It began innocently enough. I had been waiting in the school parking
lot for the kids to return from their field trip, waiting and doing a
slow burn while another parent let his musically-inclined toddler play
the car horn for 30 interminable minutes. Be-beep, beeeeeeeeep! I had an out-of-body moment where I envisioned my
braver second self stomping up to his car, grabbing a fistful of shirt, and saying in a quiet, deadly, flinty, Clint-y
voice: "Do. You. Mind." (Whoa. Don't mess with me. I'll dish out a whole
thimble-full of whoop-ass!)
Just before I descended into madness [further], the school bus rumbled up, the
kids tumbled out, and my oldest clambered into the passenger seat next to me,
breathless. I had given him $10 to buy snacks and souvenirs, and he had spent
most of it on a pair of blue spangley bangley earrings for me, crafted by a
Native American artisan. While I tried to put them in and drive at the same
time, he told me about his day. They had visited a national monument and an
historic Native American site, but what engaged his thoughts now was a vintage
tonsil cutter, seen at a dusty little museum along the way. "Man, that thing
was sinister-looking, Mom!"
I smiled to see him flexing his vocabulary muscles, and he went on to explain
how this torture device worked: "The dentist loops one metal ring around the
tonsil and jabs into it with this little fork piece and pulls back on this
lever and then this Gillette blade slices that thing outta there!" We both
shuddered. Good luck bringing him in for a tonsillectomy sometime down the
road, I thought.
"Your tonsils are that little wiggly thing that hangs down in the back of your
mouth, right?" he asked, "Like that Cingular commercial with the cowboy who
sings opera and all you see at the end are his tonsils wiggling?" (It's a
view that gives me the creeps, by the way.)
I shook my head. "No, your tonsils are back on either side, 'ight mack 'ere," I
said, taking both hands off the wheel and sticking two fingers into my mouth in a
poorly conceived visual aid. "That little wiggly bit is your uvula."
"Oh." He pondered that for a minute. Then, "So that's what Drew Carey was
talking about when he said some girl licked his uvula!"
I was afraid to know what he had imagined a uvula to be, and I made a mental
note to speak to his father regarding age-appropriate television viewing for 9
I drove in silence for a couple of miles, unaware that the worst was yet to
come. He straightened up. "Mom, when do I start french kissing?"
Ouch. Think quick, Ma.
Hoping humor would deflect his attack, I teased him. "You mean
you haven't already?"
He made an awful face, and I was somewhat relieved to see that he was thoroughly grossed out by the idea. But then he asked,
"When was your first kiss?"
"Boy, I ain't telling you," I grumbled, suddenly not in the mood for this
I sulked for a couple of miles, and then,
"I was 16 years old when I got my first kiss," I finally admitted. Sweet
sixteen and never been kissed, I thought, unless you count Randall in first
grade who chased the girls and made us cry. I braced myself for more questions
about "french kissing" -- who, how, why.
But he was way ahead of me. "So," he grinned. "When do I get my first hickey?"
I stammered and sputtered, caught off guard. "BO-uh," I said (my artificial
Southern accent tends to come out during times of stress), "Ah don't need t'be
seein' any hickies on your neck 'til you're at least 40!" I could have covered
all my bases by saying, "on your neck or anywhere else on your body," but I
didn't care to clue him in to the fact that there were other bases he could
Then he asked me if I had ever had a hickey.
... [<-- beat skipped here]
Recalling that this was the kid who was still puzzled by womankind's collective
aversion to a certain punctuation mark (courtesy of tv commercials
complaining about periods), I resolved to be open and honest about
all such fowl, bumbly matters from that point on: "YES," I said, gritting my
Then he peppered me with questions: "How many? What do they look like? How do you get them?"
Reluctantly, I told him that I had had a few ("but a long time ago"), and that they look
like purple bruises, and they're made by sucking. He immediately proceeded to
suck and slurp, first on his knee, and then his inner arm, with no success,
thank goodness. Then he stopped mid-slurp and asked, "Did you ever give Dad any?"
A primitive tonsil extraction would have been preferable to answering these
questions. And he hasn't even begun to ask the tough ones.
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