My God….I have become my mother.
I realized today that young people make me crazy. I was never like this before but somehow along the way, as I’ve aged, I’ve become far less forgiving.
And less tolerant.
No unlike my mother.
This particular rant begins with a shopping venture at a department store. I needed some stuff. I won’t mention it the store by name, but let’s just say it sounds a lot like “Target”.
It was early in the morning–the store had just opened its doors, so I was the only one in the check out aisle. The checker greeted me with a wide smile with these multi-colored braces.
She was probably 16..maybe.. and the tag pinned to her red shirt indicated her name was McKenzie….but then again, every 14, 15 and 16 year old in America is (seemingly) named McKenzie. That was THEE name all those years ago. And do you remember about 14, 15 and 16 years ago, when giving little girl and boy babies surnames as first names was all the rage? Especially popular were names of presidents: Madison, McKinley, Tyler, Jefferson and Grant. I even met a young Master “Clinton” not long ago.
Odd isn’ it that the name “Nixon” never really took off?
Anyway, McKenzie Jordan Sanford as I learned, was bored and was grateful for my being at her cash register. She was very talkative. Nay, she was extremely talkative.
In between checking out my various and assorted sundries, she gave me her life story and pretty much conveyed the whole schlemiel it in between scanning the bar codes of six packages of light bulbs at $1.49 per packet and Kitty Kat Chow at $4.99 a bag..limit two.
She told me that she was going to be a Junior at one of Houston’s public high school and that she was working as a checker this summer to earn money for new school clothes. I applauded her for her willingness to be so responsible—— and then it happened….
She started that insipid “teen speak”….. every other word is “like”.
Here’s a rough example of McKenzie’s very one-sided conversation with me and in order to grasp the full extent of annoyance, please read with an up lilt-inflection at the end of each sentence. As if it were a question:
“So I’m like all…yeah and I was thinking like, I gotta have new clothes and all and like, you have to have new clothes especially at the beginning of the year, right? So I told my mom I was all in like need of new jeans and stuff and she like all got up in my face and said that I’d have to all like earn the money to buy like everything. So, I’m like “OK “and she’s all “Alright then” and I’m like “Fine. So, I”m working here and like slaving but it’s cool and all”.
Nothing and I mean NOTHING makes me crazier than the word “like” used 86 times in one, two minute conversation. I hate talking to kids for this very reason and this time was no exception.
The visceral response to this conversation had left me me nauseous by Young McKenzie’s fourth “like”. By the time she “like told her mom she was like in need of like, clothes and stuff”, my face started to contort.
I could feel my expression and I’m sure to McKenzie, it probably looked as if I smelled a fart.
She stopped in mid-like, looked rather puzzled and asked me if I was OK.
I swiped my card through the machine, thanked God it went through then grabbed my bags and said, “I’m like, fine and stuff”.
As I walked to my car, I realized that I had practically had this same conversation with my mother and grandmother during a shopping trip in early 1971. I’d wanted a pair of negative heal Earth Shoes for weeks. I finally got my mom to agree to buy me a pair. I tried them on in the store . I was in hip, pre-teen fashion heaven.
“Good Lord!”, my grandmother exclaimed looking at one of them. “What’s wrong with the heals on these crazy shoes!”.
“These are Earth Shoes, Granny. The heal is negative. The toes are supposed to be higher. That’s what makes these shoes so far out and groovy!”, I responded.
I looked at my mother. She was staring back at me with the very same contorted expression I’d given McKenzie. The only difference was in this case, her look of disdain wasn’t vernacular inspired. Oh no no!
See, my grandmother had actually farted.
Kids today also “hang out” together. The phrase is used interchangeably as a verb and as a noun. I also think this is the new term for “dating”, but I’m not sure.
When I was their age, we “hung out”, but we didn’t call it that…or did we? I think “hanging out” was something we did at a fixed location for a specific amount of time, as opposed to an all day affair at different locales. For example: sitting in front of the Tasty Freeze for a few hours was “hanging out at the Tasty Freeze for a few hours”.
Even so, things sure have changed since I was a kid. In Junior High, we dated, I guess for lack of a better word. We actually met our boyfriends at “the show”, as we called it. The Rialto was actually in Kenedy…another small town about six miles away from my hometown of Karnes City. The Rialto was the only movie theater in Karnes County. Here’s an actual photo:
It’s been closed for 30-plus years, but what memories this photo brings with it.
Look–OK, squint at the picture—– just above the marquee, you’ll see the name “Rialto”. My first boyfriend kissed me under the “O” .
Years later, I did something far more vile to another boyfriend under the “R”.
As you can see, The Rialto was a single screen dwelling that was already old when I first started frequenting it regularly in1971. And that poor screen…it was so abused. Invariably, the film would break–it always did– and the poor screen would be pounded by soft drinks…pickles and other air borne projectiles that just minutes before, had served as a snack. I saw the screen once when the house lights were on. It looked like a big stretched out doo-doo diaper. Stained, dirty…slight tears in some places. It was HORRIBLE!
I remember watching a re-release of “Gone With The Wind” at that theater. I walked out of there worried to death that Vivian Leigh had a full on basal carcinoma on both cheeks. Turned out, it was just Dr. Pepper.
The floors were sticky, the bathrooms were Petri dishes and the seats were cut up all to hell and back with God knows what living in that nasty foam beneath those rips and tears. It was filthy.
I loved that place!
But I digress…meeting your boyfriend at the show was a big deal. An even bigger deal was when he gave you his I.D. bracelet–then held your hand through the double feature. That meant you were “going together”. That’s what we called it…….as in “Cheryl is going with Mike”.
Years before, when my sisters, Karol and Kathy were in Jr. High, the deal was to wear one of your boyfriend’s football cleats on a string around your neck. How barbaric! That rather pedestrian demonstration of adolescent love died out by the time I got to Jr High.
In High School, Karol and Kathy also wore their boyfriends’ Jr/Sr rings and their football jackets. When a girl was given a ring, she’d wrap that sticky white medical tape around the inner band of the ring to make it fit her finger. You could always tell how long she’d “been going with a guy” based on how dirty the tape was. That ritual was still practiced by the time I got to high school, but was starting to fall out of vogue.
Know what? I just realized something. Wow! I now know why I have so many unresolved issues as an adult. It’s because I was never asked to wear a guy’s ID bracelet in Jr. High…..nor was I ever given a Jr/Sr ring or a Letterman’s jacket. Why? ‘Cause I was a rebel.
My first boyfriend–the love of my life when I was in Jr. High– wasn’t local. He was from Kenedy, plus he didn’t own an ID bracelet. So that was that.
And my high school boyfriend was also from another city and already well out of school when he and I started dating during my Junior year. He was quite the jock in his day, too…All-State both his Junior and Senior year. He was a talented running back…cute, big, burly guy. “The Jock”.
His Letterman’s jacket would’ve been littered with patches and all kinds of hardware befitting a much lauded Texas High School football star. My Senior year, I briefly thought about asking him about letting me wear his old Sr. ring or his Letterman jacket, but I didn’t because I figured his wife wouldn’t like it much.
My eldest sister, Kathy married in June 1971 so Karol and I–just 3.5 years apart–grew up together. We also had our own phone–separate number from our parents, of course. It looked exactly like this…same color–everything.
My parents’ were sticklers about that damn phone, too. They had strict rules. We couldn’t answer it if it rang during dinner. That was a fate worse than death to have to sit at the table….and hear that phone ring and ring knowing it was either Mark (my boyfriend) or Bubba (hers) calling. It made us miserable to hear that phone ring and ring.
It was unbearable.
If it rang as we were cleaning up and washing the dishes, it was up for grabs. Karol and I could take the back stairs which led from the playroom to the long hall upstairs two steps at a time and answer that son of a bitch before the fourth ring. We were in great shape back then because of that phone. My thighs could’ve rivaled American Olympic gold medalist speed skater, Eric Heiden–remember Mr. Very Developed in that gold skating onesie???
Look at those delicious hams! One thigh should be stamped with “Oscar”; the other with “Mayer”.
Pater and Mater were also sticklers about our talking on the phone past ten pm. Of course, we could never abide by that rule. That phone rang at all hours and we answered it at all hours, too. We learned to refine our hearing to canine sensitivity. We could hear it ringing a mile away….especially late at night. Karol and I also learned how to run down the hall to answer it without making a sound. We had one of those mother’s who insisted we take tap and ballet lessons, so we were agile young things who were already light on our feet, but those lessons were NOTHING compared to what we taught ourselves as slaves to that phone.
It’d ring at 2:30 am…..at 4:00 am–the time didn’t matter, if it rang, we heard it….even in a dead sleep…and would wake and be down the hall without making a sound–ALL before the third ring. We were incredibly light on our feet and poised and graceful, too. Bob Fosse, Twyla-esque and Martha Graham, would’ve been proud. Move over Gelsey Kirkland–Balanchine would’ve marveled at our light footed prowess.
I accused Karol once of learning how to run with her legs akimbo–her toes barely skimming the half inch top of the baseboards. She accused me of learning how to levitate and float.
We were that good.
One afternoon, we were both home and both expecting a call. We were downstairs in the playroom watching TV when the phone rang. We raced up the stairs side-by-side in a dead heat, determined to reach the phone first. We got there at the same time, both our hands poised on the receiver.
“It’s Bubba! Let go!!”, Karol cried.
“No, Mark is supposed to call and I haven’t talked to him in three days. YOU let go!!”.
We glared at each other as the phone continued to ring. I thought to myself, “I’ll just reason with her”.
“Look Karol, there’s a 50-50 chance that this call is either Bubba or Mark and if its….” I stopped in mid sentence.
Karol had this horrible, wincing look on her face. She wrinkled up her nose.
I did what all Kendrick women do in these situations…
She punched me in the arm and left.
“Ouch!! Sorry…uh Hello? Excuse me? Yeah, sure. This is the Karnes County Livestock Exchange. What was that? You’re interested in buying a Heifer? I know the perfect one. Can you please hold one second, Sir”
I covered the receiver with my hand and yelled, “Karol–its for you!!!”