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Ancient History

The 1970s Were Artifactastic

Ryley missed several days of school due to a nasty cold that left him with an ear infection. He had mounds of make-up work to finish. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as it’s the end of the school year with projects and finals lurking near. I asked him to compile lists of what he needed to do and keep us in the loop.

His US History class seemed to have the most going on. When he announced he was going to need my help with a small project, I sighed. I knew they were learning about the late 20th century and he probably needed a reliable source. How handy to have a mom born in 1971! “What do you need?” I asked.

“An artifact from the 1970s!”

Artifact? Let me think about that word. Artifact.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an artifact.

The Book of Kells is an artifact.

Rosetta Stone, Nefertiti’s Bust, The Death Mask of King Tut: Artifactastic

There were two things wrong with his request. First, items retained from the 1970s can’t be referred to as artifacts yet. It hasn’t been long enough! Right!? Second, what if it has been long enough? That means I am old. I was so confused.

“You mean you need something from the 1970s to take to school?”

“Yes, an artifact! It’s like a show and tell. I have to share it and talk about why it was important to people in the 1970s.” Ah, yes. We were a simple folk, dazzled by shiny mirrored balls. We ate La Choy Chop Suey from a can in front of a TV wheezing out The Fonz. Bless our hearts.

I wandered aimlessly through our house, mentally curating items and coming up short on things from the 70s. Within these walls, there is a distinct lack of macrame plant hangers, owl portraits done in string wound around nails, shaggy things, avocado green small appliances, waterbeds, and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific Shampoo. I had nothing to offer. Then, I remembered my collection of Sesame Street books.

Resting behind glass, safe from the grape-jellied paws of certain people, lounges a small, lonely stack of Little Golden Books featuring the best and brightest of the Sesame Street gang, pre-Elmo. Many were published in the early-70s and in decent condition. I found several at Goodwill and other thrift stores, snapping them up without hesitation. Rather than give them to my children, I squirreled them away in my room to keep them as nice as possible. The National Archives Rotunda has the Declaration of Independence. My Target nightstand has “Bert’s Hall of Great Inventions.” It would be a shame if some Cheeto-powdered tourist from, say, Colorado decided to hug the Declaration of Independence. Same with my books.

I presented several book options to Ryley, explaining why I loved them back in the olden days. I told him how I identified more with the monster family in “People in My Family” because they had a mom, a dad, two girls, and one boy — just like my family! I pointed out Pop Pop, Row Row, Aunt Alison, and Uncle Brian to him.

From left to right, top to bottom: John, Donna, Brian, Alison, Gretchen

From left to right, top to bottom: John, Donna, Brian, Alison, Gretchen

I pointed out Me. Little Monster Mom who proves some things never change:

I like my coffee like I like my googly eyes: black and full of life.

I like my coffee like I like my googly eyes: black and full of life.

“Um. Okay…” he said.

The next morning, he settled on taking the book about Bert’s inventions. He had no idea what he was going to say about it, so I told him back in the 70s there were only a few TV channels and if kids wanted to watch fun shows on weekdays, PBS was it. But slung together with Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and The Electric Company, it was enough. I never dreamed of needing another source for Alphabet Dancers.

Ryley returned the artifact after school. I returned it to my safe little hiding spot where it will sit in the dark waiting to be remembered by a woman who can’t forget.

Lending a hand to the sky ~ Musings on mothering a graduating child

The western mountains were sandwiched by clouds this morning. The row of peaks was obscured by chalky grey banks of opaque clouds, no doubt packed with snow. I could see the middle elevations clearly. Along the foothills—the base of mountains—were stark white cloud balls. They looked like the trim on Santa’s hat. It was beautiful and I wished I could have pulled off the road to snap pictures. The shoulder was too saturated. If I stopped, I might never get going again. It’s been raining here for nearly a week and that is highly unusual.

When I arrived home, I didn’t go inside right away. The rain stopped briefly, so I decided to survey my front garden. Nothing is blooming yet, but the green leafy parts are thriving. They love this rain. Some of my plants have doubled in size in the past week. So much to guzzle! Earthworms everywhere, including on one of my boys. He found a worm on the leg of his jeans this morning, curled and somehow clinging to the denim. He plucked it off and tossed it into the mud amazed. How?

He doesn’t stand still long enough for a worm to charge up shoes and pants. Maybe it dropped from a tree? Maybe a robin passing overhead slipped up and let her breakfast go? The worm has a wild story to tell.

Near the edge of the driveway, I stood looking down at a billowing pile of bright green chicks and hens. Tears formed. As if there hasn’t been enough moisture dropping from the heights, I lent a hand to the sky and let loose. I cried on my coat and on my shoes. I cried over the concrete, my nose launching droplets earthbound. Massive life changes are just around the corner of next week. Aidan is graduating from high school and it’s been a long, tough year but she is going to make it. The level of bewilderment I feel is unprecedented. I had no idea what it would be like to be the mother of the grown-up almost-graduate. I suspect that moment her name is called and she strides across a stage to accept her diploma I will be left a bit tattered—in a good way. But I don’t know because I’ve never been here before.

Pine needle and raindrop

Pine needle and raindrop

Neither has she. Perhaps these last days of school are being perfectly and completely sheltered by the hood of grey above, quieting us with rhythmic splashing taps, stirring us with crashes of thunder, lulling us to deep sleep. Maybe it’s all a reminder to drink, drink, drink these days in as if we, too, are thirsty earth.

Yesterday, I saw blue sky for about twenty minutes. I stepped outside to the back patio and spun like Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Within that dizzy hour, sog, sop, slop, slip, drip, drop, droop.

I went to bed early and without apologies. Before I fell asleep, Aidan came into my room and climbed up on the bed. She rested against the headboard. Archie joined us. She said, “Tell us a story, Archie!” and he did. I listened to him but I watched her laugh when he laughed at his own cleverness. She looked grown-up.

A few minutes later, I startled awake. Archie was kissing my forehead and Aidan was gone. “Goodnight, mama!” he whispered.

Younger Siblings Suggest Tattoos for Their Almost 18-year-old Sister

Aidan is closing in on 18. Last night, we were talking about the trend of brand-new adults running out to get their first tattoos the moment they’re legal. When I turned 18, the big thing was to buy lottery tickets and avoid committing felonies. Now, it’s all about the ink.

Occasionally, she has brought up the subject, perhaps gauging our level of support or horror. Aidan mentions tattoos are okay “if they mean something significant” and I point out to her that what seems significant at 18 is rarely what will be significant at 25 or 40. They are a lifelong sentence, short of using laser beams. Everyone knows laser beams should be reserved for Death Stars, for maniacal villains to mount on the noggins of sharks, and for Pink Floyd laser shows at the Planetarium. No tattoo, no reason to sizzle yo’self.

During last night’s conversation, I asked her what she found significant. What “means something?” Nothing sprung to mind (perhaps nothing she wanted to share?). So, I proposed Mrs. Potts and Chip from Disney’s Beauty and Beast. When she was 4 or 5-years-old, she got small plastic versions in a Happy Meal and carried them around everywhere she went. She still has Mrs. Potts sitting on her desk. Chip is MIA. Everyone thought that was a great idea but Aidan. Then, the suggestions—complete with illustrations—came rolling in.

Teddy drew this guy. It’s a monster to put on her face. She appreciated the sentiment, but a monster tattoo on her face could be a barrier to future employment. As a mom, I am a fan of future employment. Teddy said he is not worried about future employment. Proof? He’s going to have Chick Hicks tattooed on his nose someday.

by Teddy, age 4

by Teddy, age 4

Beatrix was drawing cute animals and offered this tiger for her only sister’s consideration. It’s pretty adorable and Hello Kitty-esque.

by Beatrix, age 8

by Beatrix, age 8

But by far the favorite of the night were Joel’s multiple suggestions revolving around ferrets. Aidan has never liked ferrets. Why he came up with ferrets is anyone’s guess, but they became a theme.

His first was a ferret surrounded by a heart. This was for her upper arm. “I don’t even like ferrets!” she wailed.

by Joel, age 11

by Joel, age 11

The second was very meta. Post-modern, even. Joel’s idea was a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret with a tattoo of a ferret. Such an impressive piece would have to go on her back to appreciate the full effect. If you think the movie Inception is trippy, imagine infinite ferrets on ferrets splotched on your child’s back forevermore. Don’t contemplate if someone got a tattoo of someone with ferrets tattooed on ferrets tattooed on ferrets.

by Leonardo DiCaprio*, age   47* (*rumor)

by Leonardo DiCaprio*, age 47* (*rumor)

Finally, he suggested a small ferret hugging her big toe. This would only be seen by a few people. He couldn’t explain why a ferret would hug a big toe. I’m not even sure if you can tattoo the skin on the bottom of feet, but it’s a beautiful idea, no? If I ever get a tattoo, this will be the front runner.

Fire up the laser!

Fire up the laser!

It means something.