Little Green Nubs

“Why do women shave their underarms down to little green nubs?” M-ito asks while we’re walking Spike-ito. When he asks the question he puts his thumb and index finger together and scrunches up his face.

“The simple answer is fashion. In other countries women don’t shave their armpits but here in the US most women do. But let’s see what Mom-ita says,” I reply.

“But why do they have little nubs green under there?”

“That’s probably from deodorant.”

“But why do they do that?”

“People use deodorant so they don’t have body odor.”

“but what if you smell anyway, even with deodorant?”

“Let’s see what Mom-ita says,” I counter.

Twenty minutes later we’re back in the apartment and M-ito asks Mom-ita the same question.

“Peer pressure,” she says.

“Like when all of your friends tell you to do something and you don’t really want to do it but you do it anyway?” I add in.

“Oh,” M-ito says.

There’s so much more to cover, like misogyny, male privilege, a discussion of who determines what is feminine, what is more woman-like, and what is beautiful (mostly men). But for now… fashion and peer pressure covers it all.

When I Was Little…

“When I was little,” M-ito begins, which always gives me a chuckle, ” I used to think you’d go to first grade when you were one, second grade when you were two, third grade when you were three…” At this point I have to admit I got the sequence and checked out for a moment – started to think about work and yoga classes – then checked back in a few moments later. “… tenth grade when you were ten. Eleventh grade when you were eleven. Twelfth grade when you were twelve.” M-ito laughs a little with me as if to say, Can you believe I used to think that? Then he says, “Can you believe I thought that?”

I shrug. “Crazy isn’t it?”

Fireflies

Hank called me over to the courtyard at the Marriott in the middle of the French Quarter in New Orleans. This was last September. He was smoking a cigar. We were both presenting to a group of drug court practitioners – me for one day, him for the whole week. In the courtyard he told me a story about his son that he savored between puffs on his stogie, the burning end reminding me of a giant firefly. It’s been haunting me a bit since last year. He lives up in Buffalo and one year his at that time teenage son asked him to get tickets to the Syracuse football team’s home games. It was a two and a half hour drive each way. Hank told him yes and bought the tickets. He said it was the best two and a half hours of his life because all the way there and all the way back he and his son talked. “We’re best friends,” he told me in his deep, raspy, one of a kind voice. Two months later Hank had a major stroke and now almost a year later he still hasn’t recovered, though he lives and breathes.

Today my son asked me to go with him to Carvel after dinner. It’s a fifteen minute walk. “I love to go to Carvel after dinner, ” he said. We talk all the way there and all the way back. The whole trip takes almost an hour. We talk about alien creatures, summer fireflies, favorite things we’ve done so far this summer, determine how many days are left in the summer, play improv games that he makes up as we walk like making up a story one word at a time alternating between the two of us, eat our ice-cream cones before they melt, and hold hands a good part of the way with him sometimes even reaching for mine. It’s one of the best hours of my life.

The Battle of Ordinary Things

M-ito had been bugging me for two weeks to play. He’d been preparing his forces all that time, wandering into his room and organizing. I told him today was the day. “Mom-ita,” I asked. “Can we play on the table before dinner?” She gave me the thumbs up.

I had 14 paperclips, an eyeglass case, a small roll of plumbers tape, a circular paperclip, a clay flute, and a small plastic box. That was my army of ordinary things. M-ito had a pull cord from the cieling fan, a portable vegetable steamer, a small scope breath spray, a USB flash drive, two rubber ducks with pens for weapons, two plastic chip clips, a foam pad, a rubber band, and a smasher k’nex structure built specially for its ability to immobilize opponents through the use of its frozen hammer fist.

The table was covered with our forces. The right flank met the left flank. Dice were rolled, one for each attack. A 5 or 6 hit and a 4,5 or 6 saved against each hit. Objects tool anywhere from 1 to 10 hits each. M-ito’s hands always seemed to be filled with two times the number of dice I had. “I’m making up the game,” he said, when I rolled one eye up questioningly after he pulled out 18 dice to attack me with. I made him stick to the rules he made up after that, like when he tried to charge with his pull-cord twice in one turn. “Only once,” I said and though he pouted for a second we continued without further protest. An attack by a chip clip on my rear was defended against and repulsed by a troop of paperclips. Then my paperclip forces crumbled in the center as my box and flute ran away after my general was defeated by the frozen hammer fist.

Just in time for dinner.