Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ups and Downs

Well, the buzz from Education Week is over, I'm back to smoking and cursing and knocking back Classic Coke while I watch R-rated movies. Okay, so I'm not quite that bad, but the high is definitely gone and I'm back to just being a regular mortal in a regular mortal family with the ups and downs that go with it. Had a few of both this week, and I thought I'd share.

First up was this: College started again this week. Whoopee!! I have been waiting all summer to go back to school, and I was quite the eager beaver on Wednesday when I left for UVU campus. This is my first time taking English classes, since I switched my major this summer from business, and as such it was also my first time taking classes during the day. I have to say it was intimidating. I sat in the hallway with everyone else waiting for the previous class to get out, and felt old. Not like ancient old, just a little too old. My night classes were full of 30 and 40-somethings going back to school while working, but day classes have actual teenagers in them, apparently. And I haven't been an actual teenager in, oh, about 12 years.

And I felt it. I was sure that everyone was looking at me, wondering why someone so obviously middle-aged was sitting on the floor with all of the cool, hip kids who belong there. I wasn't quite wearing a housedress with my hair in rollers, but I felt like I was just that out of place. That I seemed like the opposite of the girl playing dress-up in her mommy's clothes - I was the pathetic mother who is dressing in her teen's clothes and not realizing how stupid she looks.

But by the time I got into the class, I started to calm down a little. This isn't high school again, there isn't the popular clique sitting in the back talking during class, I'm not going to be forced to play volleyball in gym class and look like a complete moron. And when the teacher started class, it got even better. We each introduced ourselves and said what we wanted to get out of the class, and it turned out that every single person in the room was either a reader or a writer, and they were taking this class, like me, just for fun! Can you imagine my surprise that there could exist a roomful of people who saw "Myths and Legends in Literature" in the catalog and said, "Ooh, that looks like fun?" I was in a room full of nerds, just like me!! No offense, classmates, but what a great feeling it is to know that even if I'm older than most of the college day students, I can still find a place where I belong.

And the classes I took were great, too. I always found my business classes interesting, but this Mythology class and my other class, Critical Analysys of Literature, are absolutely fun to me. I was almost giddy when I left, I was just so happy to be taking these classes on subjects that aren't just mildly interesting (like Business Law or Microeconomics) but exactly what I find to be fun. I had a fairly dopey grin on my face, which is one other way to distinguish me from my 18-year-old classmates. Of course, they aren't also escaping four kids at home, either.

A couple of downs this week: Brad took Zack's scooter to school on Friday and it was stolen. He had attempted to lock it, but there's nothing on a scooter for a bike lock to go through, as Brad has now learned from experience. He ended up having to walk home from school twice this week - once because the scooter was stolen, and once because his bike tire was flat. Poor kid.

I lost Zack at the school bookstore on Thursday. I had forgotten to pick up a book I needed when I was on campus on Wednesday, so I took Darcey (in her stroller) and Zack with me to grab it. What a mistake - the place was absolutely jam packed with hundreds of students. The line was, no joke, a hundred people long. It wound through the front of the store, then zigzagged up and down several aisles, and more people were browsing through the crowded aisles themselves, trying to get their books. As I was attempting to find the end of the line, I turned left and realized immediately that Zack hadn't seen me turn. He was right next to me one second, and the next he had been whisked by the crowd straight ahead, while I had turned. I called his name but he couldn't hear me. My only options were to leave Darcey and go grab Zack, or go up and around that aisle until I could get back to where he just was. I decided on plan B, and that was a mistake - in that 30 seconds, he was long gone.

Instantly my mind turned to damage control. Okay, I thought, get Zack back as quickly and surreptitiously as possible, so no one has to know that I lost my kid. I walked around the perimeter of the store, searching for him, but couldn't see him through all of those people. As the seconds ticked by, and I still couldn't find him, I pulled out the big guns - I went to a desk, and reported my son missing. They called over the P.A. system that there was a lost little boy, and to bring him to the front. Immediately a person who was standing near me said, "I saw that kid." I asked him where, and he took me down an aisle. Zack wasn't there (apparently he moved faster through these crowds than everyone else could) but other people had seen him and were pointing, and finally someone said, "He's right here!" He was up at the front near the registers, slightly scared but not as scared as I was. I thanked everyone who helped and then promptly wanted to crawl under a rug so people would stop looking at me. I did not want to be that mother who loses her kid at the bookstore, although in all honesty, I'm not only that mother, I'm also the mother who loses her kid at Albertsons and at Disneyland and Barnes and Noble and very frequently in our own cul-de-sac. So it's not like I can really erase who I am, just try to make it look like this isn't at all like me, to this room full of strangers. Like I said, damage control. I don't know if it worked or not, but it's probably the last time I take Zack on campus. And I might reconsider ever going in the bookstore again.

While I was in line paying $100 for the two books I was buying (grrrr...what a racket) I saw a magnet for sale that said "This moment is your life." And I wanted to say, "Does it have to be this moment? Can't I pick a different moment to be my life, one that had less humiliation and fear and anger and embarrassment? Wouldn't it be better if some happy moment was the moment that is my life? One of the ups and not the downs?"

No, I can't pick which moments are my life. The point of the magnet is that all of those moments are my life - the happy and the bad and the humiliating and the scary and the fantastic. My life can't always be sublimely happy. My life can't always be the dinner where the kids are all eating and telling jokes and loving each other. But they can be some of the moments. And the flip side is that my life can't always be losing my kid in public or 15 hour plane flights or exploding poopy diapers at the library or rushing a bleeding child to the emergency room. There's a decent sprinkling of the supremely good and the supremely bad, livening up a life that is mostly routine and, frankly, dull. And while I think I'd prefer to at least take the downs in life in a more private place than, say, a campus of 20,000 students, if I've got to have some public humiliation occasionally, at least I can have some public joy too. After all, those moments are my life, and they are meant to be shared.

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