Friday, August 19, 2011

Mellowing Out

Max: Mom says we need to learn a new trick. We need to learn to mellow out.

Bubba: Yeah, Dad says the same thing, but he says we’ve got to chill.

Max: I don’t know if I can learn any more tricks. I already do roll over, jump, dance and drool on dad’s pillow.

Bubba: Mellowing out isn’t a trick, it’s a state of being.

Max: Like the beings Mom puts in salad.

Bubba: Beans. Those are beans. Black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans.

Max: And carrots. She puts carrots in the salad. I like carrots. And celery.

Bubba: (Sighing) Mr. Attention Span. Okay, try to concentrate. (She flops to the floor) See, this is being mellow. Notice that I’m calm and quiet.

Max: Quiet. Sure, I get it. That’s what Mom wants us to be so she can write.

Bubba: And so we don’t have to go to the timeout place.

Max: You mean Dad’s office in the basement. He’s got a nice sofa and soft pillows and sometimes he eats snacks and drops stuff on the floor and after a while he lets us out.

Bubba: And then we run up and jump on Mom’s lap and tell her we’re sorry.

Max: But you’re really not because in a few minutes you’re sitting on the back of the loveseat and barking at anything that moves on the street.

Bubba: Oh, like you’re perfect. Every time that cat comes into our yard you yap your head off and keep going even after I stop. And don’t get me started about the day you chased the fly up and down the stairs.

Max: It was a big fly. It had a wingspan like an eagle.

Bubba: Eagle, schmeagle, it was a fly. A housefly. A baby housefly.

Max: Okay . . . well . . . so . . . but that fly had big teeth. You just didn’t see them. Besides, it’s my job to chase stuff that gets in here ‘cause I’m younger and faster and I have to protect Mom and Dad because they have opposable thumbs and credit cards and they buy the dog cookies.

Bubba: Well, I’m older and slower and it’s my job to bark at stuff on the street so it goes away and doesn’t get in here in the first place. I can’t mellow out and protect the house, too.

Max: Right, ‘cause if you were mellow you’d sound about as mean as Dad when he tells me to get off his pillow. You’d be all like, “Yo, dog on the street, don’t mean to bother you, dude, but you’re blocking my view. Would you mind shaking a leg instead of your tail?”

Bubba: I’m an intelligent female dog. I’ve never said “dude” in my life.

Max: (Sticking out his tongue) Wrong, you just did. Guess you’re not that intelligent after all.

Bubba: (Snarling) Oh, go chase a fly.

Max: (Sprawling on the bed) Later, dudette, right now I’m chilling out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back-to-school sales, fresh starts, plot twists, and promises

I’ve never been one to rise early to hit the opening minutes of a pre-Christmas sale. In fact, I’ve never been one to get up late—or any time—to get a bargain on holiday gifts for friends and family.
It’s not that we don’t exchange gifts—although lately we’re more inclined to give to charity instead of to each other—but because all the twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, and seasonal music remind me of wishes unfulfilled and dreams that never came true.
I was never good at holidays. Perhaps if I’d read more realistic books things might have been different. But there was a wide chasm between reality and those fictional descriptions of love and happiness, making the best of things, genuinely encouraging each other’s success, and building enduring togetherness. Too grounded in the way I wanted things to be, I did little to bridge that chasm, and now the memory of it overshadows the season.
Back-to-school sales, however, draw me in like a bass to a wiggling lure. I love to riffle the pages of blank notebooks, touch pens as yet untried, inhale the smell of new pencils, erasers, and glue sticks. I love the slick stacks of rulers and index cards and notebook dividers with colored tabs. I love to zip and unzip backpacks and imagine what will go into the pockets. I love new shoes and shirts and jeans. I love to see kids with fresh haircuts and eyes wide with a mix of fear and excitement and confidence.
But most of all, I love the sense of promise.
Like the pages in those new notebooks, the days of the school year ahead are blank pages on which students will write. There are possibilities and opportunities, tests to be aced and scholarships to be won.
And there are human dramas that, like a mystery with a plot twist in the middle, could change direction and have an ending other than the one we might expect. Struggling students could, this year, make connections. Shy kids could come out of the shadows at the back of the room. A bench warmer could win the big game. The girl who always painted sets for the drama club could get the starring role.
A back-to-school sale energizes me and makes me think about the possibilities in my own life. It makes me eager to plow into new writing projects and finish old ones.
And, to make sure that feeling comes home with me and lingers, I always buy a fresh notebook, a new pen, and a pack of pencils.