Monday, July 25, 2011

Wheeeeeeee!!!

My in-laws were gracious enough to promise all of their grandchildren a trip to Disney World when they were young.  One by one, they took each set of grandkids to Florida for a week of Mickey Mouse-filled fun.  The problem that began to surface with this awesome plan was that my husband and I waited a long time to have children after getting married - nearly ten years to be exact.  By that time, my in-laws were well into their golden years, and we knew that putting off the trip until our younger child was old enough to enjoy the park was not an option.  We went when my daughter was only two years old, and unfortunately,  she has no memory of that week at all. 

That trip to Disney was the only time my children have been to an amusement park.  Granted, that is the Grandaddy of all parks, and if you live in Alaska or Tibet where roller coasters are few and far between, that might not be a big deal.  However, I have a world-class amusement park right outside my front door, and I have never taken my kids there.  This is the first time I have ever let loose with this abominable secret in public because I know that by denying them this childhood pleasure,  I am guaranteed a spot in the Bad Mommy Hall of Fame.

I have my reasons for not taking them - many, many reasons.  Have you seen how much sweaty, smelly skin is exposed by patrons of amusement parks?  They hop on the water rides first, effectively washing off every drop of deodorant (if they wear deodorant) and walk around baking themselves in the sun all day.  Then, they rub up next to you in line or worse - you have to sit in the moist seat they just vacated on the ride you're boarding. 

Speaking of the sun, I live in a place where meteorologists frequently warn you not to go outside because it's too hot.  Seriously.  Where else but the Sun are you told not to leave your house because the blazing heat will kill you?  The humidity is so bad here that being out in nature during the middle part of the day feels exactly the same as jogging around with a warm, wet washcloth over your nose and mouth.  It's Dante's Inferno kind of hot.  Plus, I really hate being flipped upside down, splashed with rancid water, and flung through the air on rides controlled by teenagers who think K$sha is awesome.  How smart can they be?  I think these are perfectly valid reasons.

My plan to avoid this bastion of over-priced drinks, funnel cakes and glow necklaces was going along just fine until last week.   While we were watching one of our favorite shows, "Bert, the Conqueror", my daughter unknowingly stabbed me right in the heart with one innocent question.  The host of the show was at Cedar Point amusement park riding roller coasters that qualify in my book as wet-your-pants kind of scary.  As my little daredevil stared at Bert who was screaming, laughing, and generally being freaked out in a good way,  she said to me, "Mommy, can we go there?  I'm going to ride ALL of those roller coasters." 

Worst. Mom. Ever.

My child had no idea that a full day's worth of this kind of action was in our own backyard, but I did.  Sure, she's seen the commercials but has never really pressed the issue of actually going there, so I certainly never brought it up.  Even my son, who you would think would be all over going to an amusement part, hasn't asked.  Secretly, I hoped they never would...until they were old enough to ride everything without "a responsible adult".  (Not that I necessarily qualify)

I walked around with a big ol' bag of guilt on my shoulders for a couple of days.  Why do I always project my hang ups on everyone around me?  Kids like roller coasters. Period.  Why should I deny them this experience?  Because I hate smelly rednecks in undersized tube tops?  I was going to have to suck it up (and hold my nose). 

I bought us all season passes.  Yes, the summer is nearly over, but the park is open until late September, so we'll get in plenty of ride time.  I can't let my fears stop everyone else in my house from living. 

I couldn't help but to buy this picture snapped of us while riding one of the coasters. Our faces sum up our personalities exactly.  My fearless husband and daughter in front, pure joy and excitement on their faces.  My son, the reserved one, pulls in close to me while managing a smile.  Then, there's me.   Just look at me.  I'm a basket case, but even as much as I hate to admit it...it was worth every penny.
As the first night came to an end with a fantastic fireworks display and Katy Perry singing, "Firework" over the park's sound system, my nothing's-ever-fun kind of son looked at me and said, "This night was perfect." 

Yeah....pretty much.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Expecto Patronum!!!!!!!!!

Maybe I should be ashamed that I am a forty-two year-old woman with a serious Harry Potter addiction. Perhaps the fact that I can rattle off spells and the names of angst-filled teenage wizards means that I have a little growing up to do myself. Now that the last book has been written and the final installment of the movie series is debuting this weekend, I suppose I should find my way back from Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and settle into the grown up world of mortgages, laundry, and rednecks in tube tops at Wal-Mart. Hmmmm…maybe not.

My intense love affair with magic began before the author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, even learned to write in cursive. I can pinpoint the exact moment I became hooked – it was the first time I sat down in front of our ugly console television and tuned in to watch “Bewitched”. You remember the lovely Samantha Stevens, don’t you? She was the blonde-haired witch living the good life in suburbia with her anxious, non-magic husband, Darrin, and a host of wizarding relatives who always seemed to pop in unannounced. (Dr. Bombay was my favorite.) Each week there would be a witch or warlock throwing a stick into the Stevens’ best laid plans, and madcap hilarity would always ensue. With one twitch of her perky nose, Samantha could make nearly anything possible. That’s what I wanted. That’s why I fell in love with magic.

As silly as it sounds, pretending to be magic made my childhood seem a little less dysfunctional. I lived in an elaborate fantasy world where I could snap my fingers during those long, hot summers and escape from our tiny un-air conditioned house to a beautiful place with lush, green lawns, sparkling swimming pools, and parents who didn’t have to labor in dead end jobs for a paltry salary. I would climb into bed at night and rest my head on the sill of my open window, hoping to catch a stray warm breeze while staring up at the stars and dreaming of what it would be like to be able to utter an incantation and, all at once, make everything better. In my wizarding world, there was plenty of money to pay the bills, siblings didn’t run away from home, and I never, ever had to eat liver.

I would use my make-believe magic for small things, too, like getting rid of my dreaded freckles or giving myself long, thick blonde hair or treating my wardrobe to an extreme makeover. I could wiggle my nose like Samantha Stevens and, in an instant, I had every Barbie Doll and Barbie Doll accessory on the market. I was a very busy pretend witch.

I never truly outgrew the whole “wanting to be magic” thing, so it was no surprise that when Harry Potter hit the scene, my love of wizardry was re-kindled. His tale was even more appealing to me because it was my childhood dream come true. Here is a boy who lived an oppressive life with relatives who resented his very existence, and then, out of the blue, Harry is told that he is actually a wizard who gets to trade in his miserable “cupboard under the stairs” for a castle with talking paintings and flying cars that drive themselves. I guess the down side is that he has a Dark Lord trying desperately to kill him, but to have a working magic wand and a broomstick that really flies, I might just consider the whole trying-not-to-get-murdered thing a necessary evil. I guess it can’t always be sunshine and butterflies, even if you do have magical powers.

I have immersed myself in the Harry Potter culture. My kids have the Gryffindor robe and hat, along with the entire library of movies. (Of course, the books are better.) I soaked up the lives of these young wizards as if they were part of my family, and in the ultimate act of complete geekiness, I even have the Harry Potter app on my phone.

Just as when I was a child, getting absorbed into this magical world allows me to escape for a while from the Real World with its wars, murdered toddlers, and an economy lingering in the crapper. I think how much fun it would be to actually have an invisibility cloak, especially when it’s time to unload the dishwasher or clean up dog poop, and who among us wouldn’t love to get their hands on a time turner, making it possible to go back to high school to fix our stupid fashion mistakes?

Like Samantha Stevens did decades ago, Harry Potter adds a little bit of whimsy and adventure to a grown-up life that is mostly humdrum and predictable. So, if you promise not to mock my love of all things wizard, I swear I won’t judge you for falling in love with a brooding young vampire…

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Girls just wanna have fu-un...

My maternal grandmother died when I was twelve years old.  We all loved that woman with her thick, Southern accent and horn-rimmed glasses.  Unlike my father's mother, she actually enjoyed being our Granny, giving us unlimited hugs and pajamas for Christmas.  She took up ceramics in her senior years, and I loved visiting her apartment filled with Holly Hobbies, assorted animals, and a couple of lighted Christmas trees that she painted by hand.  We went to the same church, and I thought it was funny that she would always get up to greet the family before the service started, but she never actually sat with us.  She would go back to her pew in the clearly defined Blue Hair section where she was the Mayor.  My Granny was part Cherokee Indian, and I would daydream about what her life must have been like growing up in the Appalachian Mountains in the early 1900's.  (One look at my picture and it's obvious I did not inherit any of that Cherokee blood.)

Her death came after a very brief illness.  It was devastating, especially for me, as I was still just a kid.  Even today, I can remember my mom coming home from the hospital in tears with the news, and how I went outside to swing on my swingset, letting the idea of a world without Granny sink in to my brain.  After the burial, we all met back at my aunt's house for the traditional post funeral meal of fried chicken, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding.  The house was packed, so I slipped outside unnoticed because something caught my eye earlier in the day, and the burgeoning bad girl in me needed to investigate.

My older cousin came back to town for the service, and I took quite an interest in the fact that he was driving a motorcycle.  The younger cousins and uncles were admiring the bike, and I was among them.  I loved the idea of racing down the highway, wind whipping my hair and rushing around me like a hurricane.  The freedom of the open road was calling my pre-teen heart. 

Noticing my obvious lust for life, he offered to take me on a spin around the neighborhood.  I knew without asking that my mom would never let me get on that motorcycle, so, of course, I gave a resounding, "YES!"  I had to be discreet because my mother didn't need any more stress, and if she found out I went for a ride on that bike, my funeral would be next.  When the coast was clear, I hopped on, helmet-less, and off we sped into the blazing sun. (South Carolina still doesn't have a helmet law. Hello?)

It was a glorious ride.  I had only ever been on my blue and pink Huffy bicycle, so I felt like I was on a rocket to Mars that late summer afternoon.  Luckily, we made it back safe and sound, and it felt so good to be so bad, as I giggled over what I thought would be our little secret.  It was our little secret for about thirty seconds after he parked the bike because as I was getting off, I dragged my mischievous, little calf across the fiery-hot muffler.  That's right. In an instant, I went from pure joy against a soundtrack of crickets and cicadas to falling on the ground and gasping at the sight of a nasty burn the size of a plum on the inside of my leg.  It was oozing and sloughing off skin, and I thought I heard a small voice off in the distance whispering, "Karma is a bitch".

The secret was out.  How could I not tell my mom?  If no medical attention was required, my leg at least needed Mama attention.  If she hadn't been distracted by the sadness of the day, she would have kicked my butt right there in front of God and second cousins twice removed.  The burn was so disgusting as it started to heal that my older brother called me "Pizza Leg" for weeks.  I still have the scar to remind me of the start of my girl gone bad ways.

So, what made me think back to this painful day, a day that marked the beginning of my rebellion against all that is good and pure?  This is my daughter...

She's six years old.  Does it scare me to know that she would have driven off on this motorcycle given half a chance?  Do I cringe at the thought of my mother's words coming true?  ("Just wait.  You'll have a daughter some day, and she'll give you a hard time just like you're giving me!")  Do I worry that she'll fall for a tall, skinny, dark-haired guitar player who is just as addicted to her as he is addicted to crystal meth?  In one word: Yes.

My daughter is so much like me.  She hates authority, is fiercely independent, loves the bad boys, and knows that her way is the only way.  What scares me more is that she is also everything I'm not:  bubbly, adventurous, the life of the party, and fearless.  My anxiety kept me out of jail, in school, and off Welfare.  With this combination of personality traits, my child will either be the President of the United States or the CEO of a high-end call girl business catering to out-of-control sitcom stars.  At this point, I can see it going either way.

I'm encouraging the straight and narrow.  Even though I laugh about her love of tattoos and shaking her booty, I have my hand on her shoulder, gently guiding her away from the road I trod.   Honestly, I was really hoping that "Wild Child" gene would have skipped a generation...