Discos, Cargo Bikes, and Naturalists
Friday night I found myself in heels and make up, mingling with other slightly desperate-to-get-out parents. Not just your standard PTA function, no this was a cash bar and disco - with professional DJ and strobe lights in the school hall (you had to squint to pretend you weren't actually hanging out in the cafeteria). Some interesting and some incredibly awkward conversations, but at least I did not shout at people to look at my chewed rib bone. (Remember that???) And by 10 pm, most people were willing to reservedly groove out to the dancing area. Slightly drunk (but not too drunk because "it's a school function"), and slightly hoarse from yelling over the music, it was mostly the moms, in circles, and occasionally a dad would robot through the group. But, you all know that there is nothing reserved about me when I decide to bust a move. Sweet Dreams (oh sweet 80s annie lennox) forced me to declare, "this is my jam," and exit my fourth, We Are New Conversation. I was thinking it felt like junior high, until Cal summed up the evening by saying, "It was like being sober at a high school reunion where you don't know anyone." I was just happy with adequate dancing space and the lack of sweaty 20 somethings.
I did learn that I am affectionately being referred to as, "The Mohican." So, there's that.
By Sunday, we were cruising the white cliffs of Brighton on our Dutch bike rentals. Rock beaches, Brighton Pier, carousels, and lunch at the trendy (and crowded) Bill's. We didn't have a lot of time to explore the streets of Brighton or do much sightseeing, but we did accidentally wander onto a "naturalist" beach. There was a sign, it gave me pause, and in my American thought haze, I determined naturalist just meant conservation - a protected area. Well, it is a protected area - for nude beach goers. Can't say I wasn't warned, right? Of course the kids had run all the way to the water and left us hauling bags and cameras behind them. By the time I spied all the nekkid people (old people - why are all the nudists so advanced in age?) it was far too late to warn my unsuspecting children. Most of the "naturalists" were lounging on towels and chairs, but there was one man, whom I believe, felt it was his duty to stand at the very edge of the boundary, stark naked - whether as an invitation or as a warning, I'll never know, because one look left me headed forever in the opposite direction. Eli casually left the beach for the bikes, ahem, and the girls traveled cautiously back to me, wide eyed, and of course much too loudly they began their analysis, "Did you see those naked people, mom? Did you? I am scarred for life! For life! Did you see? Mom, that was a very old naked man. Where are his clothes?" It all made for a lively discussion on the way home, one that Eli would rather forget, and one I will always remember my little 5 yr old Holland saying, "that was the oldest penis I've ever seen." Welcome to Europe, kids! (Ask your dad about his childhood trip to the Moulin Rouge!)
We actually drove down specifically to test a cargo bike that's difficult to find in the UK, as a potential school commuting solution. Let's be honest, I don't bike much. I'm more of a hiking person. (Or something.) I thought I was doing okay trying to keep us upright and away from cars, despite my wobbly biking-in-traffic cycling skills, but Holland kept shrieking, "I don't feel safe!" To which I replied, "Hey, I only ran into one wall, kid!"
ONE wall and suddenly no one has any confidence in you.
It's a very cool cargo bike (got lots of attention from everyone we passed) but we realized on the way home that it's so long, we have absolutely no place to store it. It won't fit in our fenced in front gate area - you couldn't maneuver it in and out and it's too heavy to lift over the gate. So we are still working on the school commute issue.
Which brings me to this news: I am sitting all alone in our house because ALL of my children are in school. I don't quite know what to do with myself. Well, there are about 15 other things I should be doing, but gimme 20 minutes to just sit here and type uninterrupted. Actually, what I'm really doing is fretting about Eli's first day of school. I think I get as anxious as they do, and Eli is 12, which makes the whole friend thing a bit trickier. He didn't chat incessantly about gaming this morning - a bit too quiet in his too big school blazer, clip-on tie, and shaggy hair. I knew he was nervous. As I walked him to his school this morning we waded through the secondary school crowd and I couldn't help but think all teenagers are thugs -anything they say sounds like an insult. I just wanted to grab every kid I saw by the collar and jerk them in close to whisper, "If you mess with my kid, I will mess you up." I believe it's my nurturing side that initiates these kind of thoughts. But really, Eli is a sensitive nerdy kid, and I find it intimidating that he will be in a school with 17 year olds that have facial hair and questionable morals. (I don't think watching the In Betweeners has helped me prepare for this.) I watched him vanish down the hallway with the Year 8 leader (she's fab btw) with one last reminder to call me as soon as he gets home. He has to walk home alone his first day, which makes me feel like a jerk. Now, let's all bow our heads and say a quick prayer to the lunch gods that he will have someone (someone nice with gaming knowledge) to sit with today. I'm being for real - do it now.