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Just a typical lunch conversation

10 Jun

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“Hey, do you want to see four dead mice and a dead chipmunk?” my dad asks while we’re eating lunch. I’ve just arrived in Michigan for my nephew’s graduation.

“Where are they?” I ask, thinking they’ve just been caught in a trap. “Attic? Garage?”

“Basement,” my mom says, with a roll of her eyes.

“Why do you have these in the basement?” I ask.

“I’m cultivating dermestid beetles,” my dad announces proudly.

“And why are you cultivating dermestid beetles?”

“So I’ll have enough to clean the deer skeleton I picked up,” he replies, as if it should’ve been obvious.

“And where is this deer skeleton?”

He stops eating and points at the floor.

“Under the porch?” I ask, now imagining a rotting carcass as I put a fork full of sauerkraut in my mouth.

He nods.

“Did you get the whole thing?” my mom asks, surprisingly supportive for someone who prides herself on an immaculate house.

“Close,” he says. “I was able to pick up almost everything but I think I missed a few ribs.”

There are a number of relevant questions… Where did he find this skeleton? What does he plan to do with it? Exactly how did he pick it up? How long has it been under the porch?

Instead, I settle on, “Isn’t it stinky?” since I’m now sniffing around like a pig seeking truffles.

“Nah,” he says. “The maggots did a pretty good job with it. The beetles are just to finish the job so it’s perfectly clean.”

Of course.

Isn’t this how YOUR visits home sound – or is your dad not a biologist?

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Small town living: cruising?

26 Mar
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Kind of like this, but with crappier cars and less reason. 

The other day I was wishing a childhood friend a happy birthday on Facebook. “Happy Birthday, old man!” I wrote. “Hop in your car and go cruise the McDonald’s to feel young again!”

As soon as the words came out, I cracked up. They struck me as absurd – not only imagining my 42 year-old friend attempting this, but also because the entire concept of “cruising” seemed so ridiculous.

Unless you’re from a small town, you probably have (at best) only a vague notion of what cruising entails. I know this because – after cracking myself up with my Facebook post – I asked Alan if cruising was a thing in Northern Virginia when he was a kid.

He gave me a blank look. “What kind of cruising?”

Which basically was the confirmation I needed that cruising was not, in fact, a universal THING.

After I explained it, he asked if we also hung out at sock hops, then returned to the book he was reading. (I think he’s suppressing his jealousy.) 

If, like Alan, you grew up in a semi-urban area where cruising wasn’t a thing, I’ll offer a quick description: Cruising was the main Friday/Saturday night activity for high schoolers in our small town. It involved hopping in a friend’s car – usually with a few other people – and driving a repeated loop of town, waving at other kids doing the same thing, and occasionally stopping at McDonald’s to have an actual conversation with someone.

There’s really no way to describe it that makes it sound even remotely as fulfilling as it somehow was. And if it’s something you’ve never experienced, it probably sounds both weird AND boring.

I say that because as an adult who is now living carless in a large city, the idea even strikes ME as ludicrous. The environmentalist in me also cringes thinking about the gas that we wasted, going exactly no where.

And before you ask: No, we did NOT tip cows for sport. That’s tacky. We were too busy tp’ing each other’s houses for that.

 

To catch a fugitive: Christmas Edition

30 Dec

Image source: google images

My sister lives about 30 minutes from my parents, so our tradition is to drive up and have dinner with her family on Christmas Eve. This year was no exception and it was almost 9pm when we pulled out of her driveway to return to my parents’ for the night.

Ten minutes later we were stopped at a red light near Briarwood Mall. Through the intersection, we saw three cars, all parked in weird places and at odd angles. Steam rose from the hood of the third car. “Do you suppose there’s been an accident?” my mom asked.

We were still puzzling it out when the third car suddenly reversed and peeled out, flying toward the mall and away from the accident at a break-neck pace. “Do you think he’s fleeing the scene?” my dad asked from the backseat.

That was the only nudge my mom needed to zip through the light and investigate. She pulled through the intersection, pausing next to the remaining car, where a man was standing outside it on his phone, looking incredulous. “Did that guy hit you?” my mom called out to him.

The guy confirmed that he had. “And did he just take off?” my mom continued. Again, the guy nodded. “Yeah – he just hit me and left. Can you believe that?”

“I’ll see if I can get him,” my mom told him, goosing her Prius into  action. Had she owned a police light, she would’ve rolled her window down and smacked it on the roof. We sped into the Briarwood complex, the parking lot and surrounding streets deserted from the earlier crush of shoppers.

As we started winding our way along the street circling the mall, something caught my mom’s eye off to the side. There, parked at a drive-thru bank, was a car with its lights off, steam still rising from its hood. “That’s him!” she yelled, cutting a wide, obvious u-turn to circle back to the bank.

Time-out as we assess my mom’s performance as a private eye for a moment:

  • Pros: eagle eye, fearlessness
  • Cons: discretion, stealth

No sooner had we pulled into the bank parking lot than the “perp” hopped back in his car and sped away. (He’d been standing outside it, presumably assessing the damage and calling a friend to pick him up). Mom, no shrinking violet (see pros listed above), pulled out right after him yelling for me to call the police.

What then ensued was was a game of cat and mouse as we tailed this guy all through the Briarwood parking lot, with my mom trying to get close enough for us to read the license plate, my dad trying to figure out the last four digits on the plate, and me shouting the letters we could see to the police dispatch, all as the guy did his best to lose us. It was a scene worthy of Home Alone.

Finally the guy DID manage to lose us – mainly because I urged my mom to stop matching his speed. (Sorry, mom!) We’d only been able to identify three of the seven digits for the police, but they also had the make/model and year of the vehicle, so between that and the fact that his radiator was probably out of fluid and would grind the car to a halt soon, they seemed fairly confident they’d find him.

“If only you guys had let me really chase him, we could’ve nailed his ass,” Mom sighed.

“Well, if you’d been driving my van, we could’ve used my binoculars to get the plate without needing to chase him,” Dad sighed.

At that I had to laugh, imagining the call the police would’ve received about US if my parents had gotten their Christmas wishes:

Image Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_nkdggYHwcLc/S2nAWRTFJ3I/AAAAAAAAAuE/hvEaRCQoHMY/s320/prius2042.JPG

“I’d like to report a Prius driving recklessly in the Briarwood parking lot. It’s going about 60 mph, ignoring the pavement markers. It appears to be driven by two white-haired grandparents – and one of them seems to be trying to birdwatch!” 

 

However you spent YOUR Christmas, I hope it was memorable! 

I know this game!

1 Sep

Memory Game

“The first part of your memory to go,” my mom says, looking over the mug of her coffee one morning while I’m home in Michigan for a few days, “is the part in charge of names.”

She’s telling me this shortly after I witnessed my parents playing a game I’ve mentally dubbed “What Is His Name?”, during which they throw each other prompts to try to come up with the name of someone critical to a story one of them wants to tell.

Sometimes the game can be more like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” where they arrive at the person’s name by tracking back through kinfolk, neighbors, teachers and friends. “Remember that kid? He was in Sandy’s class in sixth grade… his mother was married to the brother of the owner of the Independent Dairy… they lived in the house that the Webbers now live in… and you’d see him out every morning walking his dog. What was his name?”

This morning though, it’s a more entertaining version of the game because it takes me to a place where my imagination is fully engaged:

“You remember – what was her name?” my dad began.

“They lived over on Anderson Street,” he continued.

“Oh, I can picture her,” my mom said, nodding like a psychic confirming her hunch.

“She’s the girl I squirted in the mouth with toad juice,” he added.

BOOM. Microphone drop. How often has THAT surfaced as memory-jogging detail in one of YOUR stories? I’m going to guess NEVER. And think of all the possibilities that it evokes. How do you squirt toad juice on someone? What scenario even makes this possible? Was it deliberate or an accident? What IS toad juice?

Regardless, while the part of the brain that’s in charge of names might be off on vacation, clearly the rest of it – responsible for managing all the other details accumulated over a lifetime – is ticking along just fine. If it were me, I’d just make up nicknames on the fly and rename people as I told stories. In this example, the protagonist would’ve been Toad Mouth out of the gate.

Speaking of, I better run. Gotta go see Tea Girl before I greet Eager Early Coworker at my office.

 

New year flashbacks.

1 Jan

Image Source: http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2012/galleries/dick-clark/dick-clark-660.jpg

Happy new year, everybody!

For the first time in a long time, I was awake when the ball dropped last night. If you weren’t able to make it up that late, here’s all you need to know to participate in the water cooler talk in your office tomorrow: Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy hosted; there was significant discussion (on our part – not on air) about Dick Clark’s status (dead or alive); the only conclusion we all agreed on was that Casey Kasem is, in fact, dead.

You’re now up to speed. Go forth and discuss.

We celebrated at some friends’ house, and their kids emerged from their bedrooms around midnight for the ball drop. It reminded me of one of the most infamous new year’s eves of my childhood, when my parents left my sister and me home with a babysitter.

Alicia – who was in middle school at the time – was allowed to have a friend over, and my parents told the babysitter that we could stay up to watch the ball drop. I’ve always been a sleepy person, however, so I called it a night around 8pm, wishing everyone a good night and pulling my door shut on Dick Clark’s smiling face.

When I woke up the next day, I quickly was brought up to speed. Apparently while I slumbered, quite a little drama had unfolded. The babysitter had made Alicia and her friend go to bed early as well, and once they were in Alicia’s room with the door closed, the babysitter called her boyfriend and invited him and some friends over.

I’m not sure if Alicia was upset about the babysitter breaking the rules and having boys over, or if she was simply pissed that she’d been relegated to her room and missed the ball drop, but she wasted no time in telling my parents how she’d spent HER evening. I’m not sure how the situation was addressed with the babysitter, but I’d have to imagine it was awkward since she was one of my dad’s students. I can only imagine she wanted to crawl under her desk for a good portion of the next semester.

And so on that note, I wish you a happy new year. If you left your kids with a sitter, I’d suggest interrogating them to make sure no one threw a party in your house. Or maybe they can at least tell you if Dick Clark is still alive.