Friday, October 28, 2011

Fright Night

 With autumn's chilly wind blowing outside of my window, forcing the nearly-bare trees to scrape against the house like skeleton fingers across a chalkboard and only the glow of my computer monitor to light the room, it seems to be the perfect night to share a frightening tale of how my sister and a murderous maniac in a hockey mask scarred me for life.  Okay, okay, I don't really blame my sister for the traumatic event that unfolded the summer of my eleventh year, but she was at least the enabler for the murderous maniac.

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, not really, but that would have been so perfect...

 It was actually a hot summer day during the sweltering month of June, 1980.  I had just finished  sixth grade, and I was looking forward to spending my extended vacation avoiding the sun by watching "All My Children," "One Life to Live," and "General Hospital" every afternoon and chasing after the pesticide spray truck every evening.  This year was a little different, though.  My mom was sending me off to a sleep-away camp for the first time.  I was never an adventurous kid, but my best friend would be in my cabin, so I hoped to keep my homesickness at bay with a familiar face.

The week before my departure for camp, my older sister stopped by for a visit, and, sensing my utter and complete boredom, she asked if I would like to go to a matinee showing of a new movie that was was recently released.  Are you kidding me?  Is Susan Lucci actually a vampire who sucks the blood of young, ambitious ingenues to keep herself beautiful forever?  You betcha! Yes, I was ready to go before she even got the words out of her mouth.  However, there was one small detail in the plan that gave me pause: the movie she was taking me to was none other than the original "Friday the 13th," the movie about a killer who was slashing his way through - wait for it - a summer sleep away camp.  I swallowed hard and went anyway.

I had never seen a slasher movie before.  The closest I had ever come to terror on the screen was watching a hail storm ruin Pa Ingalls crop on "Little House on the Prairie".  The only blood-curdling screams I ever heard came from Laverne and Shirley when Lenny and Squiggy would bust open the door and say, "Hello!"

It couldn't be that bad, right?  They don't actually show people being hacked to death, do they? Although I try to block the images from my head, I can still see the first victim. She was against a tree, and the killer slit her throat wide open.  I was stunned.  To my eleven-year-old brain, this sh!t was REAL.  Over and over, the beautiful counselors met their doom.  The scene that is seared into my brain forever was between two young lovers.  They are getting down to business on a cot in one of the cabins (because that's what teenagers do when their friends are being brutally murdered) while unbeknownst to them, the killer was hiding beneath the bed.  When the guy leaves the room and his date is completely vulnerable, the murderer plunges a knife up into the mattress and completely through the girl's throat.  (I'm pausing here to regain my composure.)

A few days after seeing the movie, my mom dropped me off at camp.  I nervously walked through the woods to my cabin, anxiously checking behind every tree for an axe murderer.  When I walked through the door, I screamed, "Get back! The top bunk is mine!"  I carefully avoided consuming any liquids after 6pm for fear that nature would call and I would answer for the last time, meeting my fate in a mosquito-filled latrine.  It was Hell Week for me because each time I rode in a canoe, I was sure the monster would jump up from out of the murky water and drag me my death.

I have never gotten over that movie.  For years - literally - I would pile stuffed animals around me in bed at night with the hope that goodness and love would protect me from the cold fingers of a machete-wielding lunatic.  To this day, I am still afraid of the dark.  Ask anyone who knows me.  I sleep with the television blasting away all night.  There are night lights, sometimes more than one, in every room of my home.  When the powers goes out, I am a complete basket case.

So, thank you, Jason Voorhees, for reducing me to a cowering, scared little camper.  I must admit, though...I did take away one valuable lesson from that movie.  If you hear strange noises and suspect that there may be an evil-doer nearby, never, ever, ever have sex with that hot co-ed you've been dating.  You are surely sealing your fate if you do.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The view from the other side of 40...

I'm turning 43 years old this week, and I'm perfectly fine with it.  I'm not one of those people who fret over being another year older. I recognize that being on this side of the dirt, so to speak, is a good thing. So while I was on the internet goofing off doing research on how to save the planet, I came across this writer and young mom who took a moment on her 32nd birthday to recap what she "learned, figured out, or witnessed" during the last year.   I was intrigued because I have a completely different outlook on life in my forties than I did in my early thirties.  My life now wouldn't even be recognizable to the "Me" back then.

I read her list and liked it.  The first thing that came to my mind is that she is a much nicer person than I am and probably not a sarcastic control freak.  (I'm not too full of myself to admit that.)  I was nodding my head, thinking that she did a good job of summing up a few of life's truths that we need to accept sooner or later.  But as I got to the end of her post, I couldn't help but think that there is another chapter to be added, a chapter with a few more truths that you probably don't think about when you're 32 years-old.  These are lessons  I've learned now that I'm firmly in my forties...
  • Don't drink boxed wine.  Sure, you get more mileage from a box than from a bottle, and with the economy in the crapper, it's tempting, but what you need to do is savor.  Go for quality over quantity.  Getting drunk is for frat boys and Lindsay Lohan.  Lock the bathroom door, draw a warm bath, pour a glass, and reconnect to often as you can. (Well, not too much or you'll never get the laundry done.)
  • The world won't end if your young daughter hears a Katy Perry song that has the phrase "menage a trois" in the lyrics.  Believe it or not, you can influence your child more than a pop star.
  • When you get the e-mail from your kid's school asking you to sign up for items to bring to the Fall Festival/Valentine's Party/Teacher Appreciation Day, be sure that you are the FIRST one to respond so that you get to be the mom who brings drinks, cups, and plates instead of food.
  • When you hit your forties, those cupcakes WILL indeed make your ass bigger at a much quicker pace than at thirty.  If you don't want to go up a size or four, you'll probably have to eat something you don't like.
  • Make YOUR KIDS do the dishes before you go to bed.
  • If you make it to your forties and both of your parents are still alive, go hug them.  I wasn't that lucky.
  •  You don't have to wear a thong any more.  So what if people can see your underwear line?  No one looks at a 40-something mom's ass any way.
  • You are not required to complete school projects that are assigned to your children.  Encourage and support? Yes.  Create PowerPoint presentations and stay up late doing research while the kid sleeps? Hell, no.
  • You don't have to like people who are related to you.  When the olive branch you extend is broken, take a deep breath and move on with your life.
  • More than likely, your life will never turn out like you thought it would.  Once you accept it, you'll be much happier.  Sometimes, if you're lucky, it just might turn out better.
  • You will become invisible to young guys once you hit the forty mark.  It's okay because they don't have money any way.  (And they won't watch "The Breakfast Club" with you.)
  • Take care of yourself.  This life is survival of the fittest, remember?  Get your mammograms, use sunscreen, and exercise. Get rid of toxic people and toxic substances in your life.  You need to be around to tell your kids, "I told you so."
I'm sure I could come up with twenty more, but here's another truth about being over forty: Mama needs a glass of wine and a good night's sleep...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Rebuttal: I Promise I Won't Shoot My Eye Out

My kids know about this blog.  They don't really care about it, of course, because I'm old and not cool, and there isn't anything I could possibly write that would be of use to this slick auto tune generation.  However, a few days ago my husband was playing Bejeweled working on the lap top, and when he left to go get more potato chips  save the world, my son got on the computer and, for some reason, read my latest post.  You know...the one I wrote last week?  The one about him.

If you aren't familiar with my latest rant, my eleven-year-old son wants an Airsoft gun, and I quickly responded to his request with a great, big ol' "Hell to the No" before he could barely get the words out.  The foot was down.  The verdict was in, and there would be no appeal granted, but if there is one annoying personality trait that my children inherited from me, it's that they are persistent.  This child went to work.  He did his research.  He fine-tuned his defense.  Then, in an act of sheer desperation, the boy penned his rebuttal to my blog post.  What sixth grader writes an essay without being coerced?  

With his permission, I submit to you his plea:
"I’ve been to many websites that all lead me to believe that airsoft guns are safe. It has been proven by many weapons experts that it is a safe sport, and it is also a very active sport for kids that is fun and gets you the exercise you need everyday. Airsoft guns are not weapons that can harm anyone, and one of their main characteristics shows that they are not lethal: the orange tip on the barrel. 

Airsoft is nothing like a BB gun because they shoot small plastic balls at such a minimal speed that they cannot hurt or injure unless you are not playing properly, or for example, not wearing the proper eyewear or shooting too close with one of the more accurate guns.  While playing airsoft, it is a good idea that you play with the proper eyewear, which is the simple shooting glasses sold with many airsoft gun kits and many retail stores.  Airsoft began in the 1980’s and no one has been fatally injured ever in the whole existence of the product.

Last year when I pleaded for an airsoft gun the answer was no, so I told you I would be more responsible and earn the trust. I’ve done many things this year such as getting my own phone, and I’ve been responsible with it. I got the internet in my own bedroom, and I’ve been responsible with that. I’ve even started playing soccer while working as hard as I can to keep my straight A's. 

I have done my best at school, kept up being safe with my things, and made a promise to myself to try to be a better person. I am ready for the privilege of owning an airsoft gun. I promise to be safe with my guns, only shoot when adults are out to supervise, always wear the proper protection, and never to shoot someone or something that does not want to be shot, with that I conclude." 

My first thought was "who wants to be shot" and the second was that he wasn't playing fair.  He should just accept my final word and move on with his pre-teen life.  That would have happened except that his friends were planning an "Airsoft Party" this week where the boys build forts and run through the woods shooting at each other.  (Safely shooting at each other because they want to be shot at, right?) My husband kept feeding his hope behind my back which goes against every rule in the Parental Code section titled "Present A Unified Front So The Kids Don't Win". His closing argument against my blog post was that he had plenty of his own money to buy the gun, so it's not like it would cost me anything.  (Except medical bills when he shoots his eye out) 

I debated this over and over in my head.  He kept calling me into his room at night to read articles on Airsoft safety.  (Clearly this child will be an attorney one day.) Mothers whom I have a deep respect for as parents have let their kids have these guns. Plus, the kid wrote a paper! Lastly, I realized that if I wasn't paying for it, then it boiled down to one thing: is he responsible enough to own one? 

I said yes, damn it.  The boy has his gun.  Now, I'm practicing another phrase, one that I really hope I don't have to use: "See there?  I TOLD you those things were dangerous!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!!!

My eleven-year-old son wants an Airsoft gun.  With an arsenal of the Nerf variety already cluttering my house, I really didn't see the need to start a new collection.  We have so many of those foamy Nerf bullets spilling out from every drawer and crevice that we could probably pack and ship a baby grand piano in a pinch.  They're in the yard, too.  Every time I hit one with the lawn mower I hear, "Look! It snowed!"  Ugh.  So, why on Earth does this child need another gun?  (All together, now...say it with me.)  Because everyone else has one.

The name sounds so perfectly benign.  Airsoft.  Aiiiiirsoooooft. It's like a delightful mattress brand or maybe gel inserts for your shoes to help with those nasty bunions.  I have to admit that I'm not a fan of toy guns even if the name does invoke thoughts of a set of 1,200 thread count sheets.  I just hate to see a kid with a gun, and I come from a family chock full of military veterans and manly men who hunt for their meals (insert chest pump here).  Plus, this is the South.  You can't even spit your tobacco juice without hitting a gun rack in a pick up truck.  I should be beaten down to the point of submission on the gun thing by now, but unless the guns are neon colored or squirt water, it gets vetoed by the Queen.

After a year or more of relentless begging, I decided to check out this Airsoft craze.  For as much as my son desperately wanted one, I figured they must spew Cheetos or give answers to geometry homework.  To hear it from this child, you would think every kid in the Free World had one except him, and since I remember throwing the same line at my mom when I wanted a mood ring and a pet rock, I figured I owed it to him to at least Google the gun for good measure. (Google is now a verb.  Weird.)

The boy promised me the guns were completely harmless.  LIAR.  As a mother, of course the first topic I searched was "Airsoft gun accident images".  You must start with the lowest common denominator.  Kids do not possess good judgment when it comes to pointing a gun, and I wanted to see the worst case oops-I-didn't-mean-to-shoot-off-your-earlobe scenario.  It was ugly.  I saw broken teeth, punctured faces, and grown men who looked like they had the measles as they were covered in red holes from the pellets.

Next, I looked up the safety equipment suggested for those interested in cul-de-sac war games.  These completely harmless little toy guns seem to leave quite a mark if you aren't properly protected.  My favorite quote from one of the websites I visited insisted, "They can not kill a person or cause heavy bleeding like a real gun."  Nice. 

You'll only lose your teeth and an eyeball or two unless you're wearing this:

And don't forget that you'll need one of these:

What is this?  Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?   A weapon of suburban destruction for my kid?  Oh. Hell. No.

My son is heavy on the defense now.  He keeps searching the web for the pro to every con I give him.  My main concern is that, at eleven years old, he is still far too immature for a "toy" that can be used to strong arm his little sister.  I can see her taking the last bottle of Gatorade, and BOOM, one shot sends her straight to Sammy Davis Jr Land, sporting a glass eye for the rest of her life. This Mama is putting her foot down.

My husband, however, does not share the same sentiment.  He thinks the boy can learn responsibility by handling his gun properly and using it only as intended.  I say if he needs to work on his maturity, let's have him make sure the dogs have water each day instead of giving him the means to kill small animals.  This is playing out much like "A Christmas Story" with the mom adamantly against it and the dad sneaking around on the sly to have it under the tree on Christmas morning. 

I'm afraid we have come to an impasse on the Great Airsoft Debate, and with December right around the corner, I have been practicing my line over and over again: "You'll shoot your eye out!"