Category Archives: Parenting

The Gift of Magic To My Son Away at Summer Camp

It’s Tech’s birthday. He’s 14 years old today.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know, he’s not home.

He’s at summer camp.

I wasn’t planning to write today, but my sister-in-law happened to be at camp earlier this week when she unexpectedly ran into our son. Knowing she had only a few minutes to chat, she asked him to tell her what he wanted for his birthday. He shrugged and he said something like “I don’t want anything. The two things I want my parents are already getting me.”

This was my response:

1

Because I had no idea.

Also, I had no plan to send anything to Tech for his birthday.

I knew from his previous summers at camp that Marilyn, the chef, would make him a chocolate cake to share with the other kids in his bunk.

I figured that was enough yummy frosted birthday goodness.

I asked my sister-in-law if she knew what Tech was talking about.

2

I couldn’t help it. I called the camp and asked the assistant director to see if she could squeeze some information out of our kid.

A few hours later, I received a text message.

Rhonda note

Poor thing. To her ears, it must have sounded like my kid was speaking in tongues. I can imagine Tech waving his long arms and yammering about “life points” and “damage” and “mana”.

The boy who graduated from LEGO to Minecraft has a new addiction: Magic: The Gathering.

From what I understand, Magic is a card game that involves battles between wizards (“planeswalkers”) who use spells, items and creatures depicted on the cards to defeat their opponents.

Or something.

Apparently, Magic appeals to math lovers. And it involves more complex rules than most other card games.

Why am I not surprised?

Of course my kid would love a game with tons of rules.

My kid loves rules.

And he loves math.

Duh.

I can’t believe the game hasn’t been featured on The Big Bang Theory yet.

It’s that nerdy.

All I know is when we walked into Millennium Games and Cyberstorm Lounge last night (the equivalent of the comic store where Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj hang out), Hubby and I were the only people without pierced septae.

{septae? that looks weird. but you know what i mean, right?} 

Anyway, we were painfully uncool.

{or possibly we were the coolest people in the room}

Because we were 100% illiterate when it came to Magic.

The others?

Knew. Everything.

Wall of Magic Cards in Henrietta, New York

Wall of Magic Cards in Henrietta, New York

Luckily, the kind (and uber patient) people at Millennium Games were more than happy to school us.

Thanks to them, I now know:

  • Magic was introduced in 1994
  • Some playing cards sell for as much as $3,100
  • This year’s Magic tournament held in Las Vegas hosted over 4,500 players with $40,000 going to the top player
  • About 12 million geeks people play Magic worldwide

So.

Our package is en route to our son. He’ll get it later today.

Tech rarely asks for anything.

{which is probably why I jump when I hear there’s something he wants}

More than anything, I hope my son’s friends make him feel special today. Maybe the staff will sing to him over the PA system and make him skip around the room.

{twice}

Hopefully, he’ll have chocolate cake with his bunkmates.

And hopefully, our kid will kick butt with his lightly played Chandra the Firebrand card.

{whatever that is}

What unusual gift requests have you made/received?

tweet me @rasjacobson

This post was not sponsored; however, I imagine I’m going to be spending a lot of money at Millennium Games over the next few years, so if they’d like to offer me a discount, I wouldn’t complain.

Advertisements

Incident on a Plane

At the end of the flight, two boys sitting one row apart stood up and discovered each other. Neither of them could have been more than 7-years-old. One little guy held a Buzz Lightyear action figure; the other gripped a pile of Pokémon cards in his hands. While waiting for people on the plane to file out, they boys introduced themselves and chattered about their love for Minecraft and Legos.

“We have lots in common!” Jesse announced.

For a few minutes, the boys lived without fear of loving or not being loved. Neither was afraid of being rejected. They stood with their hearts open, unafraid of being hurt. And they were actually doing a pretty good job of it.

“Also, we both have something wrong with us.” Mason pointed to his mouth. Anyone could see the brackets and rubber bands on his tiny teeth. “I have braces, and you have those things on your ears.”

Jesse’s mother pressed her son against her hip. “Are you talking about Jesse’s Super Special Auditory Amplification System?” she asked. I could practically hear her inner monologue. Stay calm. He’s just a child. He’s not trying to be cruel.

hearing-aids-heart“No,” Mason shook his head. “I’m talking about his hearing aids.

The plane was emptying quickly and Jesse’s mother asked her son to take one last look around to make sure he had all his belongings. As Jesse bent down, she leaned in to say something.

“Work with me here, Mason,” she whispered. “One day, your teeth will be straight. This hearing loss thing is forever.”

Jesse popped up like a meerkat. He handed his mother some candy wrappers, which she pushed into her pocket. Grabbing her suitcase from out of the overhead bin, she guided her son out of the row so he could walk down the narrow aisle in front of her.

“Jesse!” Mason waved his plastic Buzz Lightyear in the air. “Bye Jesse!” But the boy with the Pokémon cards didn’t turn around, and Mason looked wounded.

“You shouldn’t have mentioned his hearing aids!” Mason’s mother scolded. Throwing her purse over her shoulder, she pulled her son out the door.

The boys didn’t mean to hurt each other.

They didn’t.

But mothers love.

And a mother’s love, which sometimes seems weak can also make us fierce. We want the world to appreciate our most precious people the way we do.

But isn’t this life? And don’t we, adults, sometimes find ourselves in these kinds of situations? Sometimes we make the wrong assumptions. We may inadvertently touch a tender place near someone’s heart. We may injure someone and never understand what it is that we did to hurt them. Or we may feel injured or rejected ourselves.

In airports, people carry suitcases and backpacks, but people lug around invisible baggage, too.

With friends, we like to think we have an inkling, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the feelings in our friend’s hearts are as far away as a distant galaxy or an exotic sounding destinations, like Kamakura or Fuzhou.

If only we could all activate our own Super Special Auditory Amplification Systems and really hear what’s going on inside each other’s heads. If only we weren’t so quick to believe the worst about each other.

Ever had an interaction with a stranger that wasn’t well received? How about a positive one? Do you talk to strangers on planes?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Click here to be connected to the Yeah Write Challenge grid.

Click here to be connected to the Yeah Write Challenge grid.

I’m linking up this week to the fabulous and inspiring writers and Yeah Write. Click on the badge to see what they’re about and join us.

 

Write An Old-Fashioned Letter To My Kid At Camp

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 8.20.13 AM

Last year, Tech went to overnight camp for a month. When he got home, he ate and slept. And then he complained that I hadn’t written enough.

You guys, I wrote a lot of letters.

Seriously, I wrote one every other day. That’s 14 letters, if you round down.

My son claims some kids received mail every single day.

This year my son is going to overnight camp for the entire summer.

That’s seven weeks, people.

I don’t have enough going on in my life to write him a letter every stinkin’ day. I know what you’re thinking: use your imagination. Believe me, I sent that boy plenty of creative letters, but there’s such a thing as burnout.

Plus, I’m old-school in that I believe there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned letter. One that someone wrote with his or her own hand.

Those types of letters take a little longer to craft.

So I’m appealing to you, my friends from the blogosphere. You’re readers and writers. You’re funny and smart and creative. You have pens and stamps.

WILL YOU WRITE TO MY KID WHILE HE’S AT CAMP?

Last year I asked you to write to Tech at camp, and you did! I gave him all your letters on Visitor’s Day, and he responded to people in a 3-part post when he returned home. If you’d like, you can check out Part I • Part II • Part III

This year, I’m begging asking you to write my kid a handwritten letter.

Partly because I think it’ll be hilarious for Tech to receive letters from people he doesn’t know.

But also because I’ve noticed how few people send letters anymore. Sure, we have email, mobile phones, and Facebook, but sometimes it’s nice to go to the mailbox and find something with your name on it.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 11.45.22 AM

ALSO, IT’S TIME FOR A CONTEST.

Here’s what you do to enter:

  • Write a letter of any length, appropriate for a 14-year-old boy.
  • It must be handwritten. Typed letters will be disqualified.
  • It must be legible. Please print neatly. 
  • It must be pretty. No boring white paper. Be creative.
  • Send the letter to me between now & July 31, 2013. If you send it after that, I won’t be able to get it to Tech in time as U.S. Postal Service to camp is wicked slow!

When I receive your letters, I’ll steam open the envelopes to check out the submissions. That’s right, I’ll review each letter for originality, creativity, and visual appeal before forwarding it to the boy at camp.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

I’ll feature my favorite letters on my blog, and include blurbs about their authors. 

One of you stands to win best letter writer. That person will win a $25 gift card to somewhere awesome.

Tech isn’t in the dark. He’s agreed to respond to the winner. In addition to sending a handwritten letter to the winner via U.S. mail, I’ll post his illegible, yet handwritten response on my blog.

When writing a kid at camp, there are 3 rules.

Rule #1: Don’t be sad. Never tell your child that you are missing her so much that it hurts. That’s a disaster. And if your kid writes to say he is homesick, don’t get all hyper and tell him you’ll pick him up. Oy. He’s just venting.

Rule #2: Don’t be scary. At overnight camp, kids are completely cut off from the outside world. They really don’t know what’s going on, so it’s not funny to say the family pet died. They don’t need to hear about shootings or death or illness. A zombie apocalypse isn’t funny when you are away from the people you love.

Rule #3: Be funny. Camp is fun – and your letters should be too. Tell stories. Take a moment from your day and embellish it like crazy. When I write to Tech, I try to entertain him. Suggested topics: 1) girls, 2) Minecraft, 3) fencing, 4) Euchre, 5) technology (since he won’t have any), 6) tips on how to live with mean kids, 7) tips regarding how he can keep track of his socks.

If all else fails, tell him about what you used to do when you went to camp.

Unless you set things on fire or got girls pregnant.

In which case,  don’t write about that.

*smiles*

If you’d like to write a handwritten letter to Tech while he’s at summer camp, please indicate your interest in the comments section. I’ll contact you with the necessary information. Don’t wait. You know what happens when you wait. 

tweet me @rasjacobson

Wanna Watch Me Chat?

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 9.33.06 PM

Image courtesy of Gigi Ross aka @KludgyMom!

Today, I participated in a Google+ Hangout with several other mommy bloggers where we discussed how we help our kids follow their bliss while managing a sane schedule for ourselves.

Gigi Ross of KludgyMom was our moderator.

If you spend eleventy-twenty skillion hours shlepping your kids around, or if you struggle with other issues around managing your children’s extracurricular activities, you’ll want to listen to the conversation.

We broadcasted live at 1 pm EST/10 am PST.

But you can watch it here:

How do YOU balance extracurricular activities in your house? Which is more important: school or extracurricular activities? How do you teach your kids to enjoy the thrill of victory but press on despite the agony of defeat? How do you gauge the right activity level for your kids? And seriously, how do you get everyone everywhere and still make dinner? 

tweet me @rasjacobson

NOTE: If you haven’t entered to win a 9-pack sampler of GoGoSqueeZ, there’s still time. Click HERE for details!

Snacks For Summer Camp: A #Giveaway via @GoGoSqueez

Cal

TechSupport poses with one of his favorite snacks.

When I went to overnight camp, we weren’t supposed to bring any food from home. Instead, we got to visit “canteen” once a week, where we could select two treats. I always selected one half-melted chocolate thing and a purple ICEE.

Of course, that single weekly visit was never enough, and we wrote whiny letters home begging our parents to send us food.

Once, my mother sent me a package filled with all kinds of goodies. Sadly, none of that delicious contraband made it beyond the office, as someone in there figured out that the lumpy Cookie Monster stuffed animal had been unstuffed and filled with all kinds of junk food.

That sucked.

In less than 3 weeks, my 13-year-old son will head off to overnight camp.

For seven weeks.

images

So long as it has one of these on it, we’re good.

TechSupport’s camp allows him to bring in food — so long as it’s kosher. This is always a bit of a conundrum as it’s difficult to find kosher snacks that are healthy, tasty, reasonably priced, and don’t require refrigeration.

But this year, I’ve got it figured out.

*insert happy dance*

The good folks at GoGoSqueeZ have nine flavors of applesauce that can be easily put into kids’ overnight trunks —  and they don’t even have to be refrigerated.

Not only is GoGoSqueez kosher, but it’s also all-natural, gluten-free, wheat-free, and vegan-friendly. It doesn’t contain any yucky stuff like high fructose corn syrup or added colors or flavors.

Listen, I know my kid is going to eat his fill of s’mores at camp.

Like every night, probably.

But I also know he loves GoGoSqueez cinnamon-applesauce.

So I’m stoked about sending him off with something homegrown that comes from a company that uses the best ecological practices to grow and harvest their fruit.

Good snacks are like currency at camp, so the kids in my son’s bunk are in for a treat if they want to trade.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 10.18.21 PMAnd guess what?

Y’all are in for a treat too because the folks at GoGoSqueeZ are offering one lucky winner* a chance to try their 9-flavor sampler.

Your kids don’t have to settle for plain ole apple.

Oh no.

You can see which flavor your children like best: appleapple, applegrape, applecherry, apple-banana, applepeach, applemango, applecinnamon, applestrawberry and appleberry!

If you sign up for the GoGoSqueeZ newsletter and place your order online, you’ll receive 10% off your entire order.

I bought the 20-pouch sampler.

I figure that should hold my kid.

For about 3 weeks.

Oy.

What do you have to do to win?

1. Leave me a comment telling me the kind of snacks you remember eating during the summer. 

If you went to overnight camp, which one did you attend? Did you have a canteen to raid? If you didn’t go to overnight camp, why the heck not do you ever wish you did? What other kosher snacks can I send to camp with my kid? Oh, and no, they can’t use hot pots.

2. For an extra chance to win, tweet MY POST:

Need help regarding what to say? Copy & paste this and make sure your handle is on the tweet!

Enter to win a 9-pouch sampler from @GoGoSqueeZ via @rasjacobson! http://wp.me/pViQq-3ZH #giveaway

tweet me @rasjacobson

*LEGAL STUFF: I received a 9-pouch sampler from GoGoSqueez for TechSupport to try. He still loves apple-cinnamon the best. Big surprise. As you know, I only do reviews when I really LOVE the products. Y’all, you can make appletinis with this stuff. And cook with it. What’s not to love?

*NOTE: Comments will be closed on 6/13 and one winner will be announced on this page on 6/14, so be sure to check back. If I don’t hear back from the winner within 24 hours, Random Number Generator will select a new winner. My apologies, but you have to have a US shipping address to be eligible to win.

Yummy!

Yummy!

NOTE: The winner of the GoGoSqueeZ giveaway is Brown Road Chronicles! Congratulations Steve! Send me your mailing address within the next 48 hours!

When Vacation Lowlights Become Highlights

florida

The other night, I asked my son to tell me his favorite memory from our recent vacation in The Happy House. It was a good one. We swam in the pool and the ocean. We visited with neighbors and spent a day at Magic Kingdom. We planted palm trees and went bike riding. We even had a dinner party where guests came over to watch Syracuse University get crushed by the Wolverines in The Final Four.

“Sitting in my rocking chair and eating pie,” my son said.

Seriously. That was the highlight?

But then I remembered.

When my brother and I were young, we went on a family vacation to Florida with our parents. For weeks, they told us we were going to have the best vacation – ever.

After a long flight and what felt like an even longer drive, we made it to our hotel It was nighttime, and we were all exhausted, so my father left us in the car and went to check in at the front desk. After a while, he returned with a map, a compass, a walkie-talkie and a survival guide.

Not really, but it would have been nice if he’d had that stuff.

Because we walked in circles forever, trying to find The Nepa Hut.

Apparently, the clerk had given my father explicit instructions. We were supposed to walk down a path to where the crushed shells ended, take a left, then a right, being careful not to fall off the pier into the ocean. Eventually, we’d see a gecko sitting on a rock. Or something. I don’t really know.

What the guy at the front desk should have given us was a flashlight.

It was so freaking dark, we couldn’t find our damn room.

Dragging our bags behind us, we wandered back to the lighted lobby where my father confessed we were lost.

My mother must have caused a fuss because we ended up with a guide.

Once in the room, we started to unpack. Someone went to the bathroom.

I heard the flush.

And then I heard my father. “Oh no! he begged. “Omigosh! No!”

homeguides_articles_thumbs_how_to_prevent_an_overflowing_toilet.jpg.600x275_q85_crop

Click for photo credit

You guessed it. The crapper was overflowing. Water poured over the lip of the toilet, spilling onto the floor until the tiles were soaked.

Though my mother threw towels onto the tile floor, the icky water would not stop, and the carpet outside the bathroom door was soon drenched.

While my father dialed housekeeping, my mother chastised him for using too much toilet paper.

My brother and I couldn’t stop laughing. The poopie geyser in the bathroom? That was the best.

He and I danced around the ever-widening wet-spot as our father warned us to keep away from the bathroom door.

It’s one of my favorite vacation memories.

Memories are weird. If I think about it, I suppose it isn’t so much that I love the fact that our toilet overflowed. It’s more that my parents had set this expectation that our vacation was going to be totally awesome, and even when things didn’t go to plan, we found a way to make the most of it. I love the memory of all of us being together, flailing around, figuring things out, being perfectly imperfect with each other.

I suppose if my son forever remembers kicking back in a rocking chair eating a slice of raspberry pie, well, as the kids say, that’s the shit.

What is one of your weird vacation memories? What about memories involving toilets?

tweet me @rasjacobson

challenge106I’m linking up with Yeah Write, a wonderful community of supportive and talented writers. If you’d like to click on the badge, you will be magically transported there. You might even consider submitting your own piece — under 600 words.

 

When Your Kid Is Smarter Than You Are

Photo 43

Many summers ago, our family went to a local art festival, and while I visited another booth, my son found a turquoise and green glass pendant and, though he only had eight dollars in his pocket, he convinced the vendor to sell it to him.

We coined the piece of jewelry my “compliment necklace” because every time I wore it, I received kind words from strangers who gushed over the glass that glowed in the sun.

I loved my necklace like nobody’s business, and I wore it every day.

Recently, while we were vacationing in Florida, the glass pendant slipped off its silver chain and smashed on the bathroom tile.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 9.47.15 PM

“NoooOooooo!” I wailed, falling to my knees. “NoOoo! No! NoooOooo!”

Carrying the jagged shards in my open palm, I showed the pieces to my son who happened to be sitting in his brand new rocking chair, reading a book, and eating a slice of pie.

Standing, my boy put one hand on my shoulder. He’s taller than I am now, so he looked down at me a little. Stepping aside, he pointed to his new rocker, not 24-hours old.

“Come. Sit down. Have a little pie. You’ll feel better.” He offered me his plate.

I shook my head. Because I didn’t want any pie.

I wanted my glass pendant back.

“You bought it for me when you were 7,” I complained. “Every time I wore it, I thought of you.”

My son settled back down in his rocking chair. “If we didn’t lose people and things we love, we wouldn’t know how important they are to us.” My son shoveled some pie into his mouth and pointed to his chest. “Anyway, you don’t need a necklace to think of me. I’m right here.”

At home, TechSupport doesn’t let me tuck him into bed anymore. But, the night my pendant smashed, my son let me cuddle with him for a few minutes. As I stroked his spiky crew cut, I saw a silver thread in his hair.

I tried to pick it out, but it was attached.

Turns out, my 13-year-old has a gray hair.

My husband and I have said our son is an old soul. To us, he’s always possessed the understanding, empathy, and kindness of someone with more life experience.

As a youngster he always shared his toys. He was comfortable with rules, and sometimes, as I explained things to him, he eyed me suspiciously, as if to say: Of course we don’t write on walls, or touch hot pots on the stove, or stick fingers in electrical sockets. Of course, we don’t bite our friends. Or push them. Duh.

Over the years, I’ve complained when he’s been overlooked for awards. It kills me each Friday when his middle school publishes its list of “Great Kids of the Week,” and his name never makes the list. Meanwhile, he doesn’t care. He tells me he doesn’t need his name announced over the loudspeaker or his picture posted in the hallway. He knows about his good deeds, and that’s enough. A stellar student, he doesn’t like me to mention his grades. When he was bullied in elementary school, he refused to retaliate. Even when his father and I gave him permission to kick the bastard who was bugging him in his cahones, our son told us he believed in nonviolence. Like Gandhi. How did he even know about Gandhi in 5th grade? Though middle school can be an unhappy time as teens jockey for popularity, Tech has maintained a core group of smart, kind people who are loyal to each other.

Our son has never been interested in material things.

He has simple requests.

A bed.

A book.

A rocking chair.

A slice of pie.

That one single silver strand of hair on his head confirmed it for me: proof positive that my kid is an old soul — unusually understanding, wise and empathetic beyond his years.

Don’t get me wrong: he’s a teenager, too. He eats constantly, hates putting away his laundry, and making his bed. He laughs at dumb YouTube videos and would play Minecraft all day, if we let him.

But he knows how to talk me down when ants are crawling across the kitchen floor. Or tonight, while I held my stomach as I listened to the news, crammed with voices, the President talking about justice and violence and terror — again.

This is the world I brought you into, my son. A world where things are always breaking. And nothing is solid.

But he has the right words. Reminds me that most people are good people. That G-d hears prayers and love transcends zip codes and time zones.

“Kinda makes you realize your necklace wasn’t such a big deal,” he said.

What will I ever do without him?

Have you ever lost a sentimental something? Do you put on a strong front for your children? Or do you let them see you cry?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Do You Know How To Get To The Emergency Room?

Slide1

When my nephew was 18-months old, he fell down a flight of stairs. Landing with a thwack on the hard brown tiles, he knocked himself out cold. Hearing the awful sound, my brother-in-law ran to find his youngest son, Alec, unconscious at the base of the stairs. Imagine finding your child floppy and unresponsive. Thinking fast, my brother-in-law made one quick phone call, picked up Alec’s limp body, and grabbed his car keys.

“I’m taking your brother to the hospital,” he shouted to his older son, Max. “Grandma is on the way.”

Just 4-years-old at the time, Max paused the two-person video game he had been playing with his father and hurried to the mudroom door.

“Dad?” Max furrowed his brow with concern. “Can I play your guy?”

Standing in the hallway by the garage with Alec cradled in his arms, my brother-in-law conceded: “Yes, Max. You can play my guy.”

Then my brother-in-law drove to the hospital.

A radiologist, he knew exactly where he was going.

Because he drove to the hospital every single day.

I hadn’t thought about that story in years.

Until the other day.

One of my roomies from BlissDom, Greta Funk (aka: Gfunkified), posted a photo on Instagram.

IMG_1037

Apparently, her little guy fell down and went boom.

We all know head wounds bleed a lot, yes?

As it turns out, Erv needed three stitches on his noggin.

And because it was their first trip to the emergency room, Greta had no idea where to go.

IMG_1036

That got me thinking.

If something happened around these parts, what would I do?

Rochester is a small city; you’d think I’d know how to get around after living here for over a decade. However, I haven’t had to make a trip to the you-know-where.

*knock on wood.*

When I saw Greta’s photo, I tried to picture how to get to our nearest hospital, but I couldn’t visualize the best route.

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to find out.

After consulting Google Maps, I now know I live 8.8 miles from the nearest hospital.

But.

It will take me 18 minutes to get there if I take the Expressway.

Twenty-one minutes if I choose to take city streets.

When you’re in panic mode, that isn’t the best time to tap information into your navigational app.

If you are directionally challenged like I am, you might want to do what I did and print out a copy of the instructions and stick them in the glove compartment of your car. Or pre-program the address for your preferred hospital into your GPS or phone. Make it a favorite.

Just in case.

Fingers crossed, you’ll never need to drive anyone to the emergency room, but if you do, at least you’ll know where the heck you are heading.

Everything turned out fine with Greta’s son. His bandages were removed, and he’s down to bump and a Band-Aid.

Look at that face!

My nephew was fine, too.

No concussion. No repeat episodes. Alec is in college now.

And what of his older brother? Max is in medical school.

He still loves video games. But not more than his brother.

What kinds of mishaps have brought you to the ER? And did you know where you were going?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Not a Tale for Children

Recently, I had to make a decision about whether or not to call Child Protective Services. The boy involved is a smart boy. He is not a troublemaker. The people who needed to be reported were the boy’s parents who left him, alone, without any organized adult supervision for several days. In the end, I decided not to do it, but I have fretted over this decision every day since. This is my way of working it out a little.

angel

Not a Tale for Children

His face is not a face. It is an onion to be peeled, a puzzle to be pieced together. His pain is so deep under the surface even he cannot find the center, the source. He remembers very little, but he recalls two sets of hands. The woman’s hands first: long, slender fingers pointing to her chest, and a heart beating there. These hands lifted him when he was tired and could walk no further; these hands ruffled his locks even when he hadn’t bathed; these hands felt like sunshine warming his knee.

The other hands were different. Those hands had fingernails sharpened to claws. Those hands had scarred knuckles. Those hands smelled metallic and gripped a gun with a feeling that he imagines is something close to love. He remembers bruises and fists and, finally, he remembers no hands at all.

He remembers the smell of grass vaguely, but then he is not sure. Maybe he is recalling warm bread with apricot jam, or the scent behind a baby’s knees, or the memory of a thick yellow comforter on a soft bed. A real bed. A place to rest a body or a head.

He remembers he used to have wings, feathers that extended from the center of his back, in the place where his shoulder blades met. His wings were eggshell-colored and silky, too — of this he is certain.

He remembers the day his wings caught fire.

It was the twenty-seventh day after they noticed the wind had stopped moving across the land. Twenty-seven days since the last orange butterfly visited the blue flowers that puffed out purple tongues. On that day, he felt a fist of fire cracking its way up his back and then his wings — which he had always been taught to believe could fly him away from the cracking cement and the muffled rumbling in the distance, the rubble — his beautiful wings turned brown and curled into wispy tendrils of dust.

It had not been a slow burning. His wings exploded into flame and the air around him turned brown and green. He remembers the smell of burning flesh.

Because he was ashamed of his loss, he hid for five days, coming out only at night to scavenge amidst the wreckage, searching for marshmallows and sunflower seeds and bits of cheese. After a while, he forgot what he was hiding for and emerged, small and pigeon-toed. Amazingly, no-one seemed to notice that his wings were gone. Tall, crooked shadows curved over his tiny frame and then rushed past, leaving him questioning if he had ever had them in the first place.

tweet me @rasjacobson

The Day The Last Baby Tooth Fell Out

mouth

My son didn’t lose his teeth.

Nearly all of Tech’s chompers came in all “fakakta,” a Yiddish word meaning completely crazy. They just never got wiggly, so each one needed to be pulled by the dentist.

It seemed like such a chore. Why couldn’t my son just loose his teeth the way other children did? Swallow them accidentally while eating cake or donuts? Why did everything have to be such a production?

I always anticipated a fight on the way to the dentist’s chair. And yet, Tech never complained. Sitting on hard black waiting room chairs, he wasn’t nervous. Not even the first time. He just waited for his name to be called, and after the first time, he was a pro. He knew there would be a shot of Novocain, followed by numbness, followed by pressure. But he had faith in the adults around him. And he always appeared, chewing on a wad of bloody gauze, to hand me a tiny plastic container that held his tooth, or – in one instance – four teeth.

Last Friday, Tech informed me that he had a loose tooth. I didn’t think much of it; I figured eventually I’d call the dentist and make an appointment to have it extracted.

But that night, Tech took one bite into a slice of pizza and spat his mouthful of half-chewed food onto his plate and started mining. It only took a moment for him to find the tiny sauce-covered nugget.

That's it. The last one.

That’s it. The last one.

Holding it in his hands, Tech slurred his words. “Dat’s la lass wun.”

And then I realized what he was saying.

My son had just lost his last baby tooth.

I stopped chewing and looked across the table at my husband.

TechSupport is our only child. At thirteen years old, he is in no hurry to grow up. He tells us stories of classmates who have girlfriends or boyfriends, kids who drink and smoke after school or on weekends at parties he doesn’t attend. He isn’t interested in any of this at the moment. He has only just recently become a little teenagerishy.

And while he may not realize it, at thirteen years old, my son has crossed over. Lately, it feels like he is more on the grown up side of things than on the boy side. He’s tall. And with his longer hair, he looks older than he is – especially when he stands next to some of his friends who are shorter and stubbier than he is.

The Tooth Fairy has always left a little to be desired on our house. Tech figured out I was The Fairy at age 7, when his $2 bill came accompanied by a note typed in my favorite font. When questioned, I could not deny it. He had the evidence. A common-sense kind of guy, Tech has never been interested in magic — except to figure out how the tricks really worked.

That Friday night, after the dishes were done, I found my purse and tried to give my son a few bucks.

He shook his head, refusing. He’d seen the news by then. And even though the story was just unfolding, I think he felt the weight of what had happened in Connecticut.

I moved closer to him. We stand eye to eye these days, and I was surprised to see that night his eyes were light brown, the color of cream soda. I pressed a few single dollar bills against his chest. “It’s the last one! And it fell out all by itself.”

“It just knew to stop holding on.” Tech shrugged. “Kind of like you need to stop holding on, Mom.”

I reached out a hand to touch Tech’s shoulder, but he is squirmy these days, and he moved away. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like being touched.

“Will you just put my tooth in with the others?” he asked.

I raised an eyebrow. How did he know about the purple box in the corner of my husband’s closet?

“Dad showed me,” Tech answered, reading my mind. “I used to think it was weird that you guys kept my teeth. But now… I get it.”

I know it's a little creepy, but...

I know it’s a little creepy, but…

I walked upstairs and sat on the floor inside the quiet closet. As I removed the top to the old blue shoebox, I was surprised by the oddities the box held: an old watch, an ancient skull (a gift given from my father-in-law to my husband, before he went off to medical school), and the purple jewelry box with the psychedelic rectangular pattern on the cover. I opened the purple clamshell and plopped the last of Tech’s baby teeth inside before snapping it shut.

I know that most people do not save teeth. I know plenty of people who think saving teeth is pretty disgusting. I suppose I saved Tech’s teeth because the wonky, misshapen bits are little perfectly-imperfect pieces-parts of a person I love, something that I can hold in my hands. I suppose, one day, those little nubs will serve as a reminder of a simpler, sweeter time: a time when my boy wanted cuddles and Goldfish crackers and not much else.

I shook the purple box.

It sounded like diamonds rattling around in there.

And then I thought about all those kids from the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I thought of their teeth.

I know it’s weird, but grief isn’t logical.

I thought of all those baby teeth that hadn’t yet fallen out.

Of all those permanent teeth that hadn’t yet come in.

How nothing is permanent.

How everything is breakable.

And I wept, alone in the closet.

Because the sky isn’t up there; it is between us.

I have never been a hovercraft parent, but right now, I’m holding on like one of my son’s stubborn teeth: not ready to let go.

What personal mementos of your children are most precious to you?

tweet me @rasjacobson

I’m unplugging until December 27th, but I want to wish those of you who celebrate a Merry Christmas. And to everyone else, I hope you enjoy the time off with family and friends. Let’s get ready to ring in 2013.