Happy Birthday To Me

It was my birthday on August 1st, and my Atheist sons did not call. Neither did they e-mail. Neither did they send me a card. Which so works for me. I am tired of the stiff and formal relationship we have had and I think it is time for a new one. Annoyance works for me. They need to be spanked, and they’re too old, so now they can live with what they’ve done. They missed my birthday, they wouldn’t drop me off at the Harry Potter opening, and they have not called to apologize and/or grovel. I think I just got dumped. Silly boys. You can’t dump your mother. Still, I do accept some of the blame for the graceless behavior of my sons. I did something bad to them when they were little. When they were young, the oldest son was sick, and the second son assumed responsibility for the third son, and the daughter played in the woods. And one day, when I was driving the second son to a baseball game, he sort of, kind of asked me what was wrong with his older brother. And I sort of, kind of said that I didn’t know. And in the not knowing, and with a certain amount of despair, I stated to him, quite clearly that, “You have to be the oldest son now.” I thought this was necessary at the time, but it was not good for the family. You can’t change birth order. It is what it is. But I did it. Now, I’m taking it back. Son number one is now son number one. Son number two is now son number two. Son number three is now son number three. Daughter number one is still daughter number one. And so, the numbers roll on. I do not think my sons can be true Atheists. They have not impressed me with any Atheist rhetoric. I hear the world “random” every once in a while, but a word and a nod do not a belief system make. If they had made the world, I would be interested to see what guidelines they would have put in place to allow for peaceful co-existence. But when you do the kids’ homework for them, they don’t learn themselves. But enough about them. I have spent the last few days babysitting some beautiful boys. My nephews, dontcha know, and ones that I have never really gotten to know. As their parents worked, I distracted them from their game boy and x-box and internet and television and cartoon library the only way I knew how. Basically, I pulled out my lighter and lit a cigarette. And it wasn’t the cigarette that caught them. It was the fire. To amuse them, I put my finger through the flame, and the oldest boy almost shouted, “Aunt Wendy’s magic. She can put her finger in fire and not get burned. Do it again.” They hadn’t seen this done before. So I did it. Again, and again and again. Then the little one asked me why I smoked and I said, “When I wake up in the morning, I don’t know where I am. But when I have a cigarette, then I remember.” And he considered this carefully for a moment, and then he said, “What do you do when you smoke a cigarette?” And I said, “I talk to God”. Of course the minute it was out of my mouth, I knew I had said the wrong thing. But on further reflection, I realized that talking to God could be construed as praying, which is something that is done in my family, and that therefore, smoking and praying at the same time were not mutually contradictory. Risky. But not impossible. I let the statement stand. We played with fire for the rest of the day and the oldest lit any number of leaves and twigs and bits of paper and by the time he had done, he had exhausted my black lighter, my pink lighter and the green lighter was spitting fluid. Not something I like to see in a lighter. And I was tired of playing with fire, so I suggested digging a hole to China. Digging a hole to China is a great game. You take three boys, and you give them each a spoon, and you take them into the back yard, and you tell them they have to dig a hole to China. I have whiled away many an afternoon in this fashion, and if you keep your mouth shut, you hear where the children are at. It didn’t take long to realize that the second son was having trouble. I had listened to him for a day, and heard him kill good stories with bad stories, and I had watched the boys interact for a day, and they were having problems with him. So, while one boy went to get water to wet down the hole, and the other searched for a stick suitable for starting a fire Indian fashion, (because he stopped playing once he realized his brother would be there too), I had a chat with the boy. And I said, “You can make people do what you want them to do, and you have everything you thought you wanted, but you’re not happy because no one likes you.” And he looked at me, this nephew of mine, and he lifted up his chin, and I said, “You have to go back to the beginning. You have to start at A. You can still move people around, and you can still make them do what you want, but you have to want to make good things happen instead of bad.” And as I talked, we moved mud out of the hole, and we had made a small pile, and my nephew made a handprint in the mud. Then I put my handprint on top of his. His brothers did not join in, but the oldest had started the hole, and the youngest had brought water for the wetting of the mud. It was a very good symbol, and I liked it. Then I told the middle boy that he had to stop sitting in his father’s chair, because I had noticed right away when I came that he had claimed it with his machinations, and that was wrong. He didn’t want to give up the chair and I could see it was a wrench, but, the family story couldn’t go on until he moved his butt. So I said, “Your brothers won’t trust you if you’re sitting in your father’s chair. Your father’s chair belongs to him. His father had his own chair and he should have his own chair and you’re sitting in it. If you give up the chair, your brothers will believe that you are willing to work for the good and they might start to trust you again.” And then I told his brothers, and we kids all understood, but explaining it to grownups is hard. Of course, when the parents came home, the little one blabbed the stuff I most didn’t want her to hear to his mom, and she sat up a little straighter. But she is a fine mom, and while I come at a problem one way, she comes at it another. And while I arrow in and lance the boil, she analyzes and deals with the data. Two very different parenting styles. But I, thank ***, am only an aunt. I think I helped. I certainly talked. I really listened. And I love those boys. Mom will forgive me, I trust. And I think she may have, because while the boys were clamoring to play with the fire, while their mom was there, she directed one son to go inside and get the candle starter. It is a neat, trusty instrument, that requires the press of a button, but it gets the job done. And then, she gave the fire starter to her son. Which was very well done. Mother’s don’t like their sons to play with fire. But, like I always say, if you don’t know how to start a fire, you don’t know how to put out a fire. Finally, as we were finishing supper, the little one’s mom told her youngest that he couldn’t have the lighter, but that Aunt Wendy could because she was a grownup. And the baby dissolved in giggles, and said, “She’s not a grown up.” Then, the little one said, “I have a Peter Pan Piggy Bank”. And I said, “Great. The one where all the money disappears?” And I mulled that over for a minute and then I thought that it wasn’t a bad idea. We might all have to talk to each other again if the money was gone. Before I left, I took a red heart that I had picked up on a walk with the boys and I gave it to the second son. He held on to it all day, and then he tore it in half. When his brother pointed out to him that it was broken, I suggested that he give half to me and that I would send the other half to him if ever I needed to get a message to him. Apparently, he never forgets anything, and I think it might be a good game. Then I told him that if he needed something to keep his wonderful mind occupied, he should go to The New England Journal of Medicine and start practicing putting names to the diseases that are pictured there. And then I wrote the name of the NEJM on his half of the heart. They have a web-site that’s so easy, even a kid could do it. Plus, I thought he should start learning now, with a heavy emphasis on ethics. It is my understanding that the profession has forgotten its bedside manner in favor of its pharmaceuticals. I don’t know that my nephew will listen to me, but I do know that he had backed himself into a corner. And I showed him a way out. And in the morning, before I left, he had made me a picture of a camouflaged forest, with green tree trunks and beige trees tops, and a wood stick cottage, and a tree with red apples? on it. But I didn’t ask him if the picture was for me. I just took it. And then, when I left and my sister-in-law asked if I would like anything to drink for the road, I asked for a tin of iced tea. And I got it. And the iced tea belonged to the second son, and only he drank it, and so on and so forth. Many more exciting things happened, but I am home now and conscious that I have been sitting in the daddy seat and it’s not my place. But I wanted to play. I used to sit in my daddy’s lap when he played the church organ. And when I heard the swell, and the rise, and the fortissimo of the pipes, I almost thought it was me running the keyboard, and working the pedal. Almost. But not quite. I miss my dad, but I remember him well. When he practiced at the organ, he had an ashtray to the side. On Sunday, when he finished playing he would have the cigarette in his hand as he was coming through the door. And when he hit the church steps, the cigarette would be lit, and often as not, I would be standing beside him. I am not him. I am his daughter, and I cannot play the organ. But he taught me how to smoke. P.S. Kami? I understand the reason I did not have company last night had something to do with you. And that there are MANY reasons I did not have company last night. Which means I am miffed. And you can add in annoyed, affronted and unsatisfied with your explanation which I picked up over at St. Anne’s. The aforementioned notwithstanding, “Crazy on you” is a great song. I’m not that fussed on “Imagine” (my fault I’m sure), but hearing the Proclaimers always makes me put my head down. Have you heard, “We built this city on Rock and Roll”? Or did I already give you that one? Sometimes songs get stuck in my head. ttyl wendy

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