The Oily, The Laid Back, The Inscrutable & The Scaredy CatSunday, September 05, 2010
In our present efforts to find a good used Chevrolet to replace Sophie (Rosemary’s leased Audi A-4) we have traveled to Burnaby, Surrey, Mount Vernon, Washington and Vancouver itself. The journey, at times feels like we are talent agents looking for a stable of actors to stage our very own version of Glengarry Glen Ross. We have dealt with the oily, the laid back, the inscrutable and one of which Rosemary said, “The reason he says he doesn’t have a computer at home is that he must spend most of his time in front of his TV with a large glass of booze.”
For me, with the help of the internet, this has been almost fun and most logical if logic can ever be a deciding factor when one buys a new car. The internet has enabled me to show up at a used car lot and to say with precision, “I want to see your 2006 silver Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, the one with 74,000 Km.
While Rosemary finds a few of the salesman objectionable I have been having fun. One in particular (the oily one) is in the middle of telling us why we need a more powerful engine (“You are grandparents so you need more protection. You need more torque!”) and telling us the finer bits of why his car is the one we should buy when I interrupt him. “If my mother were here she would tell you that your stomach and the gastric juices therein are smacking in anticipation for the food delights that will soon be there for them to happily digest. Except that by chewing gum you are cheating on your stomach. It’s bad for you!” The salesman, whom I have interrupted, looks at me incredulously and utters, “We are discussing serious things here and you are telling me to stop chewing gum (he takes the gum out of his mouth and throws it into his waste basket)!” I counter by telling him, “You have your standard selling techniques and I, as your potential buyer, has to show some of my own.” It has been fun but Rosemary finds the whole exercise a strenuous one.
The one who is going through a far more strenuous time is my daughter Hilary. Her daughters, Rebecca and Lauren will not be going to the same school anymore. Rebecca, who is now in the 8th grade, will be taking a bus to a nearby secondary school.
There has been in these last few years the idea that you must know where your kids are all the time. If they are busing to a school they must have cellular phone. On the first day of school which is usually just for an hour or two, Hilary must know where to find Rebecca when she is through. The cellular phone has become the electronic version of those funny leashes which some parents use to keep their young children in check at the shopping mall.
And the phone has to be a phone with no features (or with features that have been blocked). No parent now wants to run up a texting bill in the hundreds. Rebecca cannot text because her phone has been disabled to do so. And she cannot surf the internet for the same reason. That is why a few weeks ago I bought her an iTouch so that she can serf and even text with no cost!
Because it might take at least 20 minutes for a 13 year-old teenager to apply makeup in the morning it seems that Rebecca will be waking up at 6:30. She must be in school no later that 8:30 when classes begin. Allowance must be made for bus-riding time. Bus schedules have been thoroughly scrutinized.
Lauren will now have to fend for herself since she will no longer have the protection of an older sister. I don't worry. Lauren is certainly not the scaredy cat her mother was.
Hilary was a quiet and introverted child who only in the last few years has revealed to us how much she was bullied in school and how alienated she felt in most of her school years.
The picture that you see here is of Hilary on her first day at day-care somewhere in Burnaby in 1975. She is smiling but shortly after I took the picture she began to cry and she broke my heart. I felt guilty leaving her alone.
For a long time after whenever Hilary would misbehave (to my now embarrassed remorse) I would threaten her with an instant trip to her daycare. The word that really would get her going was the Mexican pronunciation of service (day care service) when I would say, “I am going to take you to the sir-biz!”
I now look at all this with an almost fond nostalgia and, yes, tenderness for Hilary, as my no-longer-a-child daughter worries about Tuesday's first day of school. And if find myself also feeling sadness as my other two little girls are growing up and one of them will be on the bus with her cell phone.
But nobody would have ever predicted that one of the most important tasks on Tuesday will be to determine if her not-so- little roller suitcase, ubiquitous with school children these days, will fit in her locker. And I must add here that I do remember, with a clarity that scares me, that on my first day of pre-kinder in Buenos Aires, my nasty teacher sniffed the air in disgust, stared at me, and asked me, "¿Té cagaste?" (Did you shit in your pants?). Indeed I had. I remember my answer, "¡No!"