And now, Pranksters, I give you my firstborn son, Ben.
Music has always been important to me. Somehow, I never got the chance to really shine with my violin, until 5th grade.
The day before the concert, I was practicing and giving my mom, dad, and brother a concert. During my last song, I finally did the last bit of the song right. I played it right, it sounded right and it felt right.
After I played the last note right, my mom, dad, and brother clapped loud – my dad even whistled with his fingers.
“Great Job! Ben!” My Mom exclaimed.
“Yah! Ben! Amazing Job!” My Brother agreed.
Then my Mom said something I will never forget. “Ben… you have amazing talent, I will say! But… it’s up to you what you do with it!”
I will never forget those words.
I finished my practice and went up to dinner, wondering what those words meant.
The next night was my big concert. I was getting ready – I put on my pale-yellow dress shirt, my pants, my socks and shoes. “I’m busy as a bee,” I thought to myself. I grabbed my violin and went downstairs.
“Break a leg!” my Mom said encouragingly.
“Good Luck!” my Brother exclaimed.
“I’ll do my best” I promised, then grinned. We went out to the car and I got in. I was really nervous. Nervous as a Scardy Cat. My hands were shaking. The whole way to the auditorium, I thought about what my Mom had said. When we got to the building, my mom and dad whispered, “Good luck!”
I whispered back “Thanks!”
They went and sat down in their seats as I went to warm up with my group. My Orchestra Teacher gave us a pep talk before wishing us good luck. We got on stage and I craned my neck to look for my parents. As usual, I don’t see them beyond the stage lights. Our music teacher talks for a bit; her last words were “These guys have worked really hard. I hope you enjoy their music and thank you for coming out here tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen the 5th grade Orchestra!” she exclaimed.
We started to play. I played better than ever; I played perfectly for the first song. The second song, I’d played better than the first. During the last song, I remembered my mom’s words “It’s up to you what you do with your talent, Ben.”
So I tried to show of my talent to the world. When I was done playing, I felt like a new person. I knew music was my real talent. The audience went wild, so wild you couldn’t even talk without somebody yelling “What?”
We bowed and I think I even saw my dad wink at me. If, of course, that was my dad.
We came back after the applauding, screaming and going wild. My family congratulated me. I knew my mom knew that I knew that music was my talent. We celebrated over McDonald’s that night.
The Ben that walked into the auditorium was different than the Ben that walked out. I had accomplished something I thought I couldn’t do. I thought so many doubtful things. I was so nervous that my hands shook. But now? Now I know that…
Music is me. Music is in my blood. Music is my nature.
And THIS is why we’re taking a trip to NashVegas this summer, just the two of us. It’s time to teach my son the history of music.
I live in an area affectionately known as the “tri-cities,” for reasons that should be obvious: we are three cities. Okay, the name is a misnomer because, quite frankly, we’re more like a cluster of seventy-niner cities, which means you can’t spit without hitting one city or another. Therefore, we’ve accepted the more appropriate moniker of “Chicago,” which runs about forty miles out from the city and abruptly stops.
That dividing line is called “Not Chicago.”
Everything that happens outside of Chicago is, effectively, “Not Chicago.”
Now, I’ve lived here in Saint Charles for as long as my three remaining firing synapses allow, which means that I’m accustomed to suburbia. I’m not exactly a city girl gone country, because, to be honest, Chicago is the most wonderful city on earth, but I like my wide lawns and mornings without seeing seven or eight people peeing on things.
Considering the size of Chicago, it’s probably (like most things that make sense to the rest of the world) just me.
(pointless and non-pithy aside: did you know that “East Chicago” is actually in Indiana? That, my dear Pranksters, is a hot pile of bullshit).
After spending my formative years creating a massive carbon footprint, tooling around in my wee del Sol, playing Summer Car,* smoking cigarettes, and getting lost on the long winding roads, driving just to see where we’d end up, I assumed that when I got the job in a town so small I can’t even tell you the name because you’ll be all, “whaaa-huh?” in the same way most people assume I’m from St. Charles, Missouri, which I assure you I am not, that I’d be well-suited to both the locale and the commute.
(holy run-on sentence, Batman)
The commute, well, there’s no better form of therapy than a fresh cup of coffee, a full tank of gas, and miles of open road. I use the time to compose hilarious tweets I never end up sending because I’m fucking driving. This whole “texting and driving” bullshit confuses me. I may be able to make a sandwich, chug a coke, and paint my nails while driving a stick, but texting (or Tweeting) while driving? It both baffles and annoys me.
It’s the locale of the hospital I can’t quite understand.
I walked into my office on my first day and noted that the mysterious filing cabinets had disappeared while a desk had appeared in its place. Win! There was no computer on the desk. Not Win!
The very next thing I attempted to do baffled me further. I grabbed my i(can’t)Phone and went to tweet something about a time-warp and/or my lack of computer making me feel as though half my body had mysteriously disappeared, when I noted something I didn’t even know existed.
My fucking i(can’t)Phone was roaming.
Pranksters, I didn’t even know phones DID that anymore. I’d honestly thought that roaming charges went the way of Friendster. When I mentioned this to my boss, she said, “Oh yeah, I have to stand in the middle of the road to send a text.”
I’m almost entirely certain that I amassed a large collection of flies as my mouth hung dumbly open.
“No…cell phone coverage?”
She just laughed. I shuddered.
Later that afternoon, as I was leaving, I realized the old tank was on empty so I pulled off to a tiny gas station chain that I’ve only ever seen in the deep south. The wind howling outrageously around me (no buildings around = wind blows sharply from the plains), I tried to grab out my debit card to pay at the pump because, well, duh. You have to do that shit here.
It was then that I noted that for the first time in probably 7 years, I had the option to pump my gas BEFORE paying for it. Underneath that shocking revelation, a sign said neatly, “Only In-State Checks Allowed.” As in, you could pay for your gas via check.
And here I was thinking I was the last person on earth to both take baths (which is neither here nor there) and write checks. I’d always thought it was nearing time for my Murder She Wrote marathons, tripping young people with my cane, and chugging a mysterious substance called “Geritol.”
Apparently, Pranksters, there exists a world OUTSIDE of Chicago that allows for personal checks while banning cell phones.
I also learned that I could buy a shed the approximate size and shape of the FBI Surveillance Van with a free metal roof, which just plain old seems like a bad idea. I mean, metal attracts lightening and shit. Or at least, it does in Chicago. Not Chicago, though, maybe that’s how they cook the wild boars the mens hunt all day long.
All I need is a midget dressed as a hot dog and a diner with a creepy waitress to make this a full-on David Lynch movie.
And the oddest part? I enjoy it.
*A game in which you remove most of your clothes, crank the heat, and attempt to confuse other drivers, who are, no doubt, bundled and shivering from the cold January winter.
To call my father “fastidious” would be akin to saying that “diet Coke tastes okay.” Sure, they’re both true statements, but they don’t quite delve into the true essence of the statement. I’d say he probably has some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I’d imagine it’s more the “compulsive” rather than obsessive part of the diagnosis.
(he reminds me too much of my daughter and her great range of Barbie dolls, which she obsessively fusses over)
When I was a wee Aunt Becky, rather than swatting me or yelling, he’d sit calmly in his chair, insist that I take a seat on the couch and begin to
drone on lecture me:
Dad: “Well you know, Rebecca, that I like my hairbrush to be on this specific shelf.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “And this morning, when I went to brush my remaining three hairs, it wasn’t on my shelf.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “This is a problem.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “I need my things to be where they are put.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
(three hours later)
(by this time, I’ve already rearranged the features on his face to make him look like a Picasso and begun a letter to my Congressman about unfair lecturing by an adult to a minor)
Dad: “So, when I went to the bathroom this morning to find my hairbrush it wasn’t there.”
Wee AB: *stares at wall*
Dad: “REBECCA ELIZABETH, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?”
Wee AB: *nods*
Dad: “What did I say?”
Wee AB: *drones back* “I should always put your hairbrush away.”
Dad: “Right. Now, where was I?”
This tactic worked well on my brother, who’d have been wracked with guilt and pleading for forgiveness by this point, but I’m more of a quick, “hey put my crap back,” or “smack me across the face,” kinda girl. Always have been. My father has never understood that about me, so for years, I’d get The Lectures. It became a running joke once he realized that I wasn’t listening to him or feeling in the slightest bit guilty for committing such a heinous and unspeakable crime.
When it comes to his compulsiveness, though, nothing matches the way he feels about his car. Now most of you Pranksters know that I’m a bit of a car nut myself, but I’ve never had the opportunity to select a car for myself, so I don’t show the proper amount of respect for a car the way my father does. Someday I will and when I do, I am positive I’ll similarly warp my children.
Thursday evening, I’d left Not Chicago on time and had managed to wrangle my children into my CR-V without too much mayhem, which I considered a bonus. They were even wearing pants!
Sitting in the turn lane, waiting to make a left through “rush hour traffic,” I finally saw my opportunity and I took it. We sped off toward home for a nice night of lounging against the machine. Except… there was this rattling noise coming from the bottom of the car. Not the Oh CRAPBALLS You Blew A Tire noise, it was more You Ran Over A Branch, Moron,” so I wasn’t particularly concerned. I figured I’d lose the branch on the drive back to the FBI Surveillance Van or extract it when we arrived.
Alex sprang out of the car to examine it.
“Uh, Mom?” He said unhappily. “There’s something broken under there.”
I groaned. I’d just gone through the most ridiculously dramatic blown tire event of my life and now this? Really? I bent down to examine it. What appeared to be half a gigantic metal pill was, in fact, actually hanging off the bottom of my truck. Which meant absolutely nothing to me, which is I why I snapped a picture and sent it to The Twitter. Really, it’s the best course of action. The Twitter is ALL knowing.
Always a Daddy’s Girl, even after suffering the lectures about my improper placement of personal items, I called my father, who then stopped by on his way to visit my mother in the hospital, and explained the problem as I understand it to be. I sighed a little bit, cursed the CR-V and went about my night.
Until it dawned on me: I shouldn’t be driving the thing until that was fixed, and there was no way in balls I’d manage to get to the dealership for a couple of days.
Once again, I called my father, which I consider repayment for hours lost to lectures and asked him the most dreaded of all questions: “Can I borrow your car?”
Now, my father loves his car more than he loves his children, of this I am quite certain. Hours upon hours he spends babying the thing, carefully detailing it on his days off, making sure it’s beyond pristine. He’s so fastidious about his car that I normally refuse to ride in it for fear of somehow breaking it and being subjected to yet another lecture. I mean, I don’t breathe near the thing – my breath might contain something that could potentially damage it’s impeccable paint job. I don’t even look at the thing when I’m at my parents house, just in case my eyes somehow refract sunbeams onto the wrong spot and cause a dent.
So for me to ask to borrow it took a few Klonapin and a whole lot of “calm the balls down.” Honestly, I’d rather chug gasoline than ask him for this favor. He responded in a way most unlike him:
Not-So-Wee-AB: (deep breath) “Dad, can I borrow your car to get to work tomorrow in Not Chicago?”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Are you feeling okay?”
Dad: “I’m fine. Hey, you do know how to drive stick, right?”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Yes, Dad, you taught me.”
Dad: “And you were terrible.”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “No, I drove home in a winter storm. I’m excellent at working a manual – I miss the crapballs outta it.”
Dad: “Oh, that’s right. It’s the BIKE you had issues with. You were 11 before you could properly pedal.”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Thanks for the reminder, Dad.”
Friday morning, bright and blurry, I drove my father’s car for the first time since he’d bought it, back when I was pregnant with Ben. And with the exception of the sixth gear, which I wasn’t accustomed to using, it was a blast.
He’s going to have a heck of a time dragging those keys out of my hands.