Mini-Trump is in the House!

 


It seemed like just yesterday we dropped Tanner off for his freshman year at SDSU (read about that here.) The year flew. Before we knew it, he was baaaaaack!

Or at least I thought it was Tanner. On second thought, I was convinced someone took my sweet thespian son, and sent a frat boy with an insatiable appetite home in his place. In hindsight, there were some definite red flags, for instance, when Tanner asked for Sperry’s for Christmas…

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….or started posting pics like this to his Instagram.

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Still, during those first few days after he arrived home Jimmy and I were constantly looking at each other wondering, “Who is this kid?”

From the get go, Tanner monopolized my kitchen. He broiled chicken breasts slicked in coconut oil and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash’s from morning ’til night. His rice cooker was constantly burbling too, its rattling lid announcing a new batch every hour on the hour like some bizarre Japanese cuckoo clock. I watched in horror as Tanner gorged himself on a pound of chicken and a huge KT-22 mountain-sized bowl of steamed rice four times a day. Pretty soon we started calling him Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

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I was constantly nagging him to wipe the rice clumps off my counter and eat more slowly.

Tanner had also become a gym rat, pumping iron religiously, sometimes twice a day. At home he constantly flexed in the mirror, and said things like, ” ‘Miring’ these swole gains, mom? All natty, baby.”

For the life of me I had no clue as to what he was saying. Could the Berlitz language school help me speak Meathead, I wondered? Luckily, he translated: “Are you admiring my big, swollen muscles, mother? I do not shoot ‘roids into my ass to achieve these results. They are all natural.”

Another thing: Tanner didn’t want to surf anymore. He hammered us to let him throw “dagers“—day ragers—and actually thought his summer “job” was to achieve Hulk-like veins. “What?” I asked. “Do you actually think those grotesque bodybuilders look good?”

But one day the Creatine powder hit the fan. We were perusing our absentee ballots when Tanner announced he was voting for Trump. I was mortified. Anyone who knows me knows I was raised by Weezie in the most liberal, Jimmy-Carter -lovin’ Tait Avenue cottage this side of the Mississippi.

I thought about all the times we’d volunteered at the family shelter when the boys were little so they could learn compassion. All those Project Cornerstone anti-bullying lessons I presented in their classrooms. And how, on the morning of the ’04 election, Tanner, Sax and I taped homemade “Circle-Slash W” signs on our bike helmets and rode to the polls. Hadn’t my liberal views seeped in via osmosis?

“You are NOT seriously voting for Trump, are you?” I asked.

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Make America Frat Again. Photo cred: Anders

“Yep,” he said. Then, he started gleefully chanting, “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

That was the last straw. For months I had pined for Tanner to come home. Now, I couldn’t wait for him to leave.

I was sick of him checking himself in the mirror. I was sick of my house smelling like freakin’ Chick-Fil-A. I was sick of steamed rice sticking to the bottoms of my bare feet.

But when I dug deep, I realized I was mostly sad. I missed my son. My surf buddy, that sensitive, guitar strumming, John Mayer singing kid who performed in musicals and was voted “Most Likely to be in a Boy Band.” I missed that guy. I had nothing in common with this gainzy frat bro.

I felt better when I talked to other moms who were experiencing the same let down. My friend, Amy, who is the sweetest, crunchiest pacifist mama on the planet, survived her son joining the army. Instead of being crushed, she embraced his decision whole heartedly. She was astute enough to realize he felt his life lacked structure and that’s what attracted him to the military. She also reminded me that she and I used to be taneroxics when we were at SDSU, tanning by the pool, bodies slathered in Blue Bonnet margarine. “That was our thing. This is Tanner’s thing,” Amy said. And she was right.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized when our children are in the new universe of college, they are trying on different personas that may be different from the way they were before. If I was going to have a good relationship with Tanner, I needed to accept him for who he was.

It wasn’t easy at first. But I’ve made a concerted effort to stop nagging him when he shovels in the food. Instead, I inject humor. “I read that we should savor our food by chewing each bite for 20 seconds. Let’s try it.” And we both crack up. Or I’ll send him a funny text from the grocery store…

"This looks right up your alley," I'll say.
“This new frozen food brand looks right up your alley,” I’ll say.

I also try to find common ground. “Hey, I just read in Us that Carrie Underwood curls 20 pounds. I’m wimping out at 12 lbs. Maybe my end of summer goal could be to curl 20. Can you help me get some gainz?”

“I’m down,” Tanner said.

Summer is still young, but these days our household is reunited and it feels so good.

When it comes to politics though, Jethro and I have agreed to disagree.

***

**Thanks, Tan, for always being a good sport & my muse.**

Debbie Downer Does San Diego

Tanner and I were flying down south for a musical theater audition at SDSU. I saw the sojourn as the perfect mother-son bonding opportunity. After all, I had to milk every moment before he left for college.

“Don’t mess up, Kimmy,” Jimmy said before we left. “I need you on your A-game.”

We arrived to unseasonably warm mid-February weather. Everyone was in a glorious mood. Everyone except Tanner. Buds jammed in his ears, eyes glued to his phone, he totally ignored me.

On the morning of the BIG DAY, I ran through the La Jolla Cove where we celebrated our boy’s first birthday with a cookout and cupcakes 18 years ago.

We celebrated his very first birthday at the Cove so I tapped the same picnic table for good audition luck.

How quickly the years passed. Anticipating life without Tanner belting show tunes and dirtying every pan with his muscle man meals made me feel blue.

Tanner’s audition wasn’t until four so after my run I suggested lunch at Puesta taqueria in downtown La Jolla.

After we sat down, I pointed across the street. “There’s my favorite restaurant, Herringbone.”

“Hrrmmp,” he said. “More like Pricey-bone.”

“This menu sure looks good!” I said.

“Uh-oh,” Tanner said. “‘Not guaranteed to be cooked in a gluten free environment’—NOT good.’”

“If we alert the waitress, I’m sure she’ll be on it.”

“Achoooooo!” Tanner sneezed. “Oh no, I think I”m catching a cold!

Womp. Womp. Who was I dining with? Debbie Downer?
Womp. Womp. Who the heck was I dining with–Debbie Downer?

I chalked Tanner’s grumpy mood up to pre-audition nerves and tried to keep the mood sunny.

Speaking of sunny, Windansea Beach was a few blocks away. I proposed a quick post-lunch swim to help dry his stuffy nose.

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I bodysurfed in the warm water. Tanner sat on the beach checking his watch.

“We should go,” he yelled.

“Five more minutes!” I pleaded.

We returned to the hotel with plenty of time. Blissed out from the beach, I leisurely ironed his chino’s while he lingered in the shower. By the time we climbed in the car, it was 3:15. I felt a twinge of panic.

It’ll be tight but we’ll make it, I thought…until we pulled out of the hotel driveway. It took fifteen tortuous minutes just to crawl one mile onto the freeway ramp. SD traffic had become as brutal as LA’s.

Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.
Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.

And who could blame him?

How could I be so irresponsible? How could I misjudge rush hour traffic? Why couldn’t the beach have waited until after his audition? Jimmy’s pep talk echoed in my ears, Don’t mess up, A-game Kimmy.

As we merged onto the 52, I prayed for empty lanes only to find a river of red brake lights. It was now 3:40. And SDSU was still fifteen miles away.

“We’re NOT gonna make it,” Tanner said. “If I’m late, I WILL NOT go to my audition.”

Inside I was freaking out. Tanner’s slot was 4:00 to 4:10—exactly enough time to perform two monologues and 32 bars of “I Chose Right” from Baby. There were no other audition days. No other weekends. This was Tanner’s big chance.

Then an idea hit. “Pull up the audition email on your phone,” I said. “We can call the theatre department.”

“It’ll never work!” he said.

“We have to try!”

He dialed the number on speaker.

1st ring—we are so screwed.

2nd ring—NO way anyone is going to answer the Friday  before President’s Day weekend.

3rd ring—Tanner is never going to forgive me.

Fourth ring—Click. “Hello?”

Then some guy, no, some Saint named Peter answered. St. Peter told Tanner, “No problem, we’ll squeeze you in when you get here.”

We screeched in at 4:25 and Tanner bolted for the Don Powell Theater.

He found me after his audition, ecstatic. “They were scribbling notes during my song. I think they liked me.”

Relief washed over me like the aqua waves at Windansea.

In the car, we cranked Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” and sang at the top of our lungs. We were BONDING. Finally!

The following morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke yet again to grumpy Tanner.

I brunched alone at Caroline’s Cafe; he stayed in bed checking his Twitter.

Sitting on the deck overlooking La Jolla Shores, I noticed a cute towhead nearby smothering his mother in syrupy pancake kisses. Melancholy crept back in. I envied her. Time with her adoring child stretched before her endlessly like the white sand below while mine was vanishing.

I was excited for Tanner to begin this new chapter, but part of me wished he could stay.

I returned to the hotel and we packed. Tanner surprised me when he suggested a quick boogie boarding session at the Shores.

We hustled to the beach and rode waves side by side, meeting in the swirl of white water. I looked over at Tanner, his lips curled into an excited O, audition behind him, not a care in the world. My heart swelled.

Twenty minutes later he called, “We better get going. We don’t want to miss our flight.”

I did not beg for one more wave.

Okay, maybe just one.

But as I glided across that last wave, a sheet of celadon glass, I thought maybe instead of regarding our time with our children as finite, we should think of those bonds as constantly shifting, yet always there. Like the sand and sea.

***

Last weekend we took Tanner to SD for good, of course narrowly avoiding missing our 8 a.m. flight.

“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said, “but I’m gonna love never being late for anything again.”

Gonna miss you too, Waz.
Gonna miss you too, Waz.

Bieberlocks and the Three Colleges

IMG_3897Once upon a time there was a high school junior named BieberlocksIt was time to start thinking about colleges, but Beiberlocks’ parents worried he didn’t have eye of the tiger. Everyone was stressing about SAT’s and GPA’s and AP’s—that was everyone except for Bieberlocks. He just sat around tossing his blonde mane, playing Grand Theft Auto, strumming Sweater Weather on his guitar. 

Then along came winter break. Mama and Papa arranged a little SoCal college tour in hopes of lighting a fire under Bieberlocks’ butt. 

First they visited Chapman University. Intimate and charming, located south of L.A. in the quaint town of Orange, Chapman boasts state-of-the-art Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. 

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There were grassy lawn as far as the eye could see, piazzas with gurgling fountains, even an artfully displayed chunk of the Berlin Wall.  Mama smelled the orange blossoms wafting through campus. “Oh, I like this school,” she exclaimed. “I really do.” But when the perky tour guide said Papa would have to pony up $50K a year, he growled, “TOO EXPENSIVE!” 

“Anyway, it’s TOO SMALL,” complained Beiberlocks when he heard the student population was only 5,000.  Mama was heartbroken. She envisioned Beiberlocks becoming a famous screenwriter and thanking her from the podium at the Oscars. But when she passed a bust of Ronald Reagan on the way out, a shiver ran down Mama’s spine, and she said under her breath, “TOO REPUBLICAN.” 

Next, the trio visited University of San Diego. Located on a hill with sweeping views of Mission Bay, the university features Spanish architecture, fabulous succulent arrangements, and a library study nook straight out of Hogwarts. There was even a five-star restaurant with valet parking for co-eds with really rich parents, which unfortunately was not the case with Bieberlocks.

Luckily, Bieberlocks did not dig USD. “TOO SLEEPY,” he said.

“TOO TRAFFIC-Y,” agreed Mama, noticing the shuttles and traffic coursing through the campus thoroughfare.

“TOO EXPENSIVE,” growled Papa.  

And so they headed up the 8, past Mission Valley and Hotel Circle to San Diego State. Mama worried that this school was too big for Bieberlocks. She hadn’t been back since the ’80s, and barely recognized her alma mater. “IT’S SO DIFFERENT!” she gasped. Instead of a Walkman, every student had a cell phone glued to his ear. The crunchy health food store she’d frequented in the Student Union had been replaced by a Starbucks 

Bieberlocks took one look at the hot co-eds soul cycling in the mack daddy fitness center with the 50-foot climbing wall, and the bronzed bros long boarding through campus, and he said, “JUST RIGHT!”

Mama looked at the tropical campus, lush with banana trees and birds of paradise. She thought about surfing in the warm La Jolla waters while visiting Bieberlocks. SDSU even offered a Film/Business major. Maybe she’d go to the Oscars after all. Mama smiled and said, “JUST RIGHT!”

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And when he heard the $20K price tag, Papa, too, said,  “JUST RIGHT!”  Then he told mama she better start job hunting STAT.

Bieberlocks was so ecstatic at the thought of attending such a fine institution he promised to NEVER play Grand Theft Auto again, and spend ALL his time studying for the SAT’s and making straight A’s.

Well, not really. That would truly be a fairytale.

Where will Bieberlocks wind up? Stay tuned. After all, there are more colleges to explore. Can’t you just hear it now…

Colorado State University? “TOO STONEY!”

UC Santa Cruz? “TOO SLUGGY!”

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UC Santa Barbara? “TOO MUCH TALENT!”