be had when enduring mom morning, noon, and night.  

“How long’s she around for?” someone asked.  “Three and a half days is the key to a good visit,” I yelled.  “I can do three weeks, at her house,” someone else opined.  

Then, Veronica realized her own 9-year-old was listening to the group of women kvetch about their moms.  “But you aren’t listening to this conversation are you,” she smiled at Alicia.

“Who are you talking about?” the little voice said from behind the benches where we all sat.

“Oh just a random woman that sometimes lives in my apartment,” I quickly interjected.

And then Janet spoke of how the random woman who sometimes lives in her apartment wanted to come a day early and leave a day late.  And I raised how the random woman sometimes living in my apartment felt the need to go to bed early, and then yell at me for not doing the same.

“Wait a minute,” said the little voice.  “How long has the random woman been in your apartment?”

“Oh, about 43 years,” I answered.

“That’s weird, why do you let her in?  She sounds crazy.”

Babies on the Floor

Babies on the Floor

For the past few years I’ve been on a mission to lose weight.  I’ve shed and kept off 35 pounds.

The pursuit of this goal has required some serious changes.  Some of these changes I once would have called crazy. Daily 5 a.m. workouts? Squats? Swimming? Fewer desserts? Healthy snacking? Lunacy, sheer lunacy.

But I did them and I saw results, so I kept at it.

Which is why I can’t judge the craziness around me at the gym too harshly.

I mean, I don’t know anything about why the lady on the elliptical comes in, spreads her four-month old on a blanket next to the machines and works out for an hour.

She’s keeping at it though, a day after the baby on the floor incident, she strapped him to her chest and got on the treadmill.

I hope she gets to her goal . . . whatever it is.

And, if she keeps it up, I’m pretty sure that baby is becoming a trainer.

Holding On

Holding On

My mother is not a pack rat.  She doesn’t generally hold on to things.  This means that there are very few paintings done by me as a kindergartener or essays from my high school years.

Her lack of hoarder tendencies, however, make me question why there are certain things she just refuses to throw out.

Used light bulbs, depleted batteries, and ballpoint pens which have run dry.

Just today, I went to put new batteries in a scale and saw that the “fresh” batteries were dead.  “How can they be dead,” I pondered, “I just pulled them out of the box.”

Of course, like all mysteries of the universe, with a little probing, I found that my mom thought the best place for old batteries was with the new ones.

“Really mom, why would you put them in the box with new things, it’s not like we put the cracked eggs back with the good eggs inside the carton,” I reasoned.

All I got was a smirk, and then she slinked away with a pencil holder full of pens, to figure out which ones actually still worked.