Sunday, March 27, 2011

9 x 7 = Comfort

In the sixth grade my biggest wish was to see the inside of a semi’s cab and nine times seven was keeping from this.
I never could remember nine times seven. I still can’t. I seriously just had to do it on the calculator on this computer. I mean I can figure it out if I didn’t want to throw everything off my desk because it was taking so long. 63. Whatever. Ugh. Math has never been my thing. And in sixth grade our teacher Mrs. Langely gave us timed times table tests every week. Once we passed our 1’s we’d move on the 2’s etc. and if you made it through 10 we got the prize. THE prize. We would get to tour in the inside of her husband’s semi cab.
Looking back at this I realize this may sound stupid. But kid you not every single one of us in her class could not wait. I don’t know about everyone else, but I know what it was for me. I loved the idea that you’d have this cozy little home on wheels. This place where everything you could possible need was within reach. The thought of it still makes me sigh. I loved playing the game I called raft on our big guest bed. I’d pretend I was on a raft far off at sea and had to get everything I would need to survive on it. I remember designing a room for myself when my parents were remodeling the house. It was a room within my room that I could read in and have hot chocolate. Cozy. The architect was not on board with it though something about support beams and well he didn’t get it. Then I put together a proposal for my parents to make the dank, mildewy, nasty fruit room in the basement my own personal hideaway (I was really big into writing out proposals for my parents when I wanted things by the way. I loved making charts and presentations and visual aids. It worked with my puppy project. I put a whole report together of research on breeds, a chore schedule. To close I drew a picture of my family with a question mark next to us. Who was missing? I think I saw tears in my mom’s eyes. That locked it for me. Seriously I think I would have been a great business woman.) Alas the fruit room bid did not work out. Apparently the old furniture and boxes put in a better offer.
So seeing proof this space existed was really exciting for me. But damn it all if nine times seven was getting in my way. I had done every other test. I had only the nine left. I skipped it at one point and just got ten out of the way, because I might suck at math but you’d have to be an idiot to mess that one up.
Every friday Mrs. Langley would say."Ready go!"
We all would scribble away. I felt the penetrating eyes of Mr. Multiplication staring down at me. In my mind he sounded like Mr. Belvedere, “Now Miss Hilsabeck I know you know this.” Grrrrrr. But then after weeks of failure. It happens. Quite by accident. I didn’t mean to look at Tyson’s paper (and even if I did he never had the right answers) and there it was. 63. I DID IT! Now I know I cheated. Shame on me. But something in my brain would not let me remember that answer and it hasn’t since so that’s a dysfunction and therefore I deem the cheating fine.
So I got to see the cab. And it was worth my moral discrepancy.
The day of the semi’s arrival (no jokes) I had butterflies in my stomach. Mrs. Langley (who remains one of my favorite teachers of all time) was excited too. She took us outside and there it was. Comfort on wheels in. When it was my turn, Mrs. Langley helped me inside the cab.
“So proud you did your nines!” She said. I felt a little bad. Then I panicked she would ask me the equation that was my kryptonite, but she didn’t. Whew. The sleeper cab was all I dreamed it would be (minus the pink fluffy pillows). A cute bed. Fridge next to it. Drawers for clothes and my sticker book. A T.V. What more do you need? I think I was drooling because Mr. Langley said. “Pretty cool huh kid?” Then gestured to his lip.
“Yeah. Pretty cool,” I said.
As I exited I noticed Mrs. Langley’s picture taped up on the dashboard. I guess not everything he needed was in reach. Hm.
So even though my ticket to paradise was stolen I cherished it all the same. Thinking about it. I still long for a place of my own. Even within my own house. That place I can have everything I need. The place I can feel all safe and cozy.
I’m one of those nut jobs that wants a bomb shelter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Skate! All Skate!

It’s raining. I’m standing in line with a huge crowd like I’m at a hot new club, but instead of sleazy wannabes and whored out women I’m surround by junior highers and a few scattered chaperones. I’m at the roller rink. I can’t wait to get in. The chaperones ogle me because it’s fairly obvious I don’t fit in either group (Note: I thought these people were chaperones, but when the rink was cleared for advanced skaters and they glided out with ease I realized they hung out there).
I was meeting a new group of friends there for a fun friday night adventure. But so far I was the only one there over 14 and under 40. I looked around for my friends casually and noticed the young couple behind me (Rollerskating dates! Cute!) were looking at me with extreme pity. I suddenly was jettisoned back to Junior high where the worst thing in the world was being ditched. Old thoughts wandered back into my head. Do they think I’m pretty? Where are my friends? I look like a loser.
I slap myself silly in my mind and remind myself that I’m 34 years old and no longer need to impress the cool kids. When I kick ass on that rink, I’m doing it for myself not Brandon in eighth grade who laughed at my perm. Though if he was there, he’d frickin’ die to couple skate with me. So there Brandon.
When I near the front I find a familiar face (Take that, couple behind me that thinks I’m a loser). We talk excitedly about how it’s been twenty years since we’ve done this and as we put on our spray disinfected skates I begin to wonder if I can even do this anymore.
The rest of the group comes and we hit the rink. And it’s just like riding a bike. It’s pretty thrilling to tell you the truth. The wind in your hair. The speed. Justin Beiber. What more do we really need? I don’t know how to break, but hey slamming into the wall always worked before.
I remember when I’d go to birthday parties at the local rink as a kid and the birthday gal would get to ride in a giant skate around the rink. I wonder if they still do that?
“Couple skate!” The announcer says. “Pairs or triples only!”
I grab a couple of my new friends hands and sail off. I haven’t felt this free in a while.
The song ends and my friends and I part ways to skate at our own pace.
The referee whizzes by me.
“Keep it moving,” He says to a awkward boy hanging onto the wall.
Suddenly I feel a wave of sadness. I remember something else. I remember the loneliness I would feel when I was that age. I remember going to the rink so I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. I could blend in to the fast moving crowd and still be alone if I wanted, but with a roomful of people. I let that feeling take me over for a minute. I still feel that way sometimes of course. My troubles then were just... very different.
Then I fall into a fantasy I had countless times when I was 13: That a boy would want to skate with me.
It goes something like this-
Boy: Let’s face it. You’re the hottest girl in this place.
Me: You speak the truth.
Boy: Couples skate with me.
Me: You got balls kid.
Boy: So? You coming?
Me: Okay.
Meanwhile all his little friends are jealous and I’m giving him mad street cred. Well, that was an embarrassing part of my brain I just exposed you to. Have fun with that. I’m going to have to write that into something...
My friends and I spend hours skating to the latest pop hits. I was hoping for a throwback to rollerskating’s hay-day and hear a little “ Oh Mickey your so fine,” but no luck. There was plenty of Michael Jackson though.
“Clear the floor,” The announcer yells because some girls necklace broke and beads were everywhere.
As I leave, they are starting the Hokey Pokey. It’s nice to know some things never change.