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July 2013: Emancipation Day

Posted on July 14, 2013 at 4:45 PM






Any day now, my 13-year old daughter Shea will emancipate herself from her parents. At least that's what I would do if I were her.

Aside from the typical things parents do to embarrass their kids like speak and breathe, I have gone above and beyond. Not since my father chased the public bus down, pounded on the door till it opened and threw a Jethro-sized brown paper bag at me at the back of the bus shouting, "Joooooody! You fohgot your lahnch! has a parent consistently behaved in a way that would make a lesser child consider hopping a freight train east.

From taking the kids to school on a holiday, to jokingly telling them I wasn’t their real mother, I am guilty of crimes against children.

“You are our real mother!” 5-year old Cory and 3-year old Shea protested.

“No, I’m not,” I continued. “I’m just watching you for her till she gets home.”

To seal the deal, when the waitress commented “what sweet kids you have!” I replied, “Oh, they’re not mine. I’m just watching them.”

After that, I took them to the arcade for about an hour or more and never put a cent in. They were "playing" against the loop that goes around and around until you actually put a coin in and start a game. I finally shouted out, "Let’s go kids! What am I made of money?!”

Who knew the kids would have such steel-trap memories. They still bring this up after 10 years. I see it as my small contribution to Shea’s memoirs and Cory’s stand-up routine.

My latest infraction may have sealed the deal, however.

I’m well known for getting lost on a good day. I have the sense of direction of an avalanche victim.

"Am I up or down or--wait, maybe if I spit..."

Those “You are here,” dots on signs at the mall are useless.

“Where the flippin’ hell is “here?!” I scream.

I rarely get to a practice or meet or game on time for either kid because I somehow get discombobulated on my way.

"Those directions are whack!" I invariably scream as I come barreling up, out of breath, drenched in sweat, 20 minutes late amidst every other parent who had the same directions and arrived in time to get situated comfortably with a cold drink in hand and nary a drop down their respective butt cracks.

After years of Shea’s involvement in softball, I am just getting to the point where I don’t call practice “rehearsal” or uniforms “costumes.”

“When is intermission?” I asked a parent next to me. “I could use a nice drink.”

And all along, Shea has handled it with grace and good humor. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was quietly plotting ways to murder his father that turned into Oscar-winning scripts, so you never know.

We scheduled Shea for softball camp at UCLA this summer. She would get to practice and play with world champions, eating and living in the dorms like a college kid. We had this planned for months. I carefully read the instructions of what to pack, where to park, and printed each piece of paper, putting it in folders for us and Aunt Patti who was scheduled to pick her up on the last day, while Pepper and I would drop her off for “Opening Ceremonies.”

The night before she was scheduled to leave, she was packing her bag, using the check-list I prepared.

“Nothing to worry about,” she said tentatively. “But I have a fever, chills, sore throat and possibly diphtheria.”

“What?!” I shrieked.

“So much for not worrying, Mama. I’m gonna be fine. Look, if I have to go on a stretcher, I’m going to softball camp,” she said as I filled her with Emergen-C, Tylenol, hydrogen peroxide, Windex and a little smudging for good measure.

The next morning she popped out of bed like a firefighter, dressed and ready to go. I had point-by-point directions on my phone and we headed out hours earlier than the 1:00 pm check in time.

The traffic was a nightmare as we navigated our way through freeways under construction, detours and just a bumper-to-bumper ride to Westwood. We arrived at 12:40 p.m. Early! Not enough time for lunch, but for once, not late.

I left Pepper and Shea on a bench outside the check-in area while I foraged for a sandwich or snack I could get for Shea to tide her over. Inside the building, I found myself swimming upstream against swarms of young ladies dressed in “UCLA Softball” t-shirts, squealing, laughing, skipping and otherwise reveling. Obviously, I thought to myself, there was a camp prior to Shea’s that was underway or wrapping up by the looks of the camaraderie amongst the girls.

I returned to Pepper and Shea to see one noticeably upset and the other stifling a laugh, respectively.

“We’re 3 hours late. Check-in was 10 a.m., not 1:00 p.m.!” Pepper said, exasperated.

If there was a super power that allowed you to instantaneously combust, your body disintegrating into a pile of dust on the floor, I would choose that one.

“It’s fine, Mama,” Shea said, noticing the look of horror on my face.

We rushed to find “who’s in charge?!” which was like asking to see the “supervisor” at a Girls Gone Wild Party. Finally after sometime, we ran into one of the UCLA softball coaches, who generously took Shea under her wing—probably seeing the wisdom in snatching up this poor mocha-latte, skinned young girl from these big, crazed white women.

“It’s all fine,” Shea continued sweetly, as she kissed each of us good bye.

“It’s not that bad,” Pepper assured me.

No, it wasn’t that bad. There was a grand opening ceremony, where pictures were taken and posted on Facebook for friends and family to see back in New Zealand. Signature t-shirts and lanyards distributed. Normal parents standing by watching their girl’s rite of passage, as they were broken up into teams, partnered up with roommates.

And, Shea? She was hurriedly trying to catch up, grabbing lunch in a packed cafeteria in five minutes, staking out a bed and dresser and reporting for practice on the field. By now, the energy between the rest of the girls was palpable. They were already blood sisters, sucking pricked fingers as they raced through the corridors, arms locked. Tattoos of each other’s names and “BFF” emblazoned on their arms. And, still others had pet names for each other and were busy making lists of who they hated. No, it wasn’t that bad.

At the end of her stay, Aunt Patti managed to pick her up at the correct time, took pictures at closing ceremonies, even one with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lisa Fernandez. When we were reunited, Shea was still talking to us. So, I guess Pepper was right. It wasn’t that bad. All’s well that ends well and all that, right?

“So what do you think, Shea?” I asked her last night. “You think you could get used to college life? Playing softball at UCLA or some other place?”

“Oh, yeah. Definitely. I can’t wait. That all-you-can eat cafeteria was awesome! And, don’t worry. I saw a bus stop outside the dorm so I can get myself there.”



11252 Willowwood Drive, San Diego, CA 92127

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