Friday, April 24, 2009

we were all supposed to wear our work polo shirts today, and i was one of only about three who forgot or didn't read the e-mail telling us to do it. i could have told my boss, actually i have a deep-seated resistance to being told what to wear, and this subconscious rebellion really kicks in in the mornings, when i'm trying to get two young boys dressed and out the door, yet i'm still more than half asleep in my own way. if i actually wake up, i could say, hey, it's only clothes, who cares about clothes? and just do what everyone else is doing. but in fact, i didn't.

so the four-year-old, he was supposed to wear pajamas, and the day before that was siu day; he was supposed to wear siu clothes, some of which of course have dog paws, or "clues" on them. missed them both. and, the day before that, which was mismatched socks day, what do they think, that we're wide awake, early in the morning, when we're trying to hustle everyone out the door? when the dog is yipping, and kids have to be pried away from whatever they are doing, and have trouble keeping any clothes on? poor kid, will just have to explain to his friends, my parents both work, they can't keep track of this stuff, i just wear whatever, i'm lucky to be wearing anything at all.

my older son cut himself cooking, and goes straight to facebook and says he's bleeding to death. but who should be on facebook but his dad and his aunt, both of whom told him to treat it right away. one other woman also chimed in and even gave him specific instructions on how to treat it. incredibly enough, people from far away jumped to take care of him, all telling him what to do, and just in time, for if he'd actually bled to death, we'd have been too far away. but his aunt, i think, actually relished the opportunity to panic and fuss over him; he was doing her a favor to give her that opportunity. on my birthday, my family had bombed my facebook and i'm still relishing the glow of that experience, three whole screens of things some of which i'll save and put here. but at this moment it was a very small family, everyone worried about him and trying to make sure he had the right compress & medicine to put on there.

on the elevator today, i was exhausted, this was why i was taking the elevator, when who was waiting for it but a campus policewoman, a gentle old black lady who was quite obviously tough nonetheless. i asked her if there was trouble, curious of course as to whatever i could find out, particularly if she were going where i was going, third floor northwest. there's trouble everywhere, she said, and i knew it would be rude to push her any farther. but one of the grad. assistants jumped on the elevator, and sure enough, she was wearing one of the work polo shirts, maroon and white as are the school colors. there's your trouble, i said to the policewoman, though she didn't fall for it. she's wearing the uniform, but she's trouble anyway.

a few more people got on the elevator, and i was dismayed to notice that she got off on the third floor, but in fact she was not going where i was going, she was heading more off toward philosophy or maybe political science. i was grateful. some things, you really don't want to know too much of, if they really told you everything, you'd just have more to worry about.

in the evening a benefit concert featured teenagers hanging around listening to a rock band and dancing, after raising money to save pets. these were good teenagers, i realized, all out there doing something good, and hanging out in plain sight where everyone could see them. not only that, but these same kids i had known a good thirteen years ago, when they were themselves in the same daycare, the one i went to today; only now it was thirteen years later, and they were grown, barely recognizable (even my son), and i was lucky to spot any of them and know who they were. but i felt like they had come back, as if they'd been gone all this time, since i hadn't seen them together as a group, and i realized, this same class will graduate soon (this son is seventeen); the whole cohort of parents will soon be together again. our parental consistency, perhaps with the help of this small town, led us to this steamy venue where spring has blossomed, a garage band is playing out into the warm evening, and parents hang around noticing that these kids have grown quite a bit in thirteen years. if anyone ever told them what to wear, i'm sure they just did as they pleased, and had a pretty good time anyway. in this small town they couldn't ever go two steps without someone reminding us parents how much they'd grown and where they were hanging around. they have a prom tomorrow, so we'll see what ends up happening, whether they dress up at all, or just wear the teenage uniform and go anyway. now that they're almost grown, i guess it's their decision entirely.

in the end these clothes things are like overdecorating the holidays; they're just shills, put there because, basically, some people in a small town have very little to do. if they tell everyone to wear something, and some of us don't, then they can speculate as to whether we're rebellious, or just absent-minded. in my case, if i'd thought about it for even a minute, i probably would have changed. they'll learn better than to tell me what to do when i'm asleep. as for the trouble on the third floor, i'm sure i'll hear about that also, eventually, as you always hear, especially if you put out even an inkling of curiosity, and let it be known that you care. somebody will tell you. it's sure to happen, just like it's sure someone, somewhere, is wondering why i couldn't wear the right shirt this morning.


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