Quick aside before I actually write about what I meant to write about…
“Dad, did you put up your flag with 13 stars in a circle for the 13 colonies because its Veterans Day?” says the bespectacled inquisitive 4th grader in my back seat.
“Yes, yes I did.”
Now I get asked lots of questions. Most of which I answer with equal parts sarcasm, movie references and spur-of-the-moment bullsh…malarkey. When the questions come from the girls I try hard to refrain and answer as a parent and adult. Sometimes, rarely, this involves me being so emotionally affected by the question that I’m moved to tears. That was, however, the case with this question. Not only did she know what that the American flag I usually fly outside the house had 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies but she also knew I put the flag up because it was Veteran’s Day. The Revolutionary War and Veteran’s Day in the same question. Now if she does it again on Pearl Harbor Day, I won’t be able to maintain my composure whatsoever. Additionally, she was picked out of her class to go sing to local Veterans. Only 4 kids from each of the 4th grades were picked. She was excited and we were too. She left with the strictest of orders to behave and show the veterans respect and thanks. They sang America the Beautiful and It’s a Grand Old Flag. Still a little surprised the local chapter of the ACLU hasn’t pressured the local teacher’s union into shutting down this little shindig. I mean these kids are not only singing about the awesomeness of America, they are learning about American history from the folks who lived that history. Seems like a perfect target for termination by the radical left since they weren’t singing about Lenin, whales and wealth redistribution.
Anyway, some things happen too early. Lynn Swann’s retirement. Ted Cruz’ ascendancy to the “Guy Nobody Listens Too.” The demise of hair metal. All happened too early.
You know what else is happening too early? Christmas music. Are there any radio stations near your house which have already begun playing Christmas music exclusively? We have one. Started Nov. 1. And it’s not the station that normally goes to the all Christmas format. Which means we now have two stations doing it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the all Christmas format. And I mean that literally. It’s all I listen to between Turkey Day and Christmas. Mom and the girls think its weird. But you know who doesn’t? Santa. That’s who. But even I have to admit that Nov. 1 is too early. The regular Christmas music station will begin next week. And even that seems a bit early. I think the day after Thanksgiving is the appropriate start date. But I realize that won’t happen since many of you continue to cheat on Thanksgiving by putting up your Christmas decorations after Halloween. I’m mainly looking at you malls. But I do have something to confess…
Damn you Karen Carpenter and Josh Groban and you too Andy Williams for your sweet magical melodies! I can’t stop myself from listening even though we’re two weeks from Thanksgiving. It’s like musical crack. It’s the gateway drug to Christmas shopping. Holiday music is to Christmas nostalgia what the smell of toast is to mornings, the smell of burning leaves to fall, the smell of Milwaukee’s Best Light to hangovers. I’m powerless, POWERLESS I SAY, to end my own cheating on Thanksgiving. I’m so, so sorry but its really hard to turn off the songs. Its an excuse, I know. I realize its entirely up to me and I need to take ownership of my failings. I’m sorry to you Macy’s Department Store. You made giant balloons cool and allowed Matt Lauer to host something he doesn’t suck at. And I’m sorry to you John Madden. Since the mid-80’s you’ve made Thanksgiving so much more important than Myles Standish, Abraham Lincoln and FDR could have ever hoped. I’m sorry to you Joey Tribbiani. For it was you who made Thanksgiving pants acceptable. Finally, I’m sorry to you mashed potatoes and gravy…and probably pumpkin pie too. When paired with beer, you make Thanksgiving so delicious I shouldn’t stray.
The solution of course is simple. I should just stay away from things that happen too early. Sounds simple. But its not. You know why I know? Because I had a conversation about bongs with Kinsey and Bailey. I rather talk to them about the dominance of the Steel Curtain. Or the why the conventional history of Custer’s Last Stand is probably incorrect. But instead I’m talking to an 11 and 10 year old about bongs. Thanks a lot hippies.
I’m bringing them home from dance class and as we’re merging onto the highway there is a slowdown on the on-ramp. This, of course, is the most annoying thing that can happen on an on-ramp. On-ramps are meant for acceleration not deceleration. But here we are slowing down. On the right side of the ramp, almost exactly where the ramp turns into a merging lane, there are two police cars pulled off to the side. Pulled off far enough that the wheels on the right side of both cars are well into the grass. Both cars have the lights flashing. In between the cars is a red Chevy Lumina that looks like its been on road for many, many years. The trunk is open on the Lumina. Next to the open trunk, on the grass, are four teenagery looking boys. One police officer is behind the boys on a cell phone. The other officer is standing next to the trunk addressing the boys while holding what appears to be a bong. The officer is alternately pointing at the bong and gesturing towards the boys. Three of them have their hands in the pockets and one has his palms facing upward in what all parents recognize as the universal signal for, “Yeah, I don’t know what that is but it is not mine.”
Luckily for me we were driving slow enough that both of the girls were able to take in most of the details from the scene and wanted to know what the police officer was holding.
“He was holding a…well its a…its a thing that people use…um…well its a bong.”
“A what?” they both ask in a giggly sort of way.
“What is a bong?”
“Well have you guys talked about drugs in guidance yet?”
“No but we had a police officer come in and talk to us about illegal drugs,”says Kinsey.
“What about you Bails?”
“Yeah, we did too…wait are they using that to inhale? Cause inhaling is bad. People do that with drugs. Is a bong for drugs?”
Wait, what the hell just happened there?
Turns out our local law enforcement is doing a fairly detailed job talking to kids about the dangers of drugs. All I had to add was that a bong is generally used to smoke marijuana. I added that if they see one to just stay away from it and whoever is using it. Because everyone near it is an idiot. And in high school and college, idiocy is contagious.
“So are those guys in trouble?” asks Kinsey.
“Damn right they are. Probably going to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”
With amazing speed, Bails answers, “No. You don’t get to do anything in jail. And they make you eat moldy bread. And you have to go the bathroom in front of everybody.”
“Um, right. And nobody wants that! So don’t hang around people who have drugs and bongs.”
And that, my friends, is how a lot of this parenting thing goes…