Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Older than Old

I had an interesting conversation with my five-year-old grandson today. It went like this.

"You know, when I grow up, I'm going to be a chef and own a bakery. I'm going to give the blueprints to the construction man and he will build me a building that will say 'Zaya's burgers and sweets and it will be a drive through."

"Well that will be convenient."

"Uh huh, and Mim will grow up and find her mate, (Need I say too many science videos) and she will come and visit my shop and buy treats, but you, well, you probably will be dead by then, by the time I grow up."

Well I hope I'll still be around anyway; I want to eat one of those donuts.

College Guys--A Strange Species

Elijah called me at ten o'clock on the first of June.
"Where are you, Mom?"
"I'm at your sister's, watching the grandkids while she visits the dentist. What's going on with you?"
"You'll never believe what happened. You know I had arranged to stay in this apartment through summer school?"
"Well this morning my landlady came charging in here saying my lease was up and why wasn't I out? It seems the guy who told us it would be fine was her son, and she 'doesn't rent that way'. She says we have until tomorrow to vacate, but I have to go to work at two, and after that I have dress rehearsal for the musical until at least eleven tonight..."

So that is how I spent the rest of my Monday. Turtle, Elijah, and I worked until Elijah had to leave. Fortunately, his college roommate, Ray, is getting married in two weeks, so he and his fiancee were able to move stuff right into their newly-acquired apartment in the same town. They arrived at three. At five, Ray's family--father, mother, brother, sister--all came to join in the fun. They finished about seven o'clock, but Turtle and I stayed until after midnight, loading everything into a car, a pickup, and a little flat-bed trailer, leaving a completely bare, polished and scrubbed apartment.

What do you think a college apartment looks like after two guys live there for their senior year of college? Well, these are pretty unusual guys: they don't drink, smoke, do drugs, or party; nonetheless, there were a few surprises.

One wall of the living room was covered with a hanging curtain of suspended empty Mountain Dew cans, and leaning in the corner was a Christmas Tree made out of the same. This was Ray's creation, and all day he and his fiancee were negotiating over how much of this they could keep. (They finally compromised--kept the wall and recycled the tree)

There were three televisions in the living room, a large couch, a small couch, two chairs, a brick and board TV/Nintendo center and two coffee tables. (It seems that whenever somebody moves out of an apartment, they donate whatever doesn't fit in their vehicle to whoever will take it.)

In the kitchen cabinet were all the groceries we moms had sent for the guys to eat, at least all the soups and anything that required preparation. Elijah said he had been eating mostly Ramen noodles and baloney sandwiches.
"That's healthy, right?"
"Carbs and protein?" he said defensively.

He had warned us not to eat anything out of the refrigerator unless we asked how old it was, so we weren't tempted to snack, even though the fridge looked surprisingly clean. Ray's mom and I checked the dates on food, and tossed most of it out, so that was easy. There were twelve eggs--all present and looking perfectly tasty. The date on the carton said September, 2008. "Those are probably the eggs I brought over here when they set up," mused Ray's mom.

In a room lined with plywood and press board panels, there was a sound board station with a computer tied to lots of black boxes, cords leading everywhere, a huge keyboard, an amplifier, mikes, and music stands--late night jamming, it seems. "Nobody ever complained about it," they said, which surprises me, but I guess I haven't spent much time in a mostly-college apartment complex.

There were musical instruments everywhere--a trombone, a guitar, a bass, a violin, two clarinets, a flute, a midi, a mandolin, and, of course, a giant keyboard--which was relatively the size of a coffin and took both of us to carry down to the car. (It belongs to a friend of Elijah's. He says he transported it regularly to music practice, giving me cause to question his understanding of the word portable.)

The clean sheets I sent over a couple of weeks ago and the pillow slips were still in the hamper. Four blankets were in a pile on the floor under the bunk bed. Elijah had slept most of the year in his sleeping bag, which was on the bare mattress along with a couple of slip-less pillows.

Things that would have driven me crazy--light switches not working, disposal being out(we pushed the reset switch and it worked fine), a sluggish sink drain, broken dishwasher, (They said it had never worked; they just hand washed the amazing hodge-podge of dishes they had bought at the local thrift store--along with a quesadilla maker, wok, waffle iron, coffee pot, and blender) and blinds that didn't reach to the bottoms of the windows--hadn't seemed to bother them at all. Furthermore, the guys are still on speaking terms. In fact, Elijah is going to be the best man at Ray's wedding next week.

Here's to apartments everywhere...that support guys learning to live on their own.

And with that, I turn my attention to my own responsibilities: laundry is piled on the floor, the window sills are dusty again, the blinds need their yearly soaking, and the microwave is in deplorable condition. Sometimes I hate the second law of thermodynamics.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three Peas in a Pod

Well...not exactly.

I really wasn't prepared to have children so strikingly different.

The oldest, Carina, stepped promptly into a management role at three, telling me what to do, and making sure I had remembered everything. Always an early riser, when she reached the very responsible age of five, she got up at six thirty, fixed herself a bowl of cereal, packed her books and her lunch, then woke me up to take her to kindergarten. When she was in the third grade, I went back to work. Since I drove a school van, and left early, I hired her to wake up, dress, and feed her little brother and sister so they would be ready to take to day care when Turtle got home from his night shift at the hospital. She took to the task with great competence, and has been helping me organize their lives ever since. She married a responsible man and now has her own children to manage, but we remain close, talking on the phone and solving the world's crises one at a time.

Daughter number two, Claye, is a plodder. (We called her turtle as a very young child; some families name children after their fathers and ours is no exception.) All her life she has struggled with writing and math and excelled at reading comprehension and visual memory, a mystery to the analysts of such things. She deplores swarms of people and socializing, having to be encouraged to attend even the most important of events. She'd rather sit up all night in a fourth floor studio at the old art building on campus, working on a sculpture, than call somebody on the phone and chat for ten minutes. She takes an inordinate amount of time to decide what to do. Once she decides, however, she perseveres with unusual patience. This persistent, moving-along slowly-with-her nose-toward-the-goal helped her graduate from college--with honors--to the amazement of all the hares-like her brother, for instance.

Elijah jumps from one grandiose plan to another, showing tremendous ability but no organization. Every deadline has to stretch to accommodate his careening into it at the last possible moment, doing a flourishing dance, and handing in the masterpiece to the drama of a four part jazz ensemble background. He rushes onto every stage of life in time for the finale, and usually manages to pull it off ten seconds before the absolutely last call. Of course when he gets back out to his car, he discovers that he's locked his keys in it and has to call his mom, dad, or one of his sisters to bring him another key.

Here's a picture of them all--including my daughter's husband--taken about five years ago. I would post a recent one, but I think I don't have one. If Carina were here she would tell me to set up an appointment for family pictures immediately. Claye would shrug and say, "What does it matter? It's the same people." and Elijah would write a melancholy ballad about the passing of time and how we are all mortal before he dashed off, fifteen minutes late for one practice or another.