Notes From Spring Break

1) When my husband and I were in our twenties, we used to visit our hometown and both sets of parents.  Once we arrived, his mother and grandmother would pounce on him with news.

“You remember John Smith, don’t you?” one of them would ask.


“Of course, you do!”


“You’ve known John Smith for years!”

“He comes to all our parties!”


“You’ve known him since you were a toddler!”

“He’s one of our best friends!  He’s lived in the neighborhood for years!”

This would go on — and on and on and on.  The exhortations, the denials, the reminders.  Finally, somebody would break, and the question would be asked:  So, what was the news about John Smith?

Blank looks from my husband’s mother and grandmother, who were, by then, exhausted and outraged by the argument.

“Oh, he died,” one of them would say vaguely.

My husband and I told this story to our friends for years, screeching with laughter, till we stopped telling it.  We stopped telling it because it wasn’t funny to us any longer.  Strange how that happens.  The story had just lost its zip for us.

Yesterday, when our son got back for spring break, I regaled him with news of all our friends.  After 10 minutes, he interrupted me, very politely.  “Don’t you have any good news?” he asked.

I stopped talking, my mouth still open, ready to spring into the next sentence.  Frantically searching my mind for some good news about somebody.  You know what the sad thing was?  I hadn’t gotten to some of the really grim stories.  I’d been saving them for last.

2) If you have a teenager or a kid in his 20s, you may have noticed they spend half their lives texting their friends on their cellphones.  If you have paranoid tendencies at all, you might imagine that they’re constantly texting their friends about what losers their parents are.  If you’re a little more realistic and mature, you realize they never waste their time texting about you; there are too many other, more important matters to discuss.

But what’s the etiquette of texting? I asked our son.  When do you do it, when do you refrain from it?

It depends, he said.  Depends on where you are.  If you’re at a casual place (Dirty’s comes to mind), then it’s more acceptable.  Upscale eatery, no.  Depends, too, on whom you’re with.  Don’t text when you’re with a member of the opposite sex or your parents, especially in a nice restaurant.  It would be boorish.

“I’m relieved to hear that,” I said.

“Mom, we’ve got manners,” he said.  “Give us a little credit.”

3) Finally, yesterday, I was watching a certain basketball game between the University of Texas and the University of Kansas.  My husband and I both went to UT and he now teaches there.  We love UT and we’re fans of all its teams.  Our son, though, goes to Kansas.

Watching the game, I found myself acting oddly.  I wasn’t rooting for UT.  I didn’t make any noise or anything, but I was silently cheering for Kansas.

Funny to realize another facet, another bit of proof of something I already knew: I was incapable of wanting something that would make one of my kids unhappy.  Just, at the end, couldn’t do it — however minor a matter it was.

If that isn’t a good definition of motherhood, I don’t know what it is.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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