What’s A Little Chin Hair Among Friends?

The shriek made me come running up the stairs.  Lex had awakened with a headache that morning, so I asked her to sleep in while I got the kids up and ready for school. The cereal had just hit the bowls when the largest, “What the fuck?” I ever heard made me dash out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

I ran to our bedroom and into the master bath where I found Lex glaring at herself in the mirror. “Are you alright?” Lex didn’t move from her position of being nose to nose with her reflection. I looked around the room, but nothing seemed out of place. Lex hadn’t been injured lately, so I didn’t expect to see blood or bruising.

“Look at this!” Lex pointed to her chin. I moved closer to do just that. “Don’t look!” she commanded.

“Honey, you’re going to have to decide if you want me to look or not.”

She continued to stare at herself in disbelief.

“Lex, you’re making me nervous. What’s going on? What is it you want me to see, or don’t want me to see?”

She slowly turned in my direction and pointed at a spot on her chin.  Her face was one big pout. “Amanda, I’m getting old.”

“Well sure, Lex. We both are. And we have three kids who are determined to make it happen faster.” I reached for her hand so I could see what she was distressed about.

“A chin hair?” I suppressed a laugh. “Okay, so you have a chin hair. The first of many.”

My sister once told me that I wasn’t very good at comforting others. Like the time she fell from a tree in the back yard and instead of helping her up, I sat there and pointed to all the places where she was scratched up and bleeding until she passed out from the sight of her own blood.

Back to present day and my wife who had stomped back into the bedroom and sat on her side of the bed, her arms crossed.  I followed her into the room and made her uncross her arms. Then I climbed up on the bed and proceeded to kiss her on her chin where the offending hair was. Not soft, but not stubbly, either.

“Honey, we’re both getting older and our bodies are changing.”

“You still look sexy, Amanda. Not like…” She waved her hand near her face. “This.”

“Thanks, love.  And for your information, I still find you incredibly sexy.”

“You do?”

“And it wouldn’t matter if you had one chin hair now or the hundreds you could have by the time you’re sixty.”

“What?”

Like I said, my comforting skills could use work. Lex’s eyes were huge and I could tell she imagined herself with a full beard.

“Look at me, sweetheart. Look at my chin.”

“I don’t see anything.”

“I pluck.”

“You what?”

“Pluck.  I have chin hairs, too. But I’m a blonde so you don’t notice them. Besides, I pluck them out.” I got off her lap and went to the bathroom to retrieve a pair of tweezers from a drawer next to the sink. I came back in and said, “Okay, love. Close your eyes. I have a surprise for you.”

When Lex had her eyes closed, I quickly used the tweezers to yank the hair free from her chin.

“Ow.”

“You can open your eyes now.”

“What did you do? That hurt.”

“This.” I held up the tweezers so that she could see that the hair was gone.  Then I led her back to the bathroom to see that the hair was, indeed, gone.

She sighed and touched her face to be sure it was smooth again. Then she looked at me and gave me a smile. “Still sexy, you say?”

“Very.”  I slipped my arms around her and began to explore neck and shoulders with my lips. I let my hands wander until I could hear her moan.

Lex picked me up and carried me back to the bed before shutting the bedroom door.  When she laid down next to me, I started to remove her night clothes and enjoy the feel of her back and her bottom, completely forgetting that we had kids to shuttle into town.

Suddenly, my hands stopped roaming except for the right hand which kept feeling one particular spot.

“Amanda? What are you doing?”

I used my index finger and thumb and gave what I’d felt a little yank.  It was a hair, about a half-inch long and, naturally, I had to show her what I just plucked from her butt.

Yeah, I know. My comforting skills could use some work.

Amanda.

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My Most Colorful Relative

Sometimes, teachers should consult with parents before they go off half-cocked and hand out homework assignments that are guaranteed to cause an emergency meeting of the Board of Education. While they assume they are handing out harmless exercises, those harmless exercises could wind up blowing up in the teacher’s face.

The school secretary phoned to tip us off that Lorrie would be sent home with a note about some inappropriate remarks she made during her 7th grade speech class. The class was taught by a teacher who was unfamiliar with our family. She was part of an outreach program to bring big city teachers into rural areas to provide a better, more rounded curriculum to our rural students.

Although I applaud the effort, I can see where a lack of familiarity can lay the foundation for a whole string of misunderstandings.

As usual, Lex and I immediately made an appointment for that afternoon. Lorrie was seething when we saw her in the principal’s office where we instructed the secretary to have our daughter wait for us. After consoling Lorrie, Lex and I headed on to the speech classroom to have a talk with her teacher.

The first thing that came to my mind when I entered the classroom is that the teacher could pass as a cheerleader and probably had been one during her school years. Another thing that struck me was that she seemed way too innocent to be teaching a bunch of hormonal preteens and it was likely she would ask to be reassigned to kindergarten the next year where the most challenging thing is keeping the children from slipping in their spilled finger paints. When we shut the door behind us, she turned to greet us. There was a flicker of incomprehension on her face when Lex and I both approached the front of the classroom.

“Good afternoon. I’m Mrs. Fenwick.  I’d like to speak to the mother in private, so if the one of you that isn’t Lorrie’s mother could wait in the office?”

Lex shot a look at me that amounted to “Batter up!” and we both planted ourselves in two of the front seat desks.

Since Lorrie looks more like Lex than she does me, she took the lead while I folded my hands together on the desktop and tried to look more innocent than I felt.  Lex nodded in my direction and said,  “Anything you have to say about my daughter, you can say in front of her mother, too.”

Profound confusion.  Yes, she was the proverbial deer who was mesmerized by the headlights of the 18 wheeler semi that was about to mow her down. It didn’t help that Lex’s smile could light up a runway.  As for me, I smiled graciously and asked, “Please tell us what the problem is.”

“Um…I…huh? Oh.” The dawn broke. “You are both her mothers? That’s very generous of you to have an open adoption, like that.  I guess when Lorrie said she was adopted, at least that much was true. Which one of you is the adoption mother?”

“We both are.”

“Oh,” she blundered, “I thought maybe one of you was her real mother. “ She stared off into space for a moment and then said, “Oh! You’re those people! I heard—”

Lex started to rise out of her chair and I quickly reached for her hand and tugged her back down.  My smile had turned into “if looks could kill.”

I broke the stalemate. “Now to the subject at hand, Lorrie doesn’t lie.  So if you have an issue with something she’s said, maybe we can help you.”

Lex cleared her throat when it became clear that Mrs. Fenwick was having a hard time figuring out where to start. “Maybe you could tell us what this is all about? What was going on?” Lex reached into her jacket pocket and tossed a folded paper on the teacher’s desk. “Why you sent this note?” Lex was doing an admirable job of holding her temper.  I wasn’t. Maybe it was Mrs. Fenwick’s inexperience. Maybe I just thought she needed to widen her horizons to allow a little light in, but the young teacher was seriously getting on my nerves. So I was more than agreeable to Lex continuing the interview.

“Okay, so nod if I have this right.  You gave the children a speech assignment.”

Mrs. Fenwick nodded and then found her voice. “I asked the students to write a short speech about their most colorful relative. “

“Oh, lord.”  Lex and I looked at each other at the same time and wondered if the woman was taking any heart medicine, because she’d best swallow some now.

“Tell me, did she talk about her uncle, the ex-felon, whose son we adopted?”

“What? No. Huh?” The teacher’s eyes widened.

“Her mother, here? Who I rescued from a rain swollen creek when her car went off the covered bridge on our ranch?”

“No, it’s…I’m sorry. She talked about her grandmother?”

“Which grandmother? She’s had three.”

The teacher glanced at Lorrie’s notebook paper and said, “Elizabeth.”

Lex let out a low whistle.  I brushed my bangs back away from my forehead and wondered which things Lorrie had chosen to share with her classmates.

Mrs. Fenwick cleared her throat and said, “According to Lorrie, her grandmother was crazy?”

“Crazy enough to get locked away in a prison for the criminally insane,” I offered.

At this, the teacher sat heavily on the edge of her desk. “What?”

My turn. “Well she did burn down our house.  And, she hired a hit man to kill Lex. Thankfully, she wasn’t successful that time. “

“Lex, remember when she got that financial guy to steal all our investments, hon?”

“I remember, Amanda. At least he did the right thing and put back as much of the money as he could before Elizabeth had him killed, too.”

“My God! Are you all Mafia? Hit men? Stealing investments? Arson? What kind of family are you?”

Lex just smiled like the Cheshire Cat.

“Never mind that.” I said, “What did our daughter have to say about it?”

“She said that her grandmother kidnapped her, and that you didn’t rest until you found her. And that you ran over her grandmother with your truck and killed her. Not that I meant to, but the outcome was the same.”

“All true.” Lex settled back in her seat while the teacher rose and went to stand behind her desk. “So then, why is Lorrie in trouble, exactly?” Lex asked.

“Well, um, for making up tall tales instead of doing the project honestly.”

It’s interesting to watch color actually drain out of someone’s face when they realize they are in it over their heads.

“Mrs. Fenwick,” I said, “Lorrie wasn’t lying.  All those things are true.  My mother went insane and brought about her own death. Everything Lorrie told you is true.”

Lex stood up and held out her hand to me. “Amanda, we’re done.  Mrs. Fenwick, I’m sorry you were unsettled by our daughter’s speech, but every word of it was true. We’re done here.”

I thought about it for a moment, and then decided Lex was right. Lorrie had chosen to share information about her most colorful relative at her teacher’s request. She had done the assignment.  That’s all we needed to share.

“If you didn’t like the content, maybe you should find out a little more about your students before you ask them to share personal information that might make you uncomfortable.”

“I, uh.  I’m sorry. I couldn’t imagine how any of the things she shared were true.”

“Well, now you know.” I smiled before adding, “Although, I have to admit that the things our family has experienced over the years are enough to fill books.”

“I’ll correct Lorrie’s grade and apologize to her tomorrow.”

Lex looked the woman right in the eye to make the seriousness of what she was about to say next evident to the teacher. “Lorrie is in the office waiting for us, so you might like to take care of that now, instead of letting her go all night thinking that her teacher is convinced she’s a liar. Especially when…”

The teacher had the good grace to accept responsibility. “Especially when I gave her the assignment.  I wish I’d saved that until after parent’s night and had met you first.”

“Well then, let’s start over. My name is Amanda Walters. This is my wife, Lex.  Lorrie is our oldest child and we all live on a working ranch, the Rocking W.”

Lex held the classroom door open for us to leave the classroom. “Feel free to ask us if you would like to know more.”

We accompanied Mrs. Fenwick to the office. Lorrie was seated by a window with a library book in hand and was staring out of the window with a glum expression.  The tears brimming her eyes broke our hearts.

To Mrs. Fenwick’s credit, she approached Lori and got down on one knee and apologized profusely for assuming Lorrie wasn’t telling the truth and asked if she could make it up to her. She assured Lorrie that she had completed the assignment and would get an ‘A’, after all.

The two of them continued to talk in subdued tones until they were both reaching for tissues and wiping their eyes.

Lex and I looked at each other and I whispered, “Okay, love, she’s off my shit list. How about yours?”

Lex nodded and then helped the young woman up off the floor. Lorrie left her spot by the window and went directly to Lex and gave her a huge hug.  “Thanks for believing me, Momma.”

“One thing we know about our Lorrie,” Lex grinned, “You don’t lie, although what you do say could give a person a heart attack.”

As she turned from Lex to hug me, Lorrie said, “But that’s my job, Momma. I’m a kid.”

I love my family.

Amanda.

It’s No Picnic

I rolled over in bed this morning to find Lex smiling down at me in her mischievous way. It’s a look that tells me that she is up to something but has also decided to put off telling me what it is until we’ve fooled around a bit first.

I have no complaints about her strategy. None at all.

Just as my heart has decided to stop hammering in my chest, there was an equally pounding knock on our bedroom door. Lex slipped from under me and started stalking toward the sound.

“Psst! Lex!  Your robe!” I tossed it to her and she shoved her arms in it, then tugged it in place.  See, I had no reason to be grumpy about the kids interrupting things, but Lex was still…she was, uh, less inclined to accept an interruption. She took a deep breath and tied her bathrobe and pulled the door open to see who was there.

“Momma? It’s picnic day!”

“Picnic? What?” Lex turned back to me and shrugged her shoulders.  I thought for a minute and suddenly remembered that I’d volunteered us to accompany Mel’s class to the state park to see the buffalo and have a picnic.

I ducked under the covers to pull my tee-shirt and sleep shorts back on before climbing out of bed.  Our not-so-little ones were becoming too observant on their own. No point in painting them a picture by getting out of bed naked.  The last time I tried that was before we got Eddie. Mel saw me naked and immediately tugged on Lex’s robe to see if she was naked, too.  It only got worse from that point on.  I don’t think that I stopped blushing for a week. Lex, my hero, figured out a way to explain things that seemed right and natural to our little inquisitor while making sure that she understood that this was something only parents were allowed to do.

Still, she looked at us sideways for a while.  She had that same look on her face when she reminded us that the class trip was today and that we needed to go.

We assured Melanie that we were going to have her to school on time and that she could go downstairs and have cereal with Lorrie. I could hear Martha downstairs. Thank goodness that she remembered that I’d asked her to watch Eddie today.  I could hear her chatter with Lorrie and her welcoming Mel to the breakfast table. I could picture the happy expressions on my kids’ faces to have their beloved “Mada” to themselves.  She’d even come upstairs earlier and retrieved Eddie and he was happily singing to himself about “orsies and frucks”.

Lex closed the door behind Mel and slowly slipped her robe off.  The look she gave me was enough for me to instantly shed my night clothes and attack her before she even reached the bed.

“Wait, honey!” My libido was warring with my maternal side and I was quickly forgetting why Mel had interrupted us in the first place. “Lex, baby…” It’s a good thing we get up early on the ranch.  We didn’t have to get the kids to school for another hour.

For a couple whose been together since 1999, you’d think that we could tone it down a bit when needed. Heh!  We held hands all the way into town and then told the kids to go on in and we’d follow.  Lex parked the Expedition in a far parking space in the school lot and as soon as the engine was switched off, she started kissing the daylights out of me while my hands insisted that her buttons needed undoing.

The school bell rang and drew us back to the present.

We grudgingly arranged our clothes and headed to the school office to sign in.  The school bus was waiting, so after receiving our instructions from Mel’s teacher, we hopped aboard the bus and found our assigned seats.

The kids filed on and started chattering away while their teacher spoke to the bus driver and then took her seat. Once we were underway, Mel turned around and sweetly said, “Hi, Mommy.”

“Hi, Mel.”

“Hi, Momma.”

“Hi, Mel.”

Mel’s seatmate looked puzzled for a moment until her light bulb went on in her mind. “You have to mommies, right?”

Mel, the literal one, replied, “No. I have one Mommy and one Momma. See?”

The girl looked at Mel as if she had just explained our family dynamics to her in Greek, but settled down and turned her attention back to the teacher who was trying to distract the kids from the long ride with some children’s songs.

Janis Marshall, one of the other parents, caught my eye and her expression surprised me. It wasn’t a disapproving look, it was more of a, “Please don’t make me explain this to my kids,” expression.  I know that expression. I’ve used that expression on my own face when I just knew another uncomfortable conversation was about to be had with the kids.

After way too many rounds of “The Wheels On the Bus” and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, we finally arrived at the state park. One of the rangers met us at the bus and acted as tour guide for the youngsters.

The hour before lunch was spent walking up to the pens where the local vet was examining some of animals and the ranger telling the eight year olds how the buffalo came to live in the state park.  They were told that after lunch, they’d go to a petting area where a new calf would be brought to them to see up close.

Lunch bags and juice cartons were retrieved and passed out to the kids. Mel, thankfully, was used to a ranching life, and so nothing really fazed her when it came to the animals and their bi-products. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the rest of the class who were raised in town.

It got to be a sort of chain reaction. One kid would retch, the next kid would follow, it was a nauseating domino effect that left Mel as the only child standing.  When even Mrs. Marshall and their teacher, Mrs. Kelly, turned green, the ranger suggested that they walk back to the ranger station where the children could be hosed down and sit under a cool air conditioner for a while.

Once they’d been rinsed off, the kids sat cross-legged on the cool linoleum floor and sipped on sodas to settle their stomachs. Mel’s seatmate was one of the first to recover. She spotted us talking quietly in the corner with her teacher and asked again, “So why do you have two mommies?”

Mel explained it to her, proudly and effectively. The children who were sitting by them listened and nodded their heads without a single complaint and asked thoughtful questions that Melanie happily answered.

We saw Mrs. Marshall approaching us and wondered what kind of reaction she was going to have to our daughter’s explanation of her family’s makeup.

“I could learn a lot from your daughter.” She took my hand and shook it gently.  “You’ve instilled in your child pride in herself, in her family, her home, even her pet goat she was just telling the children about. “

“Thanks,” Lex began. “We’re proud of our family, too.  And the children know they’re loved.”

“Oh, I can tell that.”

The air shifted suddenly and my mommy hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.  Our little orator had gone off in another direction and the few words I could make out were, “only Mommies can do that.”

“MEL!”

Amanda.