Yesterday, after having begged for an aisle seat (I’m pregnant, I told the gate agent, and I, uhm, have to pee. A lot. She smiled.), I found myself exactly where I feared I might: stuck in a middle seat between a whole bunch of elbows.
Yes, it was bad that a three hour flight turned into ten hours plane time (thanks to sitting on the Miami tarmac for three hours, “slowing down air speed to avoid weather” and landing in Philly “to refuel”), but I think all might have been manageable if for the entire ten hours I hadn’t been subjected to this conversation by the mother and son in the row behind me:
Mom (wearing turquoise): Alex, you are such a good boy. I’m going to have to tell Grandma how good you’ve been.
Alex (around 5): I’m a good boy. Right, mama?
Mom: You are the best boy. Grandma is going to be so proud of you. This kind of trip is even hard for grown ups. Even mama is getting frustrated, but you are such a good boy.
Alex: I’m the best boy. Right, mama?
Mom: You are the best boy in the whole world.
Alex: The best boy in the whole world. Right, mama?
Repeat eight thousand times without even being offered a packet of peanuts, and trust me, you’d want to puke in your shoe too. Someone remind me in a couple of years that positive reinforcement need not be radioed to the world. Right, mama?
Last night I sat in an audience of about three hundred and watched my mother, Dr. Mary Thompson, deliver the commencement address for the GED graduating class of Joplin, Missouri. Well, I shouldn’t say I sat. I stood, taking pictures, and making the kinds of hooting sounds I haven’t made since high school Powder Puff.
You see, my mother happens to be the most amazing woman on the planet–dropped out of high school to marry my very charming hippie-at-the-time of a pappy, popped out my brother and me, and then, hey, heck, why not work full time at the Steak and Ale, get a GED and then crank out college in two and a half years so I can get through med school all before reaching the quarter of a century mark?
We were on the drive from Tulsa to Jo-Mo, and I was telling her how proud she should be of herself. I mean, I can’t even mention her without gushing, and it made me a little sad because she told me sometimes her story embarrasses her. Sometimes, I wish I had just done it the ordinary way, she said. This from the least ordinary woman I’ve ever known.
Her speech had a recurring theme: surprise yourself. She told the audience, surprise yourself and everybody you love. She talked about how how everyone was so surprised when she decided to go to college and then everyone was so surprised when she changed her major to pre-med and how they kept being surprised as she succeeded over and over. All this and five children and great legs and a sense of humor that makes my abs hurt if I hang out with her more than two days in a row.
Anyway, it was amazing. And I’ve never felt prouder of anyone in my life than I felt of her last night. Here’s a pic. Cody’s grandmother (on the far left) was a few points short of getting her GED (she’ll get it next year!), but that’s what got this whole ball rolling. And then there’s my mom, my little sister, me and my fab mother-in-law.
After the ceremony, we stood in the parking lot with the loveliest of Missouri breezes blowing and popped cake balls. Oh, cake balls…but that’s another post entirely. Congratulations, mom, on such a beautiful job. Keep surprising us. We can only hope we might surprise you too.
until I’m barreling down the highway at 80 miles per hour,
and the sky’s so beautiful
it makes me want to pray and cry and roll down all the windows
to yell until my voice gives out.
(Or as seen here in the less romantic version…
simultaneously take video and talk on the phone.
Try that in Brooklyn!)
So, I’ve finally gotten my life–er, I mean my hotmail–back. After five days of not being able to log in and whole lot of hullabaloo from the folks at the “help desk,” I was happy to find about a million junkmail messages. Yes, I can get meds from Canada and claim my 75,000 pounds from the UK Lotto Board! Both with just a single click of the mouse!
Interestingly, I was also able to go to my Trash folder and see the responses sent by my contacts to the scammers. There was someone (thank you, Jason Miller!) who was actually concerned about my wellbeing; there were many who wanted to let me know I had clearly been phished. An old college friend wrote saying she had been on vacation and hoped all was well for me besides the Nigerian mishap; an old crush warned me of the lack of good prenatal care in Abuja.
My very favorite, however, was this gem from my mother-in-law:
I am here to help, you must leave now and make your way South down the Niger River any way you can till you reach the town Oguta Owerri, at the train station there will be a locker number 77 use you birthday dates for the code to open the locker there will be a ticket in your name going to Port Harcourt , you may have to hitch hike (be careful just a little bit farther) go to a coastal town named Opobo, there will be a small hotel called Nigeria Suites in the lobby a handsome Peruvian man in a red shirt with NY Yankees logo will meet you to give you the $4000. I know you are good for the loan we will settle up in July.
Brilliant, huh? I love this woman! As far as I can tell, no one forked over the big bucks, but for that, I’m still willing to forgive.
Today, I want to make a jawbreaker out of the world, one of those that got passed around in fourth grade, the huge ones that you put into your mouth and just sucked on and sucked on, and as much as you wanted to bite it, you couldn’t, but hours later (or what seemed like hours) you’d pull it out, and there between your sticky thumb and sticky finger, it’d be something else entirely–leafgreen or deeprose or pomegranatepurple–and you’d put it back into your mouth– maybe small enough now to puff up your cheek–and sitting under the blue sky, under the roof of the school, under the stars on the bulletin board, you’d wonder what on earth that jawbreaker could possibly turn into next .
Rain towards Morning
by Elizabeth Bishop
The great light cage has broken up in the air,
freeing, I think, about a million birds
whose wild ascending shadows will not be back,
and all the wires come falling down.
No cage, no frightening birds; the rain
is brightening now. The face is pale
that tried the puzzle of their prison
and solved it with an unexpected kiss,
whose freckled unsuspected hands alit.