The Most Scandalous Read of My Childhood

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“We must-we must-we must increase our bust!” Oh, how I loved this book. The most scandalous read of my pre-teen years. This is my original, autographed copy from 1980, one of my most prized childhood treasures. The cover is torn off, and the pages are frayed and stained from being dragged around with me everywhere I went.

I was about 9 years old when I read it for the first time, and far too immature for the subject matter. I mean, I seriously did NOT understand why anyone would even WANT boobs, let alone do exercises to make them BIGGER. Yuck.

An older girl saw me reading it on the school bus one day and asked me if I knew what a “period” was. “Of course,” I said confidently, “the dot at the end of a sentence.”

She then proceeded to tell my 3rd grade self the horrifying, gory details of the “non-punctuation period”, and I called her a liar while fighting back tears. The things you learn on a school bus.

I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to read it at that age had my mom known the subject matter…puberty, religion and boys. The book was one of the most banned and censored of the 1980’s.

But I was an insatiable reader as a child and the only kid I knew who actually got in TROUBLE for reading. I got in trouble for reading at the dinner table. Got in trouble for reading during family gatherings. Got in trouble for reading when my friends came over for play dates. Yeah, ok, that’s pretty rude I guess.

What can I say? I was a nerdy little kid. Who turned into a nerdy adult whose dream it still is to write a book that may someday boast stains and worn-out pages from being loved by another child like me.

So cheers to the books that shaped us, educated us, and let us escape into worlds different than our own. For, in the words of Margaret Atwood, “In the end, we’ll all become stories.”

A Lesson By Sunrise

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It had been one of THOSE mornings. Where everybody overslept, nobody could find clean socks, and a full bowl of milk and cereal crashed to the kitchen floor, shattering into a million pieces. Where the kids moved too slowly. Where I yelled too much.

Getting three kids off to three different schools every morning was never easy, but that day was especially rough, and by the time we all piled into the car, everyone was in a bad mood.

I saw it before they did. As our car rounded the harbor near our house, there in all its glory, was a sunrise so spectacular, it took my breath away.

Without a second thought, I pulled the car off the road.

“Mom! Why are you stopping?? We’re going to be late!”

“Get out of the car,” I told them. “School will still be there in five minutes. THIS will not. We’re starting today over, right now.”

And so we did, huddled together at the edge of the water, watching the majestic colors change by the minute. It was impossible to watch and feel stressed. It was impossible to not be humbled by the sheer beauty of it.

I think it’s important to teach kids to be on time. But that day, it was more important to teach them that sometimes, in life, we just need a reset button. That sometimes, the most important thing you can do is take a few minutes to clear your head, to calm your soul…and to be grateful for the beauty that surrounds us, when we take the time to really see it.

Glimpses

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See this kid? The one with the long, silky blond hair and full cheeks? He’s 15 now. The hair is dark and cropped short. The cheeks are angular, with stubble much of the time, as he mostly ignores my reminders to shave. The smiling blue eyes are the same, though the smiles aren’t gifted to me quite as often as they were back then.

I used to piggyback this boy up the stairs to bed. He towers over me now. After years of listening to his high-pitched squeals during lightsaber duels, it often startles me when I hear the deep, booming voice that comes out of his mouth now.

He is my one son, sandwiched between two girls. I’ve learned some things, raising this boy.

Boys are loud. Boys are messy. Boys are smelly.

Boys are sensitive. Boys are thoughtful. Boys are protective, especially of their moms.

The most unexpected thing I’ve learned? Boys are so, so sweet.

I’m not gonna lie. 15 is tough. Tough to be, and tough to parent, especially in this day and age. When my kids became teenagers, I had to tell them things like, “Please don’t smoke, drink, take pills, have sex, or cyber-bully anyone.” When I became a teenager in the 80’s, my mom told me things like, “Please don’t bring your Cabbage Patch doll to the dinner table.”  True story.

You know, when your kids are little, all you want is for them to leave you alone for five minutes. Then come the teenage years and suddenly, they leave you alone for too long.

The eyes are rolled, the doors are slammed, the walls are up.

And through those walls, sometimes it’s hard to see that sweet little boy.

The one who snuggled me the most.

The one who held my hand the longest.

But then.

Glimpses.

I come downstairs one morning and on the kitchen counter is a piece of coffee cake. The very last piece. With a sticky note on top, that says, in terrible handwriting, “Save for Mom”.

He knows it’s my favorite.

There’s that sweet boy.

Another time, I overhear my 9 year old daughter being rude to him.

I interject: “Stop being mean to your brother!”

“It’s ok,” he says. Then, turning to his sister:  “Even when you’re mean to me, you’re still my favorite person.”

Another glimpse.

And so, through the throes of teenage angst, I hold onto those glimpses. Of the sweet little boy he was, and of the good man he is becoming.

Not long ago, he randomly announced to my husband and I something I won’t soon forget. He said, “Do you realize that one day you’ll pick up your kid and it will be the last time that you do? But you won’t know it then.”

I’m glad I wasn’t aware of the last time I picked him up.

Because it would have broken me a little to put him down.

This boy of mine may not hold my hand any longer, but no matter how big he gets, he will always, always, hold my heart.

A Moment I Will Never Forget

Veterans

Recently, my son and I had the opportunity to hear two World War II veterans speak at his high school. Little did I know I would end up witnessing one of the most heartwarming moments I’ve ever seen in my life.

The first gentleman to speak, Thomas Berg, was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked in 1941. With amazing clarity and in great detail, he spoke for nearly an hour about how he survived that fateful day 78 years ago, breaking down in tears at one point from his emotional recollection.

The second gentleman, Thomas Hart MacElwee, served on a submarine chaser during the D-Day landings at Normandy. We listened, riveted, as he brought us to Omaha Beach with him all those years ago.

At the end of the talk, they opened up a Q&A session from the audience. What happened next was like a scene out of a movie. An elderly woman, sitting in the back of the room, quietly raised her hand, then stood up.

“I was there,” she said, in a foreign accent. The entire room turned to stare at the woman. “I was in the Netherlands. And they slipped a note under our door telling us to stay inside. A note that said you were coming. To save us.” The woman’s voice started to break as she addressed the veterans, some 75 years later. “And you DID. You saved us and I just wanted to say…THANK YOU.”

And then I just cried. For all those young boys that lost their lives…boys no different from my 17-year-old son sitting next to me. My son, who has all the freedom in the world.

I cried because it saddens me that we live in such a divisive country today, a country so very many people have died to protect. I cried out of gratitude for those who did.

Because in the end, despite our political differences, we are all Americans. We share this history. And I am grateful that my son was able to see, to feel, a piece of that history come alive.

And I hope that he will go forth in this world with a deeper appreciation of the freedom that we should never take for granted. I hope he will remember the sacrifices that were made. I hope we all do. ❤️