Everybody Gets A Trophy

A dresser covered with two dozen trophies from basketball, soccer, rugby, baseball and football. Some personalized, most generic.

Baby Bear was instructed to clear out his room when he was home for the Christmas holidays. It was to prepare for the rehab of the upstairs. He bristled when I mentioned his Tipman A5.

“That’s the one thing I want. Why do you start with threatening that with the dump?”

He had a point. He wasn’t angry. More hurt, I think. While I was attempting to convey my ignorance of the importance of his stuff, he wasn’t feeling the urgency I expected. I went for the jugular. It was my test case. He wanted to keep it.

Honestly, this was not the best way to build momentum for an unwelcome project. Note to self: Need to work on my technique.

My own mother used to annoy me by keeping me solidly preserved in amber as my 18-year-old self. It was as if I were stuck with my permed hair, big belled Levis and a limited palette of Jack and Ginger and french onion soup for a fancy date. Forever. I don’t think that she ever really knew me after I left.

Not that she was trying to force me into a box. Not even that she was indifferent to me. It was more like she was unable to move her point of reference to the present. To where I was now.

Every time I’d see her it was always a slide backwards. Even when I married. Even when I had kids of my own. There was still a part of her that related to me as if I were my high school self. Even when I could no longer remember the references that were, to her, au courant. Over the years it became a dull annoyance, but still.

Baby Bear did a good job clearing out his stuff. He bagged stuff to donate and stuff to toss. He left some things behind with the instruction that the disposal of the remains was up to me. He knew that I would go through the kid and young adult books on the bookshelves. I already said that I couldn’t actually part with the legos.

He emptied out all of his drawers. No oversized cargo shorts, t-shirts with images that were no longer funny or school ties left. There was a pile of random phone and other small electronics chargers on the top of one dresser. On the other was an array of trophies.

There were maybe two or three thousand trophies. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But for many years there were two seasons of soccer and one of basketball, each season ending with a requisite participation trophy. He did that for a bunch of years. Then there were camp trophies. And a science fair ribbon. And the Latin medals. And the football and  baseball markers. I think there was a letter for wrestling and rugby, too.

I looked at that display of accomplishment–because participation is an accomplishment, too–and wondered why they didn’t make it into a bag. Did he think they were important to me? Did he not want to be the one to physically let them go? But he did let them go. He was done with them. He took what he wanted and moved on.

I was using childhood tricks by poking Baby Bear with the one item I knew he wanted to keep. I was stuck in that oppositional place where I con him into an action. Actually, though, he’s beyond that. I looked around at the relatively little he left behind.

He lives seventeen hundred miles away. I think about him taking care of himself. Without my daily admonitions. He’s got this. He’s moved on. Me too.

I am renaming him again in this blog. Starting now, he’s Bear. Just Bear. He’ll always have a place to stay here. We are remodeling his room, which will remain his room. If he wants it.

Both Bear and Doc are on a growth trajectory. I’ll toss the trophies. He has other things to do.

There’s No Place Like Home

I texted the Baby Bear this morning.

Don’t miss your plane.

I included that smiley face emoji with the hearts for eyes. It was mostly to annoy. Our children get very annoyed when us Olds use emojis. It’s best–regarding maximum annoyance–when I use them inappropriately, like using the pile of shit emoji as if it’s a beehive. But even appropriate emoji use is an affront. You know, parents trying to be hip. They hate that. So I do that for my amusement.

Seven hours later I texted him again.

You on a plane yet??

I wasn’t thinking that he was late, but there was no emoji.

We had to change busses on the way delayed us a bit. In security now.

Seemed on target.

Thirty-five minutes later my phone rings. Guess who was standing at his gate with the door to the jetway closed in front of him and no Southwest staff to be found? Yup. Our hero. As I was telling him to find an open counter, I switched from the primary conversation to talking to myself as he engaged a guy. It was like when you get butt-dialed from someone in a bar and all you hear is muffled words and clinks. Until the line goes dead.

I went online to see what was coming out of Denver into one of the three Washington airports tonite. Yeah, it’s good to have options. That said, it’s less good to be looking for afternoon options when you’re flying east.

Baby Bear swore that he left with enough time to get to the airport. He knows exactly how to miss a flight, and those hard lessons have prodded him to always take the earlier bus. I believe him. The problem was the early bus was driving into a blizzard.

Of course, the first snow in Boulder would occur as he’s trying to get to the airport. The roads were a mess and they were further delayed when they had to switch buses. The security lines were long at the airport and he was getting antsy. He texted.

Wish I could barge to the front

That’s where I lost contact. Adding insult to injury, when he finally made it to the security screening area, the puffer picked something up. He was moved to secondary screening. Mild panic was beginning to seep into the corners of the reptilian part of his brain. No reason to get huffy with TSA, though. That never goes well.

The Bear offered that he was pressed to make his flight as the burly man came up to him. The agent explained that he was in training and they needed to wait for his supervisor for the grope. Baby Bear was deflated and nearing distraught.

Can’t your boss just do it?

Of course not. The agent took off his blue gloves and pulled on a fresh pair. As he snapped one rubber glove on–latex free mind you–it broke. He removed that pair and walked over to get another pair. The clock in Bear’s head was ticking at greater and greater volume.

The agent pulled on another pair of gloves. He once again snapped the left glove on and broke that one, too.

C’mon, man!

Third time being the charm, he started the pat down.

Sir, I am going to put my hand along the top of your pants.


Sir, I am going to touch the inside of your leg.

Really? The guy is going to insist on getting affirmation for each step in the process? YES! YES! YES! Said Baby Bear who simply wanted the guy to hurry up and pat his junk so he could make his flight.

Of course, his flight was in C. Translated that means the far end of the large airport. He hustled to his gate–risking breaking his swag–to that closed door. He could see the plane. So close. A man opened the door and told Baby Bear that he lost his seat ten minutes ago to standby.

But there is an empty seat on that plane!

There was indeed a seat on the plane. And, also indeed, the plane door was secured. They were not going to open it up. No way. No how. No matter the pleading of a young man who was just trying to get home. No matter that his solution was just beyond a closed door.


Baby Bear pulled himself from the abyss of his disappointment that was flirting too closely with anger as he walked to the counter to see his options. He relayed his disastrous TSA delay to the airline staffer who nodded vehemently.

I don’t know what it is, but they’ve been really bad.

Baby Bear got rebooked through Nashville, which has the nonsense airport code BNA. He’ll be an hour later than originally scheduled, but, most excellently, he still comes into DCA versus IAD or BWI, two options much further from headquarters.

Call it National. We don’t call it Reagan in this house.

What a day of travel. Blizzards. Bad buses. Security delays. Poor customer service. And a door slammed in his face. I can’t wait to see him!

I’m thinking that Santa may put some TSA Pre-√  in somebody’s Christmas stocking.

Precious Cargo

Oklahoma City National Memorial at night. All lit up. Remembering those who were lost.

The day that the Murrah Building was bombed, I was in Kansas City.

I was staying at either the Hyatt Regency Crown Center or at the Westin Crown Center. They were the same. One was darker than the other, but they were the same. The hotels were linked by a pedestrian bridge that intersected a Hallmark building. Hallmark being a big deal in Kansas City.

You could walk by and watch the artists making Shoebox Cards–the funny cards–through a big window. Sometimes there’d be nobody at the desks. I guess they were on break.

When I went by that window, I was pushing a stroller that was full of a big fat baby Baby Bear. He was my traveling companion that first year of his life. He went from Boston at 10 weeks to Palm Springs at 10 months. There were two trips to Kansas City in between and maybe one after. There were likely six or eight other cities, too.

I took a new job when he was in my belly. I started on April Fools’ Day and he was born in the heat of August. My first foray into business travel with an infant was to Copley Place–I think it was a Marriott. There was some kind of pedestrian walkway there, too. My best mother-in-law ever joined me on that trip. She’d watch the Baby Bear when I was at the conference. I would ply her with the breakfast that I’d walk back from the Au Bon Pain–this was the olden days when their French roast was brewed strong and sweet, they had real cream and their bagels did not insult my New York MIL. We tried room service the first day and it was costly and crappy. Fresh coffee and bagels on the other hand, need I say more?

My assistant was in charge of shipping my breast pump. It was the size and weight of a significant car battery. My company paid the FedEx back and forth. It was cheap for all the work I was doing. Seriously. I carried the stroller on the plane. It came in handy when Grandma pushed him as she strolled downtown Boston.

We met my Bestest in Cambridge. We took the Green Line and transferred at one point to some old trolley car. We carried the stroller up the stairs of the old fashioned car, having to pause once or twice for an outburst of giggles or maybe it was hysterical cackles. This wasn’t the subway she knew in Manhattan and environs. It also bore no resemblance to the D.C. version of train that I knew. My Bestest was happy that we were city people and were up for the misadventure. My favorite part of the evening was strolling among the shops after dinner and finding the red telescope that The Big Guy wanted. MIL asked me if she could buy it for him for Christmas. I still have it.

By the time I arrived in KC, I had done a few solo gigs. My job took me to nice hotels and I’d find a sitter via the concierge. I bet I didn’t tip her well enough–but I also bet I mentally excused myself since I couldn’t expense this big expense. I’d go to sessions, give some presentations and build business during the day. I’d usually skip the socials. I didn’t need a glass of wine. Baby Bear was hungry. And I was mostly exhausted.

Did I tell you what a great traveler he was? People would see me get on the plane with a laptop on one shoulder and a fat baby and bright blue diaper bag on the other. Usually their faces would fall. Especially when they saw me edge toward their seat. The Bear didn’t cry. He didn’t fuss. He’d have his meal and read books with me, except when he was making friends with the person in the seat behind us. My neck muscles elongated like a ballerina’s as I looked over my shoulder at him and his newest friend(s).

The day there was “weather” in Dallas and we were diverted to San Antonio, we sat on the tarmac for three hours. After the first hour, the flight attendants let us all loose. They brought out those little bottles filled with fire water and dug out the remaining cold burritos to keep us happy. Other passengers were shocked that there was a baby on this hell-flight. Frankly, he was having a great time. Better than the ansty adults who entertained themselves by passing him around.

But on that day in April, we were in Kansas City. I didn’t know anything about big federal buildings and the regional fed hubs. That morning, I ordered room service and put on the TV. I didn’t have anyplace to be. I held Baby Bear close to me and sobbed. And sobbed. Downtown Kansas City was uneasy. There are plenty of federal buildings and nobody knew if their would be more attacks.

I put the sweet Bear in his stroller and we walked from one of the hotels, across the link and past the Hallmark artists and through the mall to the other hotel. I don’t know if we started or ended at the W-hotel or the H-hotel. But we went back and forth more than once. We stopped and looked through the glass wall surrounding the bridge. We saw very very wide and very very empty roads below us. I wasn’t scared, but I thought about it. Being scared, that is.

Mostly, though, I thought about those babies who would never grow up. But I couldn’t think about their parents. I still can’t. I don’t know if I could get myself out if I did. My Baby Bear is a young man. I weep for the parents who never got to know their babies as kids and tweens and teens and young adults.

Fuck Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Bastards.

But I can’t end on that thought. No. They aren’t the story.

I will thank the amazing first responders who walked into that horror. To the people of Oklahoma City who were almost all touched by this tragedy, I’m awed by your resilience. And to the families who lost so much, I am so sorry. Those who you loved so well are still remembered.

And a grateful hug to my Baby Bear. I am counting my blessings through a reprise of tears.

Feelings Behind

plane flying in a pretty sky

Dear Mom and Dad,
I remember leaving. I was 18, and so glad to be on my own. You two were already grown. I didn’t really give you any thought. As if my next steps would have any impact on you–my parents. I was about me.

Today I was at the airport. I watched Baby Bear walk away from me to get on that big metal bird to the mountains. Where he lives.

So, Mom and Dad, I have some questions. Did your heart break when I drove away? Every time? Did you wonder if I was going to be okay? Were you conflicted by your amazement of your spawn functioning without you and your worry that you couldn’t protect me?

Did this ever stop? These feelings of an ever-alert, yet redundant, guard dog? Was I always your kid? Your baby, in your heart? Did you whiplash when conversing with a grownup while stuffing protective impulses back inside you before I noticed? I know you know that I would have insisted, again, that I was an adult and didn’t need anything.

Did you wonder if you were doing enough? Too much? Did you worry about respecting my autonomy? Did you worry if I was paying my bills? Drinking too much? Breaking a heart? Getting my heart broken?

When I was starting out and job hopping, did you think I was making mistakes? Wonder if I was carrying health insurance? Saving for retirement? Paying my mortgage? Getting up on time for work?

Did you think that I was able to balance being a parent and breadwinner? Did you look at me looking at you in your hospital bed and think about how you being in that bed was affecting me?

I never thought about how you felt about me. Not from the point of view of a parent. Not until today. I’m sorry for not seeing this. It’s crazy love.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Your (grown) Child