Soft Chocolate

unnamedGigi: I like my chocolate to be soft. You know what I mean?

Cassie: Umm. No. Not really.

Gigi: That bite you gave me of that chocolate cake was too rough in my mouth.

Cassie: It wasn’t rough. It was absolutely delicious. From a very fancy restaurant. Dark chocolate mousse cake. Extremely soft.

Gigi: Did you say dark chocolate?

Cassie: Yes.

Gigi: Dark chocolate is rough. I like the soft kind.

Cassie: Maybe you mean milk chocolate.

Gigi: Yep. That’s it. That dark chocolate is so rough it’s probably making my throat and stomach have a blister.

Cassie: Oh brother. I’ll remember that the next time I bring home a fancy dark chocolate dessert to share with my beloved children.

Gigi: Yea…if it’s not soft chocolate, I don’t want to hear about it.


Vigorously Tying a Necktie

Charlie The Kid: This YouTube video on how to tie a necktie is lame. The voice over instructions are super annoying to me. Like he needs to have a better voice.

Cassie: Try another one.

Charlie The Kid: Right. (Goes to another video) Ok. I’m doing it. (He makes a twist and turn of the tie material, a tie loop appears) No. No. No. It’s sloppy. This knot didn’t work at all.

Cassie: Can’t you just wait for Dad?

Charlie The Kid: He’s shown me before. A long time ago. He ties the tie vigorously. You know, like zip, zip, zip. He does a good knot. Tight. Mine is too loose again. Nope. Total crap.

(He undoes the loose knot he’s attempted and fiddles with his phone to find another video on YouTube…he mumbles…he watches the next video, he laughs, he swings the tie around with one hand, his other hand nimbly scrolling the phone screen in search of necktie tying videos – are we on the third or fourth one now? He watches the video, slowly moving, twisting, looping his tie, which is a red, grey and black plaid. Very grown-up. One of Max’s old ties. I watch. I start to giggle. Charlie laughs, then swears under his breath.)

Cassie: Sorry, sorry to laugh. Your eyebrows. It’s funny.

Charlie The Kid: Sort of. Why are you watching me anyway?

Cassie: I’m not. I’m putting your clothes away. I see what you mean about vigorously holding the tie.

Charlie The Kid: Right? You can’t be loose and sloppy about how you hold the tie to make the knot. How many more days before the bar mitzvah?

Cassie: A few. It’s this Saturday.

Charlie The Kid: How long did it take Max?

Cassie: To tie a necktie?

Charlie The Kid: Yeah.

Cassie: I can’t remember.

Charlie The Kid: Pffft.

(I continue to put clothes away in the dresser as Charlie leaves his bedroom, moving onward in search of a mirror? Or a place where he can be alone to practice?

I try to remember Max’s necktie learning process. It was some years back and I just can’t remember how or when it went from loose and sloppy to vigorous and tight. How could I have forgotten such an important coming of age detail? How could I have forgotten?)

Swim Teachers

Gigi SwimGenevieve: That’s it! I told you I only want a girl for my swim teacher. I’m NOT changing my mind about it. No way!

Cassie: In California you had a boy swim teacher.

Genevieve: I was too little to know but I think I remember that I didn’t like him. Yeah. He wasn’t good at all.

Cassie: Okay. Okay. It’s just that there don’t seem to be a lot of female lifeguards who are also giving lessons at the pool this year. Every time I inquire, the three female lifeguards are all booked up with lessons, like for weeks in advance.

Genevieve: How come? Is there a policy?

Cassie: A policy?

Genevieve: Yeah. Like only boys can be lifeguards and teachers?

Cassie: No. It’s just how it worked out this year. And your teacher from last year has another job and isn’t working at the community pool this summer. She already texted me back.

Genevieve: My plan’s not going to work. I need to know how to swim for real THIS summer. (pause) When did you learn how to swim?

Cassie: I think when I was seven or eight. Maybe even later.

Genevieve: Who taught you?

Cassie: My Aunt Pat. She swam with my brother and me every day at my Grandma and Grandpa’s pool. I was definitely a late bloomer on swimming. Uncle Jay and all my cousins learned at a pretty early age. Jay was very physical; he never stopped moving until he went to sleep at night. So, of course, he got the swimming trick down easily. Also riding a bike….extremely quick to pick that up as well.

Genevieve: I already know how to ride a bike.

Cassie: Yes, you do.

Genevieve: When did Max and Chloe learn to swim?

Cassie: I don’t know if I remember exactly. They had lessons at the YMCA which Chloe did not like at all.

Genevieve: Why? How come she didn’t like it?

Cassie: She didn’t like having swimming lessons with a whole group of other kids. Also the teacher, one time, was male.

Genevieve: See? She wanted a girl too.

Cassie: Yes. Anyway, I don’t think Max or Chloe nailed it with swimming until six or seven years old.

Genevieve: And Charlie?

Cassie: Late bloomer.

Genevieve: How late?

Cassie: I don’t know. Eight, I think.

Genevieve: Yeah. I need a teacher right away. I gotta learn how to swim before I turn eight. You have to find me a teacher, Mom.

Cassie: I’ll do my best.

Airing the Injured Finger

injured fingerCharlie The Kid: Please let me know the next time you plan to “air” your finger while roaming about this house.

Cassie: Too gross?

Charlie The Kid: Extremely.

Cassie: I can’t have it bandaged the whole time. I have to let air get at it.

Charlie The Kid: Ummmm.

Cassie: What?

Charlie The Kid: I just threw up in my mouth again for like the seventh time since the whole finger incident started.

Cassie: Sorry. Sometimes life is disgusting.

Charlie The Kid: I know. I wish I could go back to when I was little and oblivious so I don’t have to think about cut up fingers. Or the problems with black and white people in this country killing each other.

Cassie: (pausing to catch my breath since we’ve so quickly gone from my cut finger to the horrific racial tensions of the moment) Charlie, with age comes knowledge and awareness. You’re at an age when you start growing your wisdom about life and big serious issues and problems that are all around us every day. It’s not easy. I know. You have to stop and reflect about it every once in a while. So you don’t get overwhelmed.

Charlie The Kid: I don’t want to reflect on it. I want to escape it. How do you escape it?

Cassie: Probably can’t ever escape it fully. But reading a good book with a solid story that takes you to another place, watching a fun movie, music. Your music and artwork….I think those are really good outlets for calming down a little.

Charlie The Kid: Okay. But I meant what I said about airing your finger. Do that at night or something when your children are sleeping so we don’t have to see it.

Cassie: Will do.

Charlie The Kid: Thank you.

Cassie: Welcome.

Just Mail Me the Award

Gigi: I am NOT going up on stage to get my trophy.

Cassie: Do you want Daddy or me to go with you?

Gigi: Nope.

Cassie: It’s blue. Your favorite color.

Gigi: (tearful) Don’t care. Not going up.

Cassie: How about if Daddy goes up to collect the trophy for you?

Gigi: In front of everyone?! And they know he’s not “Genevieve.” He’s a boy. His name is Scott. Pfft.

(Scott stifles a laugh)

Cassie: Yes, well. He wouldn’t actually have to go up on the stage; he could just get it from the wings. No one would see.

Gigi: (more tearful) No. This is stupid.

Cassie: Please don’t use that word.

Gigi: Charlie uses it all the time.

Cassie: Shall we just leave then?

Scott: Yes. Let’s go. This (scanning the room with alarmed eyes) is quite the madhouse.

Cassie: Total bedlam. Can’t even hear the names of the students being called up onto the stage.

Gigi: (extremely tearful and hiccupping) I think I already heard my name called out…but I’m not going up… so I just ignored it.

Cassie: I’ve been listening closely, G, and I didn’t hear your name.

Scott: Yeah. They didn’t say your name yet, Gigi.

Cassie: (muttering) It doesn’t seem to be alphabetical by last name when they call people up. I don’t understand how this event is organized. How did she even earn this trophy? What were the qualifications? Just that she’s a participant in the Kumon program?

Scott: (sighing heavily) I don’t know. I wasn’t given specifics, just that there was an awards ceremony tonight. They didn’t have awards back when Max, Chloe and Charlie did Kumon.

Gigi: (less tearful now) Why did I have to wear a dress? Why was it supposed to be dressy? I saw ten girls with shorts on. Not dresses.

Cassie: I just followed the suggestion of what to wear on the invitation they emailed me for the ceremony. And there are only two girls with shorts.

Gigi: No.

Cassie: Yes.

Scott: Alright. Can we go now?

Gigi: No! I need that blue trophy.

Cassie/Scott: (silence)

Gigi: (whining) If you earn the award from all the hard work doing the Kumon, why don’t they just bring the trophy TO YOU… where you are sitting? Why do I have go through the work of going up on stage?

Cassie: That’s work?

Gigi: Yes. In front of everyone. By myself. In a dress. With fancy shoes.

(Scott rolls his eyes at me)

Cassie: What? She wanted to dress up! Gigi picked out this dress to wear tonight for the ceremony herself, didn’t you Gigi?.

Gigi: Yes, but no one told me that this is how the awards ceremony goes.

Cassie: Gigi, you’ve attended plenty of awards ceremonies for your brothers and sister. This is how it goes. Though, I must say, this one is a bit unorganized. Everyone’s talking. It’s so loud in here I can’t even hear myself think.

(Scott rolls his eyes again)

Cassie: Well, I think we should just head out then. Daddy will grab your trophy while you and I go get the car. Not a problem.

(Scott nods in agreement, gathers his laptop since he’s come straight from work and heads for the stage to retrieve the award. Holding hands, Gigi and I makeĀ for the exit.)

Gigi: (chin jutting out in defiance, voice loud and firm but no one to hear it because the chaos surrounding us in the auditorium continues at full throttle) I’m NEVER doing an awards ceremony again! From now on, if I get some other award I want it to be mailed to me! (pause) Mom, did you hear me?!

(Mailed to you? Yes, I heard that.)


Princess Cinderella

Princess Cinderella HairYesterday, I brought Chloe to a local bakery in town to see about a possible part-time gig over the summer. While we were in the bake shop, we saw a young girl (three years old, I would have guessed) perched on a red stool at the cafe bar. She swiped at her nose and her fingers left a chocolate moustache from her overly frosted cupcake. All at once, the toddler slid off the stool, ignored her confection, and stood still in the middle of the shop, her brown eyes fixated on Chloe.

Chloe leaned against a side counter chatting up the bake shop owner. As she summarized job qualifications and spoke of schedule availability, Chloe casually gathered her blonde locks, pulled them away from her neck and let them fall gently like water rivulets first running through her fingers then spilling down her back.

The little girl’s mother prepared to leave the shop but the child absolutely refused to go. Bending down to urge her from ear level had no effect. The girl’s feet remained firmly planted inside the bakery. “No, Mommy! We can’t go. Peeez. That girl!” the child said breathlessly and pointed toward Chloe, “That’s Princess Cinderella!”

A Twelve-Year-Old’s Growth Spurt

Charlie crashes through the side-porch kitchen door, makes a b-line for the refrigerator. He’s been at a friend’s house—-jamming, watching the show, “Psych,” playing kitchen soccer (“The Mom actually lets us play soccer in the kitchen!” exclaimed Charlie The Kid after his first hangout at this particular friend’s home. “Isn’t that cool?”)

Cassie: You’re back so soon! What are you doing in the refrigerator?

CTK: Looking for something.

Cassie: What?

CTK: Hamburger buns (pause) or English Muffins.

Cassie: Why?

CTK: To eat with Hamburgers.

Cassie: For dinner? You’re eating dinner at A’s house tonight?

(He’s already heading back in the direction of the door, package of English Muffins found and squeezed in his good hand, not the one sheathed in frayed bandages from a broken thumb.)

CTK: Yes.

Cassie: But it’s not even three o’clock. You’re planning dinner already? That’s all the English Muffins. You’re taking all the English Muffins?

CTK: Yes, Mom.

Cassie: Is A’s mom home? Did she invite you for dinner? At three o’clock?

CTK: (with his broken-thumb hand on the doorknob) Alright. The English Muffins are actually for a snack.

Cassie: Oh. You’re having toasted English Muffins for a snack.

CTK: Yes. With the hamburgers.

Cassie: Wait. What? You’re really having hamburgers for an afternoon snack?

CTK: Yes. I’m starving.

Cassie: Didn’t you eat lunch? I made you a giant turkey club with bacon sandwich for lunch. And chips. And homemade cookies. It was a big lunch.

CTK: Not really. It felt like air.

Cassie: It felt like air?

CTK: Yes.

Cassie: Well it just so happens that we were going to have hamburgers for dinner tonight. Now you won’t have an appetite for the dinner this evening.

CTK: Oh, I’ll have an appetite. It’s not a problem. I could probably eat five burgers right now.

Cassie: So Shaggy, A’s Mom is just going to make you guys some burgers in the mid-afternoon?

CTK: (smirking at the “Shaggy and Scooby Doo” reference) No WE’RE going to do the cooking. She’ll just oversee. She’s relaxed like that (he says pointedly); she lets us create freely in the kitchen.

Cassie: Can’t you just have a couple bowls of cereal and call it a day?

CTK: No. I need some beef. To block the gnawing feeling. My stomach is biting itself. You know that feeling? You know what I mean?

Cassie: Hmmm, I guess. You’re not cooking the burgers by yourselves on a grill, though…right?

CTK: No, no, no. In a fry pan. I’m going to show A about sliders. Can I take an onion? (Charlie goes over to the area on the kitchen counter where I keep onions, garlic and such. He grabs a large Vidalia.)

Cassie: You’re taking an onion?

CTK: Yeah. I gotta go, Mom. I’m starving and I need to get back to A’s house. I’ll probably lose three pounds running back there and then I’ll pass out.

Cassie: Okay. Wait. Who has the beef?

CTK: THEY have the beef. Gawwwwd, Mom! This is taking forever to explain it to you. Can I just go already?

Cassie: Okay! Bye. Enjoy your snack.

CTK: Thanks!

(He slams the kitchen door, practically flies off the porch. With an onion in one hand and a package of English Muffins in the other, he trots down the sidewalk at a steady pace, turns left and disappears round the bend toward his friend’s home.)