Monday, August 30, 2010

Stuff I Wish I Wouldn't Notice

Okay, I haven't even gotten started and...the title is a lie. A more appropriate title would be "Stuff I Wish People Weren't Dumb Enough to Do, But Since They Can't Get It Right I Guess I Wish I Didn't Catch It". But that would be too long.

The other night, far too tired after our adventures in waiting for Caleb to do anything productive, Tori and I went to see The Switch. She wanted to see Inception for the third time, but I nixed that because I didn't want to have to think.

Oh, the irony.

Since the whole premise of the movie is divulged in the previews and summaries, I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that Jennifer Aniston's character believes she's had a baby with a paid donor, but in fact someone has switched the samples.

When Aniston sits down across from the donor years later, the flaw is instantly obvious--they're sitting there flashing pale blue eyes at one another and the child has brown eyes. I thought it was a clue. I thought it was brilliant. Anyone who went to 7th grade would know that two blue-eyed people couldn't produce a brown-eyed child! And to top it all off, the kid was something of a medical geek...he'd probably know that!

Nice touch, I was thinking. Good close-ups on the faces of both alleged parents to make this crystal clear. Great set-up with the kid previously spouting medical information.

And then my world came crashing down. Or not, actually, but my ability to enjoy the movie took a big hit. See, a minute later the "real" father popped up on the screen and...he, too, had blue eyes. Yep, all three of them. Not a chance in hell that old Jen could have produced that puppy-dog-eyed boy with either one of them.

How could everyone involved with the film possibly have missed that? How? And why, oh why, couldn't I have joined them?

Random Thought about Garbage

Is generating thousands of disposable paper stickers each week really a good way to handle trash disposal?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Conversations With My Daughter

So we're hanging out in my stepdaughter's hospital room chatting and staring at my new grandbaby (in order to set the scene, I'm compelled, quite against my will, to post this video)

when Tori casually tosses out "Mom, we should get DVR."

I'm tired, and (though I didn't tell her this) not even entirely sure what DVR is, so I said, "Why?"

A moment of silence while she stares at me as if she doesn't quite know what to do with that, and then she says, "'Cause...then we'd have DVR."

I guess that's a good thing. After we had that whole conversation and everyone laughed at her response, I can't bring myself to say, "By the way...what IS DVR?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Margo's Birthday

Today is my friend Margo's birthday. I won't say which one, but I'm sure that when you get a look at the range of photos and the hairstyles here, you'll have some idea.

I'm not, as I've mentioned before, big on fuss and celebration. Greeting cards make my brain explode. $4.50 for a piece of paper you're going to recycle fifteen minutes after opening? Really? How does the tree feel about that? But that doesn't mean that I don't recognize that there are certain days that bear celebration. A birthday, after all, marks the day a person came to exist...and for those of us in that person's life, that's kind of a big deal.

This is what I looked like when I met Margo:

Well, not exactly. I didn't wear a toga made out of one of my bedsheets all of the time, of course. The purpose of this photo is really just to show you my hair, but I chose this one intentionally, because this night (Halloween night, 1984) was a very special one in my history with Margo...

as you will soon see.

My hair had never been shorter than shoulder-length in my whole entire life, and even that was short-lived, so without Margo, I might never have found out what I looked like with short hair.

Because clearly, that long wavy hair I was originally sporting just DID NOT GO with a toga. We had absolutely no choice but to cut it off in our dorm room bathroom before going out for the night, and Margo was perfectly qualified to do the job...after all, her mom owned a beauty shop.

(It was only years later that she mentioned that she'd never actually worked in the beauty shop or learned to cut hair from her mother...but by that time, it was funny. And my hair had grown back.)

Of course, without Margo (and a bomb threat, but we had nothing to do with that) I'd never have met Jim Belushi, either.
Margo, of course, took this picture...and we're not even out of our freshman year of college yet. You might want to get a cup of coffee, because we have more than a quarter of a century to go.

Speaking of being dorky freshmen:

When my daughter saw this picture, she said, "I notice you both have some interesting hair stuff going on." It was the eighties, but somehow even that seems inadequate to explain...

Margo's always been full of words of wisdom, too.
But there's much more. Without Margo, I'd never have been suspected of contemplating Hari Krishna; I'd never have carried a legendary set of red and black marbles in my pocket; I'd never have perfected the art of looking someone in the eye and, with a perfectly straight face, saying something so outrageous that we'd still be laughing about it two decades later.

We were really cool when we managed to buy wine (2 half gallon bottles for $5!) at Jewel-Osco when I was 18 and she was 19. I use "we" loosely here, since part of our strategy was for me to get the hell out of sight while she bought them since it was clear that I'd never pass for 21.

We were so cool, in fact, that my MOM took this picture, in her kitchen, right before telling us that we couldn't drink the wine unless we committed to staying in the house for the night.

So eight or nine years later, when Margo was working in Chicago and I was practicing law out of state and came visiting for BluesFest, we couldn't resist recreating the moment in our hotel room.

We didn't actually drink the wine at BluesFest--nowhere near as much fun if it's not contraband, I guess--just grabbed it from the hotel room bar to snap the picture and then put it right back. That was the weekend that I met Margo's fiance and also that I learned that my soon-to-be fiance had picked up a family ring from his mother to give to me. Neither of us actually ended up marrying those men, though, proving that friendship is far more enduring than romantic love.

Without Margo, I'd never have known how to walk into a newspaper office and talk my way into freelance work ("stringing," she emphasized. "Don't say freelance, or they'll know you don't write for newspapers.") when my only previous professional writing experience was in the legal field. And without that experience, I might never have written my book.

I suppose that there are many things I could point to over the past 26 years and say, "Without Margo, I would never have..." Many of them are mischievous, impulsive, highly-entertaining-only-to-us events like improving the signage at the River Walk in Naperville.

I mean, seriously--what's the point of putting up maps all along a miles-long River Walk but not giving you any indication of where along the route you might be?

We saw this as a public service. Really.

Of course, we felt the same way about taping "This too shall pass" and "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" up in the hallway of our dorm, and that netted us a $25 "vandalism" fine. Seriously. I mean, it was TAPE. It peeled right off with no damage whatsoever. Just like the tape flags we used on the maps.

Most of all, though...without Margo I would have had much less laughter in my life. So happy birthday, Marg. I'm glad you were born.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Waiting Game

Waiting really isn't all that bad.

Circles of Life

Last night, I spent a very long night at the hospital with my stepdaughter, Beth. We were hoping (in vain, it turned out) to transform that very large bump in her midsection into a very small child we could hand around and coo over and share the burden of carrying. Being pregnant when it's 93 degrees at 6 p.m. is no picnic, even without the contractions and odd compulsion to clean.

With Beth, Beth's husband Shawn and me all at the hospital, my 18-year-old stepson and 14-year-old daughter stepped up to take care of Andrew, Beth and Shawn's older child (older being a relative term that sounds a little silly when applied to a 2-year-old).

They did a great job, and even managed to get him calmed down to sleep in a strange hotel room with mom and dad both away. And that's when my life retrospective unexpectedly began.

As I sat in the hospital thinking about Beth at five, playing mother to her younger brother, and listening to the heartbeat of her second child, Tori sent me a text message. It said, "I don't know how Beth ever sleeps. I think I would just look at Andrew all the time. He's so beautiful."
I couldn't argue with that, but I have to admit that my beautiful grandson didn't have my full attention. Because in that moment I was transported back to Valentine's Day of 1996. At daybreak, my little sister tiptoed into my bedroom, looked at my 37-hour-old daughter and said, "Have you slept at all, or do you just look at her?"

My sister was 23 that morning. She wore silver shorts that zipped all the way around and had her new boyfriend in tow; his rainbow-snow-cone tinted hair was covered by a red velvet hat and although he insists to this day that it was a crooked smile he had painted on his face, I know that it was a fishhook coming out of the corner of his mouth.

Today, my sister is a 36-year-old librarian at a Catholic College. I haven't seen the silver shorts in years, and she's handed off her fishnets.

The infant she joined me in gazing upon that morning has become the babysitter, sitting up late at night watching her nephew sleep.

And the boy who trailed into my bedroom behind my sister in the early-morning hours, carrying a black rose, is married and about to become a father himself.

And, of course, that baby my daughter sat up watching last night is just days--or even hours--from becoming the big brother. And after that, the babysitter...the bridegroom...the expectant father himself. It may seem strange to think that far ahead--to look at a toddler and see new generations--but it would have seemed just as strange to think about the four-year-old wishing on a star at the drive-in as the mother, or the little boy whose "best birthday ever" happened at Chuck E. Cheese in July of 1997 as the 18-year-old babysitter, or my own infant daughter as the teenager who would get out of bed to comfort her nephew when he missed his mother in the middle of the night.