I'm Already Giving Students Nicknames...

Its the first week of school (again) and I'm surrounded with people who soon won't be strangers but for now, they are a little too silent, too serious, too stiff.  

Maybe not all of them.

The first day, in my BIG auditorium class, I gave them a mini lecture on the scope and content of the course. 

 We went through the Civil War and Reconstruction, past the Spanish American War, through the Progressive Era and  WW1, then past Lysol douches and paused in the 1930s where I showed the students a picture of a Hooverville and told them what a Hoover Flag was (an empty pocket, turned inside out), what a Hoover Blanket was (a thin piece of newspaper).

I pause and ask -- knowing most of them won't be able to answer it  -- "What's on a Hoover sandwich?"

Blank faces tinged with fear looked down and away, but one girl -- a beautifully dressed one in the front row blurted out,   "a whole bunch of people, I hope!" 

I shook my head, trying to imagine -- then not imagine -- a sandwich full of people, which looks like a bread orgy in my head.

"No, it's a stale piece of bread, but you're awesome..." I said while pausing lecture to give her a nice hug for being so funny (and sitting in the front row).

In another I class, a student  kept her phone out as I was starting class, then said "But I'm tweeting!" 

aI asked "about me?" and she said "YES" and I said "$20! I can't tweet about you during class, you can't tweet about me during class." 

It killed me to take her $20 because deep down I wanted to show her I was impressed at her initiative in reporting from the field, for writing when she didn't have to write, and having the sense to write something nice about me,  but I couldn't, so instead I gave her a nickname (Tweet) and called on her relentlessly for the rest of the class period.

So far, so good. 

Once, Twice, Three times a Blonde....

After being happily blonde for a few years now, I decided to go darker (redder?) this summer.

Krystal, my hair sorceress, agreed, and through a series of texts we set a date for "the change."

And on the day I was supposed to de-blonde myself (a big deal after coming out of the closet so happily as a blonde, really, a big big deal) pieces of my mental security blanket crumpled when I found out I wouldn't be renting the house I thought I would be moving into in a few days.

 I texted Krystal, begged to reschedule.

She cheerfully agreed.

Weeks later, after finding my dream house and getting packing ready to move, but before going to South Florida to spend a week with Abuelo, I made another appointment with Krystal and also text her a picture of the color I want (which I'm calling "Honey Ginger" and she's calling "Red")

On the way to the hair appointment, a very nice very young guy smashed into my car.

I texted Krystal from the accident scene that I would be detained and I'd reschedule as soon as I knew when I'd be free again.

She understood.

Just now I almost texted Krystal again, about to ask for "that" color, but something made me pause and string the pieces together into a story, 

Every time I try to de-blonde, the universe seems to be saying NO in a most direct, firm and consistent way. 

My Car Lies

Thank you, Allstate, for taking such good care of me in my recent accident. 

Thank you for fixing my car so wonderfully and thank you for hooking me up with the Rav4  rental car. 

It was OK, tolerable, but not especially comfortable or powerful. 

For a moment today, I doubted you. 

As the kids and I ran our first errand today in the "post-crash" Santa Fe, I checked to see if I needed gas (no, not yet) and then noticed something was seriously wrong.

The temperature (outside) was reading 77 degrees.

 It is August in Tallahassee, there is no way this could be right. 

I think (fiercely!) "Damn you, Allstate and your preferred provider! What did you DO to my car's delicate computer system? Teach it to LIE?"

Why is it reading 25 degrees low? 

 (I think briefly, oh Allstate, we are on to something -- can you fix bathroom scales to read 25 pounds lighter? Yes...? call me.... then I remember I'm annoyed and get back to being annoyed)

Then, in a fit of daring, I rolled down my window down a crack and dared to let a bit of August into the car, where her hot breath (I was sure) would quickly fill our car with an uncomfortably thick hot wetness.

No such rush came, so I lowered my window more, then more.  

My car wasn't lying (sorry Allstate) -- so I open all the windows and let today's strangely enchanting dry cool air slip in and dance around, wondering what other magic Allstate can do.

Secret Comfort

In a few hours I'll pick my parents up and end the week-long reign I've held over my childhood and teenage home.  I'm not nostaglic - I left here at 17 and have been on a grand adventure since then.

The only thing I missed - the only thing I'm going to miss - is   shamelessly borrowing my Dad's well worn, long thick soft shirts which I've been wearing without his permission.

The Crying Game

As we are cruising down I-95 home from a day of lots of waterpark and almost but really not enough sunscreen, I call my Mom (who is in "another time zone") to check in with her to see if she's talked to Abuelo and knows how he's doing today since I saw him at 8am.

She tells me she talked to him.

 He's sad. He's lonely. He's crying.

He really doesn't want to move to the "much nicer" place a mile or two away that has "Village" in its name and is often called a "retirement community."

I know he doesn't want to go, and I don't blame him.

It isn't like he's moving to the dorms at Harvard, proud of himself for landing a coveted spot.

It isn't even like when he left Cuba in 1960 for what he expected to be a "short vacation" from Castro's revolution.

He's looking down the barrel at soon leaving the house he's lived in for decades, the one Abuela lived in too.

Moving on to the "next part of his life" doesn't feel so good, and -- more than he can know -- I understand.

When we get out of the car, before I even change out of my bathing suit I march straight through my parents' backyard to Abuelo's door. He answers. 

He doesn't look that sad; more tired and disheveled.

Without much small talk beforehand he straight out  tells me, "I'm sad. I'm depressed. I want to cry. I feel useless..."

I nod my head. "I totally understand. I'm sad and I'm depressed and I cry all the time.  Let's do it together, I bet I can cry longer. Let me in...."

He laughs and stands in the door shaking his head.

Apparently I'm reading off a different script because he doesn't know what to say at first.

"You know what, you're a piece of work" he says, and I can't help but shake my head and laugh too because I know I could have beaten him in both intensity and duration if he really wanted to challenge me to a crying war.

"You're not sad. You're not depressed. You just need some rest" he tells me, like he's now the designated advisor to sad people.

 I say "No, I don't need to sleep, I don't need to rest, I need to work more.  I get sad when no one needs me, like I'm invisible and I might as well disappear... now can I come in and cry?"

He laughs again and says "No crying, lets just dance...." and before I could even start to take him up on his offer,  my kids started shouting for things (I'm sunburnt! I'm hungry! Where is my camera? where is my snake?) and I dance away by myself, leaving him smiling, for now.

Crash Test*

On the way to get my hair done (which I rarely do, because I don't sit still well) someone  - lets call him Driver X -- crashed into my car.

The impact of his Honda on my Santa Fe felt like a head butt by kindergartener.

No airbags went off.

Not bad.  Not something I'd want to do again; not something I've ever done, so today I let go my perfect  no-car-accident 25 year perfect streak that has been running since 1986 -- nine years longer than "Driver X" has been alive. That's fine.

Neither of us were hurt, but our cars looked a bit mangled.

We called the cops and waited.  No injuries, no hurry.

He was shaking (a little) so I got him out of the car for awhile so we could  talk under the canopy of a convenient (like a movie!) old oak tree in front of a huge house off Thomasville Road.

 I drilled him on things I'd seen on Cops and Dog the Bounty Hunter.

"You have a license? You're in America legally? You only have one ID in your wallet, right, not like 10? Any warrants? Any weapons"

(He laughed - he looked like he belonged on the set of Glee or High School Musical).

"Your car is legal? Not stolen? The plates aren't altered? And no one is hiding in the trunk? You're not trafficking humans, seriously, tell me know, pay me off and we'll split it -- also, there is a cap to how much cash you can have on you without looking suspicious..."

After about twenty minutes of my thoughtful interrogation, he still looked off and odd like he'd been in a BIG ACCIDENT and not the minor crash we were blessed with.

 I asked him directly, "What's wrong?"

"I feel guilty, I'm so sorry I hit you."

I laughed. "If you were going to hit someone, I'm glad it was me. This is no big deal in my world."

He nodded.

But I haven't lectured to students or anyone (my kids have headphones and ignore me for fear of hearing more about the intricacies of Jacksonian politics & etc) so I kept talking.

Because I could.

"Don't feel guilty. Guilt is like self-torture and it's so selfish. And pointless. Be sorry. People who are sorry express regret, make things better and move on.  If you're sorry you can come help me move boxes tomorrow...."

Soon enough, the cop was there, the papers were filed and we drove off, a little wiser from afternoon on Thomasville Road.