She's a Real Mother

Mutha's got eyes in the back of her head.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I overheard my 6-year-old tell my 9-year-old that he knew "shit" was a cause for concern. He said, "Max said s - h - i - t on the bus and that is a swear word." There was then a whispered conference about when and where swears happen, how kids could not say them but grown-ups could.

Although my husband and I do not swear in front of our children (okay -- there was the time I burnt my hand on the wood stove and the time Bush was announced the winner of the 2000 election), I really appreciate a good curse. Phrases are my favorite -- and almost always delivered with a dead-pan expression.

A recent favorite has been "Shit outta luck." I'm not sure what that even means literally, but the intent comes across perfectly, as in, "Those Yankees are shit outta luck this year."

I have always favored "I owe you dick," meaning I owe you nothing. "Dick" can also be thrown into other phrases to mean practically nothing, as in, "The Celtics score dick."

And then there is the old stand-by "Abso-fuckin-lutely." It can be used as an adverb ("We are abso-fuckin-lutely goin to Fenway") and as a exclamation ("Are the Sox gonna be in the play-offs this year?" "Abso-fuckin-lutley!").

My father used to tell us kids that ignorant people swore because they couldn't come up with the vocabulary to express themselves. This from the man whose mother swore in two languages. I believe when interjected at the right time and place, cursing is the spice of conversation.

Now come on -- don't be shy. Who has a favorite phrase they would like to share?

Friday, March 09, 2007

In My Room

My sons are about to get their own bedrooms for the first time (not counting the 2 or so years my older one had before the trauma of his sibling's birth). The two of them are beside themselves with excitement over this event which has prompted me to wonder about this feeling of having one's own room.Because I was the only girl in my family -- and because space allowed -- I got my own bedroom while my brothers had to double up. I found this very fair, seeing how I had to deal with the absence of sisters -- something I identified as a gyp. I do believe my brothers had different feelings about the trade-off, but the hardship to my experience of having my own room was that I was not allowed to pick the color. The one picked for me was PINK (and I have only recently made my peace with the color so that I am able to wear it occasionally). And yet, the real pay-off to having my own room was the privacy. Within that privacy I played out elaborate make-believe scenarios that no one would have gone along with (or would have insisted on having a say in what we played. Screw that).I realize now that having lived in small apartments and a less-than-rambling house during these 18 years of marriage, it has been a long time since I had a room of my own...which prompts me to ask anyone who cares to answer: What would you do with a blank slate room of your own?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Context Is Everything

I recently heard an American political writer state that it is now accepted that American was on its way to winning the Vietnam War. What happened next? The propaganda fed to the American people by the Left stole the power away from Nixon that would have made the victory possible. This interview was not on some conservative radio talk show -- it was on NPR. The subject of the interview was not even Vietnam but the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And what's more, no one was challenging this man's assertion.

What came to me first when I heard this man speak was one of the most vivid images of my childhood: the famous black and white picture of the children running down a road having just suffered the effects of an American napalm attack. I was a little girl when I first saw it and so was the central figure in the photograph, only she was nude and screaming. I will never forget it.

Next I was reminded of my family history; the fact that three of my five brothers were of draft age during the duration of that war. One was a priest and so exempt, one had a number so high he was never called, and one went through the process of declaring himself a conscientious objector in 1966. My parents stayed up late many nights talking to him and trying to understand why he would not serve his country in this way. My father had medical reasons for not being accepted to serve in World War II, but he would have gone in a heartbeat and he had no context with which to understand his son's decision. It was those late night conversations and dinner table debates that changed my parents' minds -- the same conversations that happened in many households all over America. The type of dicussion that can open up such other radical topics as the impact of race on experience, the rights of women, and the kind of country Americans wanted to call home.

By the time this man finished speaking I thought, if we as the American people can actually move forward believing we could have won the Vietnam War if we had simply armed more troops and flooded the country with even more destruction then we have provided the context with which to rationalize anything. That is not a context in which I could find a comfortable home.