Thursday, July 22, 2004

Geek

Have you ever had an experience in your life that was so profound, it actually changed the person you were and made you into someone new? I did.

My school years from about 5th grade until 8th grade were a nightmare. My father had retired from the military and had, effectually, stranded us in Massachusetts. This was NOT my first choice of place to live for the rest of my stinkin' school life. I was ripped from the relative security of private schools and placed in the public school system in our new town, a mere number in a squalid sea of humanity. My mother claims they were forced to because there were no private schools within driving distance of our new home. I would later discover there were no schools my mother was WILLING to drive to because of her unnatural fear of driving on highways. (She overcame this fear to drive my little brother to a nice private school in later years. [Stream of expletives deleted.])

The children in my new town had lived there for their entire lives. Their ancestors had lived there for their entire lives. I was used to living in transient communities full of Military families and other transplants, like ourselves. The other kids were in the same boat as you, so it rather forced you to be outgoing and make friends quickly. Not in my new home. These kids were stand-offish, judgmental, cliquish and cruel. The bonds I formed with the other neighborhood kids were tenuous, at best. Your best friend one day would be your worst enemy the next...and so it went.

I went from being an outgoing, friendly, and gregarious child to a sullen, sad, and disheartened one. I would try every trick in the book to avoid going to school. I claimed stomach aches, fevers (with the help of my bedside lamp and your standard issue mercury thermometer), chills, dizziness...and so on. I would pray for snow days in the winter time and celebrate "teacher conference" days in the nicer weather. Anything to avoid walking those cold institutional gray halls where the other children would taunt and dump your armload of books. Here was where I earned my first nickname from my school chums, "Rejecta" instead of Rebecca. Charming, no? People get alarmed when they hear of 12 year olds committing suicide. I just shake my head and wonder why it didn't occur to ME at that age. I certainly spent the greater part of my day wanting to curl up and die.

As bleak as things were (and they got steadily bleaker as I hit Junior High School), I managed to shuffle through my days and earn decent grades. The thought of going to the public high school with all of those evil children horrified me. I never would have survived. Lucky for me my parents finally realized the public school system wasn't doing me any favors and they suggested I look into private Catholic high schools in the area. I studied my ASS off for the entrance examinations and my parents got me a private tutor to help me. The preparations worked and I was accepted to Arlington Catholic High School - my first choice. I couldn't wait for the summer to be done with so I could make a fresh start at my new school. The icing on the cake was the knowledge that NONE of my classmates would be going to my new school. It would be like a fresh start. No one would know me there. I could be whomever I wanted to be.

Then it hit me. Who would I be? Even with a shiny new school uniform, people would have me pegged as a geek and not worth associating with in seconds flat. I radiated rejection and self-loathing from every pore. The end of 8th grade was looming and I only had a few short summer months to find "the new me". The old me was fat (or so I thought), greasy haired, thick glasses too large for my face, and wearing clothing my mother selected for me; an almost hopeless case. I shuffled along after my mother one fine Saturday as she did her weekly supermarket shopping at the base commissary (for those not familiar with military life, this is like a huge warehouse-style market full of regular and large purchase items at significantly lower prices due to the military's ability to buy in bulk). When we got to the checkout, my mother struck up her normal easy banter with the cashier as I unloaded the two wagons full of food onto the conveyer belt.

The cashier eyed me appraisingly and mentioned to my mother that they were looking for kids my age to fetch carts from the lot or bag groceries. I listened with interest but pretended to be too engrossed in my cart full of food to hear what they were saying. I took sidelong glances at the pairs of (and sometimes single) baggers at the end of each checkout line. It looked like boring and tedious work, but the baggers themselves chatted avidly with each other and seemed so, well, COOL to me. They were a scruffy and tuff looking lot, which I found scary and appealing at the same time. I felt my mother plucking at my sleeve and focused my wandering attention on her. "Why don't you go over to that fellow over there and ask about a job here? It's about time you starting saving for college and I am sure you'll want some spending money for the summer..." I nodded blankly and slowly began making my way over to this strange looking hippy type with a full beard, long hair, and a badge proclaiming him "Head Bagger".

I rehearsed random things to say to Ted and somehow managed to get the lump out of my throat and the nervous bat-sized butterflies in my belly to stay still long enough to blurt "Hi. How do I get to be a bagger?" He had me fill out a short application form, barely glanced at it, then said, "Can you start today?" I was stunned. I didn't know! Could I start today?!?! I ran over to my mother who was finally in the process of paying for her groceries and asked. "Sure, honey. How exciting! Your first job. I'll send your father to pick you up later. Just call us when you are done." I wandered in a daze back to Ted. He began talking about how things worked, schedules, getting me a name tag...it was all a blur.

I wasn't really listening. He was leading me straight over to this girl working solo at the end of the 20 items or less lane. She was impossibly tall, slim, and wearing Jordache jeans (my dream) and clogs. She was the epitome of late 70s cool. She had on a tube top with a jean jacket covered in buttons and enamel pins proclaiming her love of various bands...most prevalent was Van Halen. I caught Ted saying something about me being her new partner and she was to take a break and train me immediately. Say what now? This amazing creature was going to be MY partner? I studied her impossibly large hair, blue eye shadow that matched her eyes and heavy coal eyeliner...I was stupefied. She looked me over with a faint air of disgust and told me to follow her. She snatched up her tip box overflowing with bills and coins and Ted took her place on the line.

I admired her from behind as I followed her to the back of the store. She walked with an easy sway that was almost hypnotizing. I figured she must be at least 5 years older than me. She swung down the candy isle, snatched a bag of M&Ms, and continued to make her way to the large swinging doors that marked the boundary between average citizen and "employee". I crossed the threshold and paused in amazement. The space was cavernous and filled with row upon row of metal shelving stacked probably 30 feet high with boxes and crates. The area was a hive of activity with men driving forklifts and stock boys wheeling items back out to restock the shelves. I followed my new partner along the fringes and through a door marked "Break Room". She closed the door behind us and immediately straddled a red plastic chair in the back corner of the room. I followed timidly and sat down across the table from her. She slipped a pack of Marlboros out of her jacket pocket and tapped the top of the pack thoughtfully against her thigh as she looked me over from head to toe. She slipped a cigarette between her lips, lit it, took a long drag, and offered the pack to me. I looked at the pack blankly for a moment and shook my head no. No one had ever offered me a smoke before. I began to grin at the absurdity of it. She must have taken my grin as some sort of sign and said in an amused voice, "My name is Chris. What's yours?"

From that day on Chris became my mentor. Not only did we become the most sought after bagging team (for our speed and customer satisfaction), but she decided to take me under her wing as a sort of personal project. It turned out she was only one year older than me. She gently teased me for my clothing choices (cords and childish turtleneck tops with little frogs, ballerina slippers or something equally cheesy on them and penny loafers). We would walk over to the BX (sort of the Kmart of military life) on our breaks and she would help me select new clothes. I had never purchased my own clothes before in my life. Baggers worked for tips only, and boy howdy did we ever make some GOOD tips. The best money was in helping folks to their car with their purchases. I would often get $10 a pop for loading bags into nice folks' cars. It added up. I would give a modest portion of my day's earnings to my Mother to deposit in my savings, but she never knew how much I was pocketing and spending. Chris and I went all over the base together. She got me in to see my first "R" rated movie by convincing a guy in line to buy tickets for us (it was Heavy Metal...if you're curious). She changed my appearance, influenced my taste in music, taught me to smoke, and as high school progressed, taught me an appreciation for classic muscle cars, men, and recreational drug use.

OK, back up a moment. She TRIED to teach me about recreational drug use. Even with my new look and new-found confidence, I was still too much of a goody-goody to use drugs. I did learn how to roll a joint. I never smoked them, but I could roll them. While I looked like a dirt bag and hung out with dirt bags, I never fully adopted the rebellious dirt bag lifestyle. Deep down I was still a good kid and pretty much incorruptible. It was enough for me to just hang out with the cool kids. I think I was sort of a pet or mascot to them. The token straight kid. It worked for me.
And so I began my new life in a new school...but an interesting thing happened. I had a best friend, a boy friend (thanks to Chris and my new look), and a place to go after school (my job). I no longer found it necessary to try and make friends or fit in at my new school. I wore my uniform, played the roll of a good Catholic school girl, got great grades, but I had no interest in making friends with my classmates. Any spare time I had away from work, Chris, and my new boyfriend Ray; I spent with my nose in a book. Most of my classmates assumed I was shy. It was like I had a secret identity. Mild mannered loner by day...I would shed my uniform in a stall in the girls bathroom at the end of the day, slip out the back door of the school, light up a cigarette in the alley and make my way to public transportation to catch a bus to work. This continued until late in my Sophomore year when I decided that working as a grocery bagger wasn't enough of a challenge for me anymore.

Chris had dropped out of high school and was sinking deeper into drugs, sex and drinking. I had made a new friend and her straight-laced conservatism made me want to tone down my dirt-bag leanings. I got a new job as a sales girl at the mall in an upscale department store. The employee discount and company provided store charge card enabled me to refine my new look. I now had denim mini-skirts, leg warmers, designer jeans, suede elf boots and other cool items to show off at school dances (don't you just love the 80s). My classmates had already formed their little groups, so I hung out with my new best friend and her classmates (two years my junior). Other than brief stints in intramural tennis and as a photographer for the year book committee (had to have SOMETHING to put on my college applications) - I didn't spend much time at school. I did manage to have dates for both my proms (at my mother's insistence), but I was just biding my time until college started.

College was to be another opportunity to make myself over into yet another NEW persona. Who did I become in college? That is a story for another time, faithful readers.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Murphy

Murphy's law struck in a MAJOR way yesterday...

1. After finding blood spots on the kitchen floor Friday, took cat to vet. She has a UTI. Yesterday she was struck down with a case of mega-diarrhea. How do I know? She left a puddle of muck on my desk. Nice.

2. Minutes after waving bye to my husband and son as they went out for ice cream and setting my VCR to record The 4400 on USA/settling in to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; the power went out. It stayed out just long enough for me to miss BOTH programs.

3. During the blackout, I searched in vain for just ONE of the 15 freakin "tap lights" I bought off an infomercial a couple years ago. Couldn't locate any in the dark. Finally managed to trip over my son's alligator flashlight only to discover the batteries were almost dead. Light lasted long enough for me to locate several candles and my fireplace lighter.

4. Remind me to never light 5 different types of scented candles at the same time, ever again. The resulting headache wasn't pretty.

5. When the power went out I was close to finishing a new short story for my fiction blog. My computer is on a UPS, since we have frequent power-outages. The UPS gives me peace of mind that I won't lose work-in-progress on my PC. Hubby came home from the ice cream trip to find the house in darkness and both my UPS and the home alarm screaming shrilly. He turned off the house alarm and offered to turn off the alarm on the UPS. In the semi-darkness he accidentally hit the power off button and my PC whined to a sudden halt. Bye bye story.

6. I had no less than 5 candles on my desk to provide enough illumination to read my collection of catalogs. What else is there to do with no power? My cat attempted to take her normal shortcut across my desktop and was miffed when I made her take the long way around. The moment my back was turned, she hopped back across the desk anyway and proceeded to set the lovely long hair of her tail on fire. Scent of burnt cat fur did nothing to help my headache. Lucky for cat we were able to put the fire out before she spread it all over the house. Hubby took that opportunity to remind me about the fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink. Thanks hun.

The final LOL of the night? I was in Tyler's room trying to change his diaper via candle light when my son says "Mommy...turn on light!" I tell him "Honey, we have no power...I can't turn on the light." I immediately hear my husband laughing behind me. Apparently the power came back on while I had my back turned and I hadn't noticed. Silly Mommy.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Reunion

My 20th high school reunion is this year. I haven't attended any of the previous reunions and don't plan to attend this one either. Why? I don't know any of those people and really don't care what they have been up to. Well...ok. I am a LITTLE curious, but not enough to schlep all the way to Massachusetts and find out.

You wonder why I don't know anyone in my own senior class, don't you. Does the fact that I came in second place in the "Who the hell is that?!" category for my yearbook give you a clue? I think I was the only one who spoke to our first place winner on a regular basis. My best friend was 2 years behind me (I met her on my bus) and I hung out with HER friends.

No one in my class really made an effort to get to know me and I had no real interest in knowing them. I was a loner. A very solitary and shy creature with her nose perpetually buried in a book. If it had been school books I buried my nose in, I probably would have been class valedictorian too. I preferred reading science fiction and fantasy instead of math and physics, however.

Honestly, I am rather surprised my former classmates are organized enough to put together a reunion. Our former principal called our class the most "apathetic and uninvolved" class she had ever experienced in her 25+ years of teaching/principalship. Heh. We were the pioneers of Gen X, folks. Disenfranchised, bitter, and bleak; that was us. We still have the distinction of sending in the least amount of monetary contributions in the school's annual fund drive (private school) and the fewest personal updates to the alumni newsletter. I'll bet we have the lowest turnout for these little reunions as well. LOL

Eh. Don't you love my bland "whatever" attitude? I've still got it, after all these years. My classmates would be so impressed. LOL Honestly, I feel like I have accomplished a great deal since high school. None of it was planned, either. I always thought I would be a Mom by the time I was 25. I never intended to have a career or be "successful". My career in computers evolved slowly as I discovered new talents. Taking an early retirement, of sorts, as an upper-middle manager of an elite web development R&D team at AT&T was never a part of my wildest imaginings as a teen. Nor were my struggles with infertility. Funny how life twists and turns at times.

I feel like my career was my first life; motherhood is my second. Both lives have been pretty terrific so far. I started my career thinking it was only short term (until I got pregnant). One positive to my 10 year wait for motherhood was my 401K savings and my decision to join a US Savings Bond purchasing plan (those were intended for my future children's college education). Add in my pension plan from AT&T and voila, retirement savings and a college fund starter...10 years worth. Who knew this reformed shop-a-holic could SAVE money?? It's a big surprise to me too.

So I will stay home and have a ball with my son. When he heads off to school full time, I will begin my third life. What will that be? I haven't decided yet, but I bet it's gonna be good! Especially if I manage to lose weight and get fit (the other reason I don't want to go to my reunion...no one would recognize the porker I have become).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Carnivals!

July seems to be THE carnival month here in NJ. We've visited 4, so far! We learned the hard way that Tyler doesn't like JUST fireworks...there must be a carnival also or he just can't deal.
Here is a slide show with a few pics of Tyler having fun at the July 5th County College of Morris Carnival:

Here is a bit of fun from the evening of July 5th (we went to see the Denville town fireworks but couldn't get within 3 miles of the field to park, so we went with a partially obstructed view from the town dump on the other side of the tree line from the field):



Ty was bored silly. No carnival = no fun. LOL But we all enjoyed the glow necklaces and bracelets I remembered to bring. :-)

Last we have the Rockaway Township Carnival and Fireworks. Nice little carnival to benefit the volunteer fire department and the BEST fireworks display we have seen yet.


I really love my digital camera. It's a Canon PowerShot S50. I always forget the video option on the camera, but I remembered last night and filmed the finale of the Rockaway fireworks. Awesome stuff!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Superboy

I wonder if every child goes through this phase. Tyler is in the midst of a full-blown superhero obsession! Every costumed character he sees on TV or in books is either Superman, Batman or Spiderman. The really spooky part about this is...while his cousin has a Batman obsession, we never talked about Superman around him. Ever! One day, out of the blue, he was running around the house yelling "Superman!" and jumping off the furniture with wild abandon! Woosh... Of course, you can't miss Spiderman these days with the movies and all, so I have no doubt where he got his Spidy-sense from. The Superman thing really has be baffled. We have just started calling him Superboy. He really seems to like his new nickname. Even better, he loves his PJs I got him from Gymboree...check em out:



My little Superboy. (Yes, the cape was included.) :-)

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Dreaming

This entry strays from the norm a bit, and since I don't have a warning on my journal that it may contain adult content, I will keep things tame.

I had a really interesting and bizarre dream last night! Of course I love bizarre dreams - the stranger the better - but I don't often dream that I am not my own gender. Last night the main character in my dream was a man and I seemed to view events as they unfolded from his point of view. I'm not sure where to start, so I will just jump right in before the dream totally fades.

I am a 20-something Italian fellow having an affair with a married woman. When I say Italian, I mean in more ways than just looks and heritage. I SOUND Italian. I have a heavy accent. Very sexy. I still have a pretty vivid image of what he looks like, so I went surfing for a photo illustration for the benefit of my straight female and gay male readers. This photo is pretty darn close - look to the right. The earliest part of the dream I recall...I was waiting for my lover at the foot of a staircase in some kind of parking facility. She is a late 30s, possibly 40-something very attractive woman. She is curvy with strawberry blond hair and very fair skin. She takes extra pains to protect her skin from the sun. She is wearing a wide brim white hat (very fashionable), dark sunglasses, a white silk scarf and white summer suit with a fairly short skirt. I'll skip on past the steamy love scene in the stairwell of the parking garage... Turns out we were killing time before a morning appointment with her divorce attorney. She wants to leave her husband for me.

After the appointment I ride back with her to a very chic contemporary beach house. We have some more fun in the gorgeous sunken hot tub on the balcony outside her bedroom, over-looking the ocean. We hear her husband arrive home (probably for lunch) and I make a dramatic getaway over the side of the balcony and drop two stories into her gardenia bushes below.

Skipping ahead past scenes of me/him walking on the beach and her showing up on my doorstep (a very small apartment, but tastefully decorated) in the later part of the afternoon. Here is where things start to get even stranger. I entice her into coming with me to a place I used to work at. It's out in the country a bit...a converted barn being used as an auto shop for high-end cars. I want to make love with her in the back seat of a very expensive convertible parked out on the lot. It's in amongst lots of other cars, most are covered with car covers. I spot someone I know filming us from the rooftop of the barn and someone else filming from the floor of the old hayloft. I leap out of the car and what follows is a sort of surreal Woo-ping Yuen scene with lots of impossible martial arts flying and fighting. I also seem very adept at the use of a bull whip. I confront the men once I have them beaten to near pulp and tell them to back off. Turns out I used to run a scam with these guys, luring wealthy women to the garage for illicit fun while my buddy's filmed us to use later in blackmail schemes. I guess I really HAD fallen for this woman. I am forced to confess my "past" to my girlfriend, but she doesn't care.

There is other assorted weirdness in there...like the scene where she has to speak with me and wanders in to a men's locker room looking for me. Lots of steamy nudity there, but she is acting embarrassed and averting her eyes very cutely. LOL She gives the impression of being proper and a bit prim...but I bring out the worst in her. I am a very bad influence, I guess.

I just wonder about this fellow's back story. Where does an Italian import get skills with a bull whip and martial arts? Why was I once working with a group of obvious low-lifes? From my looks, it's pretty clear I can get darn near any woman I want. I guess my current love was originally going to be a target for the racy film blackmail scam, but I fell for her instead. And the biggest question of them all...WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON IN THAT TWISTED SUBCONSCIOUS MIND OF MINE?!?! AND WHEN CAN I EXPECT MORE?!?!? Tonight would be good...