Experiential Wisdom

(scene opens in Christmas mall, Carrot wandering between Alpha and Gamma)

Me: This was the mall that I used to hang out at as a kid.

(Alpha and Gamma side eye Carrot)

Me: When I was your age (pokes Alpha) our parents would drop us off at a particular door, tells us to be back there at a certain hour, and just leave us here with our friends to wander, hang out, and shop. It was like teenage day care.

Gamma: (excitedly) Did you ever buy anything?

Me: (snorts) With what money? No, it was mostly hanging out. At Christmas, before internet, you’d make lists of things you wanted and shared them with the family. Then the whole family would go to the mall, you’d get your list, and then separate to go buy things for everyone.

Alpha: (confused) Why don’t we do that?

Me: What kid had enough money to buy everyone presents? Presents that were “good enough”? It used to make your Auntie K and I so anxious with the pressure of getting the “right thing”. I never wanted that for you, that expectation that you have to buy people gifts just because. So I never pressed you guys to buy gifts for one another. I want you guys to grow up giving gifts because you like the person and want to do something nice. Something special. The holidays are stressful enough as is. And you kinda need a source of income before you can do that anyway.

Gamma: Can we hang out at the mall anyway? (shock and awe) Did you see the food court?!

Alpha: (skeptical) What’s fun about hanging out at a shopping place?

Me: (sighs) It was a different time.

Alpha: Your childhood was wierd.

Acceptable Limits

(scene opens in mini van)

Me: (buckling seatbelt) Okay. I am totally willing to support you in your dream dress vision. I want you to understand that there are a couple of times I will be enacting the Parental Veto.

Gamma: Why?

Me: If it’s too expensive, I don’t care how perfect it is, we just can’t. Or if it’s too risqué.

Gamma: What does ‘risqué’ mean?

Me: It’s the sexy level. And you’re only almost twelve…

Gamma: My sexy level should be zero.

Me: (approvingly) Exactly.

Gamma: (fist bumps Carrot) Then let’s do this!

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)

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)

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.

The importance of literature.

(scene opens in bitterly cold min-van, conversation in progress)

Gamma: And then my teacher said Slytherin was the best house. When she asked me to hold open the door, I said she had to make Gryffindor just as good as Slytherin. And then I held it open. Gryffindor is the Hero House

Me: (considers that, sighs) Okay. So. As much as I enjoyed the books, the idea that one house is all good and one house is all bad is very simplistic writing. The real world isn’t like that.

Gamma: But Draco is Slytherin and Slytherin is evil.

Me: Draco is not evil and neither is Slytherin. Draco was taught hate and bigotry by his parents, that’s why it persists over generations. Slytherin isn’t evil either. Ambition, while not exactly a virtue, isn’t an evil thing. Its good to be ambitious, to want to be the best at something. To excel.

Gamma: Like Hermoine!

Me: Yes, Hermoine is a very ambitious woman. Where ambition goes wrong is when winning is all that matters and comes at the expense of the safety and well-being of others. Ambition without empathy. As for the Hero House, being brave is all well and good, but sometimes being brave is following the rules. How many times did Harry and crew break the rules?

Gamma: All the time!

Me: And it always worked out for them in the end, which is also nothing like real life. Rules sometimes exist for a reason. The flip side of brave is reckless. Breaking rules just because you think rules don’t apply to you is extremely selfish and somewhat dangerous.

Gamma: Dumbledore gave them extra points when they broke rules so they’d win the house cup.

Me: Which was poor form. It might as well be cheating and abusing a position of authority. Now, as for Hufflepuff, the flip side of Loyalty is giving your loyalty to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Gamma: Like Crabbe and Goyle! They were very loyal. Why weren’t they in Hufflepuff and not Slytherin?

Me: I don’t know. Maybe their parents were in Slytherin and they wanted to be just like them. Sometimes kids will do whatever their parents say – like Draco – or try to be just like them because they think if they don’t, their parents won’t like them any more. That’s how you perpetuate generational hate. They’re being hateful to other people to win their parent’s love and approval. Anyway, being a loyal friend isn’t supporting them 100% of the time. Sometimes being a loyal friend is standing up to them when they’re about to do something dumb or hurtful or dangerous.

(car pulls into school parking lot)

Gamma: What about Ravenclaw?

Me: The flip side of Intelligence is believing your own hype. You get to the point where you have so much faith in your own smarts, you can’t possibly think that anyone is as smart or smarter than you. So you refuse to listen to experts in their own field. No one is an expert on everything. There will always be an expert that knows more about a subject than you do, and you should listen and learn what they have to teach.

(stops car)

Me: Now. Go to school, learn new things, stay warm, I’ll see you later.

Gamma: Bye! (hops out of car runs off)

Me: (drives the circle to Delta’s building)

Delta: You talk a lot, mom.

Me: Thank you for listening.

Delta: You’re welcome. (hops out of car, runs off)

Scattered Knowledge

(scene opens in dark car, Pandora Radio playing a commercial for Dexter)

Alpha: (derisively) Who names a serial killer Dexter. That’s a ridiculous name.

Me: (absently) Dexter is the opposite of Sinister. Sinister is the left, Dexter is the right, which is why if you can use both hands it’s called ambidextrous. Dexter is a serial killer who only hunts serial killers. He’s on the right side of sinister.

Alpha: (long silence) And where on the internet did you get that?

Me: I didn’t. I came up with it on my own. But I bet someone else on the internet came up with it too.

Alpha: (mockingly) Oh, look I’m making up word meanings.

Me: Do it! Look it up! Look up what dexter means.

(long silence)

Me: Did you find it?

Alpha: No. I decided to believe you.

Me: (shocked) Oh now you decide to start listening to me?

Alpha: Well, you’re the one making things up, seems easier just to let you go on.

Me: You know how you get all this random knowledge? Read. Read a lot. Read tons. Get yourself some accidental knowledge. Then you, too, will also see the deeper hidden meanings of things.

Alpha: Or I could just sit here and laugh over memes showing a pumpkin carved into a troll face. (cut scene to shitty meme on phone)

Me: (gives up) Despair. You make me. I am full.

Why Are People

(scene opens in mini van, a rare silence)

Gamma: (staring out the window) Mom, what was that building?

Me: (mental sigh) A strip club. Its a place where men pay money to watch women take off their clothes and drink alcohol.

Gamma: (shocked) Why are there places like that?

Me: Because men will pay money to watch women take off their clothes and drink alcohol.

Gamma: (moar shocked) Why do women work there?

Me: Uh… because money. Its the only job they can get for whatever reason.

Carrot’s Inner Voice: Don’t kink shame, Carrot!

Me: (out loud) And I suppose it’s possible that some enjoy it.

Gamma: (weary) I’m sorry I asked.

(awkward silence, fade to black)

Mysteries of the Universe

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (to husband) I found one of Gamma’s stories in my Google Docs. I don’t know if it got emailed to me or what.

Husband: Yeah?

Me: It was amazingly complicated. There’s a deep and wide ranging mind in that child. Alarmingly and creatively intelligent.

Husband: I know. I’ve read some of her stuff.

Me: (looks out window, Gamma running around in circles talking loudly to herself and swinging a scooter by the handle) Y’know how some of our other friends have really smart and clever and deep children?

Husband: (warily) Yeah?

Me: How come they’re all self-possessed well spoken polite little mini-adults and ours is swathed in chaos?

Husband: Swaddled.

Me: Swathed. Swaddled. Difference?

Husband: Swaddled is comforting.

Me: (thinks) Fair.

Exhibit A

(scene opens in sunny dinning room)

Me: (tiredly gathering up pandemic homeschool supplies)

Beta: (laying on floor in sunbeam with doggo) Mom? Which do you love more, the kids or the dog.

Me: (sighs) Well, the dog doesn’t argue with me about every. single. thing. I. say. so maybe I love the dog best.

Beta: Except when he’s pulling on the leash or not sitting when you tell him or chewing on things he’s not supposed to…

Me: Hey Beta? You’re kinda proving my point.

Beta: …..damnit.

Ars Gratia Artis

(scene opens in dining room)

Me: (slowly and carefully assembling flower pieces)

Beta: (enters from kitchen) Those are really pretty mom. Can I pick one up?

Me: (abstractly) Sure. Be careful.

Beta: Now what are you going to do with them?

Me: (sighs) I don’t know.

Beta: Something else to lay around the house and gather dust?

Me: (reprovingly) Maybe. Not all art is profitable. Sometimes we do it anyway. Because we can. It makes the world a prettier place.

Tough Crowd

(scene opens in dining room)

Delta: (watching Carrot light Advent candles) What are those for mommy?

Me: Each week we light one to remind ourselves what’s important; Peace, Hope, Love…

Husband: (interrupting from foyer) Profits for the candle manufacturers.

Me: ….and Joy. Which your father is.

Delta: No, he is pain and despair.

Me: Well then.

Husband: I heard that.