it on the Boogie by
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
was a typical afternoon. Nothing very exciting, nothing too out of the normal
course of an afternoon. I have been thinking and thinking, trying to define what
particular event might have pushed my youngest son Andy irrevocably into his Adolescent
Angst phase. You know that phase, I am sure. You might remember experiencing it,
or you might have observed your own children struggling through it.|
your memory is short, or your children are still short, I will briefly describe
to you the symptom cluster. Your beautiful, sweet, angel-child suddenly despises
you. He finds you to be foolish, unfunny, embarrassing and faintly disgusting.
He begins to notice what you are wearing and not in an approving way. He prefers
to spend long hours alone in his room, leaving it only for meals he does not like,
chores he does haphazardly and under duress, and to visit other surly and not
terribly pleasant young people. One day he might wake up and say, "Good morning!
I love you! Thanks for making french toast, it's my favorite!" The next morning
he will drag himself downstairs wearing something that while it actually smells
okay, looks like it ought to smell of mildew and hatred. He will say three things
to you. They will be, in no particular order: "Unh." "Glupody." And, my favorite,
"Do you even own any lipstick?"
I have been through this stage three
other times. You might think that I would have known to expect it this fourth
and last time. I guess I did expect it, in theory. But thinking that my youngest
child, my last kid would ever really erupt into a Teen Troglodyte was like thinking
about death. Intellectually you are able to acknowledge the inevitability of it,
but emotionally you know that it will never, ever happen to you. No way.
This afternoon my innocense was crushed like a butterfly under a jack boot. Nothing
is left but a little iridescent smudge. I blame Cindy Lauper.
got home at four o'clock. Just like normal. He tossed his book bag in the general
direction of the dining room and his jacket kind of toward the closet. Nothing
new there. Because of a series of events which I will save for another time and
another column (and it will be a doozy) everything was topsy turvy at our house.
"Andy, I am going to need some help today. When we are done I'll help you study
He sighed. Nothing too new there either. He sighs sometimes.
In the past few weeks he'd begun sighing more and more often, but I chose to think
that he just had a bunch of extra air he wanted to recycle. Or something. Despite
the sigh, he helped me and we got things a little better settled in no time at
all. Then, as promised, it was time to study spelling.
Now, Andy has terrible
spelling. We study it together religiously and he always flunks his spelling tests.
Well, one of his teachers suggested to us that we try studying his spelling while
involved in some physical activity. She said that she had found this technique
to be very successful. She suggested washing dishes. I had a better idea.
went across the street to the elementary school. We marched around the track and
spelled. We stomped our feet and spelled. We walked backwards and spelled. We
walked with our arms out to our sides and spelled. Andy went right along with
it. I thought we were having fun. He did draw the line at spelling while walking
in step like Dorothy doing the "lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" thing, but
I didn't really blame him. Anyway, he seemed to have the spelling words down pretty
well, and it was getting late.
Next on our list was a haircut.
We hopped in the car. Andy asked about a CD of his brother's, but it wasn't in
the car. What was in the car was "Best Hits of the Eighties." Cool. We headed
down the street with the B-52's blaring. Andy began to talk about his hair. "I
am not getting it short. No way. I'm gonna tell the barber that if he cuts it
short, I won't pay him. And I don't want the front chopped in a line." Now, I
have boys and I have girls. So, I knew that what he meant was, "I would like my
bangs to be textured and wispy."
It was probably just bad timing that
just as he was making this declaration of independence one of my favorite songs
started. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." I can't imagine that there are many people
around who can listen to this song without singing along. And sometimes when I
am singing in the car I like to do a little car dance. If I drove a truck or an
SUV nobody would know that I like to car dance except me. But I don't. I drive
a little bitty car that doesn't take much to make bounce. Just a little bit of
Lauper and a little bit of enthusiasm and we are rocking and rolling, literally.
Is that so wrong?
Yes. It is so, so, so, so wrong. Just ask Andy. If I'd
happened to be car dancing on any ordinary day the repercussions might not have
been so bad. He might have rolled his eyes. Maybe turned off the CD player. But
I happened to pull up at a stop light, with my windows down, in full throated
glory at the very apex of my car dance at the precise time that another car in
another lane pulled up to the light. And in the car there was a mother and her
daughter. A daughter who happened to be in one of Andy's classes. A daughter he
liked. Liked, you know.
How was I supposed to know? The mother looked
over at us and gave me a little smile. A sad little smile that told me she wished
that she was brave enough to go roaring through town singing at the top of her
lungs car dancing to beat all. Or, I suppose, it might have been a smile that
said, "You go first, cuz I'm getting your licence plate number." I smiled back.
Andy groaned and put his hands over his face. Andy slid bonelessly down
in his seat until the lap belt was suddenly an underarm belt. "What are you doing,
Mother? Everybody is looking at you!" First off, he had never called me "mother"
before. Second off, it wasn't like it was the first time I'd ever car danced.
He used to do it with me. I used to have to say, "Okay now, let's not get carried
away." What was up with Andy? "Hey buddy, what's up?"
"Nothing is up.
Just roll up the windows and look straight ahead." I looked at him with my concerned
mother encouraging further explanation look. "That girl is the girl I like. I
thought she might like me too. I was thinking about talking to her one of these
days. Now I can never talk to her because she's going to say, ' oh, yeah, you're
the guy with the mother who dances in the car.' Right? Right? Cuz you do dance
in the car. And you have something on the front of your blouse. And your hair
is sticking up. Right? Sheesh."
He didn't even say "sheesh" with any energy.
He said it in kind of an exhausted way. The way a guy might say it if he was running
for President and his mother gave People Magazine a picture of him dressed up
as an Evil Halloween Bunny. The way a guy might say it if his mother was arrested
for shoplifting comic books at the drugstore. In her underwear. Wearing a big
button that said, "I am Andy's mom!" That kind of "sheesh."
told me everything I needed to know. Andy and I are not buddies anymore. I mean,
Andy is my buddy, but I am his worst nightmare and will be for the next four or
five years. My day in the sun is finally over. But wait! Someday. . . if I am
lucky . . . someday there will be grandchildren! And if they are grandchildren
of mine, they are sure to appreciate a nice car dance and a little Cindy Lauper!