Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

Drinking The Tea

I was eating an apple and reading a profile of Gregory Maguire in Writer’s Digest.  He’s the author of “Wicked,” among other things.

He was talking about earning his doctorate later in life and how it taught him to be patient with difficult reading.

“I came to love and admire the work of Puritan writers in the American colonies ”” work I had previously detested. I saw there was something universal in all expressions of human culture, and a mature student would not pass something by as being not his cup of tea. It was the student writer’s JOB to drink the tea,” he says. “Drink the tea, people.”

And then I dropped my half-eaten apple. Not because of the gravity of his words, but because of real gravity. Also, I was lazy and thought I could bite around my thumb. But I couldn’t. Hence the bitten thumb. Deservedly so.

As I was cleaning up my dropped apple, his words resonated with me.

“Drink the tea, people.”

It occurred to me that’s what’s wrong with America these days. Nobody is willing to do or say or learn or read or listen to anything or anyone out of their comfort zone, I thought, wiping apple goo from my pants. We’re mired in our own opinions and beliefs because it’s easy to do so. It’s so much more difficult to create neural pathways that lead to potentially different, unfamiliar territory.

I swiped at the sticky on my floor and tossed the dishrag back in the sink before picking up the magazine again.

The next paragraph admonished us not to “swivel the radio dial because it’s blasting something you’re not interested in ”” attack call-in talk shows, fundamentalist sermons, ball game reporting, left-wing sob stories ”” however you define your least-favorite aural experience. There is always something to learn from paying attention to everything.”

I love it when I’m smart like that. See, I got it before he even explained it. Yay me!

My son says, with what I can only assume is hopeless and grudging admiration, “You are a very curious person.”

You’d be justified in thinking he was calling me odd, but I know it was after one of those conversations where I asked a zillion exhausting questions to which his answer was always, “I dunno.”

I remember when my kids were in elementary school and they’d come home to have this conversation:

Them: “There was a new kid on the bus.”

Me: “Boy or girl? What was his name? What grade is he in? Did he get off at your stop? Where does he live? Were you nice to him? Did you offer him a seat? Did you introduce him to your friends? Does he have any siblings? What do his parents do? Have they ever vacationed in Belize? Are his grandparents still living? What are their memories of the Great Depression? Did they have a Victory Garden? Do they like to garden? Maybe you could take them down to the community garden. Do you want a snack?”

Them, eyes crossed and ears bleeding: “I dunno.”

But I don’t always drink the tea, either. I’m going to make more of an effort, though.

I’ll read more non-fiction.

I’ll try tofu.

I’ll play Wii golf (which is hard) instead of Wii bowling (which is easy).

And if none of that hurts too much, I might even try to listen to Rush Limbaugh or read Sarah Palin’s book.

Of course, then I’ll have to drink something stronger than tea.

What will you do to break out of your comfort zone?

Empty Nests and Baby Birds

Recently a friend was sad about sending her firstborn off to college. I think she used the word “abandoning.” As someone who abandoned my firstborn halfway across the country two years ago and took all of a minute-and-a-half to start using her room for storage, I felt like I could offer some mature, possibly smug, advice.

I reminded her of all the good things about a child moving out. You’ll never worry about her when she gets sick or stays out late because you won’t hear about it until afterward. You won’t worry about her driving in a blizzard because she walks everywhere. You might even find they make good decisions without your advice. My daughter stayed at college and worked all summer which I didn’t think was a good idea until she made gazoodles of money ”” not anywhere near what she could have made if she’d come home. But most importantly, she’s exactly where she needs to be, doing what she wants to do, meeting scads of fascinating people, seeing a part of the world very different from where she grew up while heading nose-first into her future.

That’s what we wanted them to do. Remember?

I told my friend, “Trust me, it gets easier. As soon as you’re confident she’s safe and happy you’ll miss her, but in a good way.”

And I absolutely believe that. But I’ve never really understood the weepy Empty Nesters and have always felt the teensiest bit superior.

Until yesterday.

My daughter is home for a couple weeks before she heads to London for a semester so we went to see the movie “Mamma Mia.” There’s a lovely scene where Meryl Streep’s character is getting her daughter ready for her wedding with a song all about our children slipping through our fingers.

I sobbed.

I wanted to grab my daughter’s arm and yank her back to age three where her busy life consisted of “reading” Smithsonian Magazine to her doll and coloring. There were no meanies in her life, no term paper stress, no overseas travel, no Homeland Security, no money worries.

But I didn’t grab her or get hysterical. You’d be proud of me. No emotional scene in the movie theater THIS time. (Full disclosure: I’ve made emotional scenes in theaters before. Anyone see “Shoot the Moon” a hundred years ago? As people were filing out, they asked my friends, “Is she okay?” At the time, I accepted it as concern, but I’ve since been told it was more like incredulity. Picture someone sobbing, unable to leave the theater, at the end of “Caddyshack.” Yeah. That was me.)

So I did what all weepy moms do …. I pulled out the photo albums. Perfect infants. Adorable toddlers. Proud daddy. Enormously pregnant me. Enormously. Pregnant.

Tell me stories about your pregnancy or that of your wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, neighbor, niece, co-worker.

Or tell me stories of any Empty Nest angst you’ve had or anticipate.

As a bonus, maybe my friend George will tell the story of going to see “Shoot the Moon” with me.