All figured out.

(scene opens in a tossed dinning room)

Delta: (eating post school snack) Wouldn’t it be great if people figured out what the meaning of life is?

Me: (looks up from laptop, suspicious) ….yes. Yes it would.

Delta: What do you think the meaning of life is?

Me: (quiet for a moment) Creation. The whole reason we’re here is to make stuff.

Delta: Do you know what I think it is? Happiness.

Me: That seems like a good answer.

Delta: (sighs, satisfied) Now we just need to let everyone know what the meaning of life it!

Me: (stares)

Can’t argue with that.

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)

Alpha: (hunting breakfast) Ha-HA! (pulls bag of leftover pizza from ‘fridge)

Me: (pointing) HA! Ha-HA!

Alpha: Ha-ha-ha-HA!

Me: HA! Hu-ha-ha-ha. HA!

Husband: You guys are dorks.

Alpha: (draws himself up) You married her. You made me.

Me: He does have a point.

Husband: I was cool once.

Mother Tongue

(scene opens in bright cluttered kitchen, Carrot enters wearing rain dotted jacket)

Gamma: Cómo estás, mama!

Me: (thinks) Asi asi.

Gamma: No bueno?

Me: Just tired, baby. (hangs up jacket)

Gamma: I want to learn Japanese! Konnichiwa!

Me: Konnichiwa. You can learn Japanese if you want, although that might have to wait until college. I’m sure the local schools aren’t offering.

Gamma: You’ll have to learn it too so you can help me!

Me: (snort) I can’t keep up with the ones I was trying to learn before and now you want me to add Japanese to the mix? Japanese is very difficult.

Gamma: (brightly) Just like me!

Me: (pauses, processes, kisses Gammas forehead) Technically correct.

Gamma: The best kind of correct.

Fantasy Football

(scene opens in near empty waiting room, tv in corner blathering on)

Alpha: What in gods name is that?

Me: (pained) Real Wives of New Jersey.

Alpha: Why the hell is she so obsessed with her nose?

Me: Well, when you only see your worth in your looks, every little wrinkle counts.

(show drones on, petty dramas are petty)

Alpha: I don’t understand what’s going on.

Me: (slowly going mad) There’s no such thing as reality tv. Nothing about it is real. They follow them around for 24 hrs and cut the best parts in to one hour and take everything is out of context. Not only that, but then every single one of those people aren’t real. Nothing about them is real. They’re pretending. They’re making up these ridiculous characters that make dumb decisions. They’re putting on airs and wearing silly clothes and doing whatever they can to generate ratings and get the most screen time. It’s just all…. (stops, growing look of horror Carrot’s face)

Nurse: (enters into waiting room) Alpha?

(Alpha leaves, Carrot remains seated)

Me: (whispers to self) Reality tv is larp for non-larpers.

(home audience dead silent, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

With Love

(scene open in mini-van, everyone dressed for arctic conditions)

Me: Okay, now when we get to the campsite I want you to behave yourself. This is a new troop, don’t overwhelm them.

Gamma: (bouncing with excitement) Okay, mama. When are we going to get there?

Me: We’re here. (turns into camp ground) This is where you’ll be camping for the weekend. It’s going to be super cold, remember to wear all your layers.

Gamma: (moar bouncing) Okay, mama. I can hardly wait to say good bye to you!

Me:

Anticipa…

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen, conversation in progress)

Me: I’m really sorry they’re moving. I wanted to hang out with him more and make fun of each other.

Beta: (attempting to be witty) You’re bald! (crickets) And I’m out! (turns to leave)

Husband: Beta, come here.

Beta: (nervously edges toward the door room) No!

Husband: I said come here. (crosses room)

Beta: (whimpers)

(Husband embraces Beta gently, pats him on the back)

Husband: Sorry I missed your concert tonight. I heard you did a great job.

Beta: (confused, whimpers again) What just happened?

Husband: (lets him go, picks up tea mug, smiles)

Me: Good night, Beta.

Beta: (edges out of the room, slightly panicky) I don’t know what’s going on.

Me: (sotto voce) There is nothing he can do to you that is worse than your own imagination.

Husband: (smug humming)

Please hold, your call is important to us.

(scene opens in cluttered dining room Beta sitting next to Carrot at the table)

Me: The reason you’re failing is that you’re not turning in your work. That’s it. You’re passing all your tests. Just turn in the goddamn work.

(Husband approaches the table)

Husband: (in calm receptionist voice) Thank you for calling Parent Phone. Press 1 if you want to be yelled at by Dad. Press 2 if you want to be yelled at by mom. Press 3 if you want a vague sense of parental disappointment.

(pause)

Beta: What does four….

Husband: (yelling) I TOLD YOU IF YOU WANTED TO BE YELLED AT BY DAD YOU PRESS 1! DO YOU EVEN LISTEN?

Carrot: (puts head down and laughs)

Beta: What’s wrong with you?

Carrot: (crying) I’m blogging that and you can’t stop me.

School Days, School Days

(scene opens in chilly mini-van)

Gamma: Mom, how come my school has numbers instead of grades?

Me: (weary sigh) Grade schools like to go with numbers, for some reason. By the time you get to high school, you’ll be back on that whole A, B, C grading system.

Gamma: What’s a GPA?

Me: (tries to remember the words) Grade Point Average. Every letter grade is worth a certain amount of points. As are like 4 and Fs are 0. You add all those points together and divide them by how many classes you took and that’s your average. If you get all As, you have an A average. If you get a mix, you might have only a C average. Its hard to get your grade point up after a certain point because of math.

Gamma: Why do we have GPA?

Me: Well….okay. The way it was taught to me was that you had to get good grades in grade school so you could get into honors classes in high school and get more points on top of your good grades so you had a wicked high GPA so you could apply to colleges and they’d go “Wow! Look at this GPA! I bet they’re really smart!” and they’d let you in so you could get more high grades and put that on your resume and companies would go “Wow! Look at that GPA! They’re really smart, we want them to come work for us!” and that would translate to more money.

(moment of silence)

Me: Which….if you think about it….is really kind of soulless. I want you to get good grades because it means you’re learning and understanding the material. Theoretically. Learn. Learn, learn, learn, never stop learning. Learn to love learning. Read books, watch documentaries, talk to experts. Hell, observe the world and talk to people who’ve sunk thousands of hours into their hobbies. Figure out what you like to do and we’ll go from there and make it work somehow.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Gamma: I’m going to be a YouTuber.

Me: (disappointed sigh) Maybe something better than a YouTuber.

Gamma: (scathingly) Way to support your own daughter, mom. (Jumps out of van)

Delta: I know what I want to do when I grow up.

Me: Oh yeah?

Delta: Have fun.

Me: Good attitude to have, Delta. Have fun at school.

Delta: And you have the best day of your life, mom.

(Delta exits van, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

That’s one for the books.

(scene opens in frantic parlor, three out of four spawnlings in scout uniforms.)

Me: Everyone got their shoes on? Uniforms on? Find your coats.

Husband: Gamma. Fix your belt.

(camera cuts to Gamma in Webelo uniform, scout belt all twisted)

Gamma: (struggles with scout belt)

Husband: Did you miss a belt loop?

Me: (aggravated) Here, let me help. This part is…. (hesitates) Gamma? You somehow managed to tuck your pants into your pants.

(everyone pauses, exchanges looks)

Husband: (sighs) I’m getting in the car. Head out when you two are ready.

Life Advice, Not Beer Commercial

(scene opens in frosty min-van)

Gamma: Mom, what’s 6th grade like?

Me: Oh. Well, my 6th grade was part of the Jr. High building and so we’d swap classrooms with 7th and 8th graders for different classes. Like for science or math…

Gamma: (interrupting) No, I mean the social part. Like popular kids and stuff.

Me: I hate to break it to you, but I wasn’t a popular kid.

Gamma: That much was obvious.

Me: Ouch, that hurts. (thinks) Okay, well, what’s the point of being popular?

Gamma: To have a lot of friends.

Me: Fair. But sometimes people are friends with you only because you’re popular. By whatever metric they’re using to scale that. If you stop being popular, they’ll find someone else to be friends with.

Gamma: Oh.

Me: In 7th grade, I realized I would never be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the tallest, strongest, fastest, most talented at anything. There would always be someone who was any or all of those things better than me. So I decided then and there to be the most interesting. If I was the most interesting person in the room, people would want to hang out with me. So. Read a lot of books. Listen to a lot of music –

Gamma: (interrupts) Got that covered.

Me: Learn a wide variety of strange and random skills that serve no real purpose save that you want to learn how to do it. Constantly make people amazed at your unexpected know-how on something. Trust me, it is way more fun to be interesting than it is to be popular. Popularity is fleeting. Interesting is forever.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Me: Okay kids! (starts to sing) Have the best day ever!

Gamma: Please don’t.

Band Nerds Unite

(scene opens in dark mini van)

Me: So what time do I have to pick you up?

Beta: The game should be over by 8. Did you know some kids just hang out after school until the game starts? That’s over three hours of hanging out! That’s gotta be so boring!

Me: Not really. Not if you have all your friends there too. My old high school had activity busses running until 6:30 every night, so I just hung out with my friends every day until last call.

Beta: I suppose. Hey remember T, our old neighbor? Who was a percussionist? They used to hang out in the band room every day.

Me: Legit.

Beta: They used to get into so much trouble.

Me: Also legit.

Beta: They used to have a microwave in there. Not since they put a shoe in it.

(car pulls up to curb)

Me: Yeah, Band Kids are terrible. (Beta gets out of the car) Theater kids are the worst. (Beta pauses, looks back over his shoulder) I was both.

Beta: That explain so much.

Me: Get out. I’ll see you in two hours.

A little called out there.

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room, merit badge work in progress)

Carrot: (typing around Delta in her lap) Okay, requirement #2b says you have to pick a book of a “best of” list that you think you’d like to read and write it down.

Beta: (unenthused)

Carrot: (after the third list heavy on the “Live, Laugh, Love” bullshit) Wow, its a lot harder than I thought to find something to read.

Beta: Try narrowing it down to just best science-fiction of 2021.

Carrot: Here we go. (starts to scroll, points to the screen) Read that one. Don’t recommend. Oh! I read the first one of this series! (camera cuts to screen, showing Harrow the Ninth)

Beta: (skeptical)

Carrot: Stay with me. It’s got a very Warhammer 40k setting.

Beta: (skeptically interested) …..yeah?

Carrot: And everyone has a different flavor of necromancy.

Beta: (explodes) What is it with you and necromancers!? First its necromancer vampires! Then its necromancer space marines! (waves arms in Muppet flail) Look over there! Necromancer ponies!

Carrot: (loses it completely, laughs copious fat tears into Delta’s moppy blond curls)

Beta: Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?

Delta (echoing) Yeah mom! What’s wrong with you?

(Carrot laughs until it hurts, fade to black, cut to car commercial)