Friday, June 15, 2012

Camping With Obama

There’s this beat-up, old, dark blue truck in my neighborhood that is eternally parked in the same spot up against the curb, not far from one of the neighborhood entrances.  The truck has hard cover over the bed, and across the back is scrawled, in large capital letters, “STOP OBAMA.” 

Clearly, the owner is a fan of the POTUS.  (I love the acronym POTUS. Sounds kinky.)

On the way home today, Bear read the sign on the back of the truck out loud to Ballerina. “Stop Obama,” he said, followed by, “Why would someone want to stop Obama?”  I explained that like with anything else, people’s opinions differ on the President; some like him, some don’t.

Ballerina, who is four, thought about this a moment, and this is the conversation that ensued.

Ballerina:  So that man doesn’t like Obama?

Me:  Apparently that is the case.

Ballerina:  Does that mean he won’t go camping with Obama?

Me:  Most likely no.

Ballerina:  And he won’t go to his house for a party or a sleepover?

Me:  Probably not.

Ballerina:  What about fishing with him?

Me:  I doubt it.

Ballerina:  Why do grown-ups not do sleepovers if they don’t like each other?  And why doesn’t he like Obama anyway?

Even casual, not sure this screams "I love camping."
image c/o
At this point we arrived home, so both children focused their attention on arguing about who should be allowed to unlock the door.  But this discussion left me wondering… could domestic and international issues be easily resolved if our leaders would just hold a darn sleepover?  Maybe tell ghost stories?  Do “light as a feather, stiff as a board” games and spin the bottle?  Play truth or dare?  Ballerina might be on to something.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Holding Hands

I took the photo below at the airport.  It's a bit fuzzy because I took the photo with my iPhone while holding a Dunkin' Donuts coffee and glazed doughnut, pulling my little suitcase along while also trying not to lose this couple.  In other words, multitasking.

However, the lovely older couple in the photo were walking down the concourse holding hands so sweetly, I felt obligated to capture the moment.  And every time one of them had to pause a moment - to adjust a wayward shoe, to hike up a dragging purse, to peek into a little newsstand - the other would stand by patiently, and when they were ready to resume their journey, they resumed holding hands.  Every time.

People often look at grand gestures and lavish gifts as the end all be all demonstrations of love.  To me, this couple and their desire just to be tenderly connected epitomized love perfectly.  And I wanted to share that with you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grocery Acrobatics: What Would You Have Done?

I just returned from a trip to the grocery store.  (What an exciting introduction to this post!)  I had just finished a long run.  I was tired.  I was drenched in sweat.  I was grumpy from having had to do my run on a treadmill.  I was hungry and snippy.  I was bugged to have to shop in the first place and really wanted to get home to my kids.  So maybe my feelings about what I saw there are a bit colored by my mood.

Which is why I’m sharing this with you.  I’d like your opinion.

I was in the wine and beer aisle picking out  a few bottles of cabernet sauvignon – surprising, I know – when I happened to glance over at the closest check-out lane to me.  A woman was at the check-out unloading one of those large, child-friendly carts, the ones that come equipped with steering wheels and where the kids sit high up behind the main basket.  Happily enough there were two actual children sitting in the child seats at the back of the cart, a boy and a girl.

The girl’s name remains a mystery to me even now, but the boy’s name is Mason. I know this because his mother said his name several times over the minute or so that I watched this family… no, “stared raptly” is a far better description of my activity.

You see, as the mother of these two lovely children steadily unloaded her items from the very full cart onto the conveyor belt to be tallied, young Mason, who is probably around 5 years old, apparently came to the conclusion that he’d spent quite enough time behind his ineffective steering wheel.  So he stood up – bear in mind that the seat he was on stands a good 3 feet above the ground – a nice, hard, tile surface – and that the cart itself is on wheels, wheels that do not lock.  Mason stood up and set on foot onto the platform behind his seat, a platform that has a bar behind it which is the push-bar for the cart itself. 

Mason proceeded to lean over and prop himself half in the cart and half on the check-out conveyor belt.  After a few second like this, he heaved his body out of the cart and dangled from the conveyor belt platform, and not finding this entertaining enough, he alternately hung there kicking his legs in the air and swung his feet back over and onto the back of the cart.  (Mason’s sister watched all of this mutely.)

As Mason performed these acrobatics on store equipment, Mason’s mother repeated, over and over, “Mason. Don’t do that, Mason. Mason, please stop that. Mason, stop.” As she spoke in a voice that held an incredible lack of authority – which I can only assume is her own personal, subtle tactic – in order to emphasize how serious she was, how much she meant every word, this woman… kept unloading her groceries.

The looks on the grocery store employees’ faces was fabulous, though to their credit, they said nothing.

And neither did I.  Though I considered it.  Oh yes, yes I did.  Why, you ask?  Well, aside from my concern about the safety of young Mason’s noggin, which would not have been in great shape had the cart slid out from under him unexpectedly while he was standing upright, or his general well being while he played on store equipment that was not intended to double as a playground, what was going on – especially on the part of the mother – demonstrated amazing disregard for the store.

Think about it.  Everything Mason did put the equipment at risk, particularly the conveyor belt.  That platform isn’t intended to hold the very wiggly weight of a large 5-year-old, especially not one dangling from one spot, and his weight on the belt itself, providing additional resistance as it tried to move the grocery items forward, could have added to its wear and tear or could have broken it.  Should Mason have actually injured himself, the store would have been under all sorts of scrutiny or at risk of a lawsuit – hopefully one that would be thrown out as unbelievably frivolous, but the risk would still exist.

I don’t know.  Maybe my expectations about how kids should be taught to behave are too high.  Maybe I’m too much of a stickler about teaching even young children to respect the assets and items of a business with respect, even those of the neighborhood grocery story, and to act with some semblance of decorum when at a store (or a restaurant, or a movie theater… yes, they get a free pass at kid gyms and bouncy places).

Ultimately, I kind of wish I’d said something… to Mason… to Mason’s mom… but maybe it’s good that I didn’t. 

What do you think? What would you have done?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Paint, Smoke and a Flying Car

One of the most enjoyable aspects of spending time with young kids is getting to see the world through fresh eyes. They don’t have that many preconceived notions yet; the world hasn’t taught them how to interpret everything.  Therefore, they categorize new experiences and discoveries into their own individual contexts.

For example, about a year and a half or so ago, my then-barely-3-year-old looked out her car window during our drive home from daycare one morning, spied the telephone wires strung beside the road, and announced, “Look, Mommy! There are high wires along the road!”  By high wires, she meant the same apparatus along which crazy people… I mean tightrope artists… walk, jump, flip, tumble and ride bicycles during circus acts. You may think “awe, how precious.” And I did, too.  But her observation also touched my heart – enough to write a short story about a very special tightrope walker – and made me wish I could see the world again as she does.

Well, today unexpectedly provided me that opportunity. 

My sweet Ballerina is 4 now, and today my mother and I took her to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Ballerina loves art, and the last time I took her to the High, she talked about it for weeks.  Today’s experience was a little less awe-inspiring for Ballerina, and she spent far less time focused on the artwork, choosing instead to direct her energies on traversing each level of the museum as quickly as possible and then demanding to travel via elevator (very important mode of transportation for her) to the next level. 

She did, however, take some time in one small area of the museum to describe several of the statues to my mom and me. My favorite descriptions were of these two sculptures below, both by William Wetmore Story (1819-1895).

This one is entitled “Homer Looking for Leander”.
Ballerina’s description: “That lady’s in a robe and she's trying to paint something... Look, she has a back!”

This next one is entitled “Medea Contemplating the Death of her Children“.
Ballerina’s description: “That lady looks mad and has a knife. I want a knife.”

Later, as we sat at the metro train station waiting to head home, Zoe pointed out the following sign and announced, “I know what that means…”

“… It means ‘No Smoke Signals.’” 

Finally – and while this next story is not a Ballerina observation per se, it epitomizes the wonder and fun of getting to interact with her every day – when we dropped my mother at her car at the end of this adventure, Ballerina and I had the following conversation, about which I’m still a bit befuddled. 

Ballerina: “Why is Grandma’s car here at the park?”
Me: “Because Bear’s and my races were here this morning, and she came to watch us. And then she came with me in my car afterward, to go get you.”
Ballerina: “But what did she do while you were running?”
Me:  “She watched Bear while I ran my race, and then she cheered for Bear during his race.”
Ballerina: “So now what?”
Me: “Now we have to go home.”
Ballerina: “Is Grandma going to attach the wings to her car and fly around for a while?”
Me: “Um… what?”
Ballerina: “Nothin’.”
Me: “No, really… what?”
Ballerina (very serious): “Nothin’, Mom.”

Um… what?
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