Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Halloween Tale of Terror

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought this would be a good time to share one of the most horrifying Halloween stories that ever happened to me. Please don’t read this in a darkened room, and it’s best if you make certain that you’re not alone. You have been warned!

Back in the year 19 something, I was in my last year of elementary school in the town of Pleasant Hill, California. Across the road from our school was the local police station. It was an old building then though I’m sure it’s since been replace with something made of steel bars with lots of glass. Back then they used a remodeled old house with a very dark basement. Every year, the police officers and their families would convert this dark basement into the “Basement of Horror!”  It was a great Halloween activity and the money they raised was used for charity.

This particular year I chose to dress up as a Chinese maiden in a silk kimono top and matching silk pants. After our traditional Halloween party at school, my friends and I decided to go through the police station’s “Basement of Horror!” and though I never much liked being frightened, I was more concerned about letting down my friends then any possible fear factors.

My memories of the tour are pretty vague for the most part. I remember huddling in a group with my friends as we passed through each scenario, screaming when one creature or another would jump out or touch us. But there was one moment that is etched into my memory permanently.

As we came around a corner, I saw a large white wooden coffin leaned up against the wall. I don’t know what it is about a coffin, but its mere presence gives me the creeps. Of my group of friends, I was the one standing closest. I tried to move away but my friends and I were pretty much hemmed in on either side and by masses of other scared kids.

The coffin door swung open and a corpse stepped out of the box, right next to me. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs. Suddenly I had a strange sensation in the lower half of my body. No, I didn’t wet myself. Even worse. I looked down and my silk Chinese pants were now sitting in a puddle around my ankles where they had slid off, leaving my bare legs and pretty pink and yellow panties for everyone to see. 

Truthfully I don’t know who was more startled, me or the teenage boy who was playing the undead zombie. 

My fight or flight instinct had kicked in big time, and fighting wasn’t a consideration. I had two options, simply run out of the room leaving my pants and any dignity I had left behind or I take a few precious terror filled moments and pull up my pants before making my mad dash.  I chose the second option.

That pretty much ended any future visits to haunted houses, gardens, basement, forest or any other October attractions for me. However, I’ve often wondered about the boy playing the spook. I imagine he went home to his family, proud to inform them, that he had been so frightening, he had literally scared  some poor little girls pants off.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When is A Truth Not A Truth - When Deanne Writes it!

It has come to my attention that last week’s blog raised some concern among my extended family. While this is a good thing, it means they are reading what I write, it also caused me to take a look at my writing style, and realize that maybe I should clarify what is actually fact and what is exaggeration/fiction/humor/bull each week in my blog.

For the record none of my children were in a car with a bunch of drunken smokers who crashed into a tree. If they had been, I would hope they’d been wearing their seatbelts or at least taken out a sizeable life insurance policy with me as beneficiary, because if the accident didn’t kill them, I would.

What did happen last week, was I got into a discussion/argument with my indignant and testosterone filled youngest  teenage son who asked why I had the right to come up with punishments for him. I took if form there.

In my blogs, I like to take a little event from my home life, then blow it so out of proportion that the child or adult in question wouldn’t recognize it should they stumble across the story on the web. 

For example, this week’s blog is based on an exchange between my nearly 16 year-old-daughter and myself.  She came into the kitchen and announced that she would be going to school early to attendance school to make up a couple of absences. She explained that 4 tardys equal an absence, and that her science class is held out on the far side of the school in the green house where it’s hard for her to get there one time. That’s it, a very normal somewhat boring parental exchange.  

And then I started to work on it….

The Secret Inner World of the American Mom

I don’t know if it’s because the media is constantly reporting on all the ill’s befalling our society, or a kick back to my own teenage days where I watched my friends and other school mates participate in risky and sometime dangerous behaviors, but I have grown into an extremely paranoid mom. I suspect my children’s motivates and behaviors at every turn as I try to keep them on the straight and narrow. 

Take for example the exchange with my daughter last Thursday night after dinner.

“Mom,” she announces with that casual sing-song voice she uses when she’s trying to play down some soon to come confession.

“Yes?” My ears perk up at that tone in her voice.

“I missed some classes this last month, and I have to go to attendance school tomorrow morning to make them up.”

Missed some classes? When could this have happened? I think I know my daughters every move. If she wasn’t in school she’d be home sick or with me at the dentist. Unless…
Had she started to cut classes?  Had those wild friends of her convinced her to leave the campus and walk down to the Purple Turtle for a burger? No, teenagers don’t cut class for food. Maybe she went to get a tattoo? If she has a tattoo I’m going to murder her. 

What if they didn’t walk? What if they got a ride from some crazy 16 year-old boy driving his parent’s mustang while he kissed his girlfriend up in the front seat, trying to stay on the right side of the road?

I tried to control the panic in my voice. “When did you miss class?”

She flips her head and grins. “I didn’t miss class, you know that. But I was late a few times. Four tardys are counted as missing a class.”

She was late? That could only mean one, or two… or several things. She was smoking grass under the trees by the end of the field with her new druggy friends. Or she was busy texting a guy, maybe a Senior guy and lost track of time. I’m so going to take away that cell phone of hers. Or maybe she was being harassed at school. Why wouldn’t she tell me about the bullies?

“It’s right after lunch” she continued. “So it’s hard to get there and eat too.”

Bulimia!!!! That sounds just like what someone would say who was busy throwing up her lunch every day. I had to get her to a therapist right away. If only I’m not too late!

 “Uh where is the class?” I ask, trying not to let her see how anxious I am.

“Way on the other side of the campus. I have to run the whole way. But I told my teacher I’ll try to be better at coming on time so I don’t have to go to attendance school again.”

I can breath. She is making responsible decisions. She is the good girl I always thought she was.

“Well thanks for letting me know,” I say as casually as I can. “It’s good to know I can always trust you.” 

She slides out of the room, smiling from ear to ear as her younger brother makes his way in…

“Hey mom, do you remember that rule about not driving in the car with drunken smokers unless you’re wearing your seat-belt? Well…..”

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Rules of the Game

I read a bumper sticker the other day, posted on the back of a fifteen passenger van, driven by a woman with half of her hair pulled out, and a strange glazed look in her eyes. The message read, “Better Ask Your Teenager NOW, while they still know everything.” I smiled at her in motherhood induced sympathy. 

“You’re just trying to totally mess up my life aren’t you?”

That is how the conversation with my fourteen-year-old son began late Sunday afternoon.
Apparently he felt that his discovery of a loop-hole in a family rule deserved my admiration, and not the immediate punishment that actually occurred.

“You think you know everything,” he continued. “What gives you the right to just pull a punishment out of the air, whether it’s fair or not?”

An interesting question.

In my defense I didn’t cut his hands off, lock him in a dungeon or place him on bread and water for the duration of the week. I simply grounded him from playing computer or video games for the last four hours of the day, a punishment that was dramatically extended when he wouldn’t stop arguing his point.

How do parents come up with the punishments, meant to teach their young people that stupid choices bring unpleasant repercussions? My sixteen-year-old daughter suggested that a family counsel should be convened where all possible rule infractions could be considered, and an appropriate punishment decided on by popular vote, our pet dog being given the tie breaker responsibility in the event of a stalemate.

“So, the curfew is at 12:30 a.m., and everyone but the child in question, is smoking and drinking in the car, when suddenly a deer jumps into the middle of the road, causing the driver of said vehicle to swerve into a ditch, thus causing the said stinky but sober kid to show up at 1:15 a.m. What, if any, is an appropriate punishment? And can some of it be commuted if said child can prove that they were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident?”

There in lies is the challenge, to come up with an appropriate punishment that is both humane and just, while at the same time severe enough to at least make a teenager think, before they go jumping into a car full second-hand smoke and drunken teenagers.

In real life, the results of stupid actions aren’t always as mild as a simple grounding or a few extra hours of house work. They can be major big deals like income loss, jail time or death. And if we as parents don’t get these lessons drilled into our kids now, while we at least have a little control over them, we’ll have to sit and watch them screw up for years and years to come.

And so, with all the love and compassion I can muster, I give him my answer.

“The same supreme power who sent you to me in the first place, who let me love and care for you, and who will hold me responsible if you don’t learn right and wrong before you walk out of my front door for good, He is the one who gave me the right… and you’re still grounded.”

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