Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chasing the English

Since I heard on the radio that many couples are being wed today (and I thank my ever-loving Higher Power that I am not), I will celebrate the number 12 instead:

12: First kiss in a seaplane booth on the shores of Lake Bemidji.  Okay, first kiss anywhere.

I had a major crush on the seaplane pilot’s youngest son, Tommy Dahl* (but I had major designs on his much older brother Ken Dahl, who was 18).  Tommy was old enough for me already, really, at 14...which felt scary but good.  The kiss happened after I had been sitting on Tommy’s lap all summer long in the seaplane booth—every day all day, both of us sitting on one tall backless stool, always me in front facing out because I was the one selling tickets to the tourists, always Tommy in back because he weighed ten pounds more.  One day, after what I’m sure must have been some uncomfortable but good sitting for both of us (Tommy especially), I finally turned around to look at him, and he closed the space between our faces fast.  That was it: first kiss to Tommy Dahl.  What a bummer.  I’d been hoping it was going to be my dad’s boss’s youngest son.  I had run with him in the rain down an alley one time in a lightning storm, and to this day I have never seen a cuter boy.**

That was a lot for 12.

12: The lowest number of college credits I ever carried as a student during any given semester at Bemidji State University.  The highest I ever carried was 18.  The best story from that semester*** is that one winter afternoon, as I approached the dorm where I lived (Oak Hall), I noticed something pink glinting in the sun underneath my neighbor’s window on the second floor.  As I got closer, I saw what I thought were pink icicles, but then I realized somebody had puked out the window the night before and it had frozen in pink streaks down the side of the building.

It stayed cold for a really long time, so we got to look at that for a couple of weeks.

12: The number of years between me and the first much-older man I loved. Best memory from that time: Driving around in the woods on a blustery night in the dark, sitting next to him instead of by my door, the headlights cutting cones of light through the black and white ahead of us.  Listening to the radio and talking, the heat blasting, finally warm enough to take my gloves off and rest my bare hand on the inside of his leg.  Wine in plastic travel mugs.  Wishing that he took me seriously enough to marry me.  Glad I could fall back on my boyfriend if this didn’t work out.

12: The age of the best step-son I ever had when he joined my doomed little family.  If I could have gotten divorced and shared custody of the boy with his mother, I would have.  I was the one paying child support anyway.  Best memory from that time: When the boy came out of his bedroom for our trip to the mall with a Band-Aid on his cheek.  

“Why do you have a Band-Aid on your cheek!?” I asked.

He mumbled something and disappeared again under the brim of his cap.

“Don’t ask him about the Band-Aid,” his dad whispered.  “It’s the popular thing to do.”  

To this day, I still have use for the phrases “It’s gettin’ hot in here” and “Take off all your clothes”.

12: The number of college credits I wish I could teach because teaching 15 is too many.  Ask anybody who teaches English.  15 credits means teaching five classes with twenty-five students each; that’s 125 students, most of them freshmen, whose English I’m in charge of.  Chasing the English of 125 students around for three and a half months can be taxiing (which is far more time-consuming and challenging than “taxing”, little known fact).  Best story about why Arizona ranks so low in this nation, in education:  I’m teaching a class and I happen to mention that when it comes to education, we are ranked number 48th.  A student raises his hand and says, all defensive, “Oh yeah?  Outta how many?”

12: Is divisible by 4, just like my current age, 44. It’s an even number like 44, and being 44 has evened me out.  Today, on 12/12/12, this 44 year old is sitting here, eating cantaloupe, wearing heavy clothes for the desert: socks.  Best memory from when I was four: Lying on the floor in front of our big wooden record player, listening to my “Hansel and Gretel” record.  It was always after lunch in the afternoon, and I would always curl up on the carpet in front of the speaker to listen to this terrifying story.  My mom would give me a pillow, and sometimes the sun coming through our big picture window would mix just right with the tomato soup in my belly, and I would drift off into some kind of hypnotic state of paralysis, conscious and able to see, but unable to move.  My mom would eventually come by and tuck a blanket around me, close my eyelids, and turn the record down low, so I could still hear the part about when they burn the witch to death.

Thanks, Mom, who was 33 when she had me, is 77 right now…I’m 44…all master numbers, which I learned somewhere along the line have special powers and positive energy.  I think that’s a great note to end on.  

* Names and dates have been changed to protect mes fesses.

** Except for my former step-son, cutest boy in the world.

*** Yes, I know the Beavers were on quarters in the ‘80s.  I was a Beaverette.