Mixed emotions

It is difficult to believe that the small, squealing delight of dirty diapers that we call our son has grown into nearly six feet of smelly armpits, and that he’s starting high school. But he is.

And with that has come his first request for a steno notebook.

We were not prepared. Has it really come to this? We had 3-rings, pens, pencils, backpack, and so forth, but….

Actually, it hasn’t come to this. In his best ninth grade penmanship, he had actually asked for a “stental” notebook. Perhaps it was the rush of the first day.

The request was scribbled on a form that the parental units had to sign. There were two forms, and CF asked me to look them over. She had her back to me at the computer as I studied the form, looking for where it mentioned the steno notebook. I couldn’t find the place. She hadn’t mentioned that NF had written it in by hand, and we weren’t really paying too much attention to what each other was doing.

“Where?” I asked. “I can’t find it.”

“It’s there,” she answered. “Keep looking.” She was involved in whatever she was doing. I glanced over the two pages again.

“I can’t find it.” I was getting annoyed, as if this was a test of some sort. Why couldn’t she just show me? It wasn’t that big a deal. I’d found a notebook already; I just wanted to confirm that it was OK.

“It’s right there. Check it again.”

I looked over the two forms again. Nothing.

“Still can’t find it.”

She whirled around in her chair and turned over the pieces of paper and pointed out his handwriting.

“Right there,” she said. “I told you to turn them over.”

Sure enough, there it was: stental notebook. But I never heard her tell me to turn the form over.

Damage done, I hurried off to my office to lick my wounds.

And wounded wounds they were.

It was absurd, it was ridiculous, I know, I know, but there was something about the whole situation, maybe because I was staring at sheets of paper looking for something, maybe because she had her back to me as if she was timing me, maybe because she whirled around a bit too much like an impatient teacher, but I felt as if I had just flunked a test.

It felt as if I had just flunked a test in rehab and they weren’t going to let me go home yet and I was going to be stuck even longer with Fox News All. The. Time. and men with gigantic beards who haven’t quite copped to the fact that they will never ride their motorcycles again.

It was a momentary panic but it lasted long enough for CF to catch me blubbering at my desk, which made it all a bit worse, because I think she was trying to be funny, because after all, it is kind of funny to have your son ask for a “stental” notebook. It’s not often that you get to add a new word to your family dictionary when your only child is in ninth grade. That usually ends when they are, oh, three or four, and get a pretty good grasp of the English language.

The stental notebook I gave NF is one that I had used a bit, and I tore out the few pages I had scribbled on. They had had directions to various ball fields in Western Washington, ball fields we can now find even without caffeine. It also had a nifty pocket for storing loose sheets of paper and handy six-inch ruler. One lucky boy, eh?

So last night as we were driving home from another baseball game (What? You though the season was over? Hah! As their tee shirts say, there is no off-season in baseball.), I asked him how the notebook was working out.

“Good,” he mutters from the back seat, then says, louder, “You left some stuff in it.”

“Oh?” I croak, trying to sound disinterested, realizing I sound alarmed. If he found stuff in that notebook, was it just more directions to more ball fields, or was it the start of some bit of writing I’d forgotten about? Had he read it? Was this why he was telling me about it? Was he reaching out to me?

After he got home from school today, I wandered down to his room. He was smashing something to bits on his TV screen using a wireless piece of plastic he held in his hand. They call this recreating.

“Hey, did you keep those pieces of paper or did you throw them away?”

“Threw them away.”

“Did you read them?”

“No.” He hasn’t looked away from the TV yet.

“Was it paragraphs of writing or just scribbles?”

“I don’t know.”

Do I push this or do I walk away? I sniffed the air. Literally. His almost six feet of armpits didn’t smell too bad. His room was in semi-decent order. Whatever it was on the TV screen was collapsing nicely.

I walked away.

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