Archives for posts with tag: kids


Today my 13 year old started high school. Sorta.

She’s actually in the 8th grade, but they attend our county’s high school. This is a good thing for many reasons.

  1. The high school is TONS closer to our house than the middle school – the drive took just about 10 minutes this morning.
  2. The 8th graders have their own wing, so they don’t interact all that much with the upperclassmen. Except for at lunch. I wonder how that will work out…
  3. They start an hour later than the middle school. This means that not only does my daughter get to sleep later, but I still get to take my morning walks. If I’m out the door by 6 in the morning, I am back in time to wake her up at 7.

Having experienced my first day with this new schedule, I was amazed at how wonderful my morning was despite the fact that I was up at 4 a.m. with killer cramps that 6 Advil and 1 Meloxicam could not conquer. I just felt like I had so much time!

The one thing that wasn’t different? My daughter’s crappy attitude. On the ride to school she was sullen, with her head against the window, not talking. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she didn’t feel well. This is the same commute I made a hundred times during the 7th grade.

My girl does not like school.

I try to tell her it’s her job…school is her 9-5 until she graduates and gets to join the real world…which isn’t nearly as fun as she thinks it is. I would kill to be done by 3:45 with nothing more to do than some homework. Try working a full day and then having to cook and do dishes. School looks like a pretty sweet deal.

But even if she’s miserable, I’m not. I LOVE this new schedule! I love High School!


Old House

My daughter has a summer job that requires a lot of my time – she works with my husband at the outdoor event arena that he works at as well. Problem is their shifts don’t mesh, and I am stuck driving her home from most of the events she works. Like at 9:45 pm. I’m not a late night person…yes, 9:45 is late night for me.

Don’t judge – I get up at 5:00 am. Plus the venue is a 25-30 drive from my house. The other night between the travel and getting her food, it was a 90 minute excursion.

I had jobs as a kid – but I lived in a town where you could walk to everything. My first job was working as a cashier in our local supermarket. But the manager was a sour-pussed old man who glared at you from his little office perch and yelled at you each chance he got.

So I quit that job and began working as a cleaning gal in one of our town’s 200+ year old homes. One of the main reasons I took the job was for the pay…$5 an hour. Back in 1981 that was, to quote Jeff Spicoli, “righteous bucks.”

The couple who lived in the home were a nice elderly man and wife. However, they turned out to be a tad, well…eccentric. But I liked that, especially after supermarket sour puss. But it didn’t take long for me to realize these two were not your average couple.

My first day on the job they broke me in by having me clean the kitchen. This would usually mean doing some dishes, cleaning the counters, maybe sweeping the floor, right?

I walked in to see fish heads boiling on the stove. There was a thick, grey foam gathering around the sides of the pot as one fish eye stared at the beamed ceiling. They used the meat that fell off the heads to feed their cats. I really did not relish the idea of cleaning that pot.

But that was not the first of many odd jobs I would be given at that house. I would spend an entire Saturday morning oiling the old wood floors. Funny thing is, I used vegetable oil that came out of a big yellow jug – or maybe it was corn oil. I’d pour about a cup’s worth out, and spread it over the floor with a sponge mop. You know those floors would suck that stuff up almost instantaneously?

There was a small wing of the house that was the original 200 year old portion – a very small cottage that had been subsequently added on to. It was the most charming part of the home; you could imagine some little colonial family living there, and cooking over the fireplace. Yet his pleasant, historic little room was used by the cats as their litter box. It was my job twice a week to find and dispose of all their little turds. Whee!

Did I mention these two were a bit slovenly or are you starting to figure that out for yourself…

I remember one time I had to clean their bathroom & bedroom. The bath had a bidet – I remember thinking, “who the hell needs a bidet in New Jersey?” But the worst was what I found under their bed while picking up their dirty laundry. I found a stack of very old porn magazines. I’m not talking Hustler or Playboy. I’m talking about some shit from the 50s or 60s.

I was horrified. You have to remember, I was only 16 or 17 at the time, and these folks were old enough to be my grandparents. Finding this porn bummed me out – it was like walking in on your parents havng sex…I had a hard time looking either of them in the face for at least a month.

I remember another instance where I was sitting with the wife at her dining room table. I was telling her how a girlfriend of mine at school had died of Hodgkin’s Disease, and how upsetting it was to me. It was at this point that she opened her mouth and let out a very loud, very wet burp. She didn’t cover her mouth, she didn’t embarrassedly pardon herself afterwards, she just kept looking at me and listening.

It was so odd.

All these things aside, they were still a cool old couple. They helped sponsor me when I was in the New Jersey Miss National Teen Age Pageant (now there’s a blog post), and the wife actually helped me write my essay on who I admire the most. She suggested I choose Alan Alda, who I did not admire in the least, but he was from our home town and was big on feminist issues…it was a good hook.

And it was a good job – the work could be hard sometimes – washing the multitude of 12 paned windows with 100+ year old glass in them was no picnic, but you could daydream while you did it. I worked there until I graduated high school and had earned quite a tidy little sum of cash.

I think back on that job, and that kooky little couple from time to time…especially when I see a bidet, boiling fish….

or vintage porn.


I first heard the term “Helicopter Parent” a few months back, I was like, what the hell is that?

So I looked it up. And found out it was pretty much me.

It was a sucky realization – I’m a term – like Tiger Mom or Cougar. Those little pop culture labels that we love to assign to groups of people. So I hover…there is little to nothing I can do about it. Cause once those little girls were plucked from my womb, the world became a much different place.

I was the youngest of four, so by the time I got to the age where I could start doing stuff on my own, I could leave the house and not return for hours. I think as long as my mom knew the general vicinity I was headed to, she was cool and with a wave of her hand and a “be home by 5” I was out in the world on my own.

Lots of times I took my bike and rode miles and miles into neighboring towns, many times on very busy and dangerous roads. Other times I just went up town to the library, or the park, grabbing a slice or an order of fries for lunch.

But our free-rangeness went beyond what we did on our own. When we were out with my dad we would indulge in many activities that could lead to possible injury. Tree climing, walking along the Palisades cliffs, wandering through the streets of New York City on a Friday night, and swimming in an ocean that was way too rough for kids our age.

When we were on Martha’s Vineyard he used to let us ride in this big metal box that we kept on the top of car for the luggage. One bump on a dirt road and one or more of us could’ve popped right out of that thing. I also remember this red convertible we had – it’s a wonder none of us died with the stunt Dad used to let us pull in that thing.

whoops whoops

He’d let us ride sitting on the back hood with our feet on the back seat while we rode down what we called the “whoops whoops hill” – a long, steep hill that would drop down, and level off, and drop down, and level off. We’d wave our arms and scream, and Dad would be going pretty fast – sometimes you almost felt like you caught air.

And here I sit at 50 years old – I somehow managed to survive with no seat belts, no bike helmets, no antibacterial gel.

So why in the world am I such a nervous Nelly lunatic with my girls? Well, here’s a few reasons.

1. I have super shitty health insurance. Therefore, if something happens to my girls from a broken arm to a knocked out tooth I am screwed. So when my youngest asks if she can try riding daddy’s bike, I tell her she should just walk because she’s less likely to hurt herself.

2. I want to avoid the blame game. I would NEVER hear the end of it from hubby if anything happened to my girls because I let them do something that lead to them getting hurt.

3. There are monsters out there. Regardless of whether you believe that there are more pedophiles/murderers/psychopaths out there now, or if it just seems that way because the world is so über connected, the fact is, they are out there. When my youngest walks to the park with the next door neighbor or goes on a scooter ride, I WORRY ABOUT HER. A lot. I let her go, because I know I have to. And still, I worry.

Here’s the simple fact: I know if my girls are home with me, they are a lot less likely to be aducted, or lured away, or hit by a car, or bit by a snake, or beat up by roaming street thugs.

By the way, If I sound bad, you should see my husband. I’m Lenient Lucy compared to him.

So I don’t know how it happened…how I made that transition from a child who could ride her bike halfway across the state as long as I was home in time for dinner to the mom who makes her kids check in every hour. I guess the answer is, I’m just trying to keep my kids safe – Is that so wrong?

Hell, I only have a few more years of this anyway. With kids 19 & 13 how many more years of hovering to I have? But until then, I’ll just take my cue from Arnold….and get to the chopper.


As a parent, you are forced to attend a multitude of school events where you whittle the away the hours watching band recitals, talent shows, and peering at student art all the while secretly wishing you were at home with the remote in hand.

Okay, so Mother of the Year I am not.

When my oldest daughter was in 6th grade, she came home to tell me she’d won a spot in her school’s first ever spelling bee. Spelling Bee? Now here was something I could take an interest in. I’ve always been a halfway decent speller, and I took pride in the fact that my girl was good enough to have qualified for the finals.

We practiced during the weeks leading up to the Bee, and when that Friday night arrived, we drove to the school hoping for the best. Hubby couldn’t make it, because it was hockey season and that night he had to drive the Zamboni for the Richmond Renegades. Hubby missed a lot of these school performances…

There were about 10 kids participating – I think they were the top 2 from the different 6th grade classes. A few kids got out right away. My girl was sailing through the words she was getting, which were all pretty easy. I can remember each time it was her turn sitting there holding my breath hoping that she would not get something like “xylophone” or “chrysanthemum.”

At one point, she got the word “marmalade” and I was a bit worried. She wasn’t a jelly fan. She spelled out M-A-R-M-A-L-A-D-E, which was promptly followed by the tinkle of a bell. I remember thinking, “hmmmm. Last time I looked that was how you spelled marmalade.”

Should I say something? Was I really going to have to be one of THOSE parents? The kind who interupts an entire spelling bee? Luckily one of the other judges caught the error, and I silently sent up a “thank you” to the spelling bee Gods.

The bee went on for a good amount of time, partially because they didn’t know what they were doing. Kids were allowed to start over again if they felt they messed up, which you can’t do in the real Scripps bee. One annoying girl would repeatedly ask all the typical time-buying questions, like “can I have the word’s origin?” and “can you use it in a sentence?”

I was secretly happy when she finally got the bell.

The bee got down to two kids, my girl and a boy who had to wear hearing aids. At this point, while I wanted my girl to win, I would’ve been happy with either kid taking the prize. They went back and forth, back and forth for quite a while. I have to say, as a parent, it was tough to watch. Each word was like a bullet your kid had to dodge.

In the end, my girl won.

We don’t remember the word she won with – isn’t that stupid? But I’m pretty sure the boy messed up on the word “obstetrician” because it took him almost 10 minutes to try and spell it.

She won a medal, which she still has hanging in her room. My girl really floored me that night. I remember calling hubby as soon as we got in the car. I was so sorry he had missed it. His little girl had come out on top, and he wasn’t there to see it.

She went on to compete against the winners from other grades, where she lost on the word “stewardess.” Not only is that a sexist word, but we don’t fly, so she was pretty much clueless as to what a stewardess was.

She made the finals in the 8th grade spelling bee as well. She got out on the word “rhinoceros” which I didn’t know how to spell either. Oh well – sometimes you get the bummer word.

While we were sad that she couldn’t win again, nobody can ever take away that 6th grade win of hers, where she stood on stage and faced a dictionary full of words, and came out on top.

Old News

This morning while watching the Today Show they did a story about boys who insist on wearing shorts to school in the dead of winter.

I turned to my husband and said smuggly, “Hmph! I blogged about that two years ago.”

And if you go on the Today Show’s website, the story is “trending.”

My husband, while supportive of my blog, thinks it’s boring. He’s not alone. I had this comment from some asshole who I hope is an ex-reader a month or so back…

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.26.09 PM

I answered with the typical “If you find it meaningless, then don’t read it (shithead).”

And the things I wrtie about? They’re not meaningless – not to me. They are my thoughts and memories and observations from my little corner of the world. And I was tickled pink to see that a social phenomenom that I had blogged about in the past made it to the main stream.

And is trending.

Kids Knees



When I was a kid there would come a time each fall when my mother would bring home the Sears Christmas Wish Book—600+ pages long and as thick as a phone book. The arrival of this book would trigger a month-long “it’s my turn!” between us four kids, because this book had a killer toy section.

I had all of these, by the way. Sigh…I wish I still did.

Page after page of Barbies, Fisher Price Little People playsets, doll houses, slot car sets, play kitchens, record players, puppets, and tons and tons of games. As a child you practically drooled as you turned each page, eager to see what “it” toy was going assault your “I want that!” senses next.

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

But you didn’t get to dawdle when you had the wishbook, not at first anyway. Once a sibling saw you with the book in your hot little hands, you were asked to hurry up, and sometimes not so politely. Of course, every so often when you took too long, the coveted book was simply ripped out of your hands, leaving you staring at the linoleum counter top as opposed to Malibu Barbie.

One of the creepier pages in the book - I don't think I'd be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

One of the creepier pages in the book – I don’t think I’d be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

But eventually there would come a time when the book was all yours. My brother and sisters had had their fill of rod hockey and Jerry Mahoney dummies, and I could take the Wishbook in my hands and do what I did best…pretend.

I would stare at each page that held a toy I wanted and imagine playing with it. I’d just look at the toy and actually pretend that I was opening little Barbie kitchen doors or bringing a plane in for a landing at the Fisher Price airport. I could spend hours in a pre-Christmas fantasy land. What a dork I must have looked like…sitting in a corner talking to a catalog.

bad fashionsAs time marched on and we got older the Wishbook was less alluring. We spent more time glancing at the front of the book which displayed “today’s hip fashions.” However, let it be known that I did not spend much time imagining myself wearing any of the clothes.

With the exception of a bathing suit when I was around 13. I loved that suit. It was my first maillot.

I highly recommend visiting the site Pick a book and flip through the pages—you just might lose yourself remembering all those great toys you got one Christmas.


Last night I had a horrible nightmare. I actually had several bad dreams throughout the night, but one was a real doozy.

In short, I dreamt that my youngest daughter, who in the dream was only 6 or 7, was murdered. She ran away from me at a crowded carnival, and as I was trying to call her back, a man picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and disappeared into the throngs of people.

My voice wouldn’t work. I was trying to scream and couldn’t. It was incredibly frustrating. People were staring at me, but nobody was helping, and like that, she was gone.

I knew she was dead, but at first couldn’t convince anyone in my family. My husband was strangely optimistic she would come back unharmed. As I sat stuffing envelopes a coworker of mine put two six packs of beer on the table next to me (dreams can be super weird, right?) Then she sat down and told me they had found her body.

The grief I felt was overwhelming. I was crying from a place I didn’t even know existed. My brother in law Mike looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I’m never going to see her again.” I cried, and moaned, and screamed in utter sorrow.

And then I woke up.

At first I wondered if anyone had heard me…it was so real that I was certain I had to be making noise in my sleep. Then I went to my daughter and held her hand, and looked at her, thankful beyond measure that it was just a dream. And I thought of all those mothers who have lived through my nightmare only to have nothing to wake up from.

With Christmas just days away, I thought about the parents of poor Hannah Graham, the UVA student who was abducted and murdered this fall by a loathsome creature who should only live in nightmares, not be a living, breathing thing prowling the streets.

It must be such a sad time for them, this first Christmas without her. There’s no stocking to hang for Hannah, no gifts to buy, nothing to pass to her at the Christmas dinner table. They must be feeling a hole the size of the Grand Canyon without her there. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, especially when it’s at the hands of a monster.

When my baby girl wakes up, I’m gonna smother her with kisses. And hugs. And then more kisses. I’m so thankful she’s still here.



This past week my middle school girl was in quite a pickle. An incident occured at the end of the day on Monday which left her convinced that she was going to be the laughing stock of the 7th grade. She was in tears on the way home in the car, and was miserable all night long. I was miserable right along side her.

I can remember times growing up when I did not want to go to school because I knew I’d be ridiculed. Like when I had horribly chapped lips in the 4th grade, or when I accidentaly cut my bangs ridiculously short in 10th grade. Those were days where you just kept your head down and prayed for the minutes to tick by swiftly.

My girl has some problem with bullies, and it wasn’t making facing the next school day any easier. She was sure they were going to pick on her and felt helpless and defenseless. I have to admit, I cried for her a few times that night. I woke up at 1 am and could not get back to sleep imagining the day she had ahead of her.

And that’s when I decided to arm her in order to disarm the bullies.

Who remembers the episode of the Brady Bunch with Buddy Hinton? He was picking on Cindy’s lisp and Peter stood up for her. In the end they wound up fighting it out under the advice and training of Mr. Brady. These days Mr. Brady’s advice would put my little girl in suspension, or worse, expulsion.

I had always told my girl that when a bully says something to put her down, you have to zing them right back with some clever little quip. Problem is, like George Constanza and the jerk store, she can never come up with a good comeback when the time strikes. And I knew I had a mission.

I got up early the next morning and did some research online. Seems there are entire websites devoted to snappy comebacks to bully taunts. And the consensus on many of the advice columns on how to deal with bullies suggests that zinging them back works. I had a renewed hope and enthusiastically began jotting down some of the better ones.

My favorite was “how many times do I have to flush before you go away.”

Why didn’t I know that one in high school? There were quite a few girls I would have loved to use that one on. Another good one was “If I throw a stick will you leave?” or “how many times did your parents drop you?”

But these were all a bit too much for my girl to memorize in the hour we had to get ready for school. She begged to stay home, but I knew she had to go to school – to face the music – get right back on the horse. I also pointed out to her that she might hear absolutely nothing. Sometimes when folks know you’re really bummed about something they lay off. The rest of the morning was one big pep talk for her.

I told her not to cry – not to give anyone that said something nasty to her that satisfaction. I told her not to back down, to look the antagonist in the eye and calmy say something back. If she couldn’t remember any of the zingers, just saying something like “aren’t you just so clever” or “did it take you all night to come up with that one?” would put them off their game.

On the drive to school I could see she was close to tears the whole time, and I knew I had to get her out of that mind set. So I looked at her and said, “You know what you need to do today? You need to have an ‘F-You’ day. You need to walk into that school with your head up and think ‘F-You’ to every person who passes you by. Don’t let anyone mess with you. You’re too good to be messed with, but if they do? You strap on that ‘F-You’ attitude and tell them where to go and how to get there.

I was so proud of her when she got out of the car and headed into the school building – she was being brave, facing the unknown. But I felt like we prepared her the best we could. She also knew that if things got bad, really bad, she could call us mom or dad would pick her up…and schedule a meeting with the principal.

I spent a very tense day at my desk with my cell phone by my side. At noon I took it as a good sign that I hadn’t heard from her. By 1:30 I knew we were over the hump. And when she called me after she got off the bus she said that nobody had said much of anything to her. Some girls sniggered in homeroom, but didn’t say anything to her directly.

What a relief.

But just because she didn’t need to use any of our advice that day, I don’t want her to forget them. There are a few kids in her grade that take pleasure in saying nasty things to her, and I want her to know she doesn’t have to take it lying down. I may have felt the need to arm her in the face of an onslaught, but those tools will work just as well in a smaller skirmish somewhere down the road.

She needs to remember to zing back, and maybe every now and then, to have an “F-You” kind of day.

IMG_6295As I stood in the shower on the morning of April 28th, I was the proud owner of two beautiful kitties – brother and sister that we adopted from our local animal shelter on July 5th, 2010. Less than an hour later I’d be crying over a cardboard box holding the lifeless body of my sweet little Olive.

Olive. Otherwise known as n’Olive. That was her nickname. I’m not sure why we started adding on the hint of an “n” before her name, but we almost always called her n’Olive. Except for my husband – he called her “the grey cat” even though she was clearly brown.

Both cats had been out all night, which happens from time to time, especially when the weather gets warm. Hubby slept on the couch until the wee hours waiting to hear either of them scratching at the door, but he finally gave up and went to bed when no amount of calling brought them in. When I got up at 5 am, I opened the back door to find Dodger waiting to be let in, but no Olive.

I was worried, but not panicked – she liked to make her own entrance. I kept waiting for her tell-tale scratch at the front door, but soon it was time to get into the shower. I thought about her while I was in there – thought about how the last time she didn’t come in after an all night outing, she had come home badly hurt. That wasn’t even a year ago – just the end of last summer.

When the sun came up I walked down the driveway to make sure she wasn’t laying in the road. I’d hate for my daughter to see that. I looked up and down saw nothing crumpled on the pavement, or in the grassy ditch along the side of the road. I even looked at the road behind our house, which is tough because I have to wade through a thicket of trees with about 8 inches of leaves on the ground.

Once my youngest woke up and heard Olive was MIA we decided to go out and take another look. As I was walking up the road, I heard my daughter cry out for me. She’d found Olive.

My sweet girl was laying in a deep ditch beside the storm pipe that runs under the street from our house. She wasn’t moving. I hurried down beside her, but there was nothing to be done. She was dead.

The next hour was a bad one. My youngest dropped to her knees in the road and began sobbing. I got her up and took her back to the house where I woke up Hubby, who came out and got her out of the ditch. We placed her in a box, and I carried her to the garage. There was no way I was sending my daughter to school that day, and then I thought of what to tell my oldest daughter.

She was still at college, getting ready for finals week. Hubby suggested we keep this bad news from her so she could concentrate on finishing out her year. At first I was horrified – she had to know. Olive was her cat. They were like peas and carrots – always sleeping together. Olive would only sleep on her lap, only let her scritch behind her ears for hours on end.

But he was right. So we kept it from her for almost two weeks.

I had to work that day – Mondays are busy for me. I took my youngest into town with me where we moped our way through the day. I lost it when I told my co-workers, but had to keep my cool the remainder of the day. Can’t be answering the phone with a weepy, hitching voice.

When we got home, we found a nice spot, dug a deep hole and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We laid her on the piece of carpet she slept on, and wrapped her in one of my oldest daughter’s baby blankets. But first we petted her. I scratched her little head, and rubbed her pretty belly and cried, and cried, and cried. We each took turns shoveling dirt on her, and then cried some more.

The next day we had some heavy rains in the area, and on the way home, hubby and my youngest stopped to watch the Rivanna River flow rapidly by. And there, hubby spotted a flat rock in the shape of a heart. It’s the centerpiece of her grave now, surrounded by pavers, flowers, and a light. I plan on making that area a garden over the course of time. Tiger lilies and pussy willows. And black eyed susans.

By the time my oldest came home from college ten days later, we had formed a bit of a scab on our hearts. But leading her to the grave when she asked where her kitty was ripped that scab off like it was attached to the band-aid. And once again we cried, and cried, and cried.

Olive was a weird kitty. Aloof and standoffish, more times than not she would arch away from you when you went to pet her. She didn’t like to be held, and was totally disinterested in her brother, who lived to torment her in his playful kitty way. But to my oldest she was something completely different. Olive would surrender totally to her – they shared a bond that no one else in the family could even come close to having with her.

Yet after her accident last year, she had begun to mellow towards the rest of us. I think she realized that we took care of her…that we loved her, and she began to reciprocate. She’d give us more tail hugs and would endure more scratches. She’d lay on the carpet and roll her belly up to be rubbed. She slept with me from time to time.

And now she’s gone. Just when she was getting good. There are things I’ll miss about that stubby little kitty.

I’ll miss her dainty little scratch at the front door. Dodger? He moves the sliding screen with his paws making a loud clanking sound. But n’Olive? She’d just give a few little scratches and wait patiently to be let in.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep on top of the hot water heater – so much so that I got a carpet remnant and cut it to fit.

I’ll miss her little legs that looked like bowling pins, and her long rabbit feet. I’ll miss how those legs used to walk on the back of mine when she was climbing into bed with me – and how much it hurt.

I’ll miss the little spot of white on her lips – it was wider when she was a kitten, but as she grew older it shrunk into a little area where it looked like she had a dab of cream on her lips.

I’ll miss how when we would come up the driveway, she’d always run to the back door by trotting along the wooden beams that line the driveway, stopping to sharpen her claws at the end.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep in the little space right next to the TV set, and how she’d cuddle up in the in-box by the computer.

I’ll miss her high pitched little meow when I would open up a can of wet food.

Ah my sweet little n’Olive. We miss you.








vintage-teacherMy oldest daughter is in the home stretch of her freshman year. She will be home in her own room for the entire summer in 7 days – 7 short days. But first she needs to survive finals.

I found spring finals to be harder than the ones right before Christmas. Perhaps it’s because it’s not only the end of the semester, but the end of the entire school year. In addition to taking your tests and handing in final papers, you leave your room and your friends and come back to an entirely new scenario the following fall.

When I was a freshman my spring semester was a toughie. I had two classes that took up most of my time – American Art History and a basic dunce math class. By the time finals came around I was ready to throw both books into on-coming traffic on I-95.

The art history class was tough because the teacher spoke so fast. You wrote in a frenzied panic as she flipped through slide after slide. By the time the 90 minutes was over you were exhausted – and your writing hand felt like a club. Then you had to go home and make sense of the 23 pages of cat scratch you took down. Add to that the memorizing of names, dates and periods of at least 100 paintings, sculptures and architectural masterpieces.

I got a 99 on that final. The teacher actually wrote me a postcard saying she took the point off just because she hates giving 100s.

But Math? That was a totally different story. It was an idiotic freshman math class that everyone who didn’t place out had to take. And it wasn’t so much that the math was hard, it was the way they had the class set up that really messed with your brain.

The course was set up like a game of Russian roulette. There were 3 tests and a final. If you failed any one test, you failed the course. Even if you got 100s on every single test but you failed the final, you failed the course. And failure wasn’t your typical below 60 score. Anything below a 75 was considered an F. Most of the tests were 20 questions, so if my remedial math skills are correct, if you missed more than 5, you failed.

I saw kids drop like flies over the course of the semester, having been handed their “F” on one exam or another – I somehow managed to pass them all. The math final was the very last test I had to take that semester. As I solved each problem, I wrote my answers down on a sheet of scratch paper. After all the exams were handed in the professor revealed the answers on the overhead projector. This way you could know your fate without having to spend a few agonizing weeks waiting to get your results via the US postal.

As I worked my way down the sheet, I was putting an “X” next to my answers at an alarming frequency. By the time I’d gotten through checking half my test answers I’d already reached the dreaded five wrong. My stomach churned as I imagined my father’s wrath at me failing a course – a course that he’d shelled out good money for – and that I’d have to repeat.

Could I possibly have gotten the last 10 answers on my test right? There was no way…no way…wait, wait…WAIT!  As I checked my answer to question 20 and realized it, and the 9 before it, were all correct, I knew I’d passed the exam – and by the skin of my teeth. I whooped a gleeful cheer of victory, ran out of the building and drop-kicked my math book across the lawn. I stomped it and ripped pages out and made confetti and threw little tiny bits of x + y = (who gives) (a fuck) in the air over my head.

I was so incredibly relieved I almost cried. I walked back to my soon-to-be empty dorm room with the sun on my back and a smile on my face. My dad came to pick me up later that day and the ride home to Jersey was one sweet trip.

For ahead of me was a three month chill-pill. Ah, childhood summers…


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