Friday, March 28, 2008


I know, I know. Winter gets around. He's a man-slut, but I'm worried a little. I warned him. It's over between us, I said. I'm just not in that place anymore, I told him, faking tears. But he hasn't gotten the hint, and now I'm considering a restraining order.

I had a stalker in high school. Corey. He was in my electronics class. He was a geeky, baritone-voiced sophomore. He dropped a pencil in class once, and the asshole behind me kicked it to his buddy, who stomped on it with his steel-toed boots. I turned around and told the steel-toed kid that he was an asshole, and gave Corey one of my pencils. And a stalker was born.

He had a sweet Barracuda, black and chrome, with black leather interior, and he'd drive up and down my cul-de-sac, hardly inconspicuous amongst the Tauruses and Civics. He was like a pet, an entourage and fan club, all rolled up into one skinny white kid. Well things got ugly - not with him, his actions were limited to driving and pretending to not be watching me - but with me and a friend, trying to get him to leave me along. It was a half-hearted attempt, because in Kelso in late spring, there's not much else to do, and watching a Barracuda drive up and down your cul-de-sac is high entertainment.

But the bad part. My parents were (rightfully) disturbed by the Barracuda, and he was warned to stay away. Which he did. He wasn't a bad kid, but a year later I heard from a friend that he started following another girl, and when he was warned again he drove that pretty Barracuda through a plate-glass window in downtown Longview. Then he ended up in a psych ward. I'd do it again - stick up for him, give him a pencil. But as an adult, I also have to shoulder some of the responsibility for his downturn. Sure, he was a screwed up kid, but I wasn't, and today I'm sorry about it, for my lack of compassion.

So this winter has been reminding me of Corey.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Babysitting, part Never

I can't do it. I've composed the remainder of the story in my head many times. I've fictionalized it, I've embellished it, stripped it down, beat it up, cut it into little chunks, stuck it in the freezer, took it out, thawed it, and then beat the shit out of it again. And it's still just too damn depressing. Well, here: the boy was neglected, emotionally and physically, the father was strange and lonely, and after weeks of doing their laundry and washing their toilets and playing an ineffective mother substitute to Jason, I quit. I think it was the day the washing machine exploded all over the garage, my mom came over to help me clean up the mess, saw the depressing and forlorn state of affairs and gave me the okay to quit. So I did. I quit. And now, perhaps because my daughter is approaching Jason's age, and a sad, blond little boy in her school is giving me a daily reminder of Jason, I resurrected him. I want to think positive, dude. Imagine that his mom remembered her responsibilities, perhaps he went to a caring and nurturing afterschool program, maybe his dad remarried. Probably not. He probably never got a nice note home from his teacher, prompting his dad to hug him and take him out for ice cream. Was I just lucky?

Today Quinn was feeling peckish. His cold was getting him down and he didn't want to be shopping for new ski pants with me. I distracted him with a fancy pair of goggles, and he fell asleep in the hot car on the way home. He napped for two hours on the couch in his snow boots and goggles, and didn't even stir when I picked him up to go get Madeleine . I carried him the few blocks to school, and Sonny, the crossing guard, nodded and smiled at me. Quinn and Sonny usually have a little conversation about what they ate for lunch or elk hunting, and Sonny nodded at him quizzically. Misunderstanding his expression, I said, "Yeah, I know. It's strange to see him quiet."
He's hard of hearing, and continued to peek in at Quinn, who was still wearing his new goggles. "It's good for us to see this, you know."
I had no idea what he meant, to be honest. He saw me frown, and said, "Men, you know. We don't understand how hard it is to be a mother, most of the time. Like this here. It's not like you can just up and go wherever you want."
And then another group of kids came, and Sonny walked out into the street with his giant stop sign.

I didn't really mean to infer some sort of condemnation on the mother in the story of Jason, because clearly both parents were responsible for his well-being. I guess, more than anything, Sonny's comment was at least a validation of my own efforts. Perhaps that's the only thing I can take away from Babysitting Jason. I just won't make the same awful mistakes.

So it's not luck, then, is it? There's no Ooops! I raised my kids awful! Ironically, it's a concerted and exhausting effort by one or more parents that makes happy adults think back and say, "Wow, I was a lucky kid."