I hate birthday parties.
It came to me recently when I was with my daughter at one of her friends’ parties. The kids were being entertained by a party specialist at a standard venue while some of the parents were sipping mimosas because it was a Saturday morning and we wanted to be somewhere else, ANYWHERE else but here. But the party girl’s mother was creating 20 Pinterest-worthy party platters featuring a paint palette festooned with sprinkles to set off the cupcakes and act as party favors.
She was stressed to the max, and I felt for her. I wanted to scream, “How much pampering do these kids need?”
Just got a new washing machine and I’m proud to say I'm loving it!
It's a Speed Queen – and it feels like coming home.
I had been lamenting the current state of washing machines for years, starting back in the 80s when my aunt was forced to give up her decades old Speed Queen for a newfangled big-brand-name washer. Her old machine had agitated back-and-forth, whereas her new machine agitated in only one direction. The sales brochure promoted the fact that the “more efficient” agitator pulled clothes under water X-times per minute, but I remember my aunt standing there watching the process and muttering with disgust, "I don't like it."
So years later when I got my first washing machine (free with a condo purchase), I was prepared for the whole agitator-going-in-one-direction thing. The clothes were getting clean so no bother. Right?
When I was in second grade, I was still learning to color inside the lines. I was two years away from learning to use a library, and five years away from reading a chapter book independently. Sure, that was back when the earth was still cooling, but I can’t help but compare my schooling with The Little General’s.
In Second Grade, TLG had an assignment that so closely mirrored an assignment I had in graduate school that it gave me shivers. The assignment was to read 50 award-winning books in less than a month. Fifty (expletive deleted) books!
My adoption story began Memorial Day Weekend 2008, when I abruptly announced to my husband that I wanted to adopt a daughter. The need had been simmering inside me for some time, but that day it exploded. With tears. I said, “I have to have a daughter.”
He was like, “OK.”
The Little General declines to sit on Santa’s lap.
What’s this? My child has gained the maturity to speak assertively to St. Nick while still maintaining her belief in magic? What gives?
Don’t look at me. It wasn’t my idea that she believe in Santa. Oddly enough, she picked that up in a Jewish preschool, of all places. She came home one day, barely in control of her language, extoling the virtues a Jolly Ol’ Elf who could bring kids anything they asked for. In her little mind, Santa was a bank card with no limits and no parental restrictions. Anytime she wanted something that I said no to, she just spouted back, “I’ll ask Santa!” as if Santa was the cosmic godfather who could override even me. #RME
Then at age 5, she changed schools to attend kindergarten. This time the kids were a little more savvy and had cashed in their belief in magic for the potential of real credit cards, with and without parental restrictions. There is no such thing as Santa Claus, they insisted. The Little General came home with questions: Why were they saying that? Was it true?
“You believe what you believe and let them believe what they believe,” I answered. She might as well learn to stand up to peer pressure now.
So, every year the question comes up again, and she tries to approach it scientifically. For now, knowing her parents as she does, it's easier to imagine a magic elf setting up the toy display in our living room than it is to imagine her stoic parents getting up in the middle of the night and doing it.
Still at age 10, as her mind soars toward maturity, she grapples with reality. “Momma, tell me. Does Santa really exist?”
I sigh and answer wistfully, “When you stop believing in Santa, Santa stops coming. Are you ready for Santa to stop coming?”
She thinks on it hard and fast, then answers, “No.”
And that settles the question. For now.
#DoesSantaReallyExist #YesThereIsASantaClause #TheLittleGeneral
I woke up recently with the strangest thought: “I want to try a ballet workout.”
It’s a big trend going back a decade or so, and it's something I’ve considered trying ever since I heard that Natalie Portman used a ballet workout to get in shape for the movie “Black Swan.” I went as far as to purchase a ballet workout video back when the movie was released, but the workout was seriously hard. I was never able to finish even one session despite the fact that I used to be a fitness buff.
But now I really wanted to do it. I had seen a YouTube video of an 80-year-old female bodybuilder who made the Guinness Book of World Records, and a 90-year-old gymnast who also held a world’s record. Clearly, I was falling behind in the world of senior citizen fitness. And while I had no desire to become a championship bodybuilder, maybe I could achieve the body of a dancer, and maybe I could achieve that goal with a ballet workout.
This Fourth of July I’m feeling nostalgic with memories of a childhood long passed, memories filled with the smells of summer rain, mimosa trees, and women wearing lilac perfume.
It was the early 1960s in South Arkansas. Somewhere the Civil Rights Movement was blazing, but it didn't touch my idyllic corner of the world in Lewisville, Arkansas. We kids played outside all day in the summer, running with a dog named Rosie, digging crawfish from a muddy ditch after the summer rain, and tying thread to their legs for a crawfish race. Big kids discussed the merits of dirt dobbers versus wasps, while we little kids played cops and robbers with toy guns. My favorite weapon was a Winchester rifle until I fired it with the lever open and turned my hand into a bloody mess. After that I stuck with a toy pistol, which I wasn’t allow to point at a person, animal or car.
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about transgender students and school bathrooms. Although I don't know anything about the transgender issue, I know something about school bathrooms and I can declare unequivocally, "They are not safe!"
School bathrooms exist somewhere between Lord of the Flies and The Killing Fields. They are a no man's land where even teachers don't tread. If you want to catch someone to beat the crap out of them, the school bathroom is the perfect place to do it. It's certainly not where you want to go if you're the slightest bit different.
And it's not just school bullies who make the bathroom experience perilous. I recall everything about school bathrooms being traumatic, especially in middle school, when I started to physically develop, being one of the first girls in my class to start my menstrual period. That was on top of being the only black child of educated parents in our building, and being the only black girl in my class. In short, I was a target, and the bathroom was not a safe place for me.
My daughter got in the car recently, cautiously excited about an invitation to a birthday party.
"Momma, I got invited to a party. It's from my friend Lyla. You like her. You said she's a nice girl."
I knew from the pitch there was a catch. It had the tone of a salesman hocking an item you sort of want to buy at a price you don't want to pay. I waited for the caveat.
I'll never forget the day I told my cousin I was adopting a child. Her response caught me totally off guard. She first asked "When are you planning to retire?" Then she threatened me with death. Not as in, "I'm going to kill you." It was more like, "It's too late for you to start parenting because you're going to die."
It's the sort of thing I might have ignored from a passing stranger, but this was someone I looked up to as a big sister. I had always known her to be oddly critical. She was the kind of person who would tell you your nail polish didn't look good on your hands, or she might criticize your artwork because it had a white person instead of a black person in it. But I had grown to ignore her dark side and concentrate on her kinder moments, like the time I was 4 years old and she drove me from Lewisville to Hope, Arkansas, to go swimming for the first time ever. And the time she made me a long satin dress so I could march in her wedding. We looked more alike than sisters and I adored her.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.