What a Joke

The link to my ASHA Leader article is here, if you’re so inclined. After reading, could you do me a solid and leave a corny joke in the comments section? Many thanks.

http://leader.pubs.asha.org/Article.aspx?articleid=2389210&utm_source=asha&utm_medium=enewsletter&utm_campaign=leaderlive070715

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Training Bra

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I am strolling around Wal-Mart when I see it. A chicken nugget in a training bra. I am scanning the wall pegs for childrens’ socks when it catches my eye. Greasy. Golden. Tucked precariously into the left cup.

A chicken nugget in a bra – it means something. I decide it does. I seek poetry in the absurd as a means for entertaining myself. I look for literary devices and symbolism in the bizarre, and I look for it in this chicken nugget. I decide it is either a clever play on the word “chick” or a commentary on the training bra itself, unequipped as it is to hold a full breast. (I ignore the real meaning, which is that some people have manners that match their diets.)

I think I have reached the “training bra” stage in terms of my writing efforts. I am not particularly developed, but there is suddenly a little something there where, before, there was nothing.

I am contributing regularly to Calhoun Magazine, a glossy every-other-month community publication. I write a piece for Dysphagia Café every so often, and this month (and forgive me for being a total braggart, but this is my personal blog) I have an article in the upcoming July edition of The ASHA Leader.

These projects don’t bounce around too significantly, but I need to support them all the same. I am coming to terms with the fact that my writing is changing. Like everything changes. Maybe it will develop to the point that my back aches. Maybe it will shrink or sag. I don’t know in what way it will change, only that it will. That it has. Like everything does.

I guess this is my way of explaining a decrease in blog posts. I am trying to put more time and energy into freelance articles. I am playing around with some short fiction pieces, if merely for the exercise. I have come across a great group of local writers, and they have graciously made a place for me at their table. I am also making more of an effort to spend time reading well-written fiction.

So there you have it. My writing career has a training bra. I feel awkward and uncomfortable every time I slip it on. I am anxious that I will never outgrow it. That you’ll say I didn’t need it in the first place. That you’ll call me mediocre. I may be just that. Mediocre. There is one thing I am not, however; I am not chicken.

Duggar Supporters: Denfend Josh Duggar’s Wedding

duggar wedding

Let’s pretend I am on board. For argument’s sake, let’s assume every word spoken in defense of Josh Duggar and his parents resonates with me. That the actions he took as a minor were no more than “mistakes.” That addressing those “mistakes” within the home and church provided for Josh and his victims adequate healing and rehabilitation. That the matter was private. I already agree in earnest that every family, like every person, can and will do something regrettable. I already agree in earnest that God is loving enough to forgive us, to empower us to forgive others, and to help us move beyond the unthinkable. Given that, your job here should be easy. Defend Josh Duggar’s wedding.

Josh was married on cable television, and I watched the broadcast. This was back when his family’s show was “16 Kids and Counting.” Or maybe it was “17 Kids.” I don’t know. I wasn’t counting. This was never a show I watched with regularity, but on a random morning off from work, I sometimes watched the Duggars have a yard sale, get an ultrasound or shop for 10-pound bags of tater tots while I folded towels. That episode when Josh Duggar got married – that was one I caught.

A link to the ceremony is here, but if you’re not inclined to watch it, a synopsis:

1) Josh marries a young woman named Anna in a traditional church ceremony.
2) The army that is his siblings participate in the ceremony as bridesmaids and groomsmen.
3) The couple exchange vows.
4) Josh breaks into song like a Disney prince.
5) His father picks up a microphone and announces to wedding goers and t.v. viewers alike that Josh and Anna have waited until exchanging their vows to share their first kiss. It is essentially a public pat on the back. He is praising Josh for his purity and self-control.
6) Following the ceremony, directly to the camera, Josh explains that his decision to wait until marriage to kiss is a “testimony” to the younger kids watching.

Josh, his struggles, the ambivalence of his parents – that seems real. Heartbreaking in general, and for the victims in particular. This wedding, though. It doesn’t fit.

If Jim Bob Duggar was privy to Josh’s sexual acting out, why would he stand up on television and praise him for his purity? Why wouldn’t he just lay low? And if Josh was truly contrite, if he really felt remorseful for what he had done to his victims, how could he smugly look into the camera and declare that his decision to refrain from kissing another consenting adult was somehow a testimony to the very sisters he’d abused? It seems like a regretful man would keep his mouth shut, humbly get married and move on with his life. Why invite the entire world into a discussion about your sex life?

I don’t know. It isn’t typically my blogging style to criticize television personalities. I try to respect the private lives of others (my family notwithstanding), but I feel like Josh Duggar invited us all to talk about his sex life when he chose to brag about his chastity on television in exchange for pay.

This story really got under my skin. I read about Josh Duggar’s scandal the same day that I read some statistics in The Week about the declining percentage of Americans who define themselves as Christians. I guess to me the stories have become linked. I think the voices of moderate, based-in-reality Christians is being drown out by radical Christian fundamentalists, and this leaves me feeling quite discouraged.

If you are one of the people who find the Duggar’s actions defendable, please weigh in on the wedding. I am interested to hear your thoughts.

Punishment

Never in the history of parenthood has a single declarative sentence been so fraught with loopholes. The sentence is this:

No television or playing outside with friends this afternoon.

Today, in a solar eclipse of juvenile delinquency, both of our children managed to earn the same punishment. The girl failed to be ready for school at an acceptable time, and the boy (in deference to his mother) arrived home from school with a note stating he had talked excessively during class. Both children were punished in the same manner: No television or playing outside with friends this afternoon.

It felt straightforward when I uttered the words. Easy to understand. Simple to enforce. But these children. They are confused. So very disoriented by this whole “no tv or friends” business. A sampling of the clarifications they have requested:

Does watching a show on the computer count as “television?”

Does watching a show on my phone count?

When will the “afternoon” be over, and am I to assume that I can play outside with my friends tonight once the “afternoon” has concluded? Because that is how it sounds.

Can I play outside without my friends?

Can I play with my friends inside my house? Inside one of their houses?

Can I bring Kate this pamphlet about band camp? I won’t play with her. I just need to bring her some time-sensitive information.

Can I go outside to feed and water Cottontail (i.e. the pet rabbit) if I promise not to play with her?

If I should happen to see one of the neighborhood kids when I am outside feeding Cottontail, may I wave? Say hello?

Can I play a game on the Wii? It isn’t really television. It is a game.

What do you expect me to do all afternoon?

Rest assured I am standing firm. I know full-well what the consequence of the childrens’ respective offenses was meant to be, and I will not cave. The punishment is working. On whom, though – that is still unclear.

Sinkhole

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I’d like to be the kind of person who loves her neighbor in spite of his shortcomings. The sort of person who avoids the temptation to celebrate when said neighbor gets his comeuppance. I’m not. I’m Dean’s neighbor. And when that sinkhole opened up in Dean’s yard this week, I laughed in a tone reserved only for occasions on which mirth is entangled with bitterness and spite.

We live in an old Victorian home downtown. We are old-house people in an old-house neighborhood which we share with a gaggle of lovable, old-house neighbors. There’s Francis, the hippie who grows heirloom tomatoes and smells like a Grateful Dead concert. There’s Trina, the director from the arts center, Mildred, the author of a detective series, Jack, the town historian, Leanne, the homeschooling mother, and of course, there are our dear friends, the Arnolds.

We get along famously, the band of us. Lots of dog-petting, story-swapping and tomato eating. Our unfenced yards form a magnificent green space in which the children run and play. If Norman Rockwell were to come back from the dead, our block party might be the first scene chose to paint.

But then there’s Dean.

The renter.

Dean’s home is at the center of it all, and while he likes the community green space, he feels strongly that his portion should be, well… Just green. And space.

Dean announced last month that his yard was no longer to be used as a safe passage for our children as they travel from our yard to the Arnolds. He is sorry. But his grass; he just doesn’t want anything to happen to it. What if, over time, a trail was worn?

Dean loves his yard. Loves it. His grass is cut more often than I am kissed. And loving the yard as he does, Dean can’t bear the thought that one of our 60-pound children might bend the a blade of grass in the wrong direction as they walk upon it.

Here’s the thing, though: Dean also loves his Jeep. Loves it so much that he parks it… on his grass! Everyone else parks on the street, but not Dean. Too much risk that the Jeep would get hit by another vehicle.

Let that sink in: He won’t let the children walk on the grass, knowing the only other alternative is walking on the sidewalk, which is inches from the busy street, but he won’t park on the street for fear of the Jeep being hit.

For four weeks, I have been fantasizing about taking out my anger on Dean’s lawn. I considered inviting all the neighbors over to drink beer and blow dandelions over the property line or tip-toeing over to his place in the night and writing a message in lawn with a big bottle of salt: Nice grass, jerk! The yard ultimately spoke out on its own behalf.

It seems Dean was out digging holes in his yard. He was preparing to plant a hedge of Cyprus trees along the property – a sort of organic “Keep out” sign. One knock of his shovel exposed an enormous hole – four feet deep at least. Maybe deeper. Wider for sure.

There is some sort of drainage pipe under the ground. Rainwater tears have leaked through the pipe and washed away the heart of the land until, at last, empty and unsatisfied, the Earth opened up her mouth and cried out in anger.

“Where are the children?” Look at the picture of the sinkhole again. You can see it. The longing.

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Dean has a mess on his hands. He has been calling the city to complain, but it doesn’t sound like they are in any hurry to fix the problem.

“I’m just worried about the kids,” he said to my husband. “What if they fell in? They could be hurt.”

Oh please. And how would our kids manage to fall in the hole when they aren’t even allowed on his property? If he wants to worry about anything, it should be his Jeep. Parked out in the grass like it is. It could be swallowed up at any moment. Wouldn’t that be a shame.

Sleep Out in the Rain

rain

Money, sex and conflicting styles of parenting are sited as the most common sources of marital strife. Not so for Todd and me. We’re bickering about Percy Sledge. Have been for years.

“When a Man Loves a Woman” was the catalyst to one of our earliest arguments. This was back in college. Todd had a little black Broncho II at the time. We were out for a drive, the two of us, when Sledge’s 1966 classic came on the radio.

When a ma-an loves a woman,

Can’t keep his mind on nothing else,

He’ll trade the world for the good thing he found…

Mid-way through what should have been an affectionate sing-along, Todd took exception to a line in verse two.

He’d give up all his comforts,

Sleep out in the rain,

If she said that’s the way it ought to be.

“That is stupid,” Todd said. “I don’t see any sense in sleeping in the rain.”

“You wouldn’t sleep in the rain for me?” I asked.

“Not just because you said that is the way it ought to be, no.”

“Well, I am glad we’re getting this out in the open now!”

“Look I’m not saying I wouldn’t sleep in the rain for you under the right set of circumstances, all I’m saying is that you’d have to give me a reason. A good reason.”

“Well I think you should trust me,” I said. “If I said ‘Go sleep in the rain,’ I think you should have enough faith in me to know that my request warrants action. I have a good reason for asking. You should trust me enough to comply. If you loved me, really loved me, you would.”

Nothing has changed. In the twenty years that have passed since we had this original argument, neither Todd nor I have changed our stance. Oh, we put it out of our heads, but when the song comes on, we resume our respective positions and commence to fighting as though no time has passed.

Tonight it is raining. It is raining, Todd is sleeping soundly as I type, and R&B legend Percy Sledge is dead at the age of 74. May he rest in peace. Sledge, that is. Not Todd. On the contrary, I think I’m going to go wake Todd up – send him out to the deck with a pillow and an afghan.

Percy Sledge

Needy

image credit: photo.net

image credit: photo.net

Mrs. George is dressed in a tomato-red track suit, hospital-issued non-skid socks, and a pair of black leather clogs. She stands in her front yard between a large leaf-filled trashcan and a stool she has fashioned from an inverted five-gallon bucket. As she leans over to pick up a stick, one gnarled hand gripping the trashcan for balance, the pendent of her medical alert necklace slips free from inside her jacket and swings over the clutter of yard debris.

“Mrs.George,” I say, but my old neighbor doesn’t acknowledge me. Doesn’t hear me. I consider the noise from the cars as they race down the street. I consider, too, her hearing loss. I say her name again, this time with a marked increase in volume.

“MRS. GEORGE!”

She hears me this time. She drops the stick, rights herself, and grips the trashcan with the second hand.

“Well – what is it?!” she says.

Her voice is harsh and impatient. Her eyes focus on me, then widen. It is most frightening. I decide she must be paranoid. That dementia has set in. Poor Mrs. George. Her mind had been so clear during our last visit, but that was over a year ago. She is 97, and that is how it goes at this stage in life. Your mind is perfectly fine until it isn’t.

“IT’S GINGER FROM ACROSS THE STREET,” I say. I am attempting to reassure her, to put her mind at ease, but I succeed only in insulting her.

“I know who you are,” she says. She points to my house. “You have the two beautiful children. Y’all are Methodist.”

“YES,” I say.

“Well, what do you want?” Mrs. George looks past me. Scans the cars as they pass.

“NOTHING, I JUST…”

“Can I just tell you what I’m trying to do?”

Mrs. George reaches out, takes a step, then lets go of the trashcan completely. She walks toward her porch. Away from me. Walks as though she is on a frozen lake. Slowly. Vigilantly. Hands outstretched.

“I JUST SAW YOU IN THE YARD,” I say.

Mrs. George reaches the sizable rock newel post and leans on the stone structure.

“I AM GETTING HOME FROM A WALK. IT IS SO NICE TO SEE YOU OUT! IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME,” I say, and it has. I haven’t seen her step foot in the yard in over a year, let alone perform chores. She has had some strokes. Two at least.

“I WANTED TO SAY ‘HELLO.'”

“Well, I guess that will be fine, and I apologize for the condition of my yard,” she says. “See, I had a great yard man. Cruz. Been with me for over ten years.”

“YES MA’AM,” I say.

“Cruz is Mexican,” she says. “Doesn’t speak English. He is smart, and…”

Mrs. George pauses to watch a white SUV slowly creep down the street. Once it passes, she sighs and rests an elbow on the top of the post.

“Sorry, I was worried that was my granddaughter. Do you know her?”

“NO MA’AM.”

“Good. Well, as I was saying, I’ve had Cruz keeping the yard up for me. He is the best. All I ever have to do is come out here and point and he knows exactly what I want.”

“HE SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD GUY,” I say.

“He is. He’s broken his leg, though. Fell off a ladder. Won’t be able to work for eight weeks or more.”

“OH, NO. I HOPE HE WILL BE OKAY.”

“So I hired this new fella to come out here and do some work for me. A man from out in Sonoroville,” she says. She puts the second elbow on the post.

“YES,” I say.

“Well, he put in three box woods. They’re going to be pretty. He cut the grass, did some trimming. Wasn’t out here but three hours.”

“OH?” I say.

“And do you know what he charged me? Four hundred dollars. Four. Hundred. Dollars. And just look and all this mess he left. Just awful!”

And there is a bit of raking which needs to be done, but really, the yard is fine. Fine by my standards. Her standards are much higher, however, and I refrain from talking her out of her opinion.

“CAN I HELP? I CAN RAKE.” I ask.

“No, I can do it,” she says. She shifts her feet. Lays her head down on her arm. “I just do a little, then I sit down and rest. I don’t over-do it. I promise.”

“My daughter that lives with me – she is on vacation this week. Went to the mountains. And my granddaughter – she comes by before and after work.”

“THAT IS NICE OF HER,” I say.

“She made me promise I’d stay in the house. She said, ‘Granny, you promise me you wont get out.’ But I just can’t stand all this mess he’s done left out here.”

And now I understand her paranoia. She isn’t demented in the least, but sharp as ever. Her anxiety stems not from imagined dangers, but from the very real possibility that I will rat her out to her family for working in the yard against orders to do otherwise.

“YOU ALWAYS KEEP SUCH A BEAUTIFUL YARD.”

“It isn’t beautiful now. And do you know what he charged me?” She is sweating now. Her voice is growing softer.

“FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS?”

“Four hundred dollars!”

“I KNOW YOU LIKE A TIDY YARD, BUT IT IS MIGHTY HOT OUT. LETS GO INSIDE.”

“I will. I’ll go inside. You just go on now, okay. Just leave me to it. I just have to take my time.”

“I WANT TO GO WITH YOU – MAKE SURE YOU GET IN OKAY.”

“Of course I can get in okay. I have lived here since 1940. I know how to get in my own house.”

“YES MA’AM, I KNOW THAT.”

“So just go on home, Ginger. You go home to those beautiful children.”

Mrs. George steps away from the post and ice walks toward the driveway.

“I WILL. I JUST WANT TO WALK YOU IN FIRST, IF YOU DON’T MIND. IF I AM NOT BEING A BOTHER.”

“You’re not a bother, but I am able to do it. You see me going, don’t you? I just have to take my time. But I am going in now, okay?”

“TAKE ALL THE TIME YOU NEED. I WONT RUSH YOU. TAKE MY ARM.”

“There is no need in all of that,” she says.

She crosses the driveway, leans over, and shoves a coil of garden hose off the retaining wall.

“The people at rehab said the more I do for myself, the better I will be.”

Mrs. George reaches for the retaining wall, lowers herself down, and sits.

“I can’t go no more. I will rest here as long as I need to and then go on in or, if I feel up to it, get back in the yard.”

“MRS. GEORGE, I AM JUST A WORRIER BY NATURE. I WANT TO STAY WITH YOU. WHEN YOU ARE READY, LET ME WALK YOU INTO THE HOUSE.”

Mrs. George closes her eyes at the insult, then opens them again and looks me up and down.

“I tell you what,” she says. Her voice is suddenly bright. Patronizing. “To be as slim and trim as you are, at your age and after having kids, now I know that is a sin!”

This is a brazen attempt to flatter me out of her business. It doesn’t work. I force my will and stay by her side (which may be a sin).

“YOU WILL BE DOING ME A FAVOR. PUTTING MY MIND AT EASE. WILL YOU DO THAT FOR ME?”

“I feel fine.”

“YES MA’AM.”

“But I am lying,” she says. “I have been lying to you. I guess you know that.”

“YES MA’AM.”

“It just snuck up on me, I guess. The heat. I was hoping to get the yard cleaned up, but I’ve gotten tired.”

I join Mrs. George on the retaining wall. She asks if my daughter is still playing piano. I tell her no, she is learning to play drums. This pleases her. She says complimentary things about school’s music program.

“You are lucky your kids go to the city schools,” she says. “Some of those kids out in the county are so dumb. And it isn’t their fault. They don’t know any better. The dumb little things. They need our prayers.”

After a few more minutes of conversation, Mrs. George announces that she is rested and ready to stand. She is ready to get back in the yard.

“LET ME WALK YOU INSIDE, AND THEN I WILL GET OUT OF YOUR HAIR.”

“Okay, but you have to let me take my time and let me do it my own way.”

“YES MA’AM.”

Mrs. George stands. She shuffles up the driveway, stops by the mailbox, and removes her post – one envelope at a time. She steps through the gate, opens her door, then leans in the doorway.

“Now, you can see I am inside, and you can go. Go home to your beautiful children.”

“I ENJOYED VISITING WITH YOU,” I say. And I go. I go home to my beautiful children. Todd is home as well. I tell him of the visit I had with Mrs. George.

“Can you believe she was out trying to work in the yard? At 97! And after two strokes?!”

“Working in the yard is the very reason she is still alive at 97,” he says.

“She could die out there!” I say. “She could over-do it, fall, and pass away before anyone got to her.”

“She is going to die sometime. Like all of us. She would probably just as soon die while working in her yard as any place else, don’t you think?”

“So what would you have done?” I ask.

“I would have stayed – made sure she got inside,” he says.

“Exactly. I couldn’t have lived with myself if something had happened to her.”

And I understand why Mrs. George is annoyed with me – not because I am witness to her frailty, but because she has to sacrifice an afternoon in the yard to tend to my neediness.

Does This Bathrobe Make Me Look Old?

My 10:30 am patient is still completing paperwork over in registration. The radiology techs, in matching grey scrubs, are chatting amongst one another as they work. Busily completing some documentation, I have all but tuned them out when something is said which catches my attention.

“…and I sort of want one,” a rad tech says to the other four, “but I don’t want one, too, you know? Because it means I’m old.”

The coworkers smile and nod. They share her opinion.

What product or service is she talking about? Do I use it?

“What will make you feel old?” I ask. (Note: All the rad techs are nice young women who allow me to butt in at will.)

She looks up from her papers – a thin stack of to-be-sorted orders. The abrupt movement of her head sets her ponytail into motion.

“A robe.”

“A robe?!” I say.

“Yeah.”

“Why is that?” I ask.

“I mean, a robe just seems like something an old woman would wear. It does to me, anyway.”

“I wear I robe,” I say.

The look I get from this group of younger women – it is pity to be sure. Uncertain to me, however, is whether their pity stems from the fact that I wear a robe or the fact that I had been deluded enough to think it was an ageless garment.

“You don’t wear a robe in the morning?” I ask.

“No,” she says.

None of you?” I ask.

Their head shakes are as uniform as their scrubs.

“So what do you do when you get out of the shower?”

“Get dressed,” they answer.

“In…”

“Our clothes.”

“Oh.”

So now I know. But I don’t care. I adore my robe. It is a warm start to a cold morning. A comfort preceding several hours of potential uncomfortable situations. The coffee of apparel. And they can pity me all they like. I pity them right back. If bathrobes are for the aged, so, too, is the outlook that a woman should do as she likes, regardless of how it appears to others.

image

Can’t Take a Joke

easter bunn

The hunt is over. William and his friends run about the park and hurl plastic eggs at one another. The pastel hand grenades burst on contact, and “individually wrapped, peanut-free, non-melting” candy falls to the ground.

Across the park is a rabbit. Solid white and 6 foot 6, he is dressed in nothing more than a jaunty vest, bow tie and New Balance tennis shoes.

“William, there’s the Easter Bunny,” I say.

The Easter Bunny. With a seven year old boy. Honestly. But I attempt to draw the last few drops of his childhood into my heart; a fat lady sucking on the straw of an empty milkshake. What a grating sound it makes. What desperate turbulence.

“No!” he says. “His costume is creepy!”

Off he runs. No time for me. But then a toddler appears. She is small and sweet, this child; outfitted in a bubblegum pink dress with tulle embellishments.

“Hey darlin’,” I say.

Darlin holds her basket up toward me. She says nothing.

“Did you find all those eggs?” I ask.

She nods.

“What a big girl!”

Darlin smiles, then points her tiny finger. I follow its trajectory until my eyes land on the Easter Bunny.

“Do you like the Easter Bunny?”

She nods.

“Do you know where the Easter Bunny eats breakfast?” I am grateful that she set up the joke so perfectly.

She shrugs.

“At IHOP,” I say.

Darlin blinks. Nothing.

“It’s a joke,” I say.

Blink blink.

“IHOP. Do you get it?”

And now I am in speech therapy mode. I can’t help it.

“What does it mean if something ‘hops?'”

Darlin jumps up and down twice. Her patent leather shoes don’t leave the freshly-cut grass. She is a lazy little darlin.

“Exactly,” I say. “‘Hop’ means ‘jump,’ and the Easter Bunny hops.”

“But IHOP is also a resturant,” I continue. “IHOP, like ‘International House of Pancakes.'”

Darlin reaches down into her dress to scratch her navel. Her arm stretches the neckline of the knit dress. It is going to sag and gap forever now. And it isn’t even Easter Sunday. I am annoyed on her mother’s behalf. She has ruined the dress.

“So ‘I hop’ means ‘I jump,’ but it also means IHOP as in the pancake restaurant. Now, lets practice so you can tell your mommy the joke: Where does the Easter Bunny eat breakfast?”

Pause.

Revelation.

Smile.

“In his kitchen!” darlin says.

“I suppose he does,” I say. Then I walk over to William and tell him the joke.

“That’s a good one, Mom,” he says.

And I say, “Thanks, buddy. I knew you’d appreciate it.”

Orthopedic Birthday Shoes

SAS

“What do you want for your birthday?” Mom asks.

On the surface, this is a straightforward question requiring an equally-straightforward answer. Beneath the veneer of our casual conversation, however, the proceedings of a nuanced negotiation have just been set into motion.

Women and their mothers; they don’t chat. They play Chess.

Mom’s goal is to purchase a gift which meets the following criteria:
1. It is clever.
2. It is something I would not have thought to request but will thoroughly enjoy.
3. It is fairly inexpensive and easy to come by.

My goal is to receive a gift which meets the following criteria:
1. It is clever.
2. It is something I have fantasized about purchasing for myself hundreds of times (but haven’t because of the considerable expense).
3. It is something Mom will think to purchase without direct orders from me so that I come out on the other end of this birthday looking loved and lucky, which I am, rather than demanding and greedy, which I am.

The board is set. Mom gently glides the first pawn into play.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

I respond by saying something along the lines of Don’t worry or I don’t need a thing in the world, Mom.

“I gave your brother one hundred dollars for his birthday last month,” she says.

“That would be great,” I say.

And it would. Not as great as two hundred dollars, but…

“Well, then that is what I’ll do,” she says.

“Well thanks, Mom. You really don’t need to, though.” I am the sweetest daughter anyone ever had.

“But I’ll tell you what I really need,” I say. “and that is a new laptop.”

I laugh. It is my signal to Mom that I am making a joke. A joke that she should take seriously.

“I’d like to get you a pair of those Vionic sandals,” she says.

???

I don’t know what Vionic sandals are. I know what they are not: a laptop. I pretend she has said nothing.

“I mean, you don’t need to get me a laptop, obviously. I really need one, though. I am doing so much writing. I have all these deadlines for the magazine right now, and the kids are always hogging the computer doing homework or whatever. But, I mean, Todd will get me one.”

If you don’t.

“I just worry so much about your feet,” she says.

“You worry about my feet!?

“I do,” she says.

“But I don’t have any problems with my feet,” I say.

“I just have such a time with my feet,” she says.

“Yes, but I don’t.”

“Well, but you’re 39.”

That one stumps me. Are women who wear a size 39 shoe prone to heel spurs and fallen arches? 39 is a pretty average size. And since when does she use Euro sizes? Then it hits me: I am turning 39.

She means me.

Not my foot.

Oh, no she didn’t…

“Well, I don’t have the first problem with my feet, mother, but if you want to buy me orthopedic shoes for my birthday, you just go right ahead.”

“I don’t have to,” she says.

“No, please. By all means. Send me a link and I will pick out some orthopedic shoes.”

“They’re not orthopedic shoes, they are just really comfortable shoes. Good arch support. And they’re really pretty, some of them.”

“Great,” I say.

“I will just give you money, if you’d rather. It is just that I worry about your feet.”

“No, I know. You mentioned, and that’s fine,” I say. “I’ll get the shoes.”

I pick out a pair. A neutral grey flip-flop. The reviewers on Zappos.com raved about the arch support, so I am sure they’ll feel like a dream. And when Mother’s Day rolls around, I will repay the favor – get Mom a shiny new walker. I might even go the extra mile and put tennis balls on the feet.

Because I worry about her balance.

Checkmate, Mother.