Sausages As A Metaphor For Life


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I know there are all kinds of sexy ideas that could go along with this title, but I don’t mean a single one of them.

I’m talking about actual pork and beef and spices and goodness on your plate kind of sausages.

As a metaphor for the stages of life.

No.  I have not been drinking. Stick with me for a minute.

Way back in time, when Paul and I were very young, we were both in graduate school. We lived in a cozy apartment in Highland Park New Jersey. We both had part time jobs along with our full course loads, but we were really poor. I used to go to the grocery store with a small plastic counter to keep track of how much I was spending. I had coupons, I shopped the sales, and I made very careful weekly meal plans. When my counter got to $35 dollars, I was done shopping.

That’s all there was, there weren’t no more.

It was hard, but this was many years ago, so a dollar went further than it does today. Also, our local pub had fabulous happy hours with free appetizers and two for one drinks. We survived!

Anyway, one night I planned to serve pasta with marinara sauce. Paul wanted to have a sausage in his. I said no. The sausages had been defrosted for the next night! He insisted, saying he’d go meatless the next dinner.

I had a nutty, as I recall. We had a BIG old argument. Big. Furious on both sides.

I think he ate the sausage.

That was long ago. We’ve always joked about the sausage fight, because it summed up so much of what was hard for us at that point in our lives.

Flash forward, way forward, to two days ago.

I no longer carry a clicker in the grocery store. I no longer have to stop shopping at a certain dollar amount.

Now we buy all of our meats and most of our veggies from a local food coop called “MassLocal Foods.”

Food is no longer a problem. But there are other issues popping up at this point in our lives.

Sometimes I tease Paul about his slipping memory. He keeps losing his keys and forgetting to shut doors. Old man!!

I won’t be teasing him anymore, and its all because of a package of sausages.

It was evening, Paul was just home from work. We needed to get organized for a big family reunion that we are attending this weekend. He went out to mow the lawn and I pulled a package of delicious, local, organic sausages out of the freezer for dinner the following night.

Just then Paul called me to come out and help him put away some lawn furniture. I did. First I put the sausages down, then I went out. We puttered around, put things away, and I did a little weeding.

We had a nice evening, a good dinner, and we went to bed. I woke up at 3 AM thinking, “I need to grab those sausages and bring them upstairs.” Then I fell asleep again. I woke up and went through a normal day without EVER remembering the misplaced meats.

Finally, when it was time to cook, I remembered that I had never retrieved the sausages.  I went down to get them. They weren’t there.

Huh?

I looked in the freezer in the garage. I looked all around the garage, on the lawnmower, on the workshelves, even in the folded baby carriage.  Nope.

I looked in the upstairs freezer and in the fridge. Nope. I looked in the oven, the microwave, even in all the drawers. Nope, nope and nope.

I checked bookshelves, underwear drawers, dog beds. Nothin’.

Finally I sat down and googled “Alzheimer’s Disease.”

I texted Paul, just to fess up and give him a laugh. Then I started defrosting another package of sausages (I already had the rolls and wanted my delicious local treat!) I went down to the garage to throw something away and moved a pile of dishes and bowls that I had set aside for our camping trip.

And there they were. The missing sausages. Nestled in one of the plastic bowls and covered, for unknown reasons, by a plate.

Pretty funny, huh?

There are times in life when eating one little sausage seems like the greatest possible indulgence. Then there are times in life when you can buy all the sausages you need, but you keep forgetting where you put them.

 

In The Midnight Hour


I am absolutely not a night owl. At all.

I’m also not really a morning person.

What I am, in my best days, is a “sleep late, take a nap, go to bed early” person.

But every once in a while I find myself awake and alert in the midnight hour. Tonight I went out to dinner and a show with my Mom, my sister and some friends. It was wonderful! Musical theater complete with adorable child actors, incredible voices and a gorgeous set. I don’t do this often enough.

We came out of the theater into a hot, steamy night that was lit by a hazy half moon. I said my good nights and hopped into my car for the very long ride home.

And I turned on NPR and heard about the latest horrific terrorist attack in France. I drove through the night, away from the city and home to my woods. I listened to the news and I worried and steamed and grieved and swore and ruminated.

So helpless. We all feel so helpless in the face of such blind hatred. We don’t know what to do.

I wound my way through the mists that rose from the hot and rainy roads. I followed the moon home.

And now I sit, in the midnight hour. Awake, alert, trying not to let my anger take me over.

In two short weeks, Paul and I will fly to Germany to visit our friends. Our very first trip to “the Continent.” Ordinarily, I’d be filled with anxiety about such a big trip, especially with all of the attacks going on.

But you know what?  This time I don’t give a damn. This time I am sitting in my steamy living room, in the middle of the night, watching that hazy moon set over the trees. I’m thinking about the world.

I’m thinking that I go to bed too early most nights. I miss the midnight hour.  I wake up too late; I usually miss the dawn. I live a life of calm in a quiet little town in the pine forest. I miss the wider world.

So I’m going to fly to Berlin to be with my friends. I’m going to see Germany. I’m going to eat in a big city restaurant and swim in the North Sea.

I’m going to stay up very late, and I’m going to look at the moon over Germany.

And I’m going to completely ignore those hate filled, bitter, angry people who think that they’ll find rescue or release in the deaths of innocents. I’m not letting them get in my mind.

I’m an independent, joyful woman. The clock just struck 1 AM, and I am still awake, still looking at that low lying yellow half moon.4443294004_60127f83be_b

We’re Cooking Now…..


IMG_20160706_151018I just finished a week of teaching a summer camp class called “Cooking Around The World.”

I got home two hours ago. I have already sobbed, taken a soak in the hot tub, washed a load of soaked/greasy/filthy/chocolate covered laundry, washed, dried and put away a load of dishes, eaten a plate of Chinese take out and had two glasses of wine.

My feet are up, the ice pack is on my lower back. It’s 7:45 and I’m struggling to stay awake.

Well. That was fun!

I had two groups of children, a morning class and an afternoon class. Each had 10 kids in it. They ranged in age from 5-12.

The day went something like this:

Arrive at 8:45, find 4 kids and 2 parents waiting in the classroom for the 9 AM class. Chat, smile, pull out apples, potatoes, onions, place on tables. Greet kids, get them seated, take attendance, get ready to explain the day’s recipes.

Smile through: “What are we making? Can I go first? What country is it going to be? Is there bacon? Why don’t we use more cheese? Do you like my stuffed dinosaur? Can we go out to play? When will this be over? I have to pee! Can I chop?”

Hold up hand, use old teacher tricks “If you can hear my voice, clap once.”

Explain the first course. Give out knives. VERY carefully. Explain the plan to fabulous, patient, kind high school volunteers and get them to supervise the potato chopping.

Run madly around the room for the next two hours chopping, mixing, helping kids to pour, mince, shred, slice, sautee and bake. Do the frying myself while looking over one shoulder to give instructions on making bread dough. Intersperse casual conversation with 4th grade future chef to yell, “Get off the chairs! No ice cubes in the oven, please!”

Smile through: “Why does it smell funny? Can I lick the spoon? My mother makes this better. When are we going outside? Can I eat the garlic? I have to pee. When can we eat?”

Finish the frying, wash another giant load of dishes and sweep the floor while the volunteers watch the kids outside. Get everyone seated, serve the food, smile, pat heads.

Start the clean up. Wash more dishes. Dry. Run across the room to put them in the dish pile.

Serve dessert. Make yummy noises. Smile. Send the kids outside again.

Wash dishes, tables, chairs, counters. Get out supplies for the afternoon class.

Call the class back in, smile, thank them. Explain why they can’t take home latkes for all their friends and relations.

Spend my lunch half hour desperately scrubbing, cleaning, putting out bowls, apples, potatoes, onions, knives.

Greet the kids. Repeat the entire process.

Do this for one full week.

Finally get to Friday afternoon and send the kids outside to play ten minutes early so I can clean the ovens, stoves, counters. Drag over the giant overstuffed trash cans that haven’t been emptied for a week and smell like Crap Around The World. Drop one on the top of my left foot. Hop around in circles, sniff back tears, debate about whether or not there’s enough time to put ice on it. Decide to wait on the ice and keep scrubbing. Wrap up last remaining onions, apple dumplings, pizza, chocobananas from the week. Clean out the fridge.

Call everyone in, thank them, greet the parents, limp up to the front door to say goodbye.

Kneel down to receive the world’s most heartfelt hug from the beautiful 5 year old who kisses my cheek and says with complete sincerity:

“I think you should come to our house. I can make you some fry bread.”

Wow. What a week!

 

A gift, a mystery, a puzzle, a charm


389026_4188736874199_1803145186_nI so want to think of myself as a writer. I want to believe that I am one of those who are gifted enough to throw a net around the terrible beauty that is life and capture it for us all to study.

I wish I had that talent. I wish I had the magic that it takes to identify each emotion and name it and hold it up before our eyes. I wish I had what it takes to polish each feeling and rub off the useless fragments on its edges. I would love to believe that someday I’d have the gift of truth in my hand so that I could open my fingers and let everyone understand what it is that exists underneath the confusing mass of tears and laughter.

I wish I could do that.

Right now, though, I have to lower my head into my hands and accept the fact that one single day can hold so much joy and so much pain. I have to let go.

Life is just such a fucking gift. Every day. Every minute.

Today I cooked with 20 little children. Some were there because they want to learn more about cooking. Some were there because their parents have to work and this was a safe and fun place for them to spend a summer day. Some were tired. Some were sad. Most, though, were filled with the innate joy that is childhood in a safe place. They laughed, they joked, they asked me 20,000 questions. They shouted, “Me! Can I? I’ll do it!!! I’ll go first!!!” They smiled at me, they thanked me, they complimented me on my cuisine, my gray hair, my “Best Nonni” apron.

Today was joy.

It was also 95 degrees while I was frying felafel and making pita bread. I sweated so much in the first hour that when I raised my arms to push my hair back, I wondered who had brought in the goats and why thay smelled so bad.

I was exhausted. My legs hurt from standing for 7 1/2 hours. My back hurt from leaning over the table to show them how to mince, stir, knead. My arm hurt from stirring.

By the time I got home and stepped into a cool shower, I was feeling sort of sorry for myself.

Then my husband came home. He looked upset. I asked what was up.

He told me that one of our oldest friends just lost her daughter, very suddenly.

What? The young woman who died (What? DIED????) was the first baby that any one of our friends had. We’ve known her for her entire life. She was vibrant, alive. A young Mom. A teacher.

Everything changed then.

How is such a thing possible?

What the hell does life even mean if something like this can happen?

Overwhelmed with grief for our friends. Desperately wanting to hold each of my children. Wanting to tell them how much I love and need them.

How can life do this? How can God?

I don’t understand.

I certainly don’t understand well enough to write anything that can help to make sense of a day like this one.

All I know is that every goddamned day is a GIFT. And we have to embrace each one. Every hot, sunny, humid moment is a gift. Every baby girl covering herself with butter to express her desire for a nap is a gift.

Every rainy, cold, boring afternoon is a gift.

Every aching muscle is a reminder that you’re alive to feel it. Every night of insomnia is a night of time to think and remember and dream.

And every single phone call or text from a child, no matter what the reason, is a gift from the Gods of the loving universe.

Tonight I go to bed achy, sad, joyful, grateful, grieving.

I wish that I could cover it all more eloquently, but I can’t.

Life is both a gift and a mystery. Let’s just embrace that.

Quintessentially American


Last week I taught a summer class in Improvisational Theater. The kids ranged in age from 7 to 9.

It was a hoot, let me tell you.

I had 9 students, divided between my morning and afternoon classes. Out of the 9, 4 were of Indian descent, with Indian born parents. Two were Chinese, and one was Russian. One child was from the UK, with a Scottish mom and a Welsh Dad.

It was a hilariously eclectic group of little ones acting out silly scenes like “Fashion Show!” or “Horse Race.”  They danced, pranced, twirled and acted. Some of them were excited and proud, but some felt completely embarrassed and out of their element.

My job was to encourage, to prompt, to help them to laugh at themselves and let go of their fears.

Other than the fact that on the last day I threw my back out trying to prance down the fashion show stage, I had a wonderful week.

Children were chatting with me, smiling at me, asking me questions about life. I loved it.

But our last day fell on July 1st. I had to ask the kids what they had planned for the most American of holidays.

They answered with so much joy, and such a level of excitement. I sat there, listening to the mingled accents from around the world, looking into the beautiful shining eyes of the kids. The American kids.

“We are going to the beach with our cousins!”

“We are going to the lake, and then having a cook out!”

“My family will barbecue! Hot dogs, cheeseburgers and good chicken!”

“My Dad says that we will use sparklers after dinner. We are going to have a fire in our back yard. With marshmallows!”

These children are America.

Their joy as they talked about s’mores and burgers and watermelon and fireworks; this is the joy of our country.

I looked into the beautiful brown eyes of those Indian children, warmed by the warmth that I saw there. I shared a grin with my Chinese students, moved by the sincerity with which they planned those barbecues.

I smiled with my blue eyed Russian student and her British pal.

This is America. All of these eyes, all of these smiles, all of these accents.

All of these lovely children planning to celebrate the fourth of July with the rest of our nation.

Happy Independence Day. Welcome, everyone. Everyone.

Welcome, beautiful children.

A Teacher At Night


Oh, holy Lord…….

I remember that when I was teaching it often felt as if I spent 10 hours planning for 4 hours of teaching.

I remember feeling that the morning was like being on the runway. Getting ready to fly.

Thinking about the kids, planning how to group them. Picturing which kids would instantly succeed and which would struggle . Counting out the sets of cups, spoons, salt shakers, tins, dishes and hand lenses to arrange on the back table.

Thinking about the kids. Copying the checklists to match the lesson. Double checking the colored pencils.

Thinking about the kids. Making a list of vocabulary to give to the ELE students. Finding some pages of extension work for those who would finish quickly.

Just thinking about the kids.

And all that planning would find its fruition in the moment when the kids came through the door, smiling, frowning, teary, giggly, pale, ruddy, eager, shy…….They would appear and I would flip that internal switch to “on.” The day would begin, with me on stage, and I would coach, coax, encourage, stop, redirect, prompt, caution, cheer, lead, follow, observe, record and silently celebrate every students’ accomplishments.

I would be thinking about the kids.

And I remember that after the day was over, and the last child had gone home, I would spend hours filing, washing, emailing, copying, cutting, displaying, correcting, and planning for the next full day.

And thinking about the kids.

Now here I sit, more than halfway through a one week drama camp for little students. I am planning for tomorrow, checking my list of props, hanging up a reminder to bring my fan to our stifling upstairs classroom.

I am thinking about the kids. I have met them all, and have smiled at each one and made all of them laugh. I won’t ever get to know them, though; this is after all only one short week of 3 hour classes. By the time they put on their first day of school outfits, these children will have forgotten me.

Yet I sit here writing out plans for the morning, checking my online sources for ideas.

Thinking about the kids.

Wearing My Own Skin.


Guess what?

I was a teacher today!

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My old self……

Actually, I’m going to be a teacher every day for the next 2 weeks, and maybe for a couple more after that.

It isn’t really teaching teaching, because there is no curriculum or academic work. I don’t need to test anyone or keep careful records or anything. But it still felt good.

No. It felt great.

It felt like I had put on my own skin again and walked right back into my world.

In the district where I taught for 22 years, there is a fabulous summer program for elementary aged kids. The teachers run classes that we think would be fun and the schools advertise them in the spring.

One friend of mine is teaching “Sculpey charms” so she is spending the week with a small group of girls who are making art out of clay.

I’ve seen classes in “Wizarding”, “The Science of Building”, “Baking with Books” and even “On Broadway.” Its pure fun.

This week I am teaching “Improv Theater” and next week will be “Cooking Around the World.”

See? No state tests!

But here’s the funny thing. When I walked into the school building this morning and entered the classroom, I was swept right in my old familiar role. I became my old teacher self.

Without any effort at all, without even thinkings, I welcomed my group of five young children, smiled, laughed, and put them all at ease. I created a circle, set some expectations and we took off. The kids, I’m sure, thought that we were all playing games. They most likely thought of it as silliness and fun. Certainly not real school.

I coaxed a bit, I set some limits, I adapted as we went.

It was so easy and familiar. I felt like I was wearing my own skin.

There was no testing. There were no standards. No one was observing me or the kids.

But guess what?

I was a teacher today!

And that means that tonight, as I sit here and look forward to tomorrow, I can tell you this about “my” kids, with whom I spent 3 hours.

Two are more visual than auditory. One has auditory memory and sequencing concerns. One misses social cues because of internal distraction and because he hyperfocuses on small details. One struggles with nuances of language, but is quick to ask for clarification.

As a group, they do best with a lot of clear, frequent positive feedback and very concrete expectations and goals.  As a group, they will get the most out of the week of “fun” if I can gently coax each of them to take a few steps outside of their comfort zone.

I could go on, but I need to do some quick planning for the week, based on what I learned by observing and assessing today.

In an age of data, data and more data, isn’t it refreshing to see that a teacher can step right back into her old skin and do a real evaluation of student learning even without a bubble sheet?

 

A Sad Goodbye


It feels like a goodbye.

I know, I know.  Ellie lives ten minutes away. I understand, I have no reason to grieve. Her Momma and I really do enjoy each other’s company, and I know that we will see each other all summer.

I get it.

Don’t shake your head and say, “What the hell is this old woman complaining about?”

I’m not complaining.

I’m just…..processing?

You see, for 30 years my work life was governed by the academic calendar. A new and exciting adventure began each September. Every June meant the end of a community, the end of very special relationships with kids.

And for about 19 years before that, I was one of the students who defined life by the beginning and ending of the academic year.

So the fact that this school year has ended is a very poignant and very powerful event for me. Except……I don’t have the usual markers to acknowledge and celebrate the event. No end of year conferences where I get to look into the eyes of each student and tell them what they meant to me. No last class play where some of the jokes were only between the kids and me.

No thank you gifts. No graduation. No good bye slide show made by me for the kids in my room; made with tissues in hand and a lot of quiet sobs.

This year just ended.

Ellie will have the overwhelming joy of spending every single day with her incredibly devoted Mommy and Daddy. Her routine will be their’s. Her hugs will be for them. They’ll sing the songs that rock her to sleep.

So stop right there. You don’t need to tell me that this is exactly how it should be. I know that!  I celebrate it! I love my daughter more than my next breath; I want her memories of summer with her babies to be just as sweet and as long and as challenging as mine were.  I happily give her back the reins.

But after they went home tonight, I got out my tissues and I quietly cried as I put away the high chair and the playpen.

I’ll see my Ellie in a few short days. In a matter of weeks, I’ll have her with me again.

But it won’t be the same. She won’t be my very first newborn grandchild. I mourn the end of the very special gift that was this past year.

Oh, don’t you yell at me! I know!

I am more blessed and more lucky than anyone anywhere has ever been. I know that.

But I’m sure gonna miss breakfast with my Ellie bean for the next few weeks…….

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Dads


Its Father’s Day Eve. My husband has headed off to bed, but I am sitting here on this warm summer evening. Still awake. Still thinking.

Sort of ruminating on the theme of “Father’s Day.”

I remember making little gifts for my own Dad. The first man I ever loved. The man with the smiling brown eyes and the Saturday morning pancakes and the pencil over his ear. My Dad.

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Who could ever match his perfect Dadness?

My husband, that’s who. The man who so tenderly cradled our children in his arms. The guy who had to ask me how to pull a little girl’s tights up her legs. The person who thought that “Hamburger Helper” was a good enough dinner when Mom was out for the evening.

My husband. My partner. Dad to our three kids. He sends sports texts to Tim, hiking info to Matt, liberal political memes to Kate.

The man who jumped up from a deep sleep, keys already in hand, when he heard our daughter say to her husband in the tent beside his, “Honey, my water just broke.”

This guy. This gentle soul. This Grampa.  He’s has matched my Dad’s core of Dadness.

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Grampa and Ellie

So great! Who could possibly match that?

The other morning, pretty early, I woke up and had my coffee. I drove to my daughter’s house to pick up the baby for the day. My son-in-law came out with the day’s supply of bottles and the baby in her carseat.

We sort of grunted a vague good morning at each other, and he popped the carseat into my back seat. I was ready to head home for more coffee and some breakfast, and I barely made time to chat. I stood by the open driver’s side door, ready to hop in and get home.

What was taking so long?

I looked through the back window. I couldn’t see my son-in-law, but I could see the baby. I saw his hand reach in and gently, softly stroke across her cheek. I saw her gazing up at him with her huge brown eyes. I heard his voice, murmuring something softly.  Again, his big hand reached in and caressed her hair, her cheek.

Then he stood up, said, “See you later” to me, and headed back into the house.

I got in the car, and I drove my granddaughter to my house. On the way, I said to her, “You are such a lucky girl! Your Daddy loves you so much!”

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Sam and Ellie

Happy Father’s Day to all of you wonderful, patient, loving Dads. We are so lucky to have you!

 

For Orlando and Aurora and Newtown and Littleton …….


 

I wrote this short story three years ago. I posted it then, and I felt better.  So I’m going to post it again tonight. I’m doing it because I was on Facebook and Twitter. And I am disgusted and disheartened by what Americans are saying to each other.

“Ban the Muslims, keep the guns.”   

“My automatic weapon didn’t kill anyone today.”

“What don’t you understand about the 2nd Amendment?”

So. I am so man and so frustrated.  This story is my fantasy. I wish I had the courage to really do it.  If you like the story, pass it on. Maybe we’ll all feel better.

 

“Righteous Anger”

It was Friday afternoon, an hour after the last kid had gotten on the last bus.  I was packing up some weekend work when my best friend, Betsy, popped her head into my classroom.

“Glass of wine before we head home?”, she asked hopefully. Before I knew it, we  were seated at a table at Joe’s, a bowl of popcorn chicken bits in front of us, matching glasses of white wine in our hands.  We started off talking about the week, as usual.  Which kids were having trouble with the math, which kids were way behind in their reading and which parents were driving us nuts.  We sipped and laughed and ignored the calories we were scarfing down in those greasy little blobs of chicken fat.

It was a typical Friday evening.

Then the news came on.  We were sitting across from the bar, and the screen was in full view. We didn’t pay too much attention to the first couple of stories, but suddenly the screen was filled with the smirking face of Warren LaDouche, head of the American Gun Owners Gang.  As usual, he was managing to keep a straight face as he somberly explained all of the reasons why it was necessary to arm public school teachers.  I don’t know how he manages to avoid breaking into gales of maniacal laughter when he says things like, “If every teacher were armed and ready, they would be able to respond to these attackers in a timely manner.”

Betsy grimaced, and took a healthy slug of her wine as LaDouche  went on with fake sincerity, elaborating on his plan to have armed guards standing at recess and loaded guns in every classroom.

“This guy is just sick!”, Betsy hissed, leaning forward across the table so far that she almost landed in the chicken bits.  “I know!”, I hissed back.  “I cannot believe that  NO one out there is calling him out for this crap!”

“Its so obvious that AGOG just wants to sell more and more guns! They don’t give a damn who dies in the process!”

“Everyone knows that they are paid for and supported by the gun manufacturing companies.  But the government just refuses to stand up to them!”

“I can’t believe that people are listening to this crap! They are actually thinking about making us carry guns instead of making the damn things illegal and getting them off the streets!”

We sat there for a while longer, sipping, eating, listening to the bullshit coming from the screen.  The wine ran out just as the news report came to an end. We had lost our happy Friday night mood by then, and we were quiet as we paid the bill and headed out to our cars. I threw my purse onto the seat and turned to give Betsy a hug goodbye.

Uh, oh.  I knew that look.  Betsy was frowning and puffing out her lips in deep thought.  She twirled one lock of greying hair around her finger in what I knew was a sign of concentration.

“Bets,” I began, but she put her fists on her ample hips and launched right in, like she always does.

“What if we do something ourselves?  What if we take some kind of action that just cannot be ignored?  I mean, this is just not right!  I refuse to carry a rifle in my classroom!”

The image of Betsy, armed and dangerous, almost made me laugh, but I knew better.  She was serious, and she was mad.  And she was my best friend.

I sighed, and said, “I don’t know what we could do, hon.  But if you think of something, you know I’m right there with you! I’ve got your back. Have a good weekend.”

By the time I got home and started dinner, I had all but forgotten the press conference and the conversation after it.  My husband came home. We had dinner and talked and then I settled down on the couch with my knitting.

It must have been about 10 pm when my phone suddenly rang.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am usually out cold by 10 pm on a Friday, and I was in fact already under the covers when the call came in.  I would have ignored it, but I always keep my phone close by in case my kids need to reach me.  I picked it up, located my bifocals, and saw Betsy’s name on the screen.  What on earth…..?

“Hey, Betsy!  What’s wrong?”

“I have a plan. Don’t say anything, don’t argue, just listen to me.”

I took a deep breath, settled back on my pillows, and listened to her.

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And that’s why I found myself on my couch two days later, my laptop open and my credit card in hand.  My heart was hammering away, and I could feel nervous sweat pooling under my arms.  I had gone to several web sites to find the best deals, and now I was ready to order.

“It’s perfectly legal”, I told myself as I got ready to click “Add to cart”.  The fact that what I was about to do was legal was the root of the whole problem.  I sat up straight, gulped, and hit the button.

As promised, my purchase arrived within a week.  I read the little “how to” pamphlet that came with the packages, and called Betsy to see if she had read hers.

“Sarah, this is ridiculously easy!! I can’t wait to try them out.”

“What?!  You can’t try them out!  Betsy, don’t!”

“Oh, I’ll be careful…..”

“Betsy! No! You’re the one who made up the plan! You said we’d wait until the last minute so no one would know!”

She grumbled a little, then gave a sigh.

“OK. Then I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

The next morning, early, I kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek, and grabbed my very heavy bag.  I placed it carefully in the back seat of my car, and headed out to pick up Betsy at her house.  I had told my husband that I would be away for the next few days, the first part of April vacation, relaxing with my dear friend.  I had lied.

After Betsy placed her own very heavy bag in my trunk, we headed onto the highway.  As we headed south, she reached over and squeezed my hand.

“We are doing the right thing, Sara.  Someone has to do this. They haven’t left us any choice.”   I nodded, but kept my eyes on the road in front of me.

We reached our destination without any problems, in just under 5 hours. We parked on the street across from the surprisingly modest house.  We waited.  We ate the last few M&M’s in the bag between us.

“I need to pee.”, I complained.

“Hold on, hold on.  He’ll be here soon, I’m sure.  I called his secretary this morning, remember? I told her we wanted an interview, and she said his last appointment today was at 4.”

“What if he goes out to dinner?”

“Oh, just hold it, will you?  Sheesh. You’re a teacher, for God’s sake. You can hold off for hours.”

Just as I sat back to wait, a big gray car pulled into the driveway.

“It’s him!”  Betsy clutched her chest, breathing hard. “Oh, my God, oh, my God!”

“Calm down!  We have to get over there, quick!”

We piled out of the car, straightening our skirts and pulling down the backs of our sweaters.  As we hustled across the street in our sturdy Dansko clogs, each of had a big “teacher bag” over one shoulder.

We looked like two middle aged elementary school teachers. Because that’s what we were.

We were also two angry old ladies on a mission.

And we were armed.

As we approached his driveway, Warren LaDouche cast a wary glance over his shoulder.  I smiled with every ounce of fake cheer I could muster.

“Oh, my goodness, Betsy, you were right!”, I squealed, “It really IS Warren LaDouche!”  I waved my free hand as I scurried up the long drive.

“Mr. LaDouche!  Oh, my goodness!  Please, can we have your autograph!” That was Betsy, huffing and puffing with excitement as she hurried up behind me.

Just as we had predicted, ole Warren was so full of self-appreciation that he fell for our story right away.  What could be less threatening than a couple of chubby older ladies? He smiled at us, showing yellowing, uneven teeth.

“Can we have your autograph? Please? We’re teachers!  We’ll just be so excited to show your signature to our friends back at school! You’re, like, the hero of the schools!” As we chirped and fluttered around the smiling man, we had maneuvered him closer to his back door, and the car was now between us and the neighbors.  It was nearly dark, and we knew that there was very little chance that anyone would see what was about to happen.

I gave the signal that we had agreed upon. “Let me just grab a pen from my bag!”

Warren still stood there smiling as Betsy and I simultaneously reached into those big canvas bags and pulled out the semiautomatic handguns that we had purchased on line.  Mine felt like it weighed a thousand pounds as I swung it up into the shooting position that I had seen in the pamphlet.  My arm hurt already, and I was pretty sure that I was about to have a heart attack and wet my pants, all at the same time.

“Open the door and walk inside, Warren.”  Betsy sounded slightly less panicked than I felt, but I knew that this was the key moment. If he believed us, we could pull this off.  If he laughed in our faces, it was all for nothing.

The thought of having spent almost $2,000 for nothing sent a jolt through me.  The thought of this man allowing ever more deadly guns to be brought into our schools sent a wave of rage right behind it.

I surprised myself by jabbing the muzzle of the gun right into Warren’s pudgy midsection.

“Open the damn door, Warren.  NOW!”

He was breathing fast, and his beady eyes were scanning the street, but Warren reached for the door.  He inserted a key and took a step.  I kept the gun firm against his waistline.

“You two have no idea what you’re doing.”  I was gratified to hear that Warren’s voice was shaking.

“Oh, you’re wrong, LaDouche.  We followed AGOG’s advice to the letter.  We have our guns, two bags full of ammo magazines and all the time in the world.  You were right! It does make us feel more powerful to have these things in our hands.”

As we had planned, I held the gun on Warren while Betsy checked him for weapons (ew…..).  We were slightly amazed to find that he was carrying a handgun under his jacket!  Yikes!!!  He hadn’t even tried to reach it!  We exchanged a look of terror as Betsy emptied the chamber and put the gun in her bag.  I pushed Warren into a kitchen chair, then Betsy pulled his arms behind his back, and attached him firmly with two pairs of handcuffs (also purchased on line without a problem).

We stood looking at each other, our eyes huge, our mouths hanging open.

I was still flooded with adrenaline, but I was starting to shake.

Betsy dropped into a chair that matched Warren’s, her gun clanking against the table.

I suddenly remembered my earlier problem, and gasped, “Betsy!  Keep the gun on him!  I gotta go!”

Somehow, I managed to find the bathroom and use it without shooting myself.  I washed my face and made my way back to the kitchen.

Warren was sitting quietly, looking steadily at Betsy’s gun.  He looked smaller cuffed to his kitchen chair than he had on TV.

For a moment, I just stood there.  All three of us seemed slightly stunned by the events of the day.  But time was moving on, and I knew that we had a lot to do.  I gave myself a little mental head slap, and turned to Betsy.

“OK, kiddo. Get the iPad out.”  She looked at me blankly for a minute, then smiled.  Betsy loves new technology, in spite of her age, and she was excited about the video we were about to make.

We spent a few minutes arranging the items on Warren’s kitchen table, finding a good spot to prop the iPad so that the sound and visual quality would be as clear as possible.   We sat ourselves at the table, with Warren in view behind us.  We had explained our plan to him, and that’s when he had finally come out of his stupor.

“You stupid bitches!”, he had snarled, “You can’t do this!  No one will believe you.  You can never outmaneuver AGOG!”  We finally had an excuse to do what we had been hoping to do all along.  We were teachers. We had been teaching ten year olds to recognize and appreciate symbolism in literature.

We gagged ole Warren with an ugly green dishtowel. How’s that for a metaphor?

At last we were ready to go.

Betsy started the recorder and I began.

“Hello, my name is Sara Williamson, and this is Betsy Manchester. We are elementary school teachers with the Braxton Public Schools.  We are armed.”  (The camera cut to the two guns, and the huge pile of ammunition clips and magazines beside them.)

“We have just kidnapped Mr. Warren LaDouche, chairman and spokesperson for the American Gun Owners Gang, commonly known as AGOG.”  (Betsy moved the iPad camera to Warren, who by now looked both ridiculous and apoplectic.)

“This…….man…..is trying to convince the American people that we will all be safer if we allow every citizen to own as many weapons as he can carry.  He wants you to believe that by carrying a weapon, you’ll be protecting yourself from so called bad guys.”

I held up the gun and clip that we had taken from Warren in the kitchen.

“Well, he was carrying this when we grabbed him.  We pulled out our guns before he pulled out his, and that was the end of his resistance.

Being armed with a dangerous weapon did not do one single thing to keep Warren here any safer.  As you can see, we took his gun away, and now he’s handcuffed to a chair.  We can shoot him time we want to.”

That last line made me gulp a bit, but I grimly went on.  Betsy was handling the filming, saving each clip and keeping the camera pointed accurately.

“Ladies and gentleman, you can see that Warren LaDouche and his friends at AGOG are full of….” I paused to find a proper word.  After all, I am a teacher of young children.  “Full of horse manure.  They are lying to you.”

“Let’s think about background checks, shall we?  AGOG and its supporters feel that there should be fewer required background checks.  We are here to tell you that even the ones we have now are not anywhere close to sufficient.”

I held my gun up to the camera and said, “No background check can keep you safe if guns like these are out there in public.  We bought ours from a licensed gun dealer online.  We both went through the required background checks.  We passed with flying colors. You see, we have no criminal history and we have never been diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness.”

Now I stood up, gun in hand, and walked over to Warren.  I pointed a shaking finger at him.

“This man wants you to believe that we should bring guns into our classrooms!  He wants you to believe that we can kids keep safe, we can keep our families safe, we can keep our movie theaters and grocery stores and neighborhoods safe as long as there are guns flooding all those places.  As long as we run background checks to look for criminals who intend to do harm.”

I was working up a head of steam now, thinking about the little ones in my classroom, thinking about those babies at Newtown, thinking about Aurora and Columbine and the streets of every city in the nation.  I held up my gun one more time.

“I’m here to tell you, right now, that more guns will NOT keep you safe.  Background checks will NOT keep you safe.  Anyone can get mad enough and desperate enough to use one of those guns for its intended purpose.  Even two aging fifth grade teachers can get angry enough to buy guns and use them to kidnap and threaten someone they hate. We passed the checks, we paid our money, we bought these guns legally.  And we can use them right this minute to blow Warren LaDouche to bits.

Think about that when you consider whether or not we need to ban guns like the ones that my friend and I are holding right now.”

I nodded my head to Betsy, and the camera went off.   I started to cry.  Betsy came over and put her arms around me.  We held each other for a few minutes as we cried.  Our guns lay forgotten on the kitchen floor.

Three hours later, Betsy and I walked into the police station in Warren’s home town.  We had spent the time at a local Starbuck’s, fueling up on lattes and scones.  Betsy had spliced and edited the movie clips into one short film, running for about two minutes in length.  Then we had uploaded it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter. We had emailed copies to all of the major news outlets, including CNN.  We finished our drinks, ate the last crumbs of our last desserts as free women, and headed out the door.

As we entered the police station, we were recognized almost immediately.  We held our heads up high as the buzz raged around us, and the Captain was summoned.  We remained silent as we handed him our note, giving the location of one angry but unharmed Warren LaDouche and telling him that our guns were unloaded and stored in the trunk of the car. After he had read the note, the Captain scratched his head, told his men to go get the guns and free LaDouche.  Then he escorted us, fairly politely, into his office.

“Weren’t you ladies scared about what you did?  Aren’t you worried about the consequences?”

I gave him a withering look, and smoothed out my wrinkled skirt.

“Captain, we teach fifth grade.  Nothing scares us.”