Friday, August 27, 2010

A Morning Person

Normally, my husband's alarm clock processing is pretty smooth:
  1. Set alarm to play the same CD at 6:03 a.m.
  2. Hit snooze a cajillion times
  3. Get into the shower by 6:50 a.m.
Something went awry. The day before, the alarm didn’t go off, or he slept through it, or something, because he flew out of bed at 7:15. In his mind, he was running a whole hour behind. According to my math, it was a mere 20 minutes. Math is one of those differences between us, but I’ve grown to understand that he is a creature of routine. 
On this day, he was bashing and banging and flipping switches like he had never operated an electronic device. The clatter woke me up, and what happened next kept me up. He managed, in a bleary rage, to turn on the radio at the opening moment of “Jesse’s Girl”. He shut the thing down just as Rick was ramping up to the chorus.
Who’s going back to sleep with that stomping around in their brain? My honey, but not me. Now I’m in bed, pondering weird teenage boy expressions of angst. “She’s watching him with those eyes ... She’s lovin’ him with that body, I just know it.” Who talks like that? And what was her name? Did she have any hobbies besides Jesse?
I spared him these thoughts, but he eventually got up and into the shower. I might have drifted off to sleep, but alas, Baby Girl threw open my door. She waited for my acknowledgement like a Broadway star waits for applause. I unknowingly gave her the sign, probably by ever so slightly lifting my head. She ran in, pounced onto the bed, hugged me, and then asked me a question I have never been asked, a question that replaced the fiction of Jesse and his so-called friend and the unnamed girl:
“Mom, can I set a crocodile on fire?”

And that, friends, will wake you up faster than a cup of coffee or a song from the '80s.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Unexplained phenomena. That's what it was to me, running around in our shaggy crabgrass at dusk. One minute, I'd be gooofing around with a Frisbee, and the next, a glowing orb throbbed ever closer. Through the treeline, over the corn, taking the occasional surprise turn before turning back toward its obvious goal: me.

What it was, exactly, was a matter of speculation. A neighbor had told us of a terrible experience with lightening, chasing her out of the shower. I had heard of ball lightening. Perhaps, I reasoned, this was it, coming to get me now. This theory did not explain why I only saw it in the summer, so I formed the fireworks hypothesis. My mother felt very strongly that all fireworks were dangerous. She never even let us use sparklers, she was that serious. These unnatural terrors of eventide appeared around Independence Day, and what could be more fear-worthy that a firework's ability to have a rogue ember?

Ball lightening or killer sparkler, whatever. Its origins were of little consequence when it came to get me. I would try to stand tough, I would try to be brave. I would watch the little sucker, and pretend like I didn't care what he was up to, like my apathy would stop it from its attack, but this failed. I always returned to what I considered the only guaranteed approach to this enemy. I went where it never followed and ran hard toward the house.

My relationship to being outside at night in July remained until into my late twenties and I somehow put the whole thing together. Now that I am forty, and live in a spot rich with fireflies, I wonder why I had never heard of them, and what my parents thought when I came inside, wild-eyed and out of breath.