Friday, June 20, 2008

We Are Noisy Neighbors


The fifteen year old and I had a big blow out, which, like any noise emanating from Casamurphy, provoked a query from Mrs. Kravitz next door. I called the fifteen year old a “know it all” and he called me a “fucking bitch” and it went south from there for a bit until I evoked my therapist ordained right to disengage. We spent the following day in dĂ©tente and then, on the morning road to Silverlake I elected to test the waters of reconciliation.

I told the 15 year old that he may be smarter than I am. The jury is still out. We both know he is smart and his own intelligence is the thing that he is most self confident about. I told him that I suspect if asks folks who count, most everyone would agree that his mother is of above average intelligence but cannot read a map (the humiliation of which my husband forces me to admit again and again). My boy agreed that his mother is smart. This truly made my heart go pitty pat and while I guess I knew it deep inside all along, he has been so determined and dogged about making me feel stupid, it was good to hear the words.

This fifteen year old is blessed with his dad’s encyclopedic memory. I don’t think I was sharp as he is when I was fifteen and now, I don’t dare compete with either of my sons or their father when it comes to factual recall. I bet though, that I could wallop my mom in a game of Concentration. My husband appreciates my more honed and refined intellectual attributes but the fifteen year old lacks the maturity to appreciate the way in which I am smart. Because I don’t have alot of information stored up, he often perceives me as being an idiot and due to all that other adolescent stuff, and the mother stuff, he tries to humiliate me. I reminded him today that although I do not remember the last film Fellini directed or the birthdates of all of the entire Wu Tang Clan, that I haven’t been exactly living in a cave for the last fifty-one years.

Information is wonderful I explained but added that my intelligence, which he finally affirmed exists, was, and continues to be, cultivated by a lot of reading and listening to the discourse of smart and mature people. My point was that if he didn’t behave like such a superior little know-it-all, he might actually find me interesting and a tool for stimulating the intellectual development he aspires to. I left out the actual phrase “know it all” this go round and was well satisfied with the conversation.

Emboldened by the fifteen year old’s spirit of cooperation, I reminded him, yet again, that Himself and I have gone to bat for him and lots of living earning time has been dedicated to making calls on his behalf and driving him to numerous appointments. He was offered a golden opportunity to redeem himself academically and also given a project to log some hip hop footage for my library. His academic obligations were met, but just barely and he spent a few hours with the hip hop footage and then lost interest. The office computers bear tell tale signs of his wandering from his at hand tasks to a number of websites and computer games. However, any mention of his dereliction of duty was met with angry defensiveness. Now he finally softened a bit and admitted to a less than stellar performance these last weeks since leaving traditional school.


Given this opportune mellowness, I felt that the presentation of a carrot on stick survival plan might be propitious. We struck a deal that he will complete his summer classes, help out at the office, behave like a mensch and attend summer camp and whatever school we feel best about in the fall without making a fuss or being an asshole, in exchange for whatever transportation, monetary and time resources are available to make the rest of his summer entertaining.

His independent studies classes were to have been completed last week but the instructor found some of his work inadequate and I had to leave the office again to schlep him for a final afternoon meeting. After our civilized and productive conversation, I dropped him at his volunteer gig at the local elementary school and chanted about 50 times, “Be in front of the school at 12:45!” before he left the car.

There was no alert appreciative fifteen year old waiting in front of the school at the appointed time and I had to park and have him paged. He appeared with ice cream in hand and on face and then took his sweet time retrieving his possessions from the classroom. Luckily Kravitz’ super powered hearing doesn’t extend to the interior of my car. I screamed from Silverlake to Highland Park and ran a few red lights. We were fifteen minutes late, which might well have resulted in the already exasperated teacher pulling the plug and not accepting work that was a week late. The teacher was generous and kind hearted and I suspect the ride across town with Mommie Dearest might have been harsher than repeating the 9th grade.


I was relieved by the outcome of the final school meeting and headed back to work where it seem natural that the fifteen year old, rescued yet again by his beloved, smart mom, would happily and gratefully return with renewed zeal to archive my hip hop footage. Alas, he claimed fatigue and requested I detour out of my way to drive him home for a little siesta. If I hadn’t shot my energy wad on the “not being in front of the school when I told you to” tantrum, I might have spat out something even harsher than “know it all” but it was a sweltering day and I dropped him at the house and let it slide.


I returned home from work and my husband Ebenezer refused to consider the application of air conditioning and made his usual demand for a hot meal, free of salad or ingredients which could be contained in a salad and with protein, vegetable and starch presented as three separate (and do not even let them touch on the plate) components. I sweated over a hot stove and after calling the snoozing fifteen year old from his lair about twenty times, we, all four of us, sat down for dinner. This is quite rare, due to evening teaching and bootcamp schedules, and the last time it happened, it resulted in the know-it-all fracas which immortalized us to Kravitz as the battling next door neighbors. I am reminded of (back when he used to be funny) Woody Allen’s quip about growing up in an apartment over a bowling alley, the patrons of which would complain about his family’s noise.

Even if Kravitz were perched right outside our kitchen window--which was wide open so the house could fill with hot sticky air dirtied by the constant neighborhood construction, due to air conditioning embargo—she would have heard nothing but banal conversation. There was no great rapprochement. The fifteen year old didn’t apologize for being a thoughtless teenage slug and I didn’t apologize for constantly reminding him of my sacrifices and my “I can scream my head off and drive too fast simultaneously” demonstration. We talked, all four of us, about our upcoming northern sojourn and while most families would be planning hikes and nature activities, we cheerfully debated our Netflix and Books-on-tape rentals. I described a couple of movies I thought the fifteen year old would like and he listened and enthusiastically noted my suggestions. Well, a couple of them at least. I felt a part of my family of four. A cog in the machine, and it seemed that the fifteen year old did too. He cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher without being told and I retreated to a cold bathtub with a library novel. There is a sweetness in the fulfillment of modest hopes and I pray to remember this.

Shabbat Shalom.

2 comments:

FionnchĂș said...

Since the lavish remodel that enabled the unveiling of your dream kitchen, the house near the front door's been a lot cooler. Even on this 107-degree day, the temperature's much less stifling. I might advise against too much air-conditioning given that Leo may have fried the kids' TV last night as that and his computer were on full speed. There's something to be said for fans and baths, too.

I did let you take three yesterday. I try to minimize my showers on the other hand, so it should balance out fine.

By the way, the neighbors too are noisy, but they play weird music. And, compared to the construction the past three or is it four years on our street, we're a monastery by comparison. I wonder how much louder three families will be in our little nook channelling sound along our hedge, generated by who knows what new noisy neighbors to be. If the houses ever get sold.

Thanks again for enduring my Ebenezerish ways. xxx me

harry said...

Comparing intelligences isn't. A zero-sum dance.

I want you to move to NorCal. I am certain that alone will address 24% of your concerns. I see you both in a lovely, spacious, mid-century vintage mountain home with views of forests and multiple nooks for reading and writing. Niall will have graduated from UCLA and be writing the sports beat for some middle-sized Southwestern town newspaper and Leo will be in Stanford as soon as he's out of Pelican Bay.