There’s no polite way to say it. Porter, one of my nine-year-olds, talks too damn much. He narrates his actions as if I’m blind and can’t see what he’s doing. “I’m going to make an omelet with ham and eggs,” he’ll say, pulling the eggs and butter out of the refrigerator. “First I’ll mix up the eggs and scramble them,” he’ll continue, as he cracks the eggs into a bowl. “Now I’m waiting for the cheese to melt a little. Is it melted? It looks kind of oozy…”
I’ve learned to ignore most of the running commentary. But Porter’s also exceptionally curious, and his questions would drive even the most enthusiastic teacher to the brink of insanity.
“What would happen if the sky fell? What Mom?”
“The sky isn’t going to fall, Porter,” I’ll say tiredly.
“But what if it did? Just say it did? Would you feel it hit your head? If you looked up, would you see blue? Would the clouds fall, too? Would we be able to see straight into heaven?”
It had been a hot and dreary day. I’d been juggling Finn’s baseball schedule and trying to mark Drew’s clothes for camp. In between, Porter had followed me around, asking, “How many seeds do you think fit in Feather’s bird feeder at one time? Why do we have grandparents? What would happen if we didn’t? Who invented summer camp?”
By dinner I was spent. I could feel the symptoms of PMS creeping up on me like a cagey leopard. Across the table I saw Finn wielding his fork with surgical skill to extract the onions from the Bowties With Peas & Prosciutto I had prepared.
“Dude, just eat it all in one bite,” I snapped.
“I can’t eat onions,” he whined. “They’re like, really nasty.”
“They’re not nasty,” Porter said, stuffing a quarter of an onion into his mouth and chewing. “They’re actually quite delicious. What makes onions so delicious, Mom? And why can’t you eat the skin? Why do they make you cry when you cut them? What if everything tasted like onions—do you think Finn would starve?”
I slid my chair back abruptly and stood up. “I can’t take it anymore,” I said. “The questions, the criticism of my food, it’s all too much.” I looked at Bill. “Honey, y’all take care of this kitchen. I’m going to bed to read.”
I had barely taken a step when Porter asked, “What are you going to read? Can I read with you? If I bring a book, will you read to me?”
I was shaking. I got in his face and yelled, “Porter, if you want to continue to live in this house, The Questions Have Got To Stop.”
Then I got in bed and wept, over my picky eater, over my nutty schedule, over my cruel remark.
A while later Porter tiptoed in my room and handed me a piece of paper. It contained one last question:
It was nice to be forgiven.
Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: The Dirtiest Camper
It’s rare for me to have uninterrupted time with any one of my sons. Drew and I drove to Greenville on Friday and spent the night, and then I dropped him off at camp the next morning.
Drew padded his seat in the car with his favorite pillow, his iPod, and his teddy bear. His bear is less cuddly than you might imagine, as Drew pierced his ear and stuck a gold loop earring in it. He then unraveled the bear’s knit cap and refashioned the strands into blue dreadlocks. That is one reggae teddy bear.
I spent part of the drive teaching Drew how to blow a bubble with bubble gum. We bought three flavors of Bubblicious and chewed them, then I went through the “flatten, tongue poke, and blow” routine with him. I highly recommend this activity as a bonding experience.
I let Drew pick the music on the way up, and we listened to the rap playlist I created with all of your valuable input. I added a couple of tunes of my own, and so we listened to Chic sing “Good Times,” and then noted that “Rapper’s Delight” shares the same background music. We did the same exercise with “Superfreak” and “U Can’t Touch This.”
While Drew got the point that a major part of rap involves sampling other songs, I don’t think I’ll be teaching Porter the same lessons just yet. I can hear the questions now: “Why can’t you take her home to mother?” “What’s she doing on the street?”
I sang every word to “Rapture” and the background vocals to “Bust A Move.” Drew showed a definite preference for “Brass Monkey” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” He was thoroughly entranced with the latter song, and I have no idea why he found it so appealing, thus illustrating Will Smith’s premise, I suppose.
He also asked insightful questions, such as, “Which came first, Bubblicious or Fergalicious?”
One of my college friends lives in Greenville. I’d let her know we were coming up, and she emailed back and said they had a Scottish parade at six. I wrote back, “WTF is a Scottish parade?”
Turns out it’s exactly what you’d imagine, and it marched right in front of our hotel.
Drew was entranced by the spectacle. The bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” was a far cry from “Baby Got Back,” but I guess that just shows Drew’s appreciation of a wide range of music.
He didn’t say so, but I know that inside Drew was thrilled that he’d worn his plaid Old Navy shorts, like a true Scotsman. He fit right in, except that he was wearing underwear beneath his plaid.
The next morning we got to camp, and my Braveheart got a bit jittery. The custom at camp is to register and go straight into the lake for the swim test. A camper must get a rank of 3A in order to be able to do the water activities such as sailing and kayaking. Even if you plan to stay on land, planted firmly on horseback or on the tennis court, you’re required to take swimming lessons if you don’t reach a 3A. This happened to Drew last year and upset him so much he almost decided against going to camp this year.
As I wrote earlier, Drew worked diligently on his swimming all spring, culminating with his triumphant swim in the triathlon a few weeks ago. Still, even with that under his belt, returning to the scene of his earlier failure, coupled with the prospect of three weeks away from home, turned my usually unemotional son into a red-eyed, quivering mass of bones.
The camp encourages you to leave before your son goes for the test, but it was such an emotional hurdle for us that I found a towel to hide behind and watched as Drew walked down the pier to demonstrate his racing dive, his crawl, his float, and his ability to tread water for twenty minutes.
Although he’s grown several inches this year, he still looked tiny to me.
They got out and stood in line to get marked with the level they’d achieved.
I thought I might die from the suspense. It would be embarrassing when a counselor found my corpse lying beneath the mildewy towel. Plus, I was wearing a pretty short miniskirt, and if I collapsed, I might look indecent. I’d be the “Superfreak” personified– the mom who couldn’t live through her son’s swim test and then died with her leopard undies showing.
Thank God this had a happy ending.
One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom:Bad Bride