Monday, January 23, 2006

My Aunt Makes an Offer We Cannot Refuse, and Other Weekend Shorts

Once again, I get solid proof that the most blogworthy moments come from our extended families. I had a call from my aunt last night. My aunt is in her early seventies, and she lives six miles or so away from us. She is a kind soul, but very social and, I’m guessing, very lonely. My aunt has never been never married or had any children. She lived with her mother for the first fifty years of her life, and then alone after her mother passed away. I feel for my aunt, and wish I could visit more often, maybe bring ChinchillaBoy with me. She’s very fond of ChinchillaBoy. As a matter of fact, it was about him that she called yesterday. My aunt has a plan and ChinchillaBoy is a big part of it.

The first call, wherein we learned about The Plan, was two weeks ago. My aunt and my Dad have a cousin, who now lives in Germany with her family. I don’t remember what the cousin looks like, though I recall being in her apartment for a visit, therefore I must have met her at least once. The cousin has one daughter, who has the same name as mine and is a few years younger. Goldie Jr. was the bane of my life when I was a kid.

You know how, when you’re little, your parents pick a kid from the neighborhood, or your class, or your family, and hold that kid in front of you all the time like a role model? Goldie Jr. was that kid for me. Everything I did, Goldie Jr. did ten times better. When I was seven and she was five, she ate all her vegetables and asked for more. When we were in school, she got all As, each time. She was always on her best behavior, she took piano lessons, and could leap tall buildings in a single bound. I friggin hated that kid, sight unseen.

Now, as I was told two weeks ago, Goldie Jr. has a son, who is exactly ChinchillaBoy’s age. You guessed it. Everything ChinchillaBoy does, that kid does ten times better. He’s cute, and he’s not the least bit overweight. He plays sports and musical instruments. He gets all As, each time. He takes Russian lessons with a private tutor. And that kid wants to be friends with ChinchillaBoy. My aunt called to ask for CB’s email address. CB gave it to her, and we forgot the whole thing.

Last night, my phone rings.

“Hello-o-o-o Go-o-o-oldie, and what are you up to?”

“Hi, Auntie. Same old same old. Nothing interesting. You?”

“Me, too – nothing interesting. What are you doing now?”

Now this is my pet peeve in phone conversations. I’ve heard people use this line a lot, and it just kills me. What I am doing now? I’m talking to you, duh. I mean, since you called me and all. This is IMO a terrible way to keep a conversation going. In fact, if this question is being asked, it means the conversation is already officially dead. Ah, whatever.

“I’m cooking wings.”

“Chicken wings?”

No, beef wings. “Yes, chicken.”

“With the skin?”

“With the skin.”

“Stocking up on that cholesterol, eh?”

“Well, Auntie, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do.”

After this small talk, she turned to business.

“I talked to The Cousin. She says her grandson won’t be able to email ChinchillaBoy, because they don’t have Russian fonts on their computer, and he doesn’t know English.”

“That’s fine, he can still write in Russian using English letters.” (this is how you do it: ya pishu po-russki. Legko I prosto.)

“No, that’s not what they want. What she said they want is, they want ChinchillaBoy to write a letter to her grandson first, in English. They’ll translate it when they get it. It will be good for her grandson, because he’s taking English lessons now.”

“Fine, give me the address.”

She gives me The Cousin’s first and last name.

“Is that one word?”

“No, that’s the first and last name. Like Goldie Hawn.”

I’m getting confused at this point, but add a space after the first name. I wait for the “at” sign, but instead of it comes a street address.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. So they want him to use snail mail?”

“What’s “snail mail”? They want him to write a letter – handwrite it – put it in an envelope, and mail it to them. And they will reply. And so the boys will be pen pals. Isn’t that great?”

Not so great if you ask me, but I said okay, we’ll do it.

What I planned to do was tell Auntie, next time she called, that we wrote and mailed the letter, and have no idea why The Cousin never got it. Must have got lost in the mail.

Truth is, I was feeling just a bit uneasy about my not-so-perfect family interacting with The Cousin’s perfect family. Here you have a boy who is ideal in every way, to the point of possibly being an AI. And there you have my son, who’s a great kid, but he knows every South Park episode by heart, likes rap music, swears like a sailor, and gets into fights at recess. (Not that I would trade him for an ideal kid – if my kids were ideal, I’d probably die of boredom.) Now have them write letters to each other that their entire extended families can read, and see what happens.

One thing I couldn’t understand was, if The Cousin wants her grandson to be pen pals with ChinchillaBoy so much, then how come they won’t write the first letter? Why are they dumping all the work on my son, who doesn’t even want it? And then it hit me. Just as Auntie told me The Grandson was dying to be pen pals with CB, she had probably told The Cousin that CB was dying to be pen pals with The Grandson.

My guess is, it has been her idea all along. The Cousin’s family thinks they are doing a favor to us, and we think we’re doing a favor to them. In fact, none of the two sides are in any way interested in this whole pen pal thing. My aunt is pulling all the strings, and both our families are tagging along.

I have to hand it to my aunt, that was pretty cunning. Chuckling, I called my parents to get their approval for my “letter got lost in the mail” plan. It was, after all, Dad’s cousin and Dad’s sister.

My parents, however, came up with a wholly novel idea that had never occurred to me.

“Why don’t you leave it up to ChinchillaBoy? If he wants to write the letter, let him. If he doesn’t, then don’t make him. If your aunt calls for an update, let her talk to him.”

Asking your kid what he wants – how very progressive. Why hadn’t I thought of it myself? I gave my parents’ message to CB, and he confessed that he didn’t really want to be pen pals with his cousin, four times removed.

So that’s where we are going to leave it.


In other news, we had a house blessing last Friday. (For more information on what a house blessing is, read here.) In case any of you have ever wondered what happens if a chinchilla is sprinkled with holy water, I am here to inform you that the chinchilla doesn’t mind.

I heard that it doesn’t work nearly as well with cats.


LilProgrammer had homework this weekend that he did not complete. For the last month or so, they’ve been reading the book “Inside the Walls of Troy” and doing reports on it. I try to read everything my kids are assigned, so, over winter break, I poked my nose into “Inside the Walls of Troy”. The most embarrassing thing happened… I fell asleep after two chapters. The book just knocked me out cold.

“Inside the Walls of Troy” tells the entire story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Helen (part I) and Cassandra (part II). As far as I could tell, it is all about who had how many suitors, who married whom, and who was wearing what at which point in their lives. In my opinion, it takes a special kind of talent to take something fairly entertaining, such as Trojan War, and turn it into an incredibly boring piece of literature that barely deals with the Trojan War at all.

LilProgrammer started on his assignment yesterday afternoon, and, by 7 PM, he still wasn’t done. I guess he had to take breaks in order to stay alive. I do not blame him. At 7 PM, his classmate called and asked if he could stop by and borrow the book. LilProgrammer said yes, but admitted to me that he wasn’t done with the book, himself.

I let him get away with it.

I am a Very Bad Mother.

The Goldie has spoken at 1:34 PM

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