On Turning 10
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light—
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
~ Billy Collins
When I was 16, I went to a party with my sister’s boyfriend, Paul. It was a party filled with Spanish people who apparently party in a much different way than us boring ol’ white ones. While I was there, they stuffed me into a ruffly red and black flamenco dress that was too tight to zip all the way up, shoved a flower behind my ear and castanets onto my fingertips and made me dance in the middle of a courtyard filled with strangers. Can you say Olé?
My parents have been together since 1971. For the past 10 years, their interaction has been minimal.
“Gotta take a break. I wanna play in the rain.” These are lyrics from a 7-up commercial circa 1987 that my best friend Chris and I used to scream-sing while we took a break from hanging around the house and (innovative, I know) played in the rain.
My sons, Griffin and Keifer, are 10 and eight, respectively.
In the remake of the film Freaky Friday, Anna, a free-spirited teenager, is in a band, has skunk-striped hair and likes punk rock. Anna cannot get along with her mother, Tess. Tess is stodgy and conservative and likes to wear neutral-colored clothes and a dour expression. She doesn’t support Anna’s band and thinks anything Anna finds important is silly and immature. Tess is a “fun sucker.”
Once we were old enough to drive, Chris and I and random friends went to Denny’s on Friday and Saturday nights. We sat for hours smoking Camels while drinking coffee overloaded with cream and sugar and dipping chicken fingers, onion rings and french fries into a ramekin full of ranch dressing. Not only were we fans of the deep fried foods, but we were no strangers to the hot fudge cake sundae either.
Griffin likes to put his Star Wars action figures in various positions around his bedroom and have them battle. This entertains him for a ridiculous amount of time. Keifer enjoys drawing objects, cutting them out and using them as if they are the actual objects portrayed. Both boys go crazy for some tag-like game called Manhunt; they play it for hours with neighborhood kids that they barely know.
When I was 15, I hung out at Paul’s house with my sister and a few of our friends on New Year’s Eve. We sat on his screened-in patio around a round table, just talking and laughing and smoking cigarettes. We may have been drinking; we may have been teetotaling. I really don’t remember. I do remember that as part of a Spanish tradition, we ate grapes at midnight. I know it doesn’t sound so special, but to this day, it’s one of the best New Year’s Eves I’ve had.
My Mother’s Routine, 2004-present
Weekdays, Weekends and Holiday
During the day:
Wake up between noon and 3:00
Complain about her Fibromyalgia
Smoke the first of many cigarettes
Complain about her Fibromyalgia
Alternate between sleeping, eating, and complaining about her Fibromyalgia
1. Alternate between sleeping, eating, and complaining about her Fibromyalgia
2. Go to sleep between midnight and 5:00 a.m.
“My Generation” by The Who is the song of a generation. Roger Daltrey is sick of [old] people putting his generation down because they g-g-get around.
My 57-year-old father, who used to own a bar and stay out all night carousing with his friends, who used to be one of the top-rated dart players in Chicago, rarely leaves his computer room. He sits there in gym shorts that cover his big, egg-shaped stomach, socks pulled up to mid-calf, surfing the Internet and playing computer games for hours. He no longer owns a dartboard.
Griffin and Keifer recently went to a Weezer concert with my husband and me. When the singer threw beach balls into the audience, Griffin jumped up and down and screamed so frantically, you’d think they were beach balls made of gold. Keifer was pretty damn excited too.
My first car was a Fiat X-19 named Black Bullet. It was an old car of my dad’s that he deemed not good enough to drive and abandoned beneath our carport around the time I was 13. When I turned 16, I paid about a thousand dollars to get it running. The Black Bullet was small enough to fit in my pocket and so low to the ground that when I drove through super high puddles, water would seep through the rusted floorboards and my lap would get wet. It had no air conditioning, but the top came off, so if I drove fast enough through the hot Florida streets, the wind would cool me down a degree or two. The Black Bullet was the best car ever.
“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have the facts of life.” The Facts of Life,a TV show from the ’80s with a really catchy theme song, focused on schoolgirls Blaire, Jo, Nathalie and Tootie, who always managed to get themselves into trouble but thankfully had the older, wiser Mrs. Garrett around to show them the error of their silly, adolescent ways.
I was looking through my father’s high school yearbooks one day, and there he was, in picture after picture, representing club after club, organization after organization. Page after page was filled with message after message and signature after signature from what looked to be almost every student in attendance at Lakeview High School in 1969. Several years later and just a few years ago, my mom mentioned that she couldn’t find my dad’s yearbooks, and when she asked him where they were, he told her that he had thrown them away because he didn’t want any reminders of what he used to be.
After high school, Chris moved to Gainesville and then to Colorado; Tawny took her place. Tawny and I spent Tuesday nights at Red Room; Wednesday and Friday nights at The Edge and Thursday and Saturday nights at The Kitchen. If we weren’t at a club, we were at the Mudhouse, drinking green tea and playing Scattergories whilst tripping on LSD. Once the Mudhouse closed down, we moved on to The Nocturnal Café and cocaine.
Another thing my sons love to do is play the Alphabet Game. In the Alphabet Game, we choose a subject—say jobs—and starting with the letter “A,” name jobs starting with the next letter of the alphabet. A game with Griffin, Keifer, my husband Glenn and me might go something like this:
Griffin will say, I’m first! Astronomer.
Okay, I’ll say, bartender. Kei?
Corn peeler’s not a job, Glenn will say.
Okay, chocolate wrapping person!
After a statement like this, Griffin and Keifer will laugh hysterically.
I’m not playing if you’re not going to be serious, Glenn will say.
All right, Keifer will say. Clown.
Dentist, Glenn will say.
Elephant trainer, Griffin will say.
Flute player, I’ll say. Kei?
Giraffe washer! he’ll say, and he’ll laugh like a madman.
That’s not a job! Glenn will say. If you want to play, say real jobs.
I think you get the idea.
If we weren’t at a club or some dirty coffeehouse, Tawny and I were at the News Café spreading Brie on French bread or dipping strawberries into whipped cream. At the end of our nights, we always drove westward to avoid the rising the sun. One night/morning while tripping and heading toward the Everglades, the following verse was born:
I want to roll in the grass
Get ladybugs in my hair
Squish berries beneath my bare feet
Life is not a school zone
I will not slow down
An adult who behaves like a child and believes fun is the most important thing in life is said to have a Peter Pan complex because, clearly, life has nothing to do with having fun.
Yo’ mama’s so fat, Obi Wan-Kenobi said, “That’s not a moon, that’s your mama!” This joke makes Griffin and Keifer laugh uncontrollably, as do most “yo’ mama” jokes. They’re particularly fond of knock-knock jokes too.
Going out to eat was the one thing my mother loved. Two to three times a week, my family ate out when I was growing up. For the past 10 to 15 years, too tired from too much sleep and too stiff from doing nothing, she has mostly forsaken restaurants, content to take trip after trip to the freezer and stove, eating a pot of melted butter like it’s soup and sucking on so many popsicles, her lips swell.
I was 21 when I first saw the Florida Panthers’ rookie left winger Radek Dvorak, and I was 21 and a few seconds older when I fell in love with him. Totally set on finding a way to insinuate myself into his life, I participated in many a high-speed chase with Radek. As much as I loved him, though, he was hardly the only one for me. Past boy-related activities include, but are not limited to, following Joey Ramone around Fort Lauderdale before a concert and all the way to Orlando when it ended; lingering at the exit of a Cinderella concert long enough to “bump into” the singer, Tom Keifer; prowling around a Taco Bell in North Miami where Slaughter gave a three-song show in an effort to meet Mark Slaughter but settling for an autograph from a really cute roadie named Drew; driving up and down the streets of Fort Lauderdale’s residential neighborhoods searching for a certain waiter’s sparkly blue jeep; and staying at the Mudhouse until it closed at 5:00
a.m. several times a week to get the attention of a counter boy named Mitch.
Everclear has a song called “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.” When the mom in the song is young, she’s a bad girl, banging people at her high school prom, having threesomes and dabbling in porn. As an adult, she trades it all in for conservative ideals and a Swedish vehicle with a five-star safety rating.
Keifer has played soccer for five years, so I begrudgingly must admit that I’m a soccer mom. Like other soccer moms I’ve seen, I’ve traded in my long, wild curls for a short sensible cut, but to this day, I haven’t witnessed any with purple, blue, or pink hair. I seem to be the only one.
Tawny moved. She fell for a pastor, became a Baptist, and now has three kids. She lived in some foot-washing Baptist town in the Midwest the last time we talked, which was about five years ago. Last year I heard that she moved back to South Florida, is very involved with her church, and has no interest in reconnecting with old friends. More recently, I saw that she’s now on Facebook. If I held my breath waiting for a friend request, I’d be dead.
Griffin is going to invent a hovercraft that’s accessible to anybody interested in having a hovercraft. He’s absolutely positive that he will invent this. He’s also absolutely positive that he’ll earn a doctorate in history from The College of William and Mary. Keifer plans to live in a four-story house with a pool on the roof, a tree house on stilts, a petting zoo and a floating pizza parlor. He’s going to be a rock star, a doctor and an actor as well.
When I was young, I wanted to be a writer and move back to Chicago. I now teach high school English and live in Davie, Florida. Yeehaw.
I don’t even know the last time I ate at a Denny’s, and because I don’t want to be the fattest person in existence or have a heart attack at 47 like my father. I no longer smoke cigarettes and haven’t had mayonnaise in years; alas, ranch dressing is nothing but a fond, creamy memory. French fries, though, I refuse to forgo.
According to my mom, she and my father have not had sex in 15 years.
The Breakfast Club is arguably the most significant movie of my generation. In this film, the lives of five very different high school students merge in Saturday detention. Though these five students come from vastly different backgrounds and clash with one another at the onset of the movie, they eventually find they have one thing in common: they vehemently distrust and dislike adults. To their horror, they realize that as they mature, they will be just like their parents. According to Allison, “It’s unavoidable… When you grow up, your heart dies.”
My newest obsession is Tom DeLonge, lead singer of Angels and Airwaves and Blink-182. I’ve spent many an hour looking for pictures of him on Google Images and watching him in video clips on Youtube. Last week when Angels and Airwaves played in Pompano Beach, because I wanted to be as close to Tom as legally possible, I spent an extra $20 to go to sound check, which ended two hours before the doors were officially scheduled to open for the show. What’s a girl with a history of stalking to do when she has two hours to kill and the object of her obsession in merely yards—yards!—away? I don’t know about other girls, but this former stalker retreated to a nearby Starbucks for a fat-free, no whip Café Mocha, content—okay, not quite content, but no longer crazy enough to not be content—to look at pictures of Tom on her phone.
Kel McIntyre Marthe is an English teacher by day and MFA student by night. Her essays have been published in Hippocampus Magazine, Southern Women’s Review, and The Northville Review. She lives in Davie, Florida, with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. Because she’s often extremely busy socializing on Facebook and taking pictures of her dogs with various objects placed upon their heads, she rarely has free time, but if she did, she believes she would spend it reading the books on every book list she sees, writing her thesis, and, of course, stalking the members of Blink-182. You can follow her tweets at twitter.com/melankelly and check out the blog she somehow finds time to write at melankelly.blogspot.com.
Editor: Anne Clendening
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