It was Thursday morning and the Homewood Suites free breakfast buffet in Charlottesville, Virginia was hopping. Somehow, someway, even on day five of our U.S. history tour, the self-serve waffle-maker hadn’t lost its luster.
Three of us were positioned near the center of the newly renovated dining area at a high-top table; me with my laptop and my young sons on either side of me with their By the Great Horn Spoon tests (optimal test taking environment - I’m sure this is exactly what their teachers had in mind when I asked them to sign the independent study form and compile their assignments for the week). My parents were seated at a table directly behind the boys and me, and my husband was seated alone with his laptop in the furthermost corner of the dining room.
“Togetherness” without all the pressure of being “together”.
I caught eyes, for the fourth time, with a woman who had almost settled her four children into the seats of a nearby table. They looked like they ranged in age from not-yet-one to six. Her husband was tending to the youngest.
“Do you home school?” She asked me as she took her own seat.
“No,” I smiled back. “We’re doing home study for the week because we’re traveling,” I told her. “I don’t think I could handle doing it full time.”
“I think that every single day.” Twenty-first century, adult Laura Ingalls Wilder gave me a small smile as she turned her attention toward her table.
I smiled a “pretend-knowing-smile” at her. Yes, I am a mom – like her. But of two – not four. And my two are the same age. And they started pre-school, and were delivered there by our nanny, at age three.
My eyes returned to my laptop screen but my mind continued to wander.
We could be friends, Laura and I. She’s self-deprecating, one of my very favorite qualities in a person. I could wear long denim skirts like her. She probably doesn’t drink but we could just hang out during the day, until around four on Fridays.
I wonder what her husband does. Maybe he’s in the military. His hair is short.
I bet they pray all the time. I wonder what they pray for?
I glanced back over at my new best friend. She was staring out the window with a far-away look in her eyes.
Maybe not more babies.
“Lizzie, are you listening to this?”
My six and half foot, 73 year-old father was now standing right behind me, bellowing.
From the very beginning of time, Dick Bell has been loud. And over time, he has become increasingly deaf. His left ear is completely dead and his right ear is partially dead, though he does wear a hearing aid in that ear that may or may not be running on live batteries. He also has a condition that my mother calls “selective hearing”. All of this deafness has equated to more loudness.
I didn’t immediately look up from my laptop.
Two can play at this game.
"Boo-boo, I'm supposed to be the deaf one."
“Boo-boo, are you watching this?”
He kept getting louder. I looked over at Nick and we shared a smile.
I then looked up at the giant monitor mounted high above the fireplace. Whoever hung it was instructed to take full advantage of the vaulted ceilings. I saw what my father so desperately needed my attention for: a Today Show concert. The sound was low but Closed Captioning was on. I didn’t recognize the group.
“Boo-boo, do you know them?”
“No, Dad. I have no idea who they are.” I did feel a little old and out-of-it saying the words but it was what it was.
Now Vince and Nick’s eyes were locked on the screen.
“Look at his hair. What’s up with his hair, mommy?” Vince asked.
“He’s an artist. Get back to your test.”
I clicked open an email from my intern.
“YOUR ARM BE SWEAT-ING…” My dad’s voice boomed from behind me.
What the fuck?
“AND YOU DE-CEPT ME, BA-BY?”
He may as well have been standing on a soap box with a freaking bullhorn.
I looked up. My father was reading the Closed Caption text at the bottom of the monitor aloud, presumably to all Homewood Suites guests currently taking advantage of the free breakfast buffet.
I turned around and grabbed his arm. I looked up at him from my stool.
“Dad, what are you doing? Stop… Please… Be quiet. You’re soooo looouuud.” I tried to whisper-yell to get him to bring it down a few decibels…like that has ever worked…with him or my children.
“That’s not even a word,” Dick Bell continued. "'DE-CEPT' is not a word, Vince and Nick.”
Vince and Nick were now howling with laughter which meant my Dad had an audience and I was completely wasting my breath.
“YOUR ARM BE SWEAT-ING AND YOU DE-CEPT ME, BA-BY? What does that even mean?” Dick Bell directed his question to no one in particular as he stood, completely dumbfounded, in the center of the dining room.
I looked past my dad at my mom whose eyes didn’t leave her crossword puzzle.
I looked around the room, locking eyes with several hotel guests. I was not met with a single “knowing smile” or even a “pretend knowing smile”.
Finally, I turned around and looked over at Laura who was already looking at me. I don’t know if hers was a look of confusion or disappointment but I did know then that it was highly unlikely that we would one day be friends.
The below is a link to the performance my father so enjoyed. The band is called The Weeknd. No, that is not a typo. I did not drop that last “e”. They are apparently deeply committed to both song-making and wordsmith-ing. They were performing their hit song Earned It from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack to promote the film’s DVD release.
And in case you don’t believe me: