Excuses, excuses.

ein zweihändiger Dunk

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I haven’t written about what’s been going on in my family lately for fear of jinxing things. But I’m happy to report that Patrick got into a school he really, really wanted to attend, so his last day of high school was last week.

I hope.

Getting into this school was no slam dunk, let me tell you.

When we visited in September, I asked to speak to the the admissions director privately, and he described typical applicants: highly-motivated, straight-A students who aren’t challenged by high school work.

That’s not exactly our situation, I said.

“Well, we have had some kids come here who are B students, and they’ve done fine, too,” smiled the director reassuringly.

Um, that’s not exactly our situation either, I said.

Suddenly the admissions director looked worried.

But then Patrick went in to talk to him, and when they emerged from the meeting 45 minutes later, the director patted Patrick on the back and told me what a fantastic son I had.


I didn’t know Patrick had it in him to make such a good first impression — he usually can’t bothered to put his napkin in his lap at the dinner table. But give the boy points for  pulling out the charm when he needed to.

Or maybe it was sincerity.


Patrick was accepted, and last Friday we drove up to Massachusetts, with me hoping against hope during that two-hour drive that my absent-minded son hadn’t forgotten anything important. As he unpacked, I was relieved to see he’d remembered to bring his sleep medication, in the locked box his doctor recommended.

But of course he’d forgotten the key.

No problem, I assured Patrick. While he was in his orientation meeting, I promised, I’d find a hardware store, break open his old box and buy a new one. Patrick looked nervous (does he think I can’t handle finding a hardware store? I thought), then went off to learn about where to get free condoms, or whatever they tell kids in orientation meetings these days.

I located a hardware store and explained my problem to the kindly owner.

But just as I raised a borrowed ball-peen hammer with the intention of pulverizing the lock, it occurred to me: What if something else was in Patrick’s locked box? Something he kept locked up so his mother wouldn’t find it?

And what if the kindly hardware owner is the kind of person who would call 911 if something else came spraying out of the box when I smashed it?

Was that why Patrick was so nervous when he left?

There was no going back, however. My final thought, as I swung down on the lockbox, was this: after Patrick worked so hard to turn things around — to the point that he got himself into this school! — hadn’t he earned my trust?

And couldn’t I just use money from his college fund to make bail, if it came to that?

So I smashed the box, and all that spilled out were sleeping pills.


It’s only been a week, but so far, so good. I called Patrick the other night and asked what he was doing, and he told me he was reading his chemistry text.

No, really, I said.

But he was!

You’ll have to excuse me now.

I have a moment to relish.



Strangers in my house

Will this be the last time I set out pots of red chrysanthemums on my front porch?

It will be if I sell my house soon. I’m having an open house this Sunday, so from 2 to 4 you’ll find me in my neighbor Annie’s kitchen, spying from her window at the looky-loos who pull into my driveway.

Or don’t. It’s not the smartest time of year to hold an open house.

My poor realtor. It’s taken me six months to get comfortable with the idea of a pack of strangers from the city tramping through my living room, but those strangers will more likely be driving around upstate gawking at leaves this weekend than checking out open houses. Suckers. I can see gorgeous fall foliage right outside the wall of windows here in my tastefully renovated 1924 Dutch colonial.

Want to buy it?

If you do, you probably have little kids. Most of the people who’ve liked my house are parents of pre-schoolers. That’s because the house has a big, beautiful backyard, and it’s near the duck pond and the reservoir. The (fully finished — new carpet!) basement has a nice room with big windows and a bathroom. I’m sure people with little kids check out the basement and think, “Wow, what a great place for an exercise room.”

That’s what Michael and I thought, too, and there used to be a treadmill in it.

Not anymore. Now there’s just a teenager.

It’s a good deal all around: Patrick has his privacy, and I can’t smell his old socks and three-day-old cheeseburgers. What I can smell, through vents in the family room, is cigarette smoke, which has been useful on more than one occasion.

The house also has an alarm system with a very handy setting: a beeper goes off if a toddler tries to go outside when no one’s looking.

It’s equally handy if a teenager tries to sneak out when everyone’s sleeping.

Yes, there’s lots to like about my house, but you never know what kind of people will show up to see it.

I hope whoever buys my house will love it as much as I do. I hope they have little children who will giggle as ducks paddle over to them when they toss bread in the duck pond. I hope they have pony rides for packs of squealing kindergartners at birthday parties in the backyard. I hope those adorable children grow up to be teenagers who find the shortcut home from beer parties at the reservoir, and slip in through the basement door without realizing that their parents discovered the tape they put over the button that sets off the alarm.

I hope they fix the garbage disposal, but shhh, don’t tell them it’s broken.

I guess more than anything I hope the people who buy my house appreciate all the things that make it special.

If they do, I might just throw in the minivan.