You can go home again…

The Boy is home for a couple of weeks. We are awaiting the arrival of The Girl tonight. They haven’t seen each other in about two years, so it’s good that the schedules for their holidays partially aligned, and they will spend a few days together under my roof.

The first few days with The Boy have been entertaining. A few snippets from his return.

~~~~~~

Fortunately my fleet is now operational. There will be a full week with both spawn under roof, and they will likely both want to go in different directions. i also have a pesky day job, and will need to be somewhere else. We had to craft a plan of attack for vehicular assignments…

daisyfae: The Girl hasn’t driven a car in two years. She’s going to have the Civic. That was her car, she’s comfortable driving it, and probably the safest option. i’m going to have to get you checked out on the Jeep.

The Boy: I could just drive the Jag.

daisyfae: Ummm…. No. Let’s get you checked out on the Jeep. You’ll have to be gentle – new transmission isn’t really broken in yet.

So i took him out in the neighborhood for a practice run. He knows how to drive a standard transmission, but it’s not the same as driving the Jeep. Sure, he’s now qualified to drive a variety of military vehicles, HMMVs, troop carriers and the like…. But not my Jeep.

He hopped in, as excited as the day he got to drive the lawn tractor for the first time. For the first time? i got in the right seat. No one else drives my Jeep. Just hasn’t happened. A few scoots around the neighborhood, and some test runs in the cemetery to practice stops, tight turns, and hills. He chirped the tires, damn near ran us into a maintenance shed, but got the hang of it pretty quickly. i turned him loose. He was ready to solo.

i was a fucking wreck after he tooled down the street – off to the skate park to play skateboards.

Going on about my business, i went on with my plans for the evening. Happy to see the Jeep safely home when i returned. Checked in with him the next morning…

The Boy: It was really fun, but that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to drive.

daisyfae: You can do it, but just be careful. You know how i feel about that one…

The Boy: Yeah, it was a helluva lot easier to drive after you got out.

~~~~~~

This morning, we were sorting logistics for retrieving The Girl from the airport.

The Boy: I figure we can pick her up in the Jag, no?

daisyfae: No. She’ll have luggage, and probably want the front seat, which means you get shoe-horned in the back.

The Boy: Whatever. I’m good with any means of transportation.

daisyfae: No smoking in the Jag, either.

The Boy: Obviously! I’m not dumb!

daisyfae: Just making sure. You have always had a bit of ‘law scholar’ in you – and if not expressly prohibited…

The Boy: I do have a degree in Drunkard Pro Se Law from the University of Phoenix.

together we win

He is physically fit – working out is a critical part of his job. He was pretty solid when i saw him at his graduation in March, but he’s stronger now. When Studley showed up at my place to say ‘hello’…

The Boy: My boobs are pecs now! Want to feel them?

Studley: No, not really. I prefer boobs to pecs, but thanks anyway.

Postcards from the edge…

The Boy completes basic training soon. i’ve had several calls, and even a couple of letters, and he’s doing very well – most importantly, he loves the challenge of the training, and is comfortable with his decision to enter the military.

During his training, i was diligently writing a couple of letters each week.  He said mail call was usually a pretty relaxed part of the day, and the Drill Sergeants were starting to have more fun messing with the recruits.  Postcards were read aloud, with much drama and commentary.

With a week of farting around on an island, Studley and i had a perfect opportunity to entertain the troops.  Selecting two classic postcards from the resort gift shop, we set about crafting some silliness.

Card #1:

Dear Boy,

Having a good time, but the trip had a very rough start!  Studley went off with a flight attendant!  i was heart-broken, but the boat captain, Carlos, has been so comforting!  He’s about your age, but real mature!  He might end up being your next Daddy!  Hope to bring him to your graduation in March!

Love,

Mom

Surf's up!Card #2:

Dear Boy,

Was having a good time but then your Mom left me.  I went to ask this flight attendant her recommendation on where to eat, and next thing you know, your mom is leaving with a local kid, AND MY WALLET!  I’m waiting on a money order so I can get home.  Hope all is well with you.

Studley

ready to retireWhen he called yesterday to sort logistics for his graduation, i asked if he’d gotten the post cards.

The Boy:  Oh, yeah!  That was pretty funny!

daisyfae:  Did the Drill Sergeant read them out loud?

The Boy:  He read the one from Studley to himself first.  Read it a couple of times, and then handed it to me.  Said “Seems PFC Fae has some messed up family issues at home!”  He must have figured it was a joke when he saw the one from you – and he read that one out loud!  It was pretty funny!

daisyfae: Mission accomplished!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As The Girl boarded a bus in San Diego, headed for Mexico, it washed over me like a cold shower – “The next time i see her, she will be changed.”  A day later, she started her Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a ship with 700 undergraduate students.  Six weeks later, i watched her disembark from that ship as it docked in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  We spent a week knocking around Vietnam and Cambodia together – and seeing her confidence, i realized that i had been right.

We spent our last night there drinking beer in a cowboy bar, listening to a Vietnamese country and western band knock out respectable covers, including a memorable version of “Stand By Your Man”.  Her adventures continued the next day, and i began my journey home.  At 20 years old, she was well on her way to becoming an engaged, contributing citizen of Planet Earth.

She was changed.  She was broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Six weeks ago, i watched as The Boy boarded a plane for basic training.  The exact same feeling – “The next time i see him, he will be changed.”  He’d signed an eight year commitment.  All in.  A very challenging, and unknown path ahead of him.  Much like the Semester at Sea, i also knew that he would have very limited opportunities to communicate – adding to the parental anxiety.

Yesterday, i stood at the airport awaiting his arrival.  Two weeks of leave for Christmas break.  Happy holiday travelers filled the exit chute.  i hopped around in the coffee shop, nervously scanning the crowd, looking for military uniforms.  A few soldiers came by, but not mine…

“Oh, I just want to hug them all, don’t you?” said the sweet woman standing next to me.  She told me she was waiting for her mother to arrive for the holidays, but she just loved seeing the young soldiers in uniform.  i agreed, and continued to bop around nervously, waiting for the next pack to walk down the hallway.

i saw him.  Not breaking his bearing, he spotted me and cracked a tiny smile.  i bounced around the coffee bar and gave him a hug. “How did you get taller?  And what did they do with the rest of your hair?”  

“It’s the boots”.

As we turned to head for the exit, i spotted my coffee bar companion.

“And by the way, this lovely lady wants to hug you, too!”

We headed for the car, where i had secured his ‘welcome basket’ – a good India Pale Ale and a pack of smokes.  Non-stop conversation on the drive home.  Tales of bureaucracy, head games, physical challenges and “Shit My Drill Sergeant Said”.  Sick Bay and Hand Grenades.  Running his first seven minute mile (he was at nine minutes just a few weeks back).  And leaning forward into what lies ahead.

He is changed.  He is broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Coming Home

Message in a Bottle

On Sunday, Studley and i drove The Boy to Capital City, where he was to spend the night prior to shipping out for Army training on Monday. He had to be checked in by 3:00pm, but didn’t need to be back until much later, so we took him out for dinner.  Resourceful as ever, i found an upscale establishment featuring acres of football on flat screen TVs, and scantily-clad lovelies delivering beer.

The Boy demonstrated great restraint – ordering a grilled chicken salad and coke, while Studley and i worked our way through the autumn beer menu, bashed a variety of deep fried appetizers and shared a hamburger the size of a watermelon. At Basic Training, The Boy will certainly have to demonstrate discipline in the face of temptation. We figured it would be good for his training. It was the least we could do.

We discussed the timing of Christmas break, and speculated as to whether i’d be able to send him a small gift box. With only a few weeks into his training, i wasn’t even sure i’d have a mailing address for him by then.

Studley: Used to be that all recruits were forced to write a ‘safe and sound’ letter upon arrival. [in his best Drill Instructor voice] “YOU MAGGOTS GET OUT A PEN! YOU WILL TELL YOUR FAMILY YOU HAVE ARRIVED SAFE AND SOUND. MAKE IT SHORT AND SWEET! THIS IS NOT SUMMER CAMP! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” That was right before you disappeared off the face of the earth…

The Boy: They might still do something like that. Another way to let us know they own our asses…

daisyfae: But you also might have a chance to write sometime when it’s not forced! i want to know whether your communications are voluntary or directed! We should figure out a code word to add… something that lets me know if you were forced to write it!

The Boy: A word I would never use. “Refreshing?” “Delightful?” Yeah, they’re words I wouldn’t use, but if the DI reads the letter, I’m liable to get beat up…

We went back to inhaling food and drinking beer, while The Boy picked at his salad. It still seemed important to develop a code. It finally hit me…

From the time he could write his name, The Boy made it a point to sign every birthday or Mother’s Day card with both his first and last names, as if i need to know which Boy Fae is offering his kind regards on my days of recognition.

daisyfae: i’ve got it! If you are forced to write a letter, just sign your first name – “Boy”! It will look completely normal to anyone screening the letter, and i’ll immediately know that you were directed to write! If you have some downtime, and they give you the opportunity to scratch out a few lines, sign as you normally would, “Boy Fae”. It’s perfect!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My daily alarm startled me at 0600 Tuesday. i grabbed my phone from the bedside table to silence the beast, and was surprised to find a text from The Boy, time stamped just past midnight.

“It’s me letting you know that I arrived safe and sound – Boy”

text message in a bottle

image found here

Of all the words of mice and men…

When The Boy was small, he liked to be carried in front of me, with his arms wrapped around my neck, and his legs around my waist. “Baby Monkey” is what we called it… i had to stop this when he was around 6 years old, as the flying leaps he’d take from the sofa into “Baby Monkey Position” nearly broke my neck.

bad little hombre

It was also around this time that he declared his intention to become a bird. Spending hours on the swing set in the back yard, he’d race into the house, excited to tell us that he’d swung high enough to almost fly. “I think my feet are starting to become claws!”

kinder

Eventually, he gave up his dream to become a bird. Coming home from work one evening, i was surprised to find a Ken doll swinging from a shoelace – one end attached to his neck, the other anchored on the stair railing. An audience of GI Joe dolls action figures watched in stoic silence.

daisyfae:  “What’s this?”

The Boy (at 9 years old):  “War criminal.”

i continued upstairs to the kitchen to start dinner. After abandoning his dreams of feathered flight, my son wanted to be “An Army Guy”, and was now apparently in training to serve as Judge Advocate General.

futbol ruffian

He held to this career choice into his early teens, but a combination of the politics of war and his entry into The Wilderness Years* pulled him in other directions. He started working at the age of 16, and found a transient niche in the pizza industry – which carried him through most of his academic years.

Last year, he started his first “grown up” job, working as a field auditor supporting the electrical power industry. With a few weeks training, he was sent into a hurricane in preparation for storm damage management. He got good at this job, earned a promotion and banked a shitload of money. He lived on the road – hiking through meth labs in the Ozarks, and urban war zones in the south.

powerman

It was just interesting enough. Money and benefits were good, but it wasn’t satisfying.  The work was of no consequence… had no meaning.  We’d discussed motivation during one of his visits home between work assignments. He read a lot. All the time, in fact. History. Philosophy. Bukowski, Hemingway, Vonnegut among many others. He made the best use of his time on the road.

???????????????????????????????

The Boy stopped in at the homestead on his way to an assignment in Oregon. i was a bit surprised to find him in residence when i returned from my dive trip to Saba in September.

daisyfae: Aren’t you supposed to be headed out west?

The Boy: Got a different assignment. Heading to Georgia.

daisyfae: Cool! Less driving, i guess. Where in Georgia?

The Boy: Fort Benning.

daisyfae: That’s weird… Counting shit on power poles on an Army Base?

The Boy: Not exactly…

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’ – K. Vonnegut, Jr.

As he approached his 25th birthday, he realized that the window of opportunity to pursue such a grand challenge would be short.  No regrets.

This afternoon, his father and i watched as he boarded a plane for Georgia.  He is An Army Guy.  He earned a direct accession slot for Special Forces. He’ll be damn good at it.

swearing

* “The Wilderness Years” – an unregistered trademark from a man who kept me off meds and ledges while my son was wrangling the demons.  Thanks, kono

A Juan and a two…

For the past year, The Boy has lived the life of a nomad, working as a field auditor for power and communications companies. He isn’t home to visit often, but when he’s in town we’ve adopted a new tradition – Bad Juan margaritas at the local TexMex dive.

These are not just any margaritas.  Not the frozen girlie variety sold in chain restaurants.  Not the syrupy-sweet stuff that bachelorettes drink to excess in Vegas. They are both terrifying and magical in their potency – bringing inexplicable cheerfulness when consumed responsibly. And by “responsibly”, i mean “less than three”, as the restaurant generally won’t serve any individual patron more than three of these things*.

But what fun is that?

We continued the tradition on his last visit.  Bashing tortilla chips and sipping the neon-green power-punch, The Boy talked about the frustrations of life on the road.  Ten to twelve-hour days.  The work is repetitive enough to be mind-numbing, but still requires just enough intellectual effort to prevent him from completely zoning out.  He doesn’t
want to do this forever, but isn’t quite sure what’s next.

daisyfae:  In the meantime, you’re not stuck behind a desk.  The pay and benefits are good.

The Boy:  True. But how much money do I need?  If you have enough, it loses meaning.

daisyfae: Then reframe it into terms that DO have meaning!  How many Bad Juans do you earn an hour?

The Boy:  I like the way you’re thinking here…

We did some basic math.  At $7.00 per drink – accounting for overtime, taxes and other adjustments to income – he earns more than enough to get really, really shit-faced drunk.

Motivation.  We haz it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This month, The Boy is working in Florida, so it’s a bit more difficult for him to visit for the weekend.  He uses my place as his permanent mailing address.  Usually, i just pile his mail up in a basket on his desk, but the letter from his auto insurance agent was likely a bill.  i realized last weekend that he wouldn’t be home before the due date, so i
paid it.  Sent him a text afterwards…

daisyfae:  Just paid your car insurance – $392.  We can settle up next time you’re in town!

The Boy:  Thanks!  If you take payment in Bad Juans, it’s exactly 56.

daisyfae:  That would more than kill me.  Nice try.  Cash or check preferred.

The Boy:  Shekels it is!

it'll get you drunk

image found here

* unless you time your visit to coincide with a shift change, when you can sometimes scam a fourth one…

Merry Christmas

i have many tales to tell. But not just yet…

The Boy and i have started our journey home, and The Girl is back at her apartment, recovering from our visit.

Through the years, it became a family tradition as we erected* the Christmas tree, for me to stand back and say (in my best June Cleaver voice) “It’s the most BEAUTIFUL Christmas tree EVER!”. The kids would play along with this saying “Yes, Mother! It really IS the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had!”

This year? We spent Christmas Eve in a very nice hotel room, thousands of miles away from the unopened box in the storage room at home that holds two decades worth of Christmas ornaments.

During the afternoon, The Boy and i were camped in the hotel room, waiting for The Girl to finish working for the day. Since i am a frequent visitor at this particular hotel chain, i had been granted access to the Executive Lounge. With an open bar. The mini-fridge up there was loaded with Carlsberg and Tuborg Gold!

Sipping free beer as we prepared for a siesta, The Boy asked if i’d ever seen a Heineken Christmas Tree. Googling it, we agreed that it might be possible to construct one. It would require some ingenuity, but we had a fridge full of free beer and an afternoon to kill…

We did it. By exploiting some odds and ends we swiped borrowed from the hotel bar, we built a tree. Even rigged the desk lamp to light it from below.

We were joined for the night by two of The Girl’s friends – they’d stayed too late to catch the last buses home, so we shuffled the sleeping arrangements and made some room on the floor for the menfolk.

Midnight arrived, and we toasted our Christmas in Turkey.

“It’s the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.”

And it was…

20111225-134858.jpg

* nhur, nhur, nhur…. “erected”…

Baby’s Day Out

We’ve been camping in Izmir, Turkey for about four days. The Boy and i crashing on sofas in the living room in the fairly small apartment The Girl shares with one of her fellow teachers here. Although she was able to get a substantial chunk of time off work to babysit entertain us, she had to go to work this afternoon.

She’s been a fabulous guide for the past two weeks, showing us some amazing sites while teaching the basics of life in Turkey. The plan for today? The Boy and i would have a “down day” in the apartment while she and her roomie went to work. Plus, it’s definitely time to do some laundry.

The Girl was scared shitless about leaving us alone.

This morning, she fussed over every detail. How to open the doors. Which keys go where. How to lock the doors. How to close the doors without making a terrible noise and annoying the neighbors. How to run the washing machine.

Our plan was to go to the grocery store next door, buy some basics, and spend the afternoon cleaning the apartment top to bottom. She coached us again on how to say “I don’t speak Turkish”, and that the cashier would ask if we wanted a store loyalty card. Reminded us how to say “No”.

As she was preparing to leave, The Boy and i noted that we felt like latch-key children, being left on their own for the first time.

The Girl: Yeah… Kinda like two giant toddlers who like beer and cigarettes.

As she left, we prepared our game plan, and grocery list, for the day. Venturing out, we were going over roles and responsibilities. It’s my job to work the conversational bits, and he’s got the key/door thing down.

The Boy: Between the two of us, we’re like one functional person.

daisyfae: Almost…

But we did it. Remembering the type of cheese The Girl likes. Sorting through the aisle of cleaning supplies and figuring out which is for windows and which is for countertops (cleverly marked with pictures of windows and countertops, by the way). Me asking for cigarettes at the checkout… Picked up a store loyalty card, and was even able to take advantage of a special on bananas! 2kg* for 1 Turkish Lire!

The Boy fixed lunch while i started cleaning. “Start at the top and work your way down”. Didn’t take too long, and we were pretty proud of the results. Plenty of time to shower and relax before we make our way to the bus stop, and wait for the 209 this evening… Hopefully finding our way to her office to meet her after work for drinks!

20111222-095023.jpg

Two very enterprising toddlers at Ephesus yesterday. Home to some seriously old shit…

* And that’s a metric shit ton of bananas, by the way…

not Constantinople…

And away we go…

i’ll be a bit scarce in your comment boxes* over the next bit…

happy holidays. may you not strangle your loved ones, or strangers in shopping malls. may you enjoy the down time at the office, fucking off for pay. may you eat yourself into a sugar coma and gain no weight.

and may we avoid finding out the joys of a Turkish prison…

20111214-155836.jpg

*not a euphemism. probably. well… except for you. and you know who you are.

Teach your children well…

Conversation with The Boy last week, as we prepared to head to the gun range to blast our way through his arsenal… Hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, and we were catching up on details – large and small.

The Boy:  I’m not really looking for a girlfriend.  I won’t settle down until I find a woman smarter than I am.

daisyfae:  Good plan.  My gents are all very intelligent, and smarter than i am in some way or another…

The Boy:  Yeah, but it’s easier for you to find smart men…

daisyfae:

The Boy:  There are just a lot more smart men than smart women!

daisyfae:  Look, dickhead* – do you realize how smart your sister is?  How smart i am?

The Boy:  Calm down!  I know.  That Bell Curve?  You guys are on it…  Yeah.  Definitely.  Right there on it…

As testament to his bravery, it wasn’t an hour later that he was giving me a safety briefing on a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver…  Grrrr…

* He likes to get me riled up.  i don’t want to believe he’s the huge misogynist he pretends to be…