The Middle Age Follies
A Slightly Skewed Look At Life
By And For Those Of Us On The North Side Of 50
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The creativity and curiosity of children is a wonderful and fascinating adventure to behold. Watching our youngsters delight in their discoveries of and about life at every turn is a joyful experience for every parent.
But then those adorable, affectionate children of ours become teenagers. Their notions of exploration and creativity are no longer quite the rapturous events from which we drew so much delight for so many years. Of course, back then we parents were still lovable and useful. It seems, at least from my own observations, that we become annoying nitwits at just about the same time as our lovely youngsters become annoying nitwit teenagers.
I’m just saying….
There are times in the fledgling teen’s life when their sense of curiosity and wonder, and a zest for exploration and learning, remain joys to behold. Projects undertaken, civic and humanitarian efforts in which they participate or even lead, and their steady development into rational and mature young adults (still many, many, many years away from fruition, of course) all nonetheless serve as comforting signposts that we have in fact made a positive contribution to their growth and goodness.
And then there are other moments.
To this day I’m not certain if this episode was merely a science experiment gone awry, a typical “I forgot” moment, or a young teen’s struggle to make the connection between action A and result B a few inches and moments away.
As most parents of teenagers know, lifetimes are compressed into those few years of teenagerdom as we and they weave their way through the shoals of life before arriving at sandy beaches filled with sunshine, lots of beer, and nubile … wait! Sorry, that was my moment. My mind got away from me for a second, but now it’s back.
Anyhow, one of those frequent struggles is accepting that a meal eaten but not completed today can also be enjoyed in another fifteen minutes from this moment when teens are again hungry. In fact, it’s common knowledge that with a minimal amount of salvage work, food eaten today is still edible and nutritious and enjoyable tomorrow or even the day after that!
Of course, the key to that awareness is knowing what must be done to perform the said salvaging of said food for said tomorrows. Thus we have sealable plastic bags and containers with lids. While an intricate and delicate operation is called for to put said partially-eaten meal into said bag or container for said tomorrow-oriented preservation, with patience and repeated demonstrations, parents can teach their teenagers how to put food away for another moment of gustatory delight.
How difficult is it to follow those few steps and place the aforementioned sealed contraption into the properly receptacle?
One of 3,267,812 “memorable” occasions during the formative teen years we endured courtesy of our son involved a pickle. [Just a general comment: boy teenagers in particular are proof that Satan exists, and that Satan is in fact an annoying, mostly-brainless moron.]
Several years into our training sessions, we thought we had arrived at a turning point. Our fourteen-year-old consumed only part of a submarine-sized deli pickle before a moment of enlightenment skittered across the vast open spaces between his left ear and his right ear.
He had actually made the decision all on his own that (1) the pickle could be finished on another occasion; (2) that there were in fact methods which would enable him to not only do so, but enjoy that same delicacy in the near-future, and (3) that in our very own kitchen we had equipped him with all the tools needed: Ziploc bags of varying sizes, containers with matching covers already affixed to make removal and reinstallation easy, and the large black machine a mere nine inches from the storage area (we call each of them a “drawer” in our home) which would be the final resting place for the aforementioned S-class submarine pickle.
We call that machine the refrigerator. A side note: It took only two more years for us to teach him that food and beverages are not actually created inside this “refrigerator” but instead have to be placed there by humans. (Science note: apparently one has to frig a second time to properly use said machine, thus the term refrig-erator; a bit of historical background, gratis).
So, the steps are:
* eat as much of the pickle as you wish
* recognize that the unconsumed portion is still a viable food substance
* recognize that said recognition means a second consumption is thus a viable option
* remember that there are items at the ready and close at hand to make the prior two steps a reality
* that making use of said Ziploc-like items in their intended fashion (i.e. the “sealing” part) is a lesson we’ve repeatedly performed, and have by and large mastered
* and that the successful completion of the above steps requires only the opening of the “door” part of the said cold-making machine and placement of the sealed package inside to prepare oneself for the second consumption at an indefinite date and time in the future
And thus the problem. So, so, so close….
* eat as much of the pickle as you wish – CHECK
* recognize that the unconsumed portion is still a viable food substance – CHECK
* recognize that said recognition means a second consumption is thus a viable option – CHECK
* remember that there are items at the ready and close at hand to make the prior two steps a reality – CHECK
* that making use of said Ziploc-like items in their intended fashion (i.e. the “sealing” part) is a lesson we’ve repeatedly performed, and have by and large mastered – CHECK
and then it all fell apart.
As he stood in front of the refrigerator, this young person who shall remain nameless apparently found himself contemplating what to do with this now-hermetically sealed pickle. My guess is that the fact he had just moments before successfully completed two consecutive household tasks was itself confusing to him. I just did what they’ve been telling me to do? That can’t be right! is how I imagine that conversation unfolded in his lovable marshmallow-fluff-filled head.
This is the most likely scenario of what happened at that point:
The aforementioned nameless person turned left and away from the cold-making machine, returning to that place where the “drawer” was located—filled with assorted Ziploc parents and their smaller Ziploc-ettes. Having mastered the art of pulling said drawer open once before (at least) in those prior few moments, and recognizing the skill-set he now possessed, our son pulled open that very same kitchen drawer from which he obtained the aforesaid Ziploc bag.
He then put the already-sealed pickle back into in the very same Ziploc box which had only moments before contained the empty version of the now pickle-filled plastic bag. He then remembered to shut the said drawer (chalk up another lesson learned!) and then left for parts unknown (perhaps to locate his brain, but I digress).
How did I know all of this? The Nameless One was the only member of our family who ate deli pickles. That was the first hint.
I then happened to discover the said pickle many, many, many days after it was placed in the said Ziploc box inside the aforementioned drawer located only inches away from the refrigerator. At that point, said pickle—despite its entombment in the nuclear-explosion-safe Ziploc bag, had become some sort of pond-scum-like yet quite colorful-but-in-a-very-disgusting-and-sickening-way science experiment which had gone quite awry—extremely awry, actually.
When I soon thereafter pointed out this event to the Nameless One, the blank stare I received by way of response suggested I had (1) just become invisible, and (2) that was apparently a quite common experience to him, since his reaction was about the same one would expect when observing that humans breathe. The story simple did not register with him. It was a long four hours before I was finally convinced that there were no other food items hidden in sock drawers, salt shakers, the piano, heating vents….
A lesson to me—and to you—that the lessons will continue for a long, long, long time past the point when they were meant to be learned.