This Is Uh… Not Cutting It. Yet.

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I’m not going to be very popular in a minute or so.  I get that.   And I accept that.  But if I’m being completely honest (the whole point of a blog), I have to reveal: my love for This Is Us is waning and dammit, I simply refuse to believe I am alone here.

 

Hold onto those rocks, people, I don’t dislike the story of the Pearsons and I’m not throwing in the towel on them.   I – along with everyone else – was unabashedly hooked by the time the how-is-that-guy-smoking-in-a-hospital scene blew this show into the stratosphere.  It’s still a sweet little show and I think it’s got a nice thread of affection weaving through it and making it a pleasant hour of television. (A bonus:  it’s got Susan Kelechi Watson, whose Beth is single handedly the coolest mom on television.)  But (dramatic pause here, waiting for the haters to assemble) it’s not Parenthood.

 

Alas, I am Team Braverman for life and I really thought this show was going to fill that deep void.  I’m finding it’s not.  So I’m a little bummed because I was counting on it.

 

Parenthood was my hands down reality check.  People screwing up with their kids?  Yep.  People making mistakes with their significant others?  All the time.  Kids behaving badly and seeing consequences for that?  Yessiree.  When Kristina was going through her chemo treatments, it was hard for me to watch and harder for me to breathe, having just gone through it with my mom.  It was steeped in realism and throughout the years, their struggles became our strength:  viewers knew if the Bravermans got through it, we could too.

 

The Pearsons aren’t feeling very real to me yet.  I feel like I’m now watching them with a heavy heart and a side of I don’t care.   Hear me out a minute:

 

Exhibit A:  We already know Jack and Rebecca don’t end well.  Every fight they have now seems like another nail in their 80s-lacquered-coffin.  It’s gotten to be a little dose of dread in every scene they share together.

 

Exhibit B:  William’s impending death.  Finding out in what, episode 2, that a well-liked character is on the way out gives little reason to become very vested in him (although I hear “Bates Motel” is making a go of it.  Creepy fun coming from that network but I digress).  We simply watch each episode wondering, is this the one…..

 

Exhibit C:  Kate.  This may be nit-picking but how does she pay her bills?   I remember her interviewing for and then getting a job for a day or two but then she quit and …. flying to the east coast for the holidays, a couple of weeks as a hospital visitor and now an undisclosed amount of time at a fancy exercise farm?  Whaaaat?  Who can check out of life like that? I don’t want to do online research to find out her back story but what’s her deal?  What’s she been doing for 15 year of an adult life that affords her such luxury of time and money?  Until that’s explained, I’ll keep shaking my head and finding her storyline wayyyyy unrealistic.

 

 

Maybe I’m feeling melancholy and just missing Zeek and his crew.  Maybe I’m waiting for something to happen that I hadn’t already seen coming.  Maybe I just want to believe more.  There’s a lot going on in this wundershow that I simply don’t buy into.   I don’t think Randall would’ve handed over his fancy car for a joy ride to anyone without a license.  I don’t believe Kevin would’ve missed his opening night performance.  I don’t believe any kids in the history of the world go up to their rooms when their parents say “Go up to your rooms” without so much as a “… but whyyyyyyy?”

 

So I’ll stick with “This Is Us” to see if the frenetic pace of A CRISIS IS COMING AROUND THAT BEND BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO STAY TUNED TO SEE WHAT … slows to a reasonable rhythm.   I won’t desert them.

 

It’s as if the writers are afraid of losing viewers if they slow down the “A-ha!” moments and spend an episode or four fleshing out their (talented) cast of characters.  To that I say, trust us.  We know good shows when we see them.  And we stay faithful to them.

 

Like the Bravermans taught us.

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

Young Love: View From the Back Seat

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When I was in high school I remember doing whatever I could to get my boyfriend’s mother to like me.  I tried everything.  But despite my always cheerful and ever valiant attempts she always remained, I’ll say, cool towards me.  When I finally reached the brink of my adolescent insecurities I unloaded on my beau with a frustrated, what the hell?

He just shrugged.  “She likes you,” he offered lamely, “but she knows it’s not like we’re gonna get married or anything.”

Um, say what? You can imagine: at seventeen, that stung.  She knew.  Heck, deep down we both probably knew, too.  But she put it out there and there it stayed.  And I’ve never forgotten.

I can’t be certain, but maybe because of my early experience, I’ve grown into a mom lacking enthusiasm for adolescent romance.   For me, it’s always been a great source of curiosity when anyone else did.

Like my sister, for instance.  I’ve forever marveled at her unaffected exuberance of really, truly basking in teenage love.  She’d fawn over her kids’ boyfriends and girlfriends, buy them super nice presents at Christmas, happily accept their friend requests on Facebook and exude genuine excitement over anything about them.  Every high school relationship was treated as The One and it was utterly fascinating to me. Consequently (and alas, one by one), every high school break-up consumed her with incredible sadness — for a really long time.  It all seemed crazy to me.

I guess I never bought into the hype because well, adolescence is (pick one) silly, volatile, melodramatic and (most of all) fickle.  Let’s be real.  Is there a more ridiculous time in any life cycle?  When my daughter was in middle school (before it was the norm for third graders to carry cell phones) a young boy called our house and left a very detailed message on our home answering machine asking her to go on a date to the movies.  I listened to it, rolled my eyes towards the heavens, promptly deleted it and told my daughter about it – many, many years later at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Why?  Because it made for a great family laugh and — like Carrie Bradshaw being broken up via Post-it note — there are some dating behaviors that are beyond reproach.  Rest assured:  no daughter of mine was ever going to the movies with any kid without a clue.

That was all well and good (and, okay, somewhat controllable) in middle school, but it seems before I could throw in another load of laundry – and despite my inclination to ignore them — I’ve acquired a slew of significant others in my life.   And it’s become harder to remain, I’ll say, cool towards them.

My eldest son, a young adult so not-sharing of information I couldn’t tell you his favorite color, suddenly started showing up with a stunning girlfriend.  Turns out they’ve been together for months.  She is well-spoken and personable and bright and — dayum! —  pre-med.  She possesses such exceptional attributes it  is impossible not to enjoy her.  She’s a darling.  Dang.

My high school senior has been with his girlfriend for quite some time, too.  As much as I tried to remain aloof and indifferent towards them, her ability to get him to do homework and come in before his curfew has broken down my tough demeanor.  She is an absolute delight to be around and I completely adore them together so of course it worries me. Again, 17.  Double dang.

My youngest, teetering on 16, might trouble me the most.  He’s been spending his time with such a sweet and charming young lady I find myself lamenting, this – they — would be perfect …. in about ten years….

Good grief, what is happening here?  Of late I’ve been wondering which is worse:  that these kids’ impeccable choices are turning me soft, or that maybe my sister was onto something.

It’s a tough seat to sit in for sure.  And because moms were once teenagers too, we know with assured wisdom that as much as young love blossoms with ferocity, it will also (more often than not) fade with some sadness.  Being invested in our kids’ relationships carries weighty fallout when a happily ever after doesn’t happen.

My little girl, now an extraordinary and beautiful young woman, is experiencing her first real break-up and – I have to be honest – my whole family is feeling the strain of her sorrow.  (Truth:  her grace and reflection while deep within heartache far surpasses her mother’s 1980s coping method of Diet Coke and cigarettes.  Geeze.  I thank God those DNA strands didn’t swim too strongly.)

We liked him.  We Sally-Field-really-REALLY liked him.  They shared a lengthy time together and we were all a part of it in some small way.  But it just wasn’t meant to be.  So now we’re all sad.

And my heart is hurting having to watch her go through this tough time.

 

I knew I shouldn’t have gotten him that bathrobe for Christmas.

I should’ve known better than to think my sister was smarter than me.

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

 

Why We Hug

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Six years ago, a tragic car accident after his high school graduation took the life of my sister’s nephew.   Her own kids were all teens themselves when they lost their cousin, and the aftermath was unlike anything I had ever seen.  Saying the entire family suffered immeasurably doesn’t fully encapsulate the deepness of their grief or their struggle to move forward without Johnny.

I wrote the following piece six years ago. 

Today, my sister’s children, all young adults now, will say goodbye to Johnny’s brother, Jake, 22, who never fully regained his footing following the loss of his brother.

I just can’t bring myself to write again. 

 Losing a child is unimaginable for most of us..

Losing two is unfathomable.

*      *     *     *     *

 

 

 

We weave and bob through tragedy with every headline of every day.

What a shame…

How sad…

That poor family…

Isn’t that awful?

 

But eventually we move on to the circulars.  Or the crosswords.  Or (like me) the fake news, the drivel, the celebrity scoops.  Why not – along with sudoku it’s so much more enjoyable than all that heavy stuff of strangers.

One day, though, unspeakable tragedy pinpricks into our own little life bubble and everything halts.

I’d always believed that if anything ever happened to any of my children all one would need is a dustpan to come and collect me.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Game over.  Yet having just witnessed the most unfathomable display of parental strength imaginable, I realize just how wrong I’ve been in my selfish imaginings.

 

 

My sister’s nephew died in a tragic car accident this past weekend.  He was heading off to college in a few weeks.  One minute he was calling his mom telling her he was heading home after a slice of pizza and a few minutes later he was gone in an instant.  To list his accomplishments would appear trite — there were far too many.  To remark how genuinely beloved he and his family are would seem cliché —  one need only to have witnessed the hundreds of people who gathered for him, standing in line for hours – most snaking around the building in direct sun.  Or the two thousand people who sat at his mass.

 

It wasn’t very logistical for me to attend his services.  Kids everywhere…husband traveling…700 miles of driving…3 or 4 states to travel through…  But I couldn’t not go.

 

I’ve known this young man for longer than I’ve known my own children. He and his 3 brothers were as close to my sister’s 4 kids as any cousins could be.  Like siblings.  All born within months of each other.

 

Here’s what I have become mindful of:

 

…. If you’ve never experienced a mother’s tortured wails as she collapses over her child’s coffin, pray to God you never will.  It is an image you will not soon (perhaps ever) fully erase from your memory.  It will stay with you and rear its gripping visual when you least expect it.  In quiet moments.  While driving.  Scrubbing stains out of the rug.  Glancing at a photo of your own kids with their cousins, a photo you’ve passed by countless times. It is the most wrenching thing I have ever seen or experienced ever.  Ever.

 

….Grandparents having to live through this will ask why they weren’t taken instead. They will repeat this to every person they greet.  They truly, deeply, do not understand why they were not.

 

….Nieces and nephews, usually so full of light and mischievous sarcasm, will not be.  At all. And it will frighten you.  And worry you.  Teen brains are a fragile piece of equipment to begin with.  Shouldering such a dreadful experience can be dangerous to a skewed processing system.  You know they’ll pull through this but you’ll wonder how.  And when.  And what the residual effect will be. And when the light might return to their eyes.

 

….There is always going to be one person who steps up to perform the most horrific and life-altering tasks during the situation.  My brother-in-law was this person.  Identifying the body.  Making funeral arrangements.  Turning away throngs of people because his sister refused to sit down.  This man has been on the receiving end of many (MANY) an eye roll from me, my standard jab for decades being, “Dude, you sooo chose the right sister because I’d whoop yo ass….”  But as his shoulders shook under my hug I could only squeeze tighter.  I worry most about him.

 

And so after grinding to a heinous halt, life – inexplicably — starts to slowly roll along again.

 

My sadness comes in waves.  Sometimes it’s a mere blip.  Other times overwhelming.  Things like this simply bring a focus into our own lives.  We try to picture ourselves attempting to survive such insurmountable grief and really, it’s unimaginable.

 

My kids plant wordless kisses on my face.  They get it.  Mom’s not quite herself.

 

We try to bring tragedy into our lives as life lessons.

 

“Mom, don’t wait up.  You’re tired, just go to bed, I’ll be home soon and lock up.”

Ummmm…..No.

 

“But it’s a party – can’t I stay out later?”

Sure.  But we’ll pick you up.

 

“Don’t you trust me?”

Yep.  Just not everyone else out there.

 

 

My mother-in-law died on the afternoon my youngest child was born.  The circle of life.  Upon returning back home I’ve gotten word that a local friend is in labor with her fourth child.  She’s already got three boys and everyone’s excited to see if she’ll finally get herself a little pink bundle or another beautiful bottomless pit of a boy who will single-handedly increase her grocery bill by a third.  Either way, the circle of life again.  A good thing.  A great thing.

 

We hug our kids tighter.

And wish and hope and pray that their time with us is not temporary.

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

A Broken Family Tree Finds Leaves

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“Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.”

When a contentious family fight erupted during my adolescence, my large extended family imploded and became estranged.  Poof.  Seemingly in an instant, my holidays bustling with cousins and aunts and uncles vanished.  Naturally — for a teenager especially — it was difficult, but the adage of children being resilient became evident, and my siblings and I muddled through.  Since that confusing and erratic time I found, like countess adults before me, that wounds heal, scars fade, and unfortunate experiences shape who we ultimately become.  Likely as a result of our past, my sister and I have remained steadfast in our determination not to have history repeat itself.  Throughout our years of heated arguments (because hello, sisters:  they were numerous) we’ve worked hard to get through them.  Over time we’ve been bonded by a shared simple goal:  that our own children will never, ever know such heartache.

But time is a fickle friend — who clearly pals around with his buddy, the internet.  While my mother lie unresponsive in hospice care, I wiled away hours with my laptop.  I Googled everything.  And everybody.  And eventually stumbled across a cousin.

When my mom passed I sent my cousin a message, in the event she might want to relay the news to her mother, my mom’s sister.  I don’t know why I did it.   She was a toddler when our family fractured and I had no idea what she knew or what she remembered or what she’d been told.   It really didn’t matter to me.   I just couldn’t imagine going through life not knowing if or when my own sister had died.  It was unimaginable to me.

I never heard back from her.  Five years passed without any acknowledgement that the news was received and I eventually forgot all about it.

This week, out of the blue, I got a response.  I stared down at my phone in disbelief and felt my gut tighten.  It took several minutes before I read it through.  Unbeknownst to us both, my message went into a holding file deep within the bowels of Facebook.  A safeguard to keep weirdos at bay, it’s a measure that detects non-friends and keeps their correspondence buried until one chooses to view it.  My cousin, obviously now a grown woman, was aghast at the length of time she had unknowingly ignored me.

We exchanged a few polite pleasantries and I sent over my last memories of her, expertly captured with my favorite Christmas gift of 1980 – a Polaroid camera — the last time we were together.  She immediately friend-requested me and we are now connected.  I can see though her photos the story of the life she has lived without me and I’m sure she’s done the same of me.

We are complete and total strangers through no fault of our own and while I’m certain we both know that nothing in the past had anything to do with us, it is still on shaky ground we stand.  I have countless memories of her.  With a decade between our ages, she (likely) has none of me.

My teenage recollections of summers spent at her house are vivid.   I remember all the records I listened to continuously on her parents’ stereo.  I knew her paternal relatives and her neighbors (gaaaaawd, I even went on a date with the boy next door to – holy 80s — a laser show at the planetarium).   I can recall every inch of her house and I know I taught myself how to swim in her t-shaped pool.  I remember my fascination with the endless packets of McDonalds strawberry jam in her fridge (perks of her grandfather, an executive for the company when they started serving breakfast).  I remember the sad circumstances of his death:  found motionless when the family returned from my grandmother’s wake.  He was babysitting her and her brother because they were too small to attend.

Memories.

It’s crazy, really.

And yet it’s comforting, too, no question.  But this newfound connection is melancholy also, as the many years of hurt and offense have flooded me of late.  I know why my own mother chose to stay away from her family but fervid curiosity consumes me about the other side of the story.  You know, their version, which — I am old enough to realize — may not be entirely accurate (as may not be mine).  There’s a part of me that wants to beg for clarity and information.  There’s a bigger part of me that asks, does it even matter anymore?  I spent so much of my life thinking my aunt, her mother, was such a terrible, dreadful person that it’s difficult to feel boundless joy in finding my cousin after all these years.  I think about the betrayal my mother might feel if she knew and that saddens me a little.

 

So many emotions, so few answers, but now we’ve got nothing but time.

 

I guess for now, living thousands of miles apart, we’ll see where the internet takes us.

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

Happiness Is Doing What Your Mama Says (even after she’s gone)

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My mom died five years ago today.

 

I’ve spent the past four anniversaries of her passing confounded by the shock and awe that goes into the passage of time.  I wrote about it last year, and the year before that, and so on.  I’ve always focused on my kids because – truly — nothing is a greater catalyst for maternal awareness than grief and loss.  It halts us:  little boys sprouting facial hair and muscled man-limbs in the blink of an eye, teenage girls blossoming into fascinating young women (with – eek! – boyfriends) and the dizzying commitments on calendar pages that keep us busier and busier (and busier…) with each passing year.  If only we had a dollar for every friend to lament, “Where did the time go?” on a post or picture.  It happens every day.

 

I think this year, though, I’m feeling different. I’m certainly still amazed by the quickness of time (and yes, I am still in disbelief that I can now legally grab a beer with 50% of my children). But I’m finding as time moves on, I am less paralyzed by the passage of it and more accepting of the presence – and present — of it.  I like it.  I really, really like knowing – and even not knowing – something’s coming ahead.  This slight shift in my personal paradigm keeps me excited and hopeful for the future, even on the down days.

 

Graduations.  Colleges.  Engagements.  Professions.  A stubborn boy’s long hair FINALLY getting chopped … There is so much greatness going on at every turn of our lives, and so much promise, it’s almost unfair not to be happy.  I have to be honest:  if my mom ever caught wind that there was anything other than joy where her grandkids are concerned, she would be one pissed chick.

 

So while I miss her like crazy, I can’t often stay sad for more than a moment or two.  That’s just not how she rolled.

 

I’ve no doubt part of my mind shift came with turning 50 this year.

50.

Holymutherfkkingsh*t, right? How the effing hell did that happen?  I’m pretty sure I can still dig up my tee-shirt that boasts “We work less and party more, cuz we’re the class of ’84.”  Seriously, this is something.  A lot of reflection comes with that magic number.  I remember planning my mom’s 50th surprise party.  We crammed all her friends into my tiny newlywed apartment and basically threw her a keg party.  She didn’t drink beer but we did, and as far as entertaining, okay, we knew little else. It worked.  She was elated – and equally annoyed:  she had just become a grandmother and was none too happy that her little baby Jesus didn’t make it to her kegger.  Still, she was surrounded by love.  And was until the end.

 

On these anniversaries I think of the friends my mom left behind and I am so, so sad for them to be going on without her.  I know profoundly the void they feel.

 

She taught me well.  Like her, I’ve become adept at insulating myself with friends who care deeply for me, friends I would do anything for in return.  Most are a phone call away.  Others, a car ride.  One, a plane ride taken on a moment’s notice.

 

Growing up, I used to read Erma Bombeck all the time.  I loved the stuffing out of her.  During winter break of my senior year of college I came across her column in the New York Daily News entitled “No Greater Friend Than a Best Friend.”  I clipped it and held onto it for a couple of months and then mailed it in a birthday card to Kristi, my best friend since 5th grade.  There was rarely a time we were ever living in the same state together for very long.   Kristi held onto it for almost a decade, then sent it back to me in a card for my 30th birthday.   I framed the yellow newsprint and sent it back her way when she turned 40.

 

Naturally it made its way back to me a few months ago.

It’ll hang on my wall for another ten years until, well, you get it.

 

 

How unfathomably fortunate that I have a 40-year friendship going strong?

How impossibly amazing for my mom to be the subject of such beautiful memories for so many?

How ridiculously wrong that my own children didn’t plan my 50th festivities???  (I kid, I kid.  I masterfully controlled every detail.)

 

I think about her every day but I honor her today.

 

You’re on so, so many minds today, Mom.

Cheers and love.

xoxo

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

When the Internet Deems You Crazy: Employment DENIED

Interview Checklist  Job Candidate Requirements

 

Awhile back  I was (apparently) overlooked for a barista job at a major-coffee-retailer-that-shall-not-be-named because (apparently) I didn’t pass their psychological test.  You know, those quick, 40-minute online questionnaires that ask if you are definitely, likely or somewhat capable of public lewdness, ingesting illegal substances or ratting out Dwight Schrute for napping in the break-room.  Initially I chalked it up to the glass of Pinot that was perched next to my laptop while I took the test (which — fine —  may have impacted my honesty.   Hell yeah, of course I can take criticism AND work alone AND be a team player AND …) but I really couldn’t help but think, seriously?

 

I am educated.  And at times well versed. And an ass-kicking multi-tasker.  Yet when that ambiguous and awkward application was sent into cyberspace, nary a response was got.

 

My friend — who not only worked there but had urged me to apply — couldn’t believe it. She’d revealed the place was so short-staffed and desperate for help they couldn’t even cover all the shifts.  When she inquired about my application she got the news:  in their street-light benchmark of attractive applicants I was classified as “yellow,” which of course is better than the flagged (you must be psychotic) “red” but not as desirable as the (you must be Stepford) “green” distinction.

 

Really.

 

She must have given her bosses a pretty convincing you-have-GOT-to-be-kidding-me spiel because as soon as she intervened they pulled my file out of their Won’t-Go-Postal-But-Just-Might-Steal-A-Scone folder and called me in for an interview.

 

It was too late, though.  I won’t  lie:  the chip on my shoulder had already formed.

 

Still, I was curious so I went in.

 

The store manager appeared pleased that I seemed to have all my devices.  She went through the typical interviewing process and smiled and laughed at many of my aloof, sharp, and not-meant-to-be-cute responses (sample:  “So Tina, why do you think you’re a good candidate for this job?”  “Well, I’m not going to stand behind the counter and text my friends.”  If I remember correctly that answer came without even a hint of a smile on my face.

 

I was offered the job on the spot.

 

Really.

 

I didn’t accept the position but it was for the best.  I’m not much into designer coffee anyway and probably couldn’t tell the difference between a latte and a lager (oh wait, yes I could.)   I moved onto greener pastures where (lucky for me) all colors of crazy are embraced.

 

Still, it makes me wonder about all the good applicants that slip through the cyber cracks every day for countless reasons we’ll likely never know.

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tube Socks

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The summer of 1981 may well be remembered for the lavish nuptials of the Princess of Wales but for me it will forever photograph the road trip of my lifetime:  five weeks, twenty-one states and the freedom that came with the unsupervised parenting that was well, 1981.  Move over Lady Di, at fifteen-years-old, I was clearly in a fairy tale situation of my own.

 

The opportunity came about rather simply.  My best friend, Kristi, and her family – an older sister and two teacher/parents – went cross country in their RV every summer.  Always somewhere different.  Always returning with exotic photos and strange souvenirs (think tchotchkes from The World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or postcards from Pike’s Peak).  Gooberish to many but always envy-inducing to a girl like me, who never went anywhere over summer vacations.  When my folks moved us to Long Island from the grimy borough of Queens, apparently THAT was to be our perpetual vacation.

 

Kristi’s family was all set to take off as planned but – serendipitously for me – Kristi’s sister failed English in her last term.  In order to graduate she needed to attend summer school and couldn’t go with them.  At first it was a monkey wrench:  being meticulous organizers Kristi’s parents had already planned out their five-week itinerary to the day – every meal was planned for four people, every attraction had been purchased for four attendees, every bathroom stop had been calculated to include four travelers requesting them.  It didn’t take long for two highly intelligent educators (and one persistent teenaged daughter) to find the perfect solution:  With spending money in my Velcro wallet, I packed up my Smurfs, hopped into Kristi’s sister’s place, and off we went.

 

Our forty-day trip would take us to the opposite coast of California and back, traveling a different course in each direction, allowing us to insert twenty-one brightly colored push-pins into the map of the United States.  It was more than I could wrap my brain around at the time.  Twenty-one states for a girl who had never even been to New Jersey.  Twenty-one states for a girl who still referred to Long Island as “the country.”   Twenty-one states that most people in the nation wouldn’t see half of in a lifetime.

 

I remember being unable to sleep the night before our ungodly early departure.  Grappling with nerves riddled with excitement and anxiety and anticipation I slept on the couch in the downstairs foyer, listening to albums on such low volume at times only a slight bass thumped from the speakers.  I couldn’t tell if it was fear of leaving my family for the first time or Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that kept tears streaming down my cheeks through sunrise.

 

I was ready for a road trip.  At the close of the school year I’d been unceremoniously dumped by the (third) love of my life, who’d taken up with (sigh…) my tall, tanned, blonde friend.  I was ready to suck-face with strangers and make-out with as many Rick Springfield look-alikes  I could muster up from the George Washington Bridge to Mount Rushmore.  I’d packed enough cute terry-cloth shorts (you know, with the white stripes) and tube socks (with the colored stripes) to ensure it. Yep, I was ready.

 

While many details of the minutiae of the trip have been faded by other memories (and, okay, decades of equally great times, some perhaps involving alcohol) many moments of that summer still make for a funny story.  My fave:  an admission that while we were trekking across America we occasionally called friends back home — and charged the calls to the telephone numbers of people we didn’t particularly like.  For real.  Today, as a mature adult (with – God help me – teenagers) I shudder at the memory.  But it’s true.  Anyone who remembers B.C. times (before cells) will fully recall how people would actually have to speak to an operator when placing a call from a (gasp) public telephone booth.  My friend and I would innocently declare we’d like to charge the call to our own home number – and viola! – instantly a nemesis-left-behind got thrown under the bus (or rather, her parents did, on their next phone bill).  Simultaneously evil and brilliant. Shudder….

 

The number of hours (and money) we wiled away in campground arcades was unfathomable.  We had no internet, so we read books and wrote in diaries, traveling hours and days at a time past nothing but cornfields.  There were no I-Pods, so we stopped every few days to buy more “D” batteries for the cassette player that ran constantly.  There was no HDTV or DVDs, and when we went to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” we dreamt about it for days, hoping (and wishing and praying) that in our wild cross country adventure out to Hollywood we might actually sidle up next to Harrison Ford on an L.A freeway and tell him how much we loooooved him.

 

We were in the magnificent state of Washington when MTV’s little astronaut man debuted to stick a flag on the moon so we missed that but it turned out okay:  we were allowed to drink beer after taking an Olympia Brewery tour, which single-handedly made us the coolest freshman felons on this planet.

 

Throughout the steamy summer days we mastered Pac Man and Phoenix.  We shared a dog-eared copy of The Other Side of Midnight.  One night while driving through Idaho we witnessed an actual tornado.  We saw the Vegas strip, something my own mom never got to do.  We went through more national parks than I can name and staunchly passed on the toilet paper factory tour  (Kristi’s parents went alone and we stayed at the campsite to sneak more Olympia beer.  They duly pretended not to notice.)  We traveled through the Mojave Desert by nightfall to avoid triple digit temperatures.  We wore bandanas and cowboy hats and short-shorts and found boys to kiss outside the arcades in the moonlight.  None looked like soap opera pop singers but it didn’t matter. We lived like we were never going to return to our simple suburban lives and swore that our five weeks together would bond us like sisters.  It did.

 

In the weeks we were gone Kim Carnes’ gravelly “Bette Davis Eyes” had gotten its ass kicked by  the sap of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.  The grueling “Endless Love” was being played by tri-state disc jockeys nonstop throughout the final leg of our journey back and it made coming home even sadder and more torturous.  Kristi and I cradled our cassette player between us and watched out the window in silence as our exit on Long Island’s  Southern State Parkway neared.

 

I was fifteen that summer, presently the age of my youngest child.  The idea catches my breath some days.  While times are different and perhaps more dangerous today, I can’t help but admit I’d give just about anything to have my own kids live five weeks like I did back in 1981.  It was extraordinary.  It was (according to my diary) a pissa.  It was living.

 

And should they ever have the great, great fortune to live it, there’d be a bonus for sure –these sneaky kids have their own phones today; it would be highly unlikely that irate parents would hunt me down for bogus phone call money.

 

Tina’s husband looks nothing like Rick Springfield…and she no longer wears terry shorts…. but she still loves beer. She and Kristi have been friends for forty years now.

tubesTina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.