Sheryl and Sons

Sheryl and Sons
I told you they were big.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dance With Me

     After my ten-year-old son Jesse and his new friend G finish their cookies, they dash into Jesse's room to play.  As I'm cleaning up the kitchen, they come running back, and Jesse is waving an old photograph.
     "Mom, you are not going to believe this!" says Jesse.  "G went to camp with me!"
     Jesse shows me the photograph of his JCC camp group that he asked me to frame many years ago and has been sitting on his desk.  He points to a small boy with curly hair.
     "That's G! Can you believe it?"
     "I only went to that camp for one year," says G.  "I can't believe you were there!"
     "I went for a few summers," says Jesse.  "I liked it there, mostly.  The only thing I couldn't stand was that stupid end of camp dance show!"
     "I remember that," says G.
     "Oh my God, Mom, do you remember that one year?  I was maybe, I don't know, five?  And we had these costumes--black shorts, no shirt, and a white sash.  We were supposed to be warriors or something."
     "I remember!" says G.  "That was the year I was there!"
     "Oh my God, that was the most embarrassing day of my life!  Do you remember that show?"
     "No, I don't remember."
     "Oh my God!"  Jesse wails, and I cringe because I know what's coming.  That WAS the most embarrassing day of his short life, and we have the whole thing filmed on our video camera.
     "We started out with the whole group dancing together, " Jesse demonstrates by taking two exaggerated step-together-steps to the right, then back to the left, "and then we paired off with our partners.  But my partner didn't show up!  I was this little kid, and everyone was dancing with his partner, and I was standing there all by myself in front of all these people.  I didn't know what to do.  So I started crying in the middle of the stage! The counselor had to come on stage and carry me off.  It was horrible!"
     "I don't remember that!" says G, and pauses thoughtfully.  "I think we went on vacation the last day, and I missed the show."
     It only takes a split second for the boys to realize what this means.
     Jesse takes a run at G and wrestles him to the ground.
     "YOU!"  he screams.
     But then the boys start laughing--ten-year-old boy laughing.  The are rolling on the ground, holding their stomachs, and kicking their legs in the air.  They are laughing so hard they can't stop.
     "YOU!" Jesse keeps screaming, over and over.  "YOU WERE MY PARTNER!"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let It Be

     It was late on a Sunday in the coldest January on record, and we were driving home from St. Louis where our 16-year-old son Jesse had played in a volleyball tournament.  We had his teammate D in the car with us, and it was my turn to drive.  I cranked up the radio to stay awake.
     The driver gets to pick the tunes, so I clicked on my favorite Lite Rock choice.  Most of the songs were from the 70's and 80's, so I knew most of the words.  It wasn't long before I was absentmindedly singing.
     "Mom," Jesse said, "it's bad enough that we have to listen to this music, but do you have to sing along?"
     "Sorry," I said, and tried to refrain.
     I was not insulted.  I was not being reprimanded for my lack of talent.  My son is a singer, and he and I sing in the car all the time, often finding nice harmonies.  But not in front of his friends.  I had dipped my toe into the vast category of things I do that my son finds wildly humiliating.
     I started thinking about how universal this is, and I had a funny thought.
     "When Paul McCartney was driving his kids around, and Let it Be came on the radio and he started to sing along, do you think his kids were embarrassed?" I asked.
     My husband laughed.
     My son rolled his eyes and said, "Are you seriously comparing yourself to Paul McCartney?"
      D asked, "Who is Paul McCartney?"

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Birthday Cards

     Back in the day, I was very high maintenance about my birthday.  I used to count down the days, expect all my loved ones to fawn over me, and give hints about possible exotic presents.
     Then I became a mother, and suddenly the world stopped revolving around me.  Expectations were appropriately lowered.
     Last week, in preparation for my birthday, the conversations went like this:
     "Mom, I'm playing basketball Thursday night."
     "It's my birthday."
     "Shoot.  Are we doing something?"
     "Yes, we're all going out to dinner. "
     "Can I come after basketball?"
     "What will you smell like?"
     "I'll wear deodorant."
     Well Happy Birthday to me.
     Then I came home from work with flowers and the remainder of a cake.  My son asked, "Where did that come from?"
     "They had a party for me at work."
     You get the idea.
     When the boys were little, they always made me a homemade card.  They were crayon colored, with construction paper hearts and too much glue.  They were sometimes accompanied by a dry mound of clay or a water colored self portrait, but the card was always the best part.
     As they got older, I begged them to continue the tradition, and lucky for me, they have.  A card on my bulletin board reads, "This is good for five times everyday for a week I say you are skinny."  The one in my top drawer reads, "There is $16 in this envelope.  $15 is for charity.  The other one is for you!  Go get a Slurpee or something!"
     These days most cards are made on the computer the minute before they are given.  Sometimes they are funny, often they are sweet, occasionally they are thoughtful. They are sometimes signed, "Your Favorite Son."  But they all express what I hope is honest gratitude for being a great mom.
      They are more precious to me than any bauble or decorated cake. I've kept every single one.  They are my annual review for the best job I've ever had.

Monday, August 6, 2012


     When Joel and I were newlyweds, we spent many glorious weekends in South Haven, Michigan.  We enjoyed lazy afternoons at the beach, picked more blueberries than we could eat, and planned our meals around Sherman's ice cream.  Then we had our son Robby, and we imagined the memories we could make if we had a  cottage of our very own. The property seemed cheap, we were adventurous, and it was my husband's dream.  Sold.
     We loved our little house on Saddle Lake, just east of South Haven.  It was a very easy two and a half hour drive from our home on the north side of Chicago.  We drove up every Friday afternoon from May through October while our sweet son napped blissfully in his car seat.
     The first couple summers were idyllic.  We bought an old power boat from the previous homeowners and puttered around our lake.  We invited our friends and family to join us most weekends.  We read good books in the hammock, ate raspberries from our back yard and spent long afternoons making sandcastles with our happy boy.
     We were not the perfect summer cottage owners.  My husband was shockingly un-handy (sorry, Honey.) We had to pay for every small repair on our charming (old) house, which seemed to occur almost weekly.   Our baby's "equipment" needs were constantly changing and we were always shlepping things from house to house.  A favorite snugly was often left behind.  There were tears (usually mine.)
     Then we moved from the city to Wilmette, a northern suburb along Lake Michigan.   Our drive to the cottage increased by half an hour.  And then Jesse was born, and rather than napping in the car he  preferred loud shrieking. The shopping/cooking/cleaning when we entertained friends at the cottage started to make us crabby.  My husband and I were both working, we had two little kids, two houses, and no time.
     One Friday afternoon as I was frantically packing up the family for our "relaxing" weekend, I told five-year-old Robby to pick a toy to bring to the beach.  He innocently asked, "Are we going to the beach that's a few minutes away or a few hours away?"
     The next week we put the cottage up for sale.