This cautionary tale has a lesson: Before embarking on a bike ride, make sure you have taken the right key for your bike chain.
It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in late April. The kind of afternoon in early spring when every tree is a different color of flowering buds, each branch has that blessed tinge of the lightest green. On that day in April, I wish I could freeze time then and there and live and linger in that feeling of potential that early spring gives. I wished to go no further.
There was nothing pressing on our family schedule for the evening: no plays, baseball games, concerts or meetings. And, our family of five was down two people: hubby in Detroit and my daughter on her way to a youth weekend retreat.
If you have a family, you know that the absence of even one member changes the dynamic of the household, and can inspire you to make a change in an otherwise humdrum weeknight.
Tonight, it would be just me and the boys!
I said “boys, let’s do something different. Let’s bike to the library, get out some books. Then I’ll grill for dinner, and THEN, let’s go to the Canal
for some yogurt for dessert!”
And who could argue with that plan? Not even my boys!
So off we went to the Brighton Memorial Library.
We locked our bikes and spent about 30 minutes reading and selecting some books.
Then, the tale of a wonderful evening took a dark turn.
My eldest son presented me with the key. It wouldn’t fit.
“You told me you had the right key.”
“Yeah, that’s the key, I took it out of the keybox.”
“Did you actually check if it worked?”
Obviously, he did not.
So, we walked home from the library leaving our locked bikes behind to locate the lost key.
Now, during the de-cluttering and staging of our home, somehow the key in question went AWOL.
Now, we had three bikes securely locked at the library and no key.
The grill remained unlit. Our bellies remained unfed.
Armed with a hedge clipper, I loaded the boys into the Traverse and headed back to the library.
Funny thing about a good bike chain. Underneath that rubber coating is a network of woven and twisted wires that don’t snap but merely bend when you try to clip them.
I called the good people at the Park Avenue Bike shop to explain my predicament and see if they had a lock cutting service.
“Are you far from home? Are you in a remote rural area?” asked Park Ave Bike Man.
“No, I’m at the Brighton Library. And I have a car.”
Folks, here is a bit of helpful information: Park Ave Bike is many things to many local bikers, but they do not have a lock clipping service for stranded, keyless bikers.
He then suggested I get some bolt cutters.
So, with the sky darkening, and are bellies growling even louder, we headed to our nearest big box hardware store.
A patient but doubtful man wearing an orange apron helped me select bolt cutters for the job.
“You may have to work at this for a while. This is not a one-person job. You may have to attach pipes to the end of each handle for best leverage at some point to break that lock.”
So, at this point, I am a starving mamma wielding a bolt cutter on the check out line of Home Depot. All I wanted that evening was a cup of soft serve yogurt on the Erie Canal.
At this point, my boys and I were beginning to feel like we were caught in a scene from our favorite comedy. I was taking on the role of Claire Dunphy.
We get back to the library and it is now nearly dark. I start chomping away at the bike lock. Next to me are some more unattended bikes. They don’t even have a chain on them.
A man exits the library and gives us a weird look. He takes out his cell phone.
The librarian comes out and also gives us a funny look.
At this point my eldest son shouts “THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS. WE ARE NOT BIKE THIEVES. THESE ARE OUR BIKES WE ARE STEALING.”
Now, if I was going to steal a bike, I wouldn’t do it at the Brighton Library. The police station for the town is attached to the same building.
Finally, after a few chomps – without the aid of pipes – the bikes are free. The boys and I give a triumphant yelp and there are high fives all around.
We didn’t grill that night. Nor did we make it to the Erie Canal for a yogurt treat. I think I ordered in a pizza.
And the next day, I went back to Park Ave. Bike and bought a new bike lock.
With five extra keys.
The months of uncertainty are over.
Ever since October 5, when General Motors announced it would be shutting down its Western New York research facility , life’s carpet of stability had been snatched out from under my family’s feet.
Every night – and I’m not kidding – EVERY night before managing to get to sleep, I’d look around the teal walls of my bedroom and wonder – what’s next? Where will we find a house? What will it look like? Where will home be next.
House hunting in the Detroit area did not put my squirreled brain at ease. Contrary to what everyone believes: (You are moving to Detroit!? You can probably buy two mansions for a dollar!), the housing market in the Detroit suburbs, the ones with the lakes and the great schools, is murder.
NO inventory.Still a decent amount of foreclosures that need so much work that someone would do them a service to tear them down and start all over.
So when a good house comes up, the buyer better be ready and jump on it.
And jump we did. At an open house. Cars lined up and down the street and around the corner to check it out.
We put in our bid. And waited. And the sun went up and down and still no word. And the sun did that two more times.
There were fourteen offers on the table. Ours made it to the final two.
And then the phone call from my transplanted beloved.
We got it!
So overjoyed was I, that the months of pressure, worry and uncertainty were finally over, that upon calling my parents to tell them the deal was done….
I screamed for joy with them over my phone in the backyard.
And we screamed. And laughed. And I jumped. And jumped and jumped.
And busted my knee.
There a was a pop. And a freakish twist that no leg should ever move.
And I wound up on the ground on my patio. Writhing in pain. Gasping, crying and laughing all at once.
Go ahead. Laugh, it’s funny!
Now, I’m off to my doctor and hope that I will not have to find a orthopedist as soon as I move into my new home.
I recently returned from a great vacation visiting the family and many close family friends in Florida.
Yes, it was nice to get away from the snow and cold for a bit. It was nice to feel the warm sun on my skin.
But I couldn’t help notice when I got back north, most everything in Florida feels fake. I’m using almost as the operative word, because we did take in some great wildlife in the Everglades, which faces one more challenge to its survival now that the government is in sequestration. More on that in a future post.
So there I was about to get on line at a Boca supermarket when a Boca Babe cuts in front of me, seemingly clueless of her offense. I stood in stunned silence.
She had to be at least in her mid 50′s but she was trying to pull off 22.
Her highlighted hair was pulled into a pony tail and bangs curtained her forehead.
She had a tuck. She had some nips. Clearly some collagen had been injected into her puffy lips. I could not see her eyes, which were hiding behind a pair of huge sunglasses.
She casually and slowly talked to someone on her phone bedecked in a jeweled skin as she pilfered through a purse, which, if it wasn’t hot pink, could have been mistaken for a small long-haired lap dog.
Meanwile, an older gentleman, balding and shorter than I, spoke the thoughts that I dared not say.
“Unbelievable! She should get off the phone. I’d like to crack her over the head with it, don’t she realize other people behind her would like to get out of here?” He mumbled to me.
Then, he went ahead in a much louder voice to give her a piece of his mind.
“Hey lady, get off the phone and do your business, will you? You’re holding up the line!”
Boca Botox Babe had a quick retort: “Excuse me, but I am doing my business. Unlike you, I can do TWO things at once!”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry but you gave me the wrong change. I need five more dollars,” said the equally stunned cashier woman.
“Oh, you’ll have to forgive me, I just got back from Vegas.” And then to the man behind me:
“Hey, what are you from New York?? You sound like you’re from New York, so RUDE, like a boyfriend I had once.”
Hey. HEY, I thought as Boca Babe and Baldie fought over my head. I’m from New York!!!
But my natural lips stayed silent.
After Botox Babe left, I don’t know why but I apologized to the cashier for her behavior. I told her I would never talk on my cell phone when someone was waiting on me packing my groceries because it was very rude.
And yes, I am from New York and proud of it.
I left the store back into the February Florida warmth just laughing at this state with its Botox babes and perfectly-manicured golf courses.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.
Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve stayed up past 7 p.m.
Unlike in previous years, where February was our sick month, someone one way or the other in my house was sick from December 31 all the way through January 28.
It started with New Year’s Eve.
My daughter was coughing and sneezing. Then her head ached. I could not find the working thermometer (that expensive Braun ear thermometer I purchased when the kids were babies fell into an open toilet bowl and as a result was thrown away years ago), but with my keen sensory skills, I would say she had about 101.
She knew that her planned sleep-over invitees would not be happening, but please can everyone just come over and she would stay upstairs?
After all, New Year’s Eve 2012 put the close on the last full year we would spend in this house. Everything from now on would be the last, including our last New Year’s Eve get together with our local Rochester friends.
But with flu in the house, I completely understood why everyone stayed away.
All the champagne, cheese, chips, dips, and finger food appetizers (including Mac & Cheese balls! I mean, can anything sound more tempting than Mac & Cheese balls??) I purchased for a small New Year’s get together would have to wait for another time.
My daughter’s flu-like symptoms lasted into the first week of school. As soon as she was better and returned, it was my oldest son who missed a week of school with a sore throat, a seal-like cough, and a headache that wouldn’t quit.
Finally, my youngest was the next victim of the flu and was out for nearly a week. A high fever and a bad cough were the symptoms of his misery.
I have to admit that he DID briefly return to school one evening, thanks to the magic of Advil, to perform in his chorus concert.
The show must go on, right? And again, it is one of his first and last concerts in our current hometown.
Next, it was my turn.
I often encourage my children to take turns in sharing things. This was a turn I would rather have been left out of.
My flu symptoms – both occasions, were sandwiched with the mother of all sinus infections.
I had completely lost my sense of smell for about a week. Do you know how much pleasure the human being gets from their sense of smell?
The aroma of coffee, of fresh herbs, steaming soup, freshly baked bread, lavender-scented candles and vanilla scented body lotion completely evaded me.
A whole head of garlic? In desperation, I cut one in half and inhaled.
NOTHING was getting through my schnozzola. Nothing.
I suspect that even if I had to change a diaper, I would be spared the stench.
“Inhale some red pepper flakes!” My son dared me. ”It will be painful, but it WILL clear you right out!”
I turned down his dare. I may have been desperate, but I’m not a 14-year-old boy.
When my fever went away, and thanks to some more OTC drugs, 100 cups of tea, and my new favorite toy (a Homedics humidifier) my sinuses cleared and I was feeling better.
But the tiredness and the cough only lifted completely in the last 48 hours.
After a month of being sick (and mind you, I know the flu is NOTHING in the face of other serious illnesses,) there is the blessing of
People’s first response when you are sick is always “Feel better!”
So, if you are sick with this year’s miserable flu, and you are reading this, I sincerely wish that you feel better.
You will get better soon. When your head is congested and you can’t even smell the strongest head of raw garlic, know that soon you WILL FEEL BETTER!
Not tomorrow, but soon you, will be better.
Better in the way that you can stay up past 6:30.
Better in the way where you can return to work with renewed energy and without the guilt of knowing you are infecting your co-workers.
Better in the way that you can return to exercising and actually feel energized and not exhausted.
But in the meantime, I leave you this song from The Hostile Hospital, a book in the kids cult classic books, Book the Eighth in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket:
Happy New Year!
now, if you could hear me say this to you from behind my stuffed nose it would sound more like “Habby Dew Year.”
I have yet to have a healthy day in 2013.
Before I can start on this year’s goals: decluttering and cleaning my home to get it ready to sell, going to the gym at least three times per week, I resolve to get HEALTHY!
That’s why my answer to this photo challenge is this:
This is a bowl of eucalyptus leaves I pulled off a bouquet recently purchased at Trader Joes. I mixed it with some dried lavender from this year’s garden, plus some Kosher salt. I poured boiling water over it and voila! A home spa remedy that will hopefully relieve my misery.
Before I do anything else this year, I resolve to get healthy again!
I grew up in a town where many if not most people get up and dance at a rock concert.
New Yorkers are known to be a bit rowdy and I pride myself in my own rowdiness the older I get. It proves I’m still alive
Yes, I know how to sit well-behaved at a symphony or an opera, but at a rock concert, or even a Broadway show with a rocking musical score, many if not all audience members where I grew up get up where they are seated and DANCE.
I just got out of a concert that I can say I have been looking forward to since I got my tickets on January 27. But no, I’ve actually been waiting to see Bonnie Raitt AND Marc Cohn for over 20 years now.
Her Grammy-winning album, Nick of Time, came out the year I graduated college and started my first job at a tiny weekly newspaper in New Jersey. I would play it on analog tape back and forth in my first car, my dad’s 1982 Toyota station wagon, back and forth from New Brunswick to Hunterdon County, every day for months. My roommate and I cleaned house to the upbeat songs. I cried myself to sleep to the sadder songs like “Too Soon to Tell.” It was after this introduction to Ms. Raitt’s newest album that my roommate said that her mom said that I had to listen to Bonnie Raitt’s old stuff. So I got Collection. And I became hooked on that too and developed a love for blues music.
Then, several years later, I moved out to California to be with the man who would soon become my husband. The year we became engaged, Marc Cohn released his self-titled debut album. We were driving on a windy California road and “True Companion” came on the radio. That beautiful song became our wedding song.
These two artists have a lot of meaning in my life. So, hell yeah, if I’m going to be a little loud. I might be compelled by one of Ms. Raitt’s signature blues riffs to get up out of my seat and wiggle a bit. A LOT.
But as Bonnie played one of the more up numbers of the night, “Come to Me,” I noticed that hardly anyone was dancing in their places.
Is it our northern location? Is it the lack of sunlight that mellows out Rochesterians so much that they don’t get out of their seats at rock concerts?
And, Ms. Rait: Was it us? Would you have played some more rocking songs to close out your last set at the Eastman Theater tonight if the audience were not so ….
Would you have closed with “Thing Called Love” or “Love Me Like a Man” instead of a cover version of Van Morrrison’s “Crazy Love” if you got a more up vibe from the sleepy audience?
There were some women, myself included, who tried to do their part and could just not stay seated. Women feed off each other on things like this. Once one woman gets up, another one or two feel validated and do the same. The woman sitting next to me agreed about the lack of life in the audience, and we both declared we were not dead yet and YES we were going to dance.
Then, as a more mellow song followed and we sat down, we actually got scolded by an usher for DANCING at a concert.
The blue-haired, polka dot-shirted bespectacled usher, who was sitting for FREE in the last row behind me, said to me:
“You are being very rude and inconsiderate. I cannot see the performance if you stand.”
If I were younger, a scolding by an older authority would have reduced me to tears.
I’m being bad?
Finally, at age 44?
Hey, Little old lady usher with the polka-dotted shirt and white eyeglass chain:
Did you even know who this woman was on stage? Do you have all of her albums? Did you listen to “Nick of Time” and “Luck of the Draw” till you knew every word and every guitar lick when you were in your 20′s?
Bonnie, my heroine, who at age 61 was playing on stage, in high heels and skinny jeans and playing that slide guitar STILL like nobody’s business;
Bonnie, who in her 2000 induction speech to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame encouraged women to “get out of the kitchen and into the kick-ass fire” of playing rock and blues, Bonnie would have been very proud of me, thank you very much, and to NOT dance and sing and whoop it up would have been an act of disrespect to Ms. Raitt, not to an usher who didn’t even PAY for her seat behind me!
So, Ms. Raitt, if you ever do read this blog, I must apologize for the overheated Eastman Hall and the majority of the audience, who kind of sat there like wet wash cloths and didn’t give you and your hard-working band do justice to get off their asses and dance!
And Rochester, next time you are at a rock concert, give the musicians the justice they deserve and GET UP AND DANCE!!!
For the first time in your life, your parents are away. They leave their home, the home they raised you and taught you right from wrong, in your trusted care while they take a long overdue romantic vacation for just the two of them.
You know where this is going.
The Party. It’s the right of passage for every American Teen. At least it seems that way in the movies. As the weather warms up, think of all those teen movies that ended in a springtime house party bash. Some that come to mind just from my generation include Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and later, Mean Girls
When I was growing up on Staten Island, it was rare to find a house that was not an attached townhouse. For those of you in suburbia, this means a house that shares at least one common wall with one neighbor. Or maybe your house was flanked by townhouses on both sides. The walls that separated one home from another were exceedingly thin and provided no sound proofing.
How thin? We could say “God Bless You!” when we heard our neighbors sneeze. When there was a birthday party, a family fight, or when their coo-coo clock went off at all hours of the night, you heard that too.
So, the first time – the only time – I had a party the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did the right thing. I let my neighbors know that I was going to have a few friends over. Just a few. And, we might get a little loud. And, would they mind if we put some beer bottles in their trash the next day?
My neighbor, Dom, a man in his late 60′s who played Frank Sinatra on his backyard transistor radio all summer and who introduced me to my first grilled Italian pepper, said it wouldn’t be a problem.
I was a good kid. Really I was. Still am. Even though my teen daughter now views me as irresponsible because I caught mono in my sophomore year of college after a weekend of parties. So, when planning my first keg party, no I was not of age, but my friends and I were all right at the cusp. We were all turning 20 that year. That’s why we had the party, it was for a friend, a girl who received all honors in high school and was studying economics at SUNY Binghamton. She was turning 20 that weekend. We did the responsible thing by asking my friends’ of-age boyfriend to buy the beer.
My underage friends and I were responsible for hiring the DJ. He charged $75 for the night and three of us each chipped in $25. We cleared a spot in my basement where he could set up and play. We didn’t want to set up outside because again, I was trying to be considerate of my neighbors.
More importantly, I was trying not to get caught and get in the worst trouble of my short 19-year-old life.
The party was a success! It was a beautiful night and we would have gone swimming in the pool if there weren’t so many damned mosquitos. (Another thing about Staten Island. No matter how small the backyard, everyone managed to have a pool. It may have been an above-ground pool, but it was wet and cold in the hot New York City summer, that is what mattered most). I remember dancing and lots of kids coming, most invited, some, who barely spoke to me in high school but oh look who’s having a party and decided now they wanted to be my friends.
My friends had their boyfriends with them. A friend of mine became a friend with benefits.
Most importantly, no one got too drunk and no one got hurt. And, my considerate party goers didn’t stay or make noise too too late into the night and my college roommate even mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors when it was all over.
Only one household possession was broken as a result of the party. The kitchen clock came crashing down. That was because one of those previously mentioned mosquitos got in and my brother tried to kill it when it landed on the clock.
Now, my parents are very wise. Later, they told me that they had their suspicions that I had a party whether or not they found a letter on computer print-out paper (the kind that came in a stack with holes on the sides to feed it into the printer. Remember, this was the late 80′s). The letter was written by my brother, an impressionable teenager at the time who had just written a letter to his friend that “my sister had a wild crazy party at our house and there was beer and everything!”
Yes, that was a very dark week in the Cooper household. My parents felt betrayed by me and my good girl friends that never got in any trouble in high school. There were tears of guilt and apology later that week in my parents’ living room among all the guilty. But I’m 43 now and I’m not grounded anymore and I still love my brother.
So, why do I bring this up now?
Now, after 20 years of being away, it is my parents who are the retired empty nesters living on the other side of the wall from a family with three teenagers. Last weekend, the parents of these teenagers went away for a vacation. Last weekend, it was my parents who were the couple who could not get to sleep because of a teen house party that went deep into the night.
The next night, my parents pulled into their driveway after spending the evening with friends and were greeted by all three of the kids next-door. With a big plate of home-baked, shamrock-shaped cookies.
“We baked these for you. We are SO sorry that we made so much noise and kept you up all night,” mom told me over the phone, and we laughed as she described how this girl pleaded for forgiveness.
Sure, they were sorry about the noise. But they were more worried about getting potentially ratted out to their parents. That was the main reason for the cookies.
At this, my mom took the cookies and laughed. “No problem. Been there. Done that.”
So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone. And keep the music down after 1 a.m., will ya?”
“Kramer: Ahh, no, no, no. You got me all wrong buddy. I am loving this no refrigerator. You know what I discovered? I really like depriving myself of things. It’s fun. Very monastic.
George: Well what do you eat?
Kramer: It’s all fresh. Fresh fish, fresh foul, fresh fruit. I buy it, I omniga nominga, I eat it.”
Remember that episode? It was funny. But to live a life in the 21st Century with nowhere to put your milk and eggs and cheese, that’s another story.
Thanks to the wonderful folks at Sears, again, I wait for the refrigerator repairman.
For the third time. The right parts, this time, have also been waiting in my entryway for the past two days.
But still, no repairman.
I’ve gotten pretty good at working out a system though.
Every day, I buy the smallest possible container of milk.
Instead of stocking up for a whole week, I buy a maximum of 10 pieces of fruit.
It’s a good thing I live up north, because the weekend’s snowfall provided me with cold stuff to pack into my cooler.
I plot out every meal plus snacks like cheese and yogurt for the kids to take in their lunches.
I have learned that most sources of protein and calcium require refrigeration. I go buy these in small quantities each day as well.
I keep all my produce outside in my cooler. Like this:
Think about this:
How many times a day you go to your refrigerator to eat a piece of fruit, drink a glass of milk or prepare a meal?
Every time I need to do this, I need to put on my boots first and let in the cold air.
But even the Rochester cold is not cold enough to keep my strawberries from rotting or my milk from going sour after a day.
So, it’s almost 11 a.m. now. I’ve been waiting six days and .. three hours for refrigeration. It’s like waiting for Godot.
Sears, do you really think you are doing a good job by letting your customers, those who paid extra for a service contract, to live with no refrigeration for seven days?
Thank goodness red wine does not need to be chilled.
Since my husband’s job transplanted us north, even though we still are in New York State (I think) we quickly realized that when it comes to sports teams, we were no longer in the New York City Metro area. Up in Western New York, no matter how badly they perform season after season, this is Buffalo Bills territory.
The Buffalo Bills have trained in Rochester in the summertime for about 12 years now. There are shuttle busses that transport thousands of adoring Bills fans from a local shopping mall to St. John Fisher College. Outside of the LPGA tournament, and Little League it’s perhaps the biggest sporting event in Rochester.
If you are a New York Giant fan (well, actually they *do* play in New Jersey), you have to keep rather quiet about it up here. You don’t hang out a Giant flag as many here hang out a Buffalo Bills Flag. You also don’t go around wearing Giants apparel.
Not even on an infant child.
When our third child was born, a longtime bachelor family friend from “downstate” bestowed upon him an Eli Manning fleece onsie.
When I took my baby out of the house dressed in it one day to pick up my older son at his elementary school, my son’s occupational therapist saw us waiting in the hall.
Obviously a Bills fan, instead of the usual cooing that one does at the sight of an adorable baby, she rudely asked me,
“Why would you dress him in THAT?!”
Up here, I get the buzz that most Rochesterians this Sunday will be rooting for the New England Patriots. This seems to be the consensus among my 6th and 7th grade students. Because I think it’s the culture in Western New York that any team playing against the Giants is the team to root for.
Superbowl Sunday for my husband is a rather lonely day. He works hard all week with other transplants from even farther away: India, China, Europe. Not big Superbowl watchers in that engineering crowd. So, he really doesn’t have any friends up here. Not once in twelve years has he been asked to another man’s man cave for the Big Game. He doesn’t even need a man cave, he just needs a completely hetero man friend for a Superbowl date.
So, I’m looking for a date. For my husband. For Superbowl Sunday. You must be a NY Giants Fan. Must have an understanding of the game that exceeds that of his wife (that’s me, and anyone, including my daughter, knows more about football than me).
I asked him what his dream Superbowl Sunday would look like. Who would be there? First he said he would watch it with his dad. And our brother-in-law Kenny. (What about my dad? He’s a Giant Fan too??) And our crazy hi-fivin’ nephews Addison, Barrett, and Jeremy. And all his buddies from his grad school days at Cal Berkeley. They would sit in a newly made man cave, the one we will someday create in our basement with a big screen, speakers, a huge leather couch and a shaggy rug. Right now, that basement is a messy craft room.
They would scream things at the huge flat screen, like:
“I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY HELD HIM AT FIRST DOWN! “
“INTERCEPTION” and “HOLDING!!”
I think that’s what they yell. I don’t understand football. So help me out with some things guys scream at a TV watching football. I didn’t research that one all the way.
And for food, well I can do that. I’m making him hot dogs and wings and getting him a huge bag of chips and salsa. And some Tums for dessert.
And of course, the Giants will pull off a stunning victory. That, my friends will be no dream.
My daughter came down from her bedroom to talk to me the other night.
No, this sentence warrants a six-column headline:
My daughter came down from her bedroom to talk to me the other night
After all, she is 15. Aside from emerging for meals, school, and showers, she lives in her room.
In another astounding development, my brilliant, confident and extremely disciplined daughter came down to ask me – her mom (!) to help her study!
She asked me to help her study! She still needs me!
This week marks her first set of high school midterms. I admire her extra efforts for studying for them. Math and science is dad’s department. But current events and English, that is my domain. We began to review for her social studies exam. But as we started to review the material – and please – JUST the material – the thought-provoking documentary Race to Nowhere came to mind.
As she crammed the names and positions of 40 current world leaders into her head, was she truly gaining an understanding of current world events? I am a news junkie, so I couldn’t help but wonder - she was memorizing names with faces, but was she learning?
My daughter thrust into my hands a four-page study packet that had 40 mug shots of leaders of North America, Asia and Europe. Also included in the lineup were that week’s Republican candidates who were vying for the nomination for this November’s presidential election. We started with those:
I asked: “Can you name the candidates who are running in the Republican primary?’
“Sure: Gingrich. Romney, and, um — Santorum!”
Great, she had them down. And Perry had just dropped out. But for me, these answers aren’t good enough. After all, in by the time the 2016 Presidential election comes around, she’ll be old enough to vote. So I press on:
“Who is this Newt Gingrich and what position of government did he hold in the past? What was he known for doing in this position?
“I don’t care, mom, that’s not on the test! Just names and positions, Mom.”
I could in some ways empathize with her. The Social Studies midterm was just one test in a slew of tests she will face this week. She still had to conjugate lots of verbs in Spanish for another test. And tackle some tough algebra problems for yet another. Names and faces of world leaders, that’s plenty to know. But is it?
I pressed on.
“Who is the secretary of state?”
“Easy. Hillary Clinton.”
I couldn’t help myself: “And what does the secretary of state do? And what was she before she was secretary of state?”
“Not important, it won’t be on the test! Next leader, please….This is why I like to study with dad more than you!”
“Who is the leader of Venezuela?”
“No problem, Ces, Chavez…. he has a mustache!
“Yes. Now, which other world leader is he getting into bed with and why is this a problem?”
“Into bed with?!?”
“It’s just an expression. It means getting buddy-buddy with.”
“I don’t know! Who cares, it’s-”
“….I know it’s not on the test. But he is getting cozy with a leader in the Middle East in a country that starts with an I-”
“Okay, I know this one, the president of Iran is Ahmadinejad.”
I personally hope she won’t have to spell that one…
“And why is this a problem? What do these countries both have a lot of that we depend on?
“I don’t knoooooww, mom! Sugar? This will not be on the test!”
“Oil, honey, they both have oil and they are both consider the US as an enemy. Oh, and what other country does Iran consider an enemy?”
“This is not on the TEST!”
But she knows. She knows the leaders of Iran want to wipe Israel off the map. She knows this because it’s what we discuss at home. Just like she knew the leader of Israel was Benjamin Netanyahu before she got that study packet.
So, how many world leaders or members of the US cabinet can you recognize or name? And does rattling off these names make our high school students any more knowledgeable on current events?
On a final note, my daughter invited a friend home to study and have dinner with us tonight. Another source of midterm stress: the English composition.
“This could be on ANYTHING, mom. We just won’t know what we are going to have to write about. I mean, the topic could be: What are the social implications of when Neil Young walked on the moon?!”