When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a Rerun

Throughout the history of academic-enforced writing assignments, one of the more tried and true topics doled out in elementary schools is the one that asks children what they want to be when they grow up. “In 200 words or less, describe your dream career. Remember that this will likely define your value to society, determine your friends, your spouse, etc. And pretty soon you’re 54 and living in a studio apartment with a couch you found on the street, wondering if you made the right choices in life, getting buried under a mountain of debt stemming from ballooning student loans and maxed out credit cards, occasionally glancing at the fine print on your life insurance policy for the word ‘suicide’. But, no pressure, children. The point is to just have fun.”

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Carly Donaldson erases ‘I want to be’ and replaces it with ‘I WILL be’ in her career essay, confident that it would solidify her future as a magic ballerina fairy in the land of Gumdrop Island.

The problem with making these requests of children is that maybe 1 in 1000 have an inkling what they want to do as a vocation. For me, the “ideal career” changed almost week to week. Occupations were usually sourced from such professional career sources as Nick-at-Nite or channel 20 on basic cable.

For example… Continue reading “When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a Rerun”

The Tinkle Controversy

The Place: Tacoma, WA.

At Idylwild Elementary, 204 was the only classroom that had its own bathroom. Believe me when I say that this was a pretty big deal.  Students in other classes were forced to walk to the community bathrooms on either side of the school. Like suckers. Public restroom-using suckers. On rainy days, we lucky kids of 204 weren’t forced to don our winter coats just because we had an extra glass of milk with breakfast. Instead, we could get up and be back in our seat minutes later, ignoring whatever was being taught. It was like having access to an employees only bathroom at the grocery store or being able to use the bathroom that was attached to your grandparents’ room. It felt so fancy! With the exception of being able to drive or vote or even read at an appropriate age level, most of us felt that we were pretty much adults.

It was in the middle of his lesson on leaks when Warren learned of his own susceptibility to the power of suggestion.

For a while, it was great. Until…

Continue reading “The Tinkle Controversy”

Westward Ho – Part 2: General Custard

<— Part 1 —-<

Instead of driving west into Utah, then up to Idaho, we drove north to Montana in a spontaneous change of plans wholly inspired by a coloring book, Bucky Thompson and the Redskins. As my dad now saw it, we were somehow bound to honor the unspecified deeds of a few or maybe several unnamed individuals of vague and generalized historical significance. When asked where we were driving or to whom we were supposed to feel indebted, my dad would only answer with, “You’ll see,” and a smile that anticipated what was no doubt going to be a big payoff.

Minutes turned into hours and hours turned into…well, more hours. Entertainment was desirable and necessary, but seemed perpetually elusive, like the face of an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. 20 Questions, Slug Bug and a game of I Spy that ended with my sister, Michele, hitting me (she got mad because the only things I would ‘spy’ were things inside the car. “Stop picking ‘headrest’. Idiot.”) Eventually, we took to humming the theme songs of television shows.

On some highways, even starting a game of Slug Bug can take several hours
On some highways, even starting a game of Slug Bug can take several hours

By the time my dad and I started in on what my sister termed to be the ‘kajillionth stupid’ rendition in a row of the Bonanza theme, my dad suddenly announced, “Here we are!”

Continue reading “Westward Ho – Part 2: General Custard”

Westward Ho – Part 1: Crappy Souveniers

PREFACE: Much of my childhood was spent on the road, but not in a Beatified, romantic sort of way. Instead, it was simply that we were forced to. Whether transferred, offered a better job or just simply fired, my dad’s job(s) kept the family moving from town to town and state to state, the only constant in our lives being each other and boxes marked Bekins.

When I was in the third grade, my sister and I attended three different schools in three different states thanks to three different moves. The following takes place during move #3 from Colorado to Washington.

***

It seemed as though my dad had become delusional, that he believed he could enact an honest to goodness miracle. How? By attempting to make a 1400-mile drive less oppressive and monotonous–daresay fun–to a 9-year old boy and 14-year old girl.

“Honey, look! We can fit my clubs, your dresses, the dog and still have plenty of room for the children’s many, many tears!”

The suggestion was that my sister, Michele, and I begin collecting knickknacks from any points of interest we passed. We were assured that not only would we “get a kick out of” doing so, but that we would probably end up thanking my dad for helping us begin what could very well become a lifelong hobby. (SPOILER: We never had to thank him.)

Continue reading “Westward Ho – Part 1: Crappy Souveniers”

This Birthday Memory Brought To You By Coors

For my 11th birthday, I hosted a sleepover for eight of my friends at our home in Tacoma, WA.

In case any of you don’t know, sleepovers are different than slumber parties. Like, inherently different. Sleepovers were for boys and, therefore, awesome. Slumber parties were for stupid ol’ girls and, therefore, stupid. Slumber parties, I assumed, had tea and sandwiches, had stuffed animals included on the guest list, incessant talks about ponies and ended at 9:00 when everyone went to sleep and dreamt of stupid girl stuff like princes and weddings and rainbows. Sleepovers revolved around junk food, a slasher movie on Showtime and staying up as late as possible.

With sleeping bags strewn about the living room, my friends and I laughed, burped and whispered “dirty words” well into the night, fueled by cheap pizza and gallons of brand name sugar water (the brand name being ‘Soda’.) My sister opted to spend that night at a friend’s house, my dad had been out since 7, so the only person in danger of being kept up was my mother. Either a heavy sleeper or the definition of lenient, my mother never complained or asked us to quiet down.

Around 1:30 or so, my friend Tim was entertaining us with a secondhand Cheech and Chong routine he had heard from his brother-in-law. The bit had something to do with bodily functions, which was the height of comedy at 11, so we laughed like hyenas on nitrous oxide.

“Bodily functions! hahahahaha! Bathroom reference! hahahahaha!”

It was then that we heard my dad’s car pull into the driveway. At the first sign of an adult, standard sleepover protocol dictated everyone pretend to be asleep. And so, as what sounded like 200 keys rattled to unlock the front door and the first sounds of cowboy boots clomped on the entryway linoleum, none of us knew that our sleepover was to be front row to what happened next. Continue reading “This Birthday Memory Brought To You By Coors”

Room For Four More

It was my parents’ 17th anniversary, a night for outward ‘I-love-you’s and inward ‘what-was-I-thinking’s. These anniversary dinners out as a family were standard: eat something expensive, maybe have dessert, then my parents might dance to prerecorded entertainment or a sullen piano player.

Little could any of us have known that, that night we would all be dancing…

Dancing, that is, with a partner named Death!

Mmwwahahaha!!!

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When he’s not terrorizing my family, Death enjoys choreographing routines for the local cheerleading squad. This might be the year they go to the tri-state finals!

Continue reading “Room For Four More”