Sunday, June 10, 2012

How I Know it’s Summer (by a mother of teenagers)

The Brassiere That Was Left on the Chair in World Headquarters

When I see a crocus in the front yard, I know it’s spring. When I find mystery shoes strewn across the living room each morning, I know it’s summer.

Other people may find this to be a season of relaxation and renewal, a chance to slow down and savor life more fully. For me, summer is a season of wonder, as in: “I wonder who ate the four pounds of bananas I bought yesterday?” or “I wonder why the front door was left wide open all night?” or, on a recent Monday morning, “I wonder why a bright green brassiere is slung over the back of the chair in my home office?” I don’t think even Don Draper had to cope with that sort of thing at work, but at Kendrick Works World Headquarters, it’s just part of going with the summer flow.
 Let's see him explain the Eternal Mystery of the Milk Carton

As a journalist, I love those five Ws, but in summer, I use them much more at home than I do at work. I don’t really use them with the hope of eliciting information, but more as a general pre-senility sputter of exasperation, which often begins, “WHO in the world would ….” I keep asking the question, but I always know the answer. The answer is, not me. I continue to ask anyway, with the sort of cosmic curiosity that keeps me determined to understand why any rational human would return a carton of milk to the refrigerator with only one teaspoon of liquid remaining, and not write “milk” on the giant grocery list (pen attached!) that is hanging just inches away. It’s a mystery that would baffle a Talmudic scholar, at least after he stopped sputtering. It is written in the Torah that the sputter always comes before the question, right Rebbe?

Sometimes, I stop asking questions and take action. On that grim Monday morning in question, I put down my cup of coffee, got the tape dispenser, and marched down the hallway from World Headquarters to the perp’s bedroom. I taped the offending brassiere, dangling like a pre-burned effigy of teen sloth, in the offender’s doorway. (The cup size was my DNA-quality evidence of guilt in this particular case, sort of like an episode of CSI: Sputtering Mother Edition.) Was the brassiere slinger ashamed when she finally woke up and saw the evidence? We don’t do shame in this teen household, really – it’s either punishment or no punishment, and decide quick because I need the car keys.

  These people do not have teenage children.

As with every other aspect of mothering, I find that I survive summer better if I lower my standards and stay flexible. Besides, this sort of constant adjustment to new information is good for me, sort of like living every moment while balancing on a BOSU. I tell myself that it’s fun to have days that are high on variety, if low on personal satisfaction and basic hygiene. If I’m sitting in the living room at nine o’clock on a Friday night, enjoying a moment of respite, and ten theater kids show up at the front door, summoned through the silent teen antennae of texts? Oh well, and of course I’ll turn on the oven for pizzas. If I’m surprised by the New Guest Stars in my kitchen every morning, the ones who arrived to sleep-over after I went to bed?  There’s always room in the blender for another smoothie, right?

Of course, I write this in June, the month of summer hopefulness. By August, the twitch will be back.  Two years ago, in August, I ate a spider (Another story; another blog). By this August, I’ll probably be popping that brassiere into the blender, along with the rest of the smoothie ingredients. And I won’t even ask “Who?”

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