Toothy Grin

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After the dentist appointment we decided to browse the local Goodwill to kill time.  We needed to wait for the numbness to wear off and the bleeding to stop before my daughter could drink a milk shake from the ice cream place down the block.

It wasn’t until we got home that evening that she realized she was missing her tooth necklace, the one that contained her newly extracted tooth. If it weren’t for the tooth fairy thing, she probably wouldn’t have cared, but instead, naturally, she wanted to find it. Fortunately it didn’t take long for her to recall hanging it up on a hook in the Goodwill dressing room while she tried on clothes. It was too late to go back that evening but I was able to call and they said they’d hold it for me until the next day. I promised her I’d go get it first thing in the morning.

When I got there in the morning I told the clerk I was there to pick up a necklace my daughter had left there the day before. He said he remembered me and proceeded to announce fairly loudly over the store PA system “the lady who left her teeth here yesterday is here to pick them up”.  Did he really just say I was here to pick up my teeth? Suddenly it felt like everyone in the store was trying not to look at me but couldn’t help turning their heads to stare and I couldn’t blame them. A lady showing up at the Goodwill to pick up her teeth she left the day before? I would’ve taken a look at her too!

As I was standing there waiting, I felt like grabbing the speaker to clarify, “Sorry that was a mistake. I’m actually here to pick up a tooth necklace– you know the kind dentists give kids– a white plastic tooth box on a red string? My daughter left it here yesterday after a baby tooth was extracted. We were here killing time and she left it on the hook in the dressing room. I’m not here to pick up my teeth. Knock on wood I still have all my originals in my head…just sayin’. You can go back to shopping now.” But instead I stood there, imagining what I would say while running my tongue over my teeth and silently thanking my parents and my adult self for all the years of investing in good dental care.

When the clerk returned with the necklace and handed it to me I thanked him with a big toothy grin that I flashed around the store for longer than I might normally while I put the necklace around my neck. I brought it home to my daughter along with a good laugh.

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Final Note to Rip Van Winkle

Listen here Rippie. For years I tried to wake you up to tend to matters on the farm, but instead you chose to ignore me and my cries. You ran away to the mountains, drank your drink and fell asleep in a forest hollow for years and years. Finally awakened by the loud echos of the judge’s stamp, I imagine you’re a bit shocked by what you found. Your musket rotted and your beard grew grey and long.  Nobody recognizes you in town, do they? Not even our children who are all grown up now.  Your friends have moved away or were killed in the war. I hope you find someone to take you in. I already died once in your sleep and that was enough for me.

Pride

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My kids and I were in DC for spring break riding the Metro when we were diverted to a stop before ours due to a broken escalator. If you’ve been to the Bethesda Metro stop you know a broken escalator closes it. It was rush hour and people wanted to get home which meant there were lots of people, tired and frankly a little smelly. Along with everyone else in our situation, we piled in a complimentary shuttle bus at Friendship Heights.  The fact that you have no choice but to lift your arm up to reach the handles, only made matters worse in the smell department, though everyone was pretty kind about it. I got the feeling this wasn’t the first time this had happened. I suppose we could’ve walked home a few miles but we’d already put in lots at the museums plus this was just part of seeing the sights.

By the time the kids and I got on the bus, all the available seats were taken and we stood pressed against a very large woman in a maroon color track suit who was sitting on a matching electric scooter. Is it okay for me to admit, even though I was raised better than this, sometimes it’s impossible for me not to stare? I actually think some people, including this woman, dare me not to. Anyway, she had a pretty face and her energy was confident. She seemed kind but not apologetic by any stretch, even though she was taking up at least two full rows of seats by the time they were folded up to accommodate her. Her scooter had the word “Pride” written in cursive across the front, which seemed perfect somehow.

The woman’s bottom spilled over the seat and her thighs hid the rest of her legs. All you could see below her thighs were her relatively small shoes which had shiny silver buckles. In the metal basket in the front of her pride there was a crumpled McDonald’s bag and half drunk milkshake with sweat beads dripping down the side of the cup. It explained the french fry smell I was experiencing.

If I weren’t standing so close to her, literally about to sit on her lap, it might’ve been easier to look away but instead, I found myself totally captivated. I wondered why she was on the scooter? Was it a medical reason or a choice? I tried to imagine what her name might be and I tried out a few in my own head… queen names mostly like Regina and Kandiss.

Maybe if she weren’t wearing her hair in an elaborate braided crown of a bun (the same size as her head) I wouldn’t have been so curious about her hair and if she weren’t wearing a gold necklace with a giant snake pendant that looked like it was slithering down between her very large breasts, I wouldn’t have been so drawn to stare at her breasts. And her super long nails painted the same maroon color as her track suit and her scooter with large diamonds set in each nail, meant of course I’d look at her hands. Everything about this woman made it impossible for me not to stare.

Feeling guilty for looking at her — though honestly not judging so much as very curious– but not sure where else to look as there was nothing even remotely as interesting as she was, I decided to focus my attention on her “Pride”. There were two settings: slow (I assume it meant slow as it was simply a picture of a turtle) and on the other end was fast (again, I assume so, as it was a picture of a rabbit) and there were circles that increased in an arc from turtle to rabbit. I assume she could speed up or slow down simply by turning the knob. I had to wonder, by the time they loaded her and her Pride and all the rest of us, if she couldn’t have simply put that thing on “rabbit” mode and made it home faster than the rest of us in this shuttle bus that hadn’t even started to move?

I can’t even remember the point of this story now … except I was struck by the fact that in a thorough debrief with my children when we finally got off the bus, they hadn’t really noticed her and furthermore, they thought it was totally rude I had. “Mom, it’s impolite to stare”. Of course they’re right. I’m so glad someone is raising these two kids to be good people. In fact it fills me with pride. I, on the other hand, am going straight to hell since I can’t seem to help staring at certain things or people, soaking in every detail…especially when I feel like I’m being dared not to.

The Salt Shooter

Sometimes things happen to me that leave me wondering if I’m the one who is crazy and every one else is normal. But this time, my friend was with me, which meant I wasn’t alone in wondering if I was losing it.

So what happened is the woman behind us in line was holding a gun, pointing it up in the air, pretending to shoot it. Her movements were jittery. She seemed nervous with shifty eyes. My friend whispered to me, “It’s fake. Look at the orange cap”.  I found that reassuring even though it was pretty obvious it was one of those big nerf gun blasters.

At this particular cafe, there’s a really loud fan that blows when the door is open—I’m guessing to keep the flies out—and the counter is right there when you walk in. So if there are more than like two people in line, the door ends up open with the fan on. It’s not the best layout.  And, so, the woman with the nerf gun was behind us propping the door open making the fan blow loud warm air at us. The odd thing was nobody else seemed to notice anything amiss.  It was as if the fan, with it’s loud warm air, was making the whole scene disappear for everyone except my friend and me. We kept looking at each other while also keeping an eye on the woman with the gun in case she did anything crazier than stand there aiming her gun in the air.  Then, out of the blue she asked us “What am I supposed to do next?” like she forgot her script and she rambled something about shooting salt. I stood there kind of frozen like did I just hear something about shooting salt? Whereas my friend, who was thinking much faster, said with authority, “You’re supposed to hand that to me next!” and she reached for the gun. I was shocked to watch how easily my friend did that and how fast the woman responded. I mean, she just handed it over to her. Frankly she seemed almost relieved to be done with it. My friend continued to hold it muzzle down, with one eye on the woman, looking a bit like she’d just taken the nerf gun from one of her boys who was now on a “time out” for shooting her other boy in the face. Her expression was of thorough disappointment, not fear. I just stood there wondering what am I supposed to do next?

Eventually, the woman shifted her attention outside and my friend leaned over, discretely placing the nerf gun (as discretely as possible given its size) behind the register and quietly but firmly told the cashier to keep it back there, as there was “someone mentally unstable trying to shoot salt with it”.

The crazy thing was the barista’s blase attitude “Oh. That’s our salt shooter,” he said. “Excuse me?” my friend asked. We didn’t know if he meant the girl or the gun was their salt shooter… but he clarified “We use it for salt”. “That thing?” my friend asked. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a salt shooter”. “Well, she’s not okay. You might call 911 if she comes back in” my friend explained, still genuinely concerned for her health. “OK” he said, shrugging his shoulders. By now we were fully aware, he was on the same thing as our salt shooter. Bemused, we left the cafe with coffees in hand, wondering if maybe we were the crazy ones?

Valet

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Valet parking feels wrong to me on several levels, not the least of which being unnecessary exposure to scrutiny. But there I was in North Beach, a block away from Park Tavern, where I was supposed to meet friends, unable to find a parking spot and with no choice but to use valet parking.

I looked around at the clutter inside my car and thought, ok then, what can I stash? All I could think of was to hide a fork that had rice stuck to it, in the little storage compartment between the two front seats. The rest was hopeless. As I pulled up, I reassured myself by thinking this man, who just happened to be impossibly good looking, was human too. I imagined his bedroom being a wreck. As I handed him the keys I said “excuse the mess”, smiled and added “welcome to my life”. He smiled back and called out to me as I ran away “Hey”. I turned around, worried the car wouldn’t start or something, but instead he said, in a lovely Italian accent, “Enjoy your dinner, ok?”.  I smiled saying, “Thanks, I will” and I promptly forgot about my car and the entire interaction while I enjoyed dinner with my friends.

What happened after dinner was straight out of a movie really…

The same valet stood across the street smiling as if he were waiting for me.  I fantasized that we were going to take off somewhere romantic, until I remembered (oh right!) he is waiting for me… but not really. He’s waiting for me to pick up my mess of a car. Suddenly self-conscious, I thought about how totally crazy it was that this handsome man was standing there with my car door open, waiting for me to cross the street. I wished he’d just put the hazard lights on, shut the door and bring me the keys, but instead, he waited for me like a gentleman until the traffic cleared. When I got to him, he said something (his accent was pretty strong) along the lines of “did you know your engine light is on?”. Oh God, that too? I hadn’t even thought about the engine light that has been on for a couple of weeks. “Yes, thanks! ” kicking myself for not getting the engine looked at yet. I tried to say good-bye and close the door, but he leaned in closer saying “I see you take in a lot of physical activity.”

I was so confused. It seemed like a pick up line, but it didn’t seem even remotely close to reality. I look like I take in lots of physical activity?  I’m thinking um…no I don’t…but then I looked around my car to see the following (and I am not exaggerating): a rip stick, a hockey stick, a basketball, roller blades, a skateboard.. and then what he was referring to…a soccer ball.. in the front seat rolling around with three water bottles. HA! He thinks this is all mine! When I confessed it all belongs to my ten year old son, he leaned in even closer with an even bigger smile, almost offering personal lessons, but stopped himself with “Tell him to keep playing. It’s a wonderful game. I used to play professionally.” Smiling I told him I would do that and I handed him a few dollars.

I drove away with my mess and my engine light (still) on, considering the idea that maybe I could like valet parking after all. And four years later… come to think of it, I wonder if he’s still there? Anyone wanna meet me at Park Tavern?

One Night Hand

Two Tweets

I had a boyfriend for a short while today on my flight from San Francisco to Detroit. He was funny and smart, a techie who loved his job. He wore a light grey t-shirt with the classic blue Twitter bird printed on the front and jeans. He was good-looking with smooth brown skin, a well-groomed beard and mustache, perfect white teeth, and an easy smile.

We chatted away on the runway and through take off…laughing, comparing notes on stuff, like where to get the best burritos in the Mission. He was on his way home to New York after two weeks working in the San Francisco office. He told me about his work. I was impressed with his example of why it was meaningful to him: “It connects people in ways unimaginable a few years ago. People really depend on it to transmit critical information during times of political unrest for instance or storms”. He asked about my work too. I told him about my work advocating for babies, birth to 3. We discussed how far behind the U.S. lags in social policies, things like paid parental leave and quality affordable infant care. He seemed genuinely interested, like he “got it”, without much need for explanation. Younger people usually do get my work.

That’s when we established he was, in fact, exactly half my age (23 years old)… which, other than the fact that he understood why investing in babies matters, came as a total surprise to me. Coincidentally, my aunt recently explained to me over the phone, in reference to this phenomenon I’ve noticed lately of talking to men and being suddenly surprised that I could be their grandmother, “I’m afraid it always does (come as a surprise) Jul”.

We shifted our discussion to matters of parenting and family. I was thinking if I couldn’t date him, I wanted to know how someone raises a child like him? Was I doing it already with my two children OR were there secret ingredients I might learn from him that I could add to my parenting mix? He told me about his mother – how she shared my love of hot yoga and healthy eating, having no shame in calling him on a business trip to ask what he was eating and if he was taking care of himself? He said it was sweet not meddling, and he added that she has always been this way. He said, in fact, her interest in conscious living was so deep-seated, she and his father were currently in Nepal on a “healing retreat”. (Time out: Married people in their 50’s together on a healing retreat? I was already in love with them and didn’t even know their names.) He went on to tell me about his sister who just graduated from Juilliard as a ballerina. I think he told me about other siblings as there were 5 and he was the youngest, but some of this is a blur. I started to go into my own little Fantasyland at Nepal. I do remember he talked about his love of all things nerdy and how I should continue to support my son’s interest in coding in particular and my daughter’s gift for the performing arts. He said it sounded like I was doing everything right as a mom. I was getting a pep talk from a 23 year old and it felt good. By now I was ready to sit down to dinner with his family and ask them more questions… “How did you do it?” I’d begin, while sipping hot tea.

I really admired what a confident and alive young man he was…well, until the turbulence started and suddenly, without any warning, he grabbed my hand with his, which was cold and clammy. With a look of shock (at himself I think or maybe in reaction to my look of shock at his grabbing my hand so unexpectedly?) but not letting go, he said “I’m scared. Can I keep holding your hand?” At this point the whole left side of his body was pressed against the right side of mine. I hadn’t noticed it before but the armrest was up. His thighs were bigger than I expected. His body was strong and warm other than his hand, like I mentioned, which was clammy and cold. It seemed a little forward and odd of him to want to keep holding my hand…but i said sure, of course. I mean what else could a good person say? That’s when I noticed he was holding his breath. I suggested he close his eyes, try to think about something relaxing and breathe with me. He did and we breathed together. I told him to concentrate on breathing out (I know from consulting my best friend who happens to be a therapist, the problem lies not in breathing in, the problem lies in not breathing out.). We breathed together…in… and out… in… and out…in…and out. Eventually, his breath calmed down and was in sync with mine. We kept breathing like that until, well, I finally had the nerve to look over at his face (before this point, I didn’t want to look directly at him and hold his hand and breathe with him. It all felt just way to intimate somehow) and that’s when I realized he had fallen asleep… holding my hand!

The really awkward thing was my sister was sitting several rows up. I kept wondering what she would think if she walked by and saw me holding a random guy’s hand, someone I met just twenty minutes ago. She’s too nice to say anything—plus I’m going through a divorce and while she has historically been exceptionally generous and patient with me, she has been particularly so lately, as I’ve begun to navigate the dating world. Would she think it was all prearranged on-line? I couldn’t help but imagine her look of total disbelief. At the very least, she’d give me a “WTF?” with her eyes. His grip was strong and I worried if I pried his hand loose to avoid all that embarrassment with my sister, I’d disturb him and he did look awfully peaceful. So, I just decided to enjoy it…because really, WTF?

So I closed my eyes too and pretended that I was on my way to Paris for the weekend holding hands with a new lover (instead of on my way to a memorial service in Detroit, holding hands with a stranger). When he woke up (what seemed like a really long time later), the turbulence was gone. He thanked me and smiled and we unpeeled our hands. The rest of the flight I felt a little cheated somehow…like that was it?

And that’s the story of the boyfriend I had for a short while on a flight from San Francisco to Detroit.

Dude Mine is Bigger. She Said So.

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It was late and pouring rain when the show was over.  It was the kind of rain that makes people, like me, who don’t like umbrellas, wish they had one. Unfortunately my car was parked several long blocks away. Unarmed I looked at my friends and said “You stay here, I’ll go get the car.” It sounds more valiant than it was because by then, I was way done with entertaining my date. As I saw it, my girlfriend was actually doing me a favor by keeping him company just to stay dry. So I made a run for it and that’s where the story begins…

It was dark and it seemed like I was alone with the tall buildings in downtown San Francisco. I figured nobody but me was dumb enough to be on the street with this kind of downpour. But then, as I rounded the corner in the not too far distance I could see two adorable guys walking under umbrellas (yes sometimes you can tell from behind if someone is adorable and their umbrellas added significantly to their charm—clearly these were two practical guys who knew how to plan ahead and they seemed like friends. note: I find men with friends who plan ahead adorable). How fortuitous!

Jogging toward them I had already decided –unless they really grossed me out and or were drunk– i was going to work my way under their shelter at least long enough to catch my breath. So when I reached them panting, drenched and thankful I don’t wear mascara, I said “can I walk with you for a minute?” The two of them smiled as if to say where the hell did she come from? and in unison they said “sure!”. Grateful, I squeezed right in under the first guy’s umbrella trying to be careful not to get him wet which was an impossibility given the circumstances.

As we walked along joking, it was like we were old pals who hadn’t seen each other in years. It seemed like the shared feeling between us was ”how’d we all get so lucky?” But right then at the height of pleasure that’s also precisely when it all came tumbling down because that’s when I noticed the size of the other guy’s umbrella. It was huge. You know the golf size? The kind that is completely absurd for anything, especially a city sidewalk. In this tsunami rain though I liked the looks of it. Truthfully I’d never been under one of those before and I wanted to try it out.

As cute as my new boyfriend was, it did seem as if we were maybe standing a little close for not knowing names. But I was worried about his feelings if I chose to leave him to be with his friend.  Was it right to change guys mid-block when the first had been so kind to me and agreed so readily to take me in? Would that make him feel bad?  Oh man this was tricky. Since there were several long city blocks to go yet, I had to make a decision fast.

I looked at him with concern and simply asked if he’d be offended if I moved over to be with his friend? He said “no worries.”…but I swear, I noticed a little frown as I moved over and I too felt kind of a twinge of sadness (or was it guilt? I’m not sure)…and I still can’t believe what I said next in hopes of making him feel better…I scrunched up brows with concern and said “It’s not personal. It’s just his is bigger”.

Almost while the words were rolling off my lips I knew it sounded wrong. Feeling the need to clarify I pointed up saying “I meant the umbrella” which of course made the whole thing worse. I mean really? You needed to add that you were talking about the umbrella?

Suddenly the rain was appealing. Without explaining anything to my new boyfriends, I bolted… hoping never to see them again. And as I ran away I could hear them laughing out loud and saying “Dude. She said mine is bigger!” and then “Yours so isn’t bigger and you know it!” then “Yes it is. She said so. ” I still can’t stop laughing about that night and meeting those two adorable guys under their umbrellas. We had so much fun for all of about three minutes.