Dog days of August…and September
Last week I forgot to put out the recycling bin. But I did make it rain again, and I also saved the delicate economic balance of the world.
Although our grass hasn’t been mowed because we just didn’t have any rain for weeks, I didn’t realize the drought conditions had affected the economy until I heard some teenagers at the beach.
Teen #1: “No rain means nobody’s grass is growing. I haven’t made any money doing yard work this summer. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to mow OUR grass.”
Teen #2: “I told my dad I was out of money. And you know what he said? He told me I should get a job instead of wasting every day at the beach.”
Teen #3: “You’re both lucky. MY parents said if I didn’t have anything to do, I should read a book. At the library. In the SUMMER.”
[Digression: I know just what happened then. As part of the hormonal changes which occur as children approach puberty, usually at about 8 1/2, all parental statements which don’t include the words “allowance increase,” “use my credit card,” or “nice hair” are greeted with a tongue-click, rolled eyes, and an explosive sigh of contemptuous superiority. This is so irresistible to parents that we stay up late several nights a week just thinking of more unreasonable demands. As a public service to parents everywhere, here are a few that never fail:
- Mow a path to your bed because we’ve forgotten what color the carpet is in your room.
- Take the dog for a walk before she dies of old age, lying with her legs crossed at the door, and no, I won’t drive you.
- No. Not even if every other 13-year-old on the planet is allowed to spend the week at the mall/see R-rated movies/date persons with fully-developed secondary sexual characteristics.]
After a moment of silence to acknowledge the appalling lack of parental sensitivity, the teens went on to grieve for the unseen movies, unbought clothes, and unconsumed junk food of the Summer-That-Might-Have-Been. But it wasn’t until they started discussing the latest video game, which none of them had mastered because they couldn’t afford it, that I realized how dire the situation had become.
It’s bad enough if the local entertainment industry fails, but if the video market takes a nosedive, it could radically decrease the trade deficit with China. And without a deficit almost the size of Donald Trump’s pay-off-sexual-partners fund, how can we ask our negotiators to keep a straight face when insisting that China pay increased tariffs or pony up to buy American rice, automobiles, and fast food?
“Duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself.”—Oscar Wilde
As a mother, I’ve always agreed with Oscar. But if I ever wanted my grass to get mowed again, I saw it was my duty to save the deficit, Detroit, the family-farmers using government-subsidized water to create rice paddies in the California desert, and the Big Meal/Big Deal concepts central to our American way of life.
I had to end the drought.
I called some friends who had just arrived from back east, and invited them to a picnic at the local pool. And just to make sure it would pour, I promised we could set up the telescope and watch the Perseid meteor shower at its peak.
Some areas got over two inches of rain.
We arrived home in time to watch the meteor shower on TV, and I realized that astronomers really need to do better PR. Instead of the Hubble Telescope live with Anderson Cooper, they had an excited PBS talk show host (who called them “astromeners”) interviewing science people looking at about six really fuzzy pictures of meteors. The pictures looked just like the ultrasound I had when I was pregnant. They even had little computer arrows pointing to dots, except on our pictures, the dots were labeled “heart” and on their pictures, the dots were called “crater the size of the Earth made by blast more powerful than the entire world’s nuclear arsenal.” They were all very excited.
My kids’ favorite part was when they segued into a discussion of the comet which destroyed the dinosaurs here on Earth. “What would you do if a comet was heading here?”
I thought about it. “Well, you’d still have to walk the dog.” [click-eyeroll-sigh] “And clean your room.” [click-roll-POWERsigh] “But I’d give up flossing, eat movie popcorn with extra salt, and mix stripes with plaids. And then your father and I would go up in our room and… [CLICK-ROLL-SIGH, CLICK-ROLL-SIGH, CLICK!ROLL!SIGH!!!!]
Kids: We’ll be out back mowing the grass until it’s time to go back to school.
Me: Could you just put out the recycling bin first?