Take me out to the ballgame

We went to see the Washington Nationals last night. I lucked into four tickets through work, so Steve and I brought Seth and Ross. It was hot and steamy and sticky, almost unbearably so, but we were very brave and (mostly) stoically suffered through it until the middle of the 8th inning, at which point I could stand no more. Yes, I realize it’s July in DC, and don’t mistake my discomfort for surprise that the weather conditions were what they were. It’s just… yuck. So, Steve and I retreated to the relative comfort of Metro’s air-conditioned cars, leaving Seth and Ross to return at the game’s end (the youth have a higher tolerance for discomfort, apparently).

It was a pretty typical ballgame: I spent way too much on a red Nationals tee-shirt. I bought my oldest son beer. (!!) I explained to him about tipping the concession guys working the stands. We ate hot dogs. We got frustrated as the Nats fell behind by like nine runs, then excited as they rallied to beat the Marlins, 14-12. We cheered for the guys on top of the dugout to lob a free, rolled-up tee-shirt our way and made noise when the stadium signs demanded we do so.

But the most important thing I need to record here is that last night, at long last, I finally got the answer to something I’ve been wondering about for 22 years. You see, when Seth and Ross were babies, I would sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while I rocked them to sleep. The song is short and sweet, I knew every word (if you know me, you know that’s not always the case), and it worked like a charm. And, we were big baseball fans, so it made sense.

As I rocked and sang, I thought to myself, I wonder if someday, many years from now, my adult offspring will be at a baseball game and, during the seventh inning stretch, will start singing the song, then experience an overwhelming urge to go right to sleep, there on the spot, like some post-hypnotic suggestion or something. It was a funny image, to me, and I had mostly forgotten about it until we stood up in the middle of the seventh last night. At last, here’s my chance, I thought! Ever vigilant, I was ready to catch one or both of the grown men who still call me “mommy” if they crumpled and passed out in a dead sleep, but I tried to play it cool so they wouldn’t catch on.

Well, friends, I am here to tell you that the answer to the question is NO, they were not overcome. Nobody who was born in the 1990s went to sleep in row T behind the first base dugout. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. C’mon, it’d have been funny! On the other hand, their persistent consciousness did save us all from mild embarrassment. It felt… anticlimactic. Womp womp.

As we sat back down, I told them the story. They pretended to be amused. Oh, that mom of ours, they probably thought, exchanging knowing glances and rolling their eyes as I looked in the other direction. That’s completely silly and would never happen in real life. She is such a piece of work.

Hey, I am just continuing in my own mother’s tradition. I’m almost 51 years old, but she still likes to tell stories about funny things I did or said when I was little. It’s what moms do. So get used to it, boys. We’ve only just begun.

 

 

I ate my feelings today

I AM FEELING RATHER RAW after yet another school shooting yesterday. Here we are again – AGAIN! – having the same debate. Nothing has changed. 

(Much) more on that in a sec. I wasn’t making any friends or changing any minds on social media as I got into it with strangers, and couldn’t think of what else to do, so I went to Five Guys, set on eating my feelings:

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And yes, I am aware it isn’t healthy to use food in this way, and I also know I wrote here in January about how I was eating salads and stuff, but what can I say. I’m weak. And I just don’t like salad. Or bananas. Or lots of things that are good for me. So I got a burger and some fries, and it was really delicious, and I am unapologetic.

At least I walked there and back.

So there I sat, a lonely lady at a high-top table, scrolling through my phone, getting angrier and angrier at the fact that THIS HAPPENED AGAIN. A bunch of kids (and their parents, and their teachers, and their community, and their country) have been traumatized again by a guy intent on making some statement – we don’t know what, yet – which was pretty easy for him to do in such a dramatic way, because he had a gun. Which the adults in his home knew about. Oh, it was locked up, they said. That was our rule.

He used a gun.

Please, don’t start by telling me that guns are not, in and of themselves, bad. I understand that. It is condescending to suggest that I might actually think that an inanimate object is capable of killing without it being activated by a human. Plus, that argument breaks down when you realize that guns are designed for the sole purpose of killing other living beings. Or at least, wounding them.

Hey: If you are so fearful that MS-13 gang members or bad hombres are coming to do you harm, or your home is an ideal target for a middle-of-the-night break-in that you feel the need to keep a personal firearm, to be used in the unlikely event something like this actually happens to you, then I trust and expect you are doing so with great care and forethought, in compliance with applicable laws, despite the odds being that your gun won’t actually save you in such situations. But, we all have the right to protect our people and our stuff in the way that makes sense to us. So, you do you.

I don’t want to take *your* guns away. What I and many others want now is called gun “control.” Control means some sort of moderating effort, to ensure people who shouldn’t have guns, can’t get them. It does not mean a total ban on every single gun in the whole world. You can still keep your pistol, if it helps you sleep at night, and you can still hunt deer or whatever. So take a deep breath, Captain Hyperbole.

I do feel strongly that no civilian needs to have access to semi-automatic weapons. Ever. I cannot think of a situation where having one of these handy has made things better, but I can name a dozen off the top of my head where their availability made things unbearably, irreversibly awful.

Seriously: If you can point to a time when a civilian used semi-automatic weapons to make things great, I’d love to hear about it.

I don’t want to hear ever again about how if someone is intent on killing a bunch of people, they’ll use other means if they can’t get a gun. They’ll use fertilizer to build a bomb, maybe, or just drive a car into a crowd. The argument goes, therefore, it doesn’t make sense to regulate gun access because crazy people gonna kill. This argument is a gigantic, oozing, throbbing red herring. It attempts to divert attention away from the fact that a *gun* was used to kill.

To kill. Kids, at school, and people who devoted their lives to educating them.

He used a GUN.

 

The naysayers reply, well, he was mentally ill. THAT should be our focus! I agree. But I don’t believe any efforts towards improving availability and coverage for mental health conditions need preclude efforts to get semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians. We should be talking about both, simultaneously, right now. And not just talking, but acting.

We are stuck in this insane, nightmarish loop where a mass shooting happens, elected officials offer thoughts and prayers, someone organizes a candlelight vigil, people propose gun control legislation, congress doesn’t act on it, until the next shooting, at which point we lament that nothing ever happens and “thoughts and prayers” again and the whole thing happens over and over. How have we not learned yet? How can we allow our lawmakers to be more beholden to the deep pockets and propaganda machine of the NRA than to the families they were elected to represent?

I had the relative luxury last night to choose to not immerse myself in the news of the day’s mass shooting. I was able to make that choice. A whole bunch of people in Florida were not so fortunate. Reality hit them over the head, hard, and demanded, in the cruelest possible way, they immediately pay attention. Kids live-tweeted and texted their parents while hiding in closets, fearing for their young lives. What if it was your kid? Or your grandchild? Can you even imagine the anguish of receiving those texts? I can’t. And those were the ones who lived! Many died. Because a troubled guy had a gun and decided to use it to kill students at the high school he had attended, there are a bunch of parents who hurried their kids out the door yesterday, urging them on so they wouldn’t be late for school, not knowing that it would be the last time they’d see them alive.

He used a gun.

So, 2A zealots, spare me your fear-driven rhetoric and your false arguments. You have been missing the point this whole time. I want to live in a country that seeks to protect my kids and yours, and not just through a full-term pregnancy, but for the rest of their (hopefully long) lives. It’s time for all of us to do a root-cause analysis to figure out what’s really at the soul of this madness, so we can do something to minimize the risk of it happening again. We may never prevent all mass shootings for the rest of forever. But doing nothing isn’t working. So let’s try doing… something different. Anything. And let’s keep trying till one day, we will shake our heads as we think back to how terrible it was, back in those years when there were all those school shootings, during that dark time in America’s history.

One last thing: As you take measures to protect your property from bad guys, I will take measures to protect my own slice of cyber-real-estate (this blog) from those who would disrespectfully argue with me. I have had unproductive exchanges with too many individuals whose minds were obviously made up, and acknowledge that I’m not likely to change their views, any more than they are to change my mine. However, if you wish to put forth a discussion that suggests new ways we can work together to protect our children from being shot up in places where they should be able to feel safe and protected, that would be a worthwhile conversation to have.

Just as soon as we figure out this gun problem. Because to me, that seems like a logical place to start.

 

The Neighborhood 

It’s 5:30 Friday evening. I got home a little early, changed clothes, and poured myself a glass of wine. The temperature outside has been in the 60s the past couple of days, so I turned off the air-conditioner and opened some windows.

I live in the top two floors of a row of two-over-two townhomes. All the units have garages which back to central parking, around a treed, grassy island.

From my open dining room window, I hear little kids ramming around with what sound like plastic wheeled toys. (Parents, you know that sound!) I hear a mom. From this distance, she sounds like the muffled mumbles of any adult in the classic Charlie brown cartoons. The children are shrieking with glee, yelling rules at each other for whatever game they are making up in the moment. As all good suburban cul-de-sac kids do, they occasionally bellow the warning, CAAAAARRRRRR!

These sounds transport me back almost 20 years, when I had two small kids. When the boys were very little, we lived in a townhouse community, smaller, but not unlike the one I’m living in now. Instead of out back, the parking and island were in the center, viewable from the fronts of the houses. If enough adults stood guard, the kids could ride their large plastic wheeled vehicles around the island.

It was in this way that we met most of our neighbors in the community where we first lived, and again when we moved to a more expansive suburb. Now, some evenings when I drive my car into the parking area, I see orange cones set up, and those signs that say “children at play”, and adults standing around, sharing a beverage, while they keep one eye on the posse of children. I remember the drill: one parent would take a turn, giving the other one a spell, and promise to run the children, hard, until they were tired. This was in an effort to ensure an early (or at least timely), drama-free bedtime. Our measure of success was the low bar of “safe and happy” on those nights and anything beyond that, with regard to the kids, was gravy.

I mostly feel happy that the days of large plastic wheel toys and shrieking children are behind me, but I would be lying if I didn’t add that the sounds I’m hearing now make me the tiniest bit wistful. My little boys were just so cute. And fun! Exhausting too. But remarkable. They were (and are still) a source of pride and joy.

There is a sense of community that parents of similarly aged children develop. I don’t have that connection with any of my current neighbors. Now, I am (probably?) that scary old lady who smiles a little too broadly, and is a little too forthcoming with the unsolicited advice.

When we were in the thick of it, I could barely imagine a day when I wouldn’t find Hot Wheels cars and LEGO blocks and empty chip bags and Capri Sun pouches all over my house. But now here I am, with a 7th grader who needs no toys, rides a “big boy” bike to school, and even puts most of his trash into the garbage cans in the house. His older brothers spend more time now at their dad’s house than at mine, but I see them regularly, and we have completely adult conversations. And occasionally drink a beer together! (What?!)

I remember as my kids were growing up, thinking how each stage is the best, as you get to it. All the stages are special for unique reasons, but the one I was in at the moment always seemed the best to me. Little kids, like the ones I hear shrieking right now, can be exhausting, but their smiles and joy are completely genuine. My favorite age range is still from 7 to 11, but I’m still really enjoying Eli even as an adolescent in middle school. (But I will readily accept your prayers for us both.)

Yes, my life has changed significantly over the past two decades, and I’ve been through many stages. But in this moment, I can say with certainty, as I look ahead to all that awaits, that this is, without a doubt, the best stage yet.