Monday, May 09, 2011

Our recurring cast of characters...

Recent readers of this blog may or may have not become acquainted with the diverse group of inmates in my insane asylum. Unlike the CIA agent and little girl that followed John Nash around "A Beautiful Mind," these alleged people really do exist.

First off, there is the Rocket Scientist, my husband of 28 years.  There is a reason that his ring-tone on my phone is the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He can't go to space, so he makes up for it by going everywhere on earth he can. As an aeronautics engineer, geologist, arctic explorer and generally all around smart guy, he can go a lot of places.  He was recently disappointed that a project he wanted to do didn't get funded, because, among other things it meant he would not get to spend next May in the Atacama desert. (The main reason, of course, was that it was an interesting and important project, and he really likes his job.)  That means he will have to postpone picking up his sixth (and seventh) continents until next November, when he goes to the Antarctic.

He is the only person in my personal life, as far as I know, that has his own IMDb page. (Not to mention a Kevin Bacon number of 3.) When I discussed on Facebook whether or not I should write a bogus biography for him, several friends chimed in to say that would be totally unnecessary -- his actual life is pretty interesting on its own.  He spends time every summer in the Canadian Arctic, and is one of only three people that I know personally who have had training to ward off polar bears. He is also a smart ass, although he disapproves of snarkiness and sarcasm on general principle.  (In that regard, he is a nicer person than I am.)

Once, during a very contentious project he was heading up in Spain, he walked into a meeting he was leading with a flogger.  He slapped it down on the table, and said in a quiet but menacing voice, "The beatings will commence until morale improves." The entire group went completely silent (except for me and a couple of friends, who were desperately trying not to snicker).  It worked, though: people piped down and stopped fighting with each other.

There is my eldest son, the Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy.  How much does this kid love music? Years ago, the first weekend he had his drum set he played it so much that the neighbors called the cops.   He has the largest music collection of anyone in my immediate circle, much of it by artists I have never heard of.  I can't figure out whether I am happier or more worried that he may well end up working in music or art:  on the one hand, he would be really good at it, and he really should follow his heart; on the other, it's hard to make a living doing that.

On the surface, he is almost too cool for words. Underneath, he is a big goofy puppy.  He likes doing crazy things -- he was looking forward to college so that he would be able to do stuff and his friends wouldn't act like he was completely insane.  He's a sophomore now, and it both freaks me out and breaks my heart that in a couple of years, he will be mostly gone from my day to day life.

Then we have Railfan.  I have a lot of sympathy for my middle child:  he is a solid, smart kid, who most families would be a standout, but in ours is sandwiched between two peacocks.  He doesn't show up in this blog as much as his brothers, because he is less likely than they are to say outrageous things.  He is the nicest person of the three, and the one most likely to ask how my day has gone.  He has struggled with Asperger's Syndrome, and still has issues with social cues, but is at heart a really really sweet boy who has come a very long way.

Railfan is the one of my children I would most want with me on a desert island. He's also the one that I am least worried about being able to cope with the logistics of the real world once he leaves home.  He'll be the one that has his checkbook balanced (better than me) and will pay his bills on time.  I am terrible at providing structure -- he has learned how to create some for himself, and I fully expect him to be fine on his own.  He is also, of the three of them, the one I am least worried about being in a car with him behind the wheel.

And then we have the Red-Headed Menace.  Last weekend, when he complained that I always blogged/Facebooked the things he said, I informed him "That's why we keep you around, comic relief.  Otherwise we would have sold you to the gypsies long ago."  A flamboyant, brilliant child, with a tendency to melodrama as strong as the current in the Colorado River, he is far more likely to want to have a discussion about the fall of the Soviet Union than, say, baseball or movies.  What can you say about a child who on the way to school one day asks you what your favorite subatomic particle is? (My answer, for the record, is charmed quarks, simply because of the name.  His was the Higgs boson -- I don't remember why.) Or who exclaims, on Valentine's Day, "I suck at relationships" with a huge dramatic sigh?  (I was very good.  I did not give my first response, which was "my, we're being a drama queen today" or even my second, which was "you might have better luck if you did not develop crushes on girls with boyfriends" or even what a friend of mine said, which was "of course he does, he's fourteen! What does he expect?"  Instead, I very gently stated that he was still very young, and that things would get better when he got older. And spent the afternoon snickering about it.)  I have discovered that the secret to dealing with RHM when he is in full Oscar-worthy mode is a poker face and the oft repeated phrase "that's nice, dear," said in the blandest voice possible.

He also hates hates hates to lose arguments.  When he is discussing something, he will increase the outrageousness of his hypotheticals until the other side gives up in disgust, and you find yourself saying "Fine, if the sun goes supernova tomorrow, you do not have to mow the lawn on Sunday.  In the meantime...." He's the one I am most likely to tell "Because I said so" simply because arguing with him can be exhausting.  Amusing, often, but exhausting. (That is why reducing him to speechlessness during the lawyer discussion was so very satisfying.)  I have explained to him that he really does need to become a lawyer, but he is having none of it.  (He keeps changing what he does want, though, which given that he is fourteen, is entirely predictable.  A couple of months ago, he wanted to be a physicist.  On Sunday, he stated he wanted to be a genetics engineer.  He has also expressed a desire to be a philosopher, preferably one of Plato's philosopher kings.  Good luck with that one, I tell him.)

We also have a housemate, the Resident Shrink.  We forgive her for being a New Yorker, and she forgives us for insisting that there is actually reasonable pizza outside of the five boroughs. (I'm willing to concede that there are no decent bagels other than in New York, however.) She's a vegetarian, and we go around and around about our own dogmatic views on food: she has the aforementioned pizza/bagel issue, and I keep trying to make her see that neither proper red beans and rice nor proper pea soup are vegetarian. (Neither is proper onion soup -- it's made with beef broth -- but I have kept a discreet silence on that one.) Proper chili is not vegetarian (nor does it have beans in it), but I am willing to concede that vegetarian "chili" is mighty tasty and I am very willing to eat it provided a) it does not have fake meat products in it and b) it is not really called chili.

So that's the household.  If I seem bemused by them all, it is because I generally am.  In many ways, I am the least interesting of the bunch. I have no idea if that is a good thing or not.

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