Sitting over there, driving up to band camp while I ride shotgun and blog about it – who does she think she is?
First of all, this ought to freak me out, sitting here entrusting my life to her,and her life, and also Chrissy’s life and the life of a small white puppy dog, and I’m not even paying attention. Just blogging and blogging and blogging.
When I was sixteen, my mom had a big, theatrical gasp she’d use every time anything more interesting than a traffic light crossed our paths, and she slammed on her imaginary parental passenger brakes with gusto and despair.
All I do is look up once in a while, see if I can find something that I can label as a dumb teenager move. She’s checking her mirrors and obeying the speed limit and staying conscious of the traffic around her – kind of getting on my nerves.
If you’re not going to screw anything up, Bethany, then it’s hard to parent you. I can only sit over here saying “good job” so long before it gets boring and repetitive for both of us.
For instance, I came home late the other night, around eight or so, and Marilyn was also late that night. Probably I’ve mentioned, two of my girls are Red Cross Certified Babysitters – they’re used to that, it happens. The third one isn’t allowed to touch chemicals or machines of any kind, and is certainly not getting any additional training, not until the Navy gets a hold of her.
As for you other two, stay out of your sister’s way, and use the stuff around you to fix yourself some dinner and make sure it’s got vegetables.
That’s once or twice a week. Think of it as a drill.
But it turned out Bethany had to work that night. She has a job at a pizza place – I’d tell you which one, but Ellen’s hammering out the product placement deal right now, so I can’t plug them until she gives me the high sign.
Bethany’s in marching band, and works three to four nights a week, and pays her own car insurance and buys her own gasoline. Gets good grades, picks up after herself, makes coffee in the morning. You see what I’m saying here?
So I called right as I was coming home and said, “Hey, what did you guys do for dinner?”
She says, “Pizza.”
Oh, cool. She must have brought it home from work. So I arrive, and there’s pizza for everyone, even a special veggie pizza for Marilyn and a pile of normal pizza for everyone else. Good work, I’m thinking. But it looks like about twenty five bucks worth of pizza even with her discount.
So I ask her, “What’s the damage?”
“Oh, nothing,”” she replies absently, waving her hand, going about some kitchen business, getting a soda pop or something.
Now there’s Marilyn in the doorway all of the sudden, like there ought to be a puff of smoke, crunching on a slice of veggie pizza, and we exchange glances.
Bethany gets a meal at this place, when she works a shift, but not any endless supply of free pizza.
“What’d you, steal it?” Marilyn wants to know.
“You’ve been there three weeks, you got their system down already?” I try to come off paternal, give her a reassuring nod. “What’d you use, a diversionary accomplice or the old hide-in-plain-sight maneuver?”
Marilyn suggests, “Some kind of insurance scam?”
“I didn’t steal them you guys.”
“I gotcha,” Marilyn says, winking. “It just fell off the truck. Word.”
“The circle only needs to be as big as the circle needs to be, sweetheart. That’s a wise policy.” I give her a hip bump at the sink. “That’s some pretty tasty truck pizza, though, sweeheart. Good lookin’ out.”
“You guys, I got a discount, it was seventeen dollars.”
“Oh.” We exchange our disappointed glances, Marilyn and I, with as much subtlety as we can; this is a pretty common theme.
We’re always telling her, jewel thief. You want to be a sweet, international, martial arts jewel thief. She’s always all like, no I want to be a molecular biologist (?!) or get a degree in International Corporate Law with a minor in Japanese. It’s like come on, get your head out of the movies, this is the real world. Jewel thief, baby. Karate jewel thief!
“All right, well that’s not bad,” I admit, reaching for my wallet, and Bethany purses her lips and dismisses me with another wave.
“No, Dad, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I bought pizza for everyone, because I got paid yesterday, and I thought it’d be nice.”
“What?” Marilyn narrows her eyes, old school.
“I don’t understand,” I admit, frankly.
“Well, how often have you bought pizza for us girls, Dad? I have a job, I thought I’d buy everyone a pizza. We’re a family. Figured I’d paddle the boat, you know?”
“Sweet mother of God!”
You know, when my wife was pregnant, everyone told her horror stories about labor – oh, it will be so awful and it lasts ten days. Then she got there and pushed three times, and out Ellen came. Not pretty, no, but fast and easy. Twenty minutes hard labor, that’s it.
Marilyn was able to look here mom in the eye and say, “What were you bitching about all that time? Having a baby’s easy!”
That’s how I am about Bethany. Teenagers are supposed to be monsters. This one is cooler and more efficient than me or you or either of our best friends.
We’re in trouble when Bethany really gets her shit together, you know what I mean?
I’m going to try to be nicer to her, for my part. You might want to be nice to her, too.