Did someone say bowling?

In an effort to give all those near and dear to me a reason to survive the recent holidays, I announced that I would be having a bowling party. The fact that the end of the holidays landed on my birthday was merely a coincidence resulting in several bottles of wine and other lovely gifts. It was not the intent, but it’s hard to find fault with the result.

It was casual and not very well thought out; I simply posted a cute picture of some bowling pins on Facebook and told anyone who wanted to come, they could. I called a bowling alley near me and asked how one might go about doing this, because the last time I did it was for someone turning eight.

Turns out there is such a thing as an adult bowling party, and I was having one. I called it Superbowl 2017 because I was certain the name wasn’t already taken.

Bowling Alley Dude cut me a great deal when I told him there might be as many as 20 people. He just asked that I call the day before and confirm the numbers. I called the day before and told him we were up to 40. It appears bowling is one of those secret things everybody likes to do but never admits to, like reading their horoscope or watching Judge Judy.

I am a terrible bowler. Worse than that, I’m an embarrassing bowler. But the beauty of bowling is that no matter how badly you suck at it, you have fun. Sometimes the fun comes from laughing at watching people like me bowl.

When I got to the alley, Bowling Dude handed me a stack of white papers and told me to have everyone make up teams of six. I looked around the crowded, dark alley and saw all these people I knew who didn’t know each other. I instructed them to make themselves into teams.

This was fairly easy for my sisters and my kids and their friends, but there were many there who only knew me. I found out later that was indeed how most people got acquainted.

“So, how do you know Lorraine?” they asked.

As I watched strangers cheer each other on throughout the night, I realized there are far worse ways to form friendships, even ones that only last a few hours.

I watched Ari and his friends sharing pitchers of beer – sad to say, they’d made me their designated driver for the night – and bowl with the enthusiasm and ease of still having all their original parts. I watched other friends consider their replaced hips or wobbly knees and wonder how much this was going to hurt in the morning.

I had youth on my team: some kids the same age as my sons, as well as a couple of friends of my own. Our scores were all within a few points of each other; one lad laughed that it was like all of us trying to be the tallest gnome. Nobody broke 100, and I don’t think anyone broke a sweat. But we laughed and we applauded and watched similar score sheets across the eight lanes that were hosting my party.

People met my sisters, their families, and my high school English teacher. They met my co-workers and some grade school friends. They met car industry people, and people I’d worked with 30 years ago. They met a couple I’d met by writing about their daughter, and a man I wrote about last year.

Not everybody bowled, but everyone participated.

Next year the invite will again stand open. Cheap, cheerful and inclusive.

Bet we get more than 40.

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That time I made something awful. No, the other time

Ari’s girlfriend, Taryn, is very much the cook around here.

I’ve had to put a special set of shelves in the kitchen just to hold the various equipment she requires to feed us. Rice cooker, wok, food processor and many other things that mystify me occupy this space.

She bought a mortar and pestle in the summer; this I did recognize, and was happy. I’d always wanted one to smoosh spices with. The other night I eyeballed it, sitting there on the shelf, neglected, and thought I’d surprise her with dessert.

“Taryn, do you want dessert?” I yelled up the stairs.

“Yes,” she replied.

This is what I like about Taryn. Ari would have first ignored me, then asked what it was, then asked for something different, then told me how to make it. Taryn just said yes.

Before you think Motherlode has fallen off some kind of wagon and bumped her head, I have not started making recipes that result in dessert. Imagine, instead, something a 6-year-old would invent. Now that we have the bar where it should be, this is what I made for Taryn.

I chopped up a banana, dumped some chocolate pudding on it, smashed some peanuts in the mortar and pestle and put the peanut crumbs all over it. Thing looked so fabulous, I made one for myself. It’s not exactly “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” but at least I used up two bananas before they went bad.

I delivered Taryn’s to her and she made appropriate little appreciative noises because, as everyone knows, it’s kind of hard to go wrong with chocolate, peanut and bananas, even if you’re me. I took mine off to bed to fire up some Netflix and be all decadent.

After a few bites, I realized something was off. Then I realized something was wrong. Then I realized something was very, very wrong. My mouth was burning. I bolted back to the rec room and looked at Taryn. Her eyes were wide, and she had suspended partaking of her fabulous dessert.

“I tried to just scrape the peanuts off,” she explained, quietly.

Such a trooper.

When we first got the mortar and pestle, it sat on the counter for a day or two, as we debated what we should bash in it first. Dried rosemary seemed like a given, but we were still using a lot of fresh herbs from the garden that didn’t require much smashing.

We also grew a lot of hot peppers this year. Tons of very, very hot peppers. Once they started growing, they never stopped. We had hundreds. We were putting hot peppers into everything but still, we were pulling more every day.

Taryn decided to make her own hot pepper sauce but noticed that even with gloves on, all the chopping was a chore. She didn’t have a food processor yet, and of course I’d forgotten that I have one, used only once, still in its original box on the shelf behind the Christmas decorations.

We used the mortar and pestle for scorpion peppers. It was washed and dried and put away. Four months later, it was the scene of a peanut crime that led to what was quite possibly the worst dessert in culinary history.

It wasn’t a serendipitous discovery, nor a celebration of finding that elusive new flavour that will be named after you. It was a cheap chocolate peanut and banana fire in my mouth.

The thing now sits on the counter, glowering at me. Or smirking, I’m not quite sure. I no longer trust what it holds deep in its marbled veins.

Taryn has asked me to stop experimenting.

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My children do exist. Now I have proof

You’d think in this time of pictures, pictures everywhere that I would be inundated with moments of, or even with, my sons.

Stacks of their childhood photos are jammed in boxes and bins and albums all over, until they mysteriously seem to peter out somewhere in their teenage years.

famThe sad fact is, when I go on trips and everyone is eagerly passing around their phones showing off their darling kids, I’m scrolling through dozens and dozens of pictures of my cats refusing to admit that they all look the same. While someone is showing me a photo of their 4-year-old, I can only show them a shot of Christer when he was four — 21 years ago.

Last year when the kids started asking what I wanted for Christmas, I’m sure they were waiting for my usual “nothing” because I really don’t want anything. I am a low-maintenance person who hates being given things I have to dust. But I surprised them and told them I wanted something very specific: photos.

I knew it got too late, but I am also very patient. This year in October I reminded them that I wanted pictures. I knew one of their friends is an excellent photographer; I knew they would have to juggle four schedules; I knew they’d all have to agree on a place and a time. Like a company insisting on some team-building exercise, I was being crafty.

On Christmas morning, I opened the pictures. And started crying.

Between the four of them, Christopher and Pammy and Ayrton and Taryn, they had given me everything I’d asked for. I had a group shot. I had one of just my sons, one of just the girls, one of each couple, and individuals of the boys. They’d shot them at Mount Nemo just before the leaves turned, a perfect forest backdrop with beautiful natural lighting. Shelby and Alfie, the pups, are in some shots: a true reflection of these four young people’s lives.

They’d framed everything for me, amazing pictures with a bonus one of Alfie, who poses whenever you pull out a camera. Taryn sent me the link so I can have them on my phone and stop comparing my cats to other people’s kids. I can finally prove I didn’t invent my sons in order to have a career.

We drove to my sister’s for dinner later that day, my happy tears dried but the warmth remaining in my heart.

“Hey, what’s that?” asked Ari, indicating a huge new complex as we drove past.

“Looks like a seniors’ residence,” I said.

“They could stack a lot of old people in there,” he mused.

“Cut it out. It looks pretty nice, actually,” I said. “You never know where you’re gonna end up.”

I actually know exactly where I’m going to end up, and so does everyone who knows me: in a small cottage by a lake, writing and talking to chipmunks. It’s always been the plan.

“Maybe we’ll put you in there,” replied Ari.

I scowled at him from the passenger seat.

“You’re not putting me anywhere,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it homey,” he continued, smiling. “I’ll set up super-fast Wi-Fi, put up some photos …” he nodded at the bag at my feet. I was bringing my new pictures over to show my sisters.

“You gave me these photos so you could put me in a retirement home?” I asked him.

“And Wi-Fi! Don’t forget the Wi-Fi!”

Oh, I’ll have Wi-Fi. And I’ll teach the chipmunks how to send emails.

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It’s time to start saying ‘I love you’

How often do you say the words? How often do you tell the people you love that you love them?

I was asked recently if I’m a romantic, and I stumbled and stuttered and blushed and acknowledged that if that’s the case, I’m a terrible one. In my youth, boys would bring me the obligatory box of long-stemmed red roses and I’d borrow a vase to plunk them in so my mother could be wooed by my flowers. She cared about things like that; I didn’t. But that’s not the only kind of love I’m talking about.

I have a wonderful friend I’ve known since childhood. Her work and life sends her off all over, and we maintain one of the strongest bonds I have; when she leaves work to head for the train home, she calls me. We have two-minute phone calls whenever we connect, sometimes five a week, sometimes once, sometimes less. From our opening “hey” we can both ascertain which of us needs the two minutes most, and that one gets to have them. Every call ends with “I love you” because I love her and I want her to know that. Five times a week, or once.

I tell my sisters I love them. Out loud. I tell my boys and I tell their girls. Often. I tell my friends because people need to know this, and dropping tearful I-love-yous into eulogies instead of living ears makes no sense to me.

Why is it so easy to tell our pets and our babies how much we love them, but we seize up when it comes to other humans?

When I was growing up, the lady next door was old. I’m not being rude; I was a kid, she was old and she was like my grandma. I adored her. She was gruff and cold and stern. And I used to tell her I loved her and it would make her teary-eyed, because this weird little kid had seen through the exterior and knew she needed love, too. I understand her better now, that gruff old lady, no doubt because I am turning into her.

We all need love.

As we age, we start to enter the harrowing years. Illness is striking in untenable places, losses are mounting up and the harshness of our times is perching like a vulture on a pole. If I can keep the connections between the people I love open, if I can send love down those synapses on a regular basis, then I can use love to be more than red roses in borrowed vases.

Love is like a package delivered. You can only send it, you can’t know if someone will open it, refuse it or return it, and that’s OK. It’s why I don’t think in terms of that romantic I’m essentially not, and remind myself of what the people around me need to know. Geography and time may stretch the bonds of some of my relationships, but nobody’s day was ever made worse by getting an email saying “I’m thinking of you.”

I do it all the time.

The holidays can be a tough go for many people. They are for me, and I have a great family and we laugh and we love and we all miss the missing pieces together. You might be scouring the malls for the perfect gifts, or scratching things off a list with a sigh of relief.

If you want to usher in 2017 on a little sled of kindness, tell the people you love that you love them. Out loud. Often.

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Remember when Mom couldn’t get anything right?

Christopher, 25, was coming over to drop something off.

“Do you have any bagels?” he texted.

“No, but we have rye bread,” I replied.

“Close enough.”

“I’ll make you grilled cheese,” I offered.

“Yesssssssssssssssss,” he sent back.

It took Ari, 22, going into residence for a year to make him appreciate how wonderful I am. He used to come home and weep when he saw a full fridge, he told me repeatedly how good his laundry smelled and every time I made dinner or took him grocery shopping, I would feel like I was attending my own coronation.

The kind where you pay for your own crown, but still.

As I plunked a plate piled with grilled cheese sandwiches in front of Christer, he sighed.

“I was so stupid when I was a kid,” he began.

I waited. I knew gold was coming.

“Do you remember how we used to complain? I would give anything now, I mean, having to do this whole dinner thing, every single night, it sucks.”

“Now you get how hard it is? You brats each hated what the other liked,” I told him.

“I know! ‘Eww, not crummy chicken again!’ and now, I’d eat crummy chicken every night. And love it. I’d kill for crummy chicken.”

Crummy chicken was what they called chicken breasts with the bone in, cooked in the oven with knockoff Shake’N Bake. The coating was really light, the chicken tasted great, and they complained because of the bone.

I would buy chicken when it was on sale because we were broke, and I’d make crummy chicken because I am not an adventurous cook. When you get in the house at 6 p.m. and have to feed two boys who cannot agree on a single food group, it was never much of a mystery why I just gently cried myself to sleep each night.

I wrote in this space once, near the very beginning of Motherlode, that I considered a balanced meal to be one where nobody fell off his chair. I tricked one kid into eating asparagus by telling him it would make his pee smell funny. I would cut vegetables into weird shapes, I would lie about what they were eating (Ari told me once, as he ate a pork chop, that his chicken tasted weird), and I would let them eat with fancy toothpicks instead of forks. I would light candles and put their milk in wine glasses and tell them we were having special dinner.

“And, what was up with me and spaghetti?” Christer was asking me now, as he dipped his grilled cheese in a puddle of ketchup. “Why didn’t I like it?

“Remember I used to only put butter on my noodles? I love it now,” he finished.

I glared at him.

“I make great spaghetti sauce. It’s one of the few things I do well, and you wouldn’t eat it. And now you like it?”

I was glad to hear it, actually, but Pammy had asked me how to do it months ago. At least he’s learned to treat the girlfriend better than the mother.

There was a time I thought I would never get this kid potty-trained. There was a time I thought he would ask for chicken nuggets at his wedding. There was a time I thought his feet would never stop growing.

“Now, I would eat anything. I would be thrilled at anything.”

I watched as he finished up and put his plate in the dishwasher.

The miracle is complete.

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From mailboxes to inboxes

“Do we have envelopes?” Ari, 22, was standing in the middle of the kitchen, a single sheet of paper in hand.

“Of course.”

I went to the envelope keeping place in the dining room and gave him one.

“Do you need a stamp?” I asked him.

“I guess. I have to mail this,” he said, holding up the paper.

“Well, stop looking like you’ve never mailed something before,” I told him. “Oh geez, have you seriously never mailed something before?”

“I use email. Why would I use envelopes and stamps?” he replied.

His girlfriend, Taryn, came into the kitchen.

“Taryn, you’ve mailed something before, right?”

I might have been a little abrupt, as she glanced at Ari wondering if there was a right answer to this question.

“Sure, of course,” she said. “Like, maybe? When I was really little, to my grandma?”

She didn’t sound certain of anything except that she wanted the questions to revert back to Ari.

“So, what do I put?” he asked, pen poised over the blank envelope.

“When I took typing, we had to line everything up perfectly on an envelope. The teacher actually measured it and you lost marks. I was great at it,” I told Ari and Taryn, who by now were just looking at me like I was a display in a museum.

A boring one. The pieces of broken pottery one, not the dinosaur one.

“Stop talking and just tell me what goes where. I have to mail this now, we’re going for groceries,” said Ari.

“Oh, wait, I need some stuff. Gimme the list,” I said, reaching for the paper next to him on the counter.

“No! Don’t write on that,” he said, grabbing it.

“Don’t be stupid, I have to add things.”

I looked at his hand written shopping list. It was fairly standard. Bananas, shrimp, rye bread, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes. Except every item had little double brackets containing an italicized “i” before and after it.

I looked at him. He was doubled over laughing. Taryn was rolling her eyes.

“It’s a list, get it? It’s the code for creating a list.”

Ari is studying computer engineering, and has been building a new website for the past couple of months. Every few days, he will haul me to his computer to show me how he has made something on the site swivel, turn, load, zoom or tap dance. I stare at two monitors with line after line of code and my brain rattles.

He turned the paper over so I could write “Kleenex” on the back.

“I had to change milk again, so look, get this one,” I said opening the fridge and hauling out a carton. He added “Mom’s weird milk” to the list.

“No, write it all down, see?” I was pointing to the brand and kind and source and remembering when I was a kid, milk was milk.

“I got it, I got it,” he said folding up his dorky list.

“That list is full-on geek, isn’t it?” I asked him.

“Yup. Total nerd humour.”

He forgot my milk.

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How much is that kitten in the window? It’s free!

It occurred to me the other night, as I sat in bed watching everybody have sex on Grey’s Anatomy and four cats lounged on me, that if I were to die like that (snaps fingers) I hadn’t made provisions for these lazy felines.

I’d never named godparents for them.

Godparents were a big topic of conversation when I was growing up. We used to compare which of us had the better ones and because we had a very limited array of biological aunts and uncles, these godparents filled in that space.

Though the religious angle was somewhat muted (I turned out to be a heathen), the guardian angle was more fascinating. I grew up with the knowledge that if something were to happen to Mom and Dad, we would go live with these godparents. My mother would say it could never happen, and it would be something so unthinkable, like both she and my father crashing in an airplane, that I shouldn’t worry. Instead I asked where they were going — on an airplane — without us. She said I was missing the point.

Now, to a little kid, that is overwhelming. We knew their houses; which room would be mine? Where would I go to school? Would I ever see my sisters again? And, oh yeah, Mom and Dad are dead. This is how little kids think.

My sons never had to go through this worry because if you divorce when your children are teeny tiny, the chance of their parents ever even being in the same room, let alone on the same airplane, is remote.

We thought Gilly had the fun godparents, and I’m sure my Aunt Jean would agree. She’s still there, and I’m certain she’d take Gilly in if the need arose. It was at Jean’s birthday party a few years ago that Roz found her godparents and told them they could relax now, they were off the hook. They looked relieved that a 50-year-old woman would not be showing up on their doorstep with a small suitcase. For some reason my godparents were not a married couple, but each married to another. Wow, Mom and Dad. If you left me an orphan, I’d now be from a broken home.

Of course, your children become adults and these surrogates are no longer required to step in. But I stared at my silly cats the other night and realized only one, Sweet Pea, would be welcome anywhere with open arms. She’s darling and pretty and, well, sweet. Roz would take her in a heartbeat, though my brother-in-law is unaware he is a godparent to a cat.

JoJo would be the cat you see on posters begging you to take in older cats who may only have 10 minutes left to live but will love you so immensely in those 10 minutes that the two grand in vet bills they rack up in those same 10 minutes will be worth it. I’d have to farm JoJo out with her own Visa card.

And The Kids? My energetic two-year-olds? It’s hard to write compelling ad copy for two brats who send everything flying off the kitchen counter when they see a squirrel in the window, who think fresh litter boxes are a day at the beach and act like they’re being waterboarded when I trim their nails.

My own kids shake their heads and back out of the room when I bring the subject up, both clutching the dogs they now own that have somehow replaced the kittens they used to beg for.

Maybe I’ll call Aunt Jean.

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I am done with your hateful words

letterI’m not gonna be nice anymore.

This isn’t a political statement as much as it is a humanitarian one. I actually started this column when I saw that awful letter from F Stevens in this paper on Remembrance Day. Nice timing, I thought, reading his hateful, intolerant spew.

Should The Spec have published it? I’m sure it made F Stevens feel like a hero that day, but instead it showed, in the coming days, those who refused to make room for his bile. Oh, sure, some agree with him. We just saw the outcome of the secret agree-ers to the south of us. Xenophobia and racism are the new black, it appears.

But this isn’t politics, this is fallout from those politics. As if their hatred has long been a heavy burden they can now release, free to both casually denigrate and rage with fire, free to finally assign blame for their own frustrated lives.

Only that election unleashed something else. Those of you feeling safe to now fly your sexist, racist misogynist version of a confederate freak flag should also know that which silenced you, also silenced many of us. And now we too, are relieved of the burden of putting up with that we know we should be calling out.

A colleague of mine was attacked on Twitter. I know, maybe not your preferred conduit for conversation. But in the car industry, we all loosely interact with one another and the medium works for us. Until one man went on the attack, calling her a feminazi, amongst other, ruder, things. Now, this is the go-to word to call women, especially those of us working in male dominated industries. I’ve been called worse. He took a stab at her race (not the same as his own), threw in a standard “bitch” for good measure and put it all up on his account that was interspersed with posts for his job and where he worked. I do the same with my account, but I’m an opinion columnist.

He worked at a car dealership.

We’re journalists, this close-knit crew. It didn’t take long to discover lots of racist screeds on his feed, including that Muslims should GTFO. You can Google that acronym if you don’t know it. He shut down his account when he realized we’d found it, but we have the screenshots. We contacted his employer, who responded within hours. In fact, the owner’s response has been fantastic.

I doubt he’s much older than my oldest son, this lad, and some would say we rained down hard. But if one of my sons was saying those things, he would be subject to Mama Wrath, which is even harsher. Thing is, my kids aren’t perfect but they were raised not to be hate-spitting little misogynistic racists. It was quite easy, actually.

But reading his hateful words that he’d posted so proudly, I’ve instead decided that I will match bold with bold. I will call out the bullies and the haters. I will step in. I will defend.

There is a narcissist to the south who unleashed hatred and erased decades of human progress because he liked to hear people chant his name. He’s left with a job he never really wanted and we’re left with the bitter residue of the algae soaked wave he rolled in on.

I don’t care which way you vote, but I do care that we hold this tattered fabric of humanity together. It’s getting harder to do, with some seemingly desperate to tear it to shreds. We’ve been told we must bridge the divide, to unite to heal.

Kind of hard to do when some are so busy burning those bridges.

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The world is not in your phone. It just seems like it is

After writing a piece about car manufacturers racing to implement safety sensors and cameras to stop their product from running into oblivious teens texting and walking – petextrians, they’re called – someone asked me if we would ever again see a time when people didn’t have their noses buried in some handheld device.

I hesitated, then said “yes.”

I admit I was being hopeful, and no doubt naïve. I watch how quickly trends spike and die, how Facebook was created for college kids and now is the territory of political cranks and people with too many cats.

Twitter is on the ropes because they are unwilling and unable to see that tolerating the threat of rape and murder of women for having opinions is a bad thing.

Pokemon Go dominated the summer – for a few weeks, and now sits in the discard bin with copies of every movie Vince Vaughn ever made.

I never understood Pinterest, a weird combination of “look what I made” and “look what I ate” and “look what I want.”

Instagram, Snapchat, Vine — all enthrall users with their in the moment, look-at-me, look-at-this grab at lives that are seemingly unable to be lived if uncaptured, unremarked upon.

All of these developments are created by and for the young, and are just as quickly eschewed and discarded when the olds inevitably move in. When your mother follows you on Facebook, it’s like being told Grandma is babysitting instead of the cool teenager from down the street.

Of course everyone signing up for the endless list of parties is allowed past the velvet rope; they think the cost of admission is showing up. But it’s not, it’s the deep dive into your personal information that matters to all of these entities, not how your quinoa turned out or what your kid wore for Halloween. You are not using them, they are using you.

And yet I still said “yes” when asked if I thought it might change. Maybe not the texting, which is just a phone call by any other name, and when people complain about kids texting I just shrug and recall trapping myself in a closet with a phone for three hours at a time until my father started yelling at me to get off. Two-way communication is good and right and will forever remain an essential part of our humanness.

It’s the one-way operations that make us more vulnerable, more sequestered. Present a face of your choosing – quite literally – to the world and lose the connection and caring that come from actual relationships. That is my concern for the programs that proliferate; it’s not “this is who I am,” it’s “this is who I want you to think I am.”

There is something to be said for the physical connection. Physicians and massage therapists have told me they often hear their laying on of hands — doing their jobs — is sometimes the only touch their patients and clients experience. We are tactile, we are affectionate, we are needy.

To believe an Internet connection can take the place of being held or comforted is sad and life-shortening. Anyone who has held an infant knows this. One of our most important needs cannot be met through a device, no matter how many followers or trailblazers it holds.

So I want to believe those screens that absorb so many of us will eventually let us find our way back to what matters, and be a conduit instead of an end.

You holding a phone will never feel better than someone holding your hand.

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Sometime opportunity knocks. Sometimes it’s just Mom

There are people who miss the days when company used to just drop by but as an adult, I look back and wonder if it was only the kids who really liked it.

I’m rarely dressed appropriately for company, and working from home doesn’t mean I’m at home doing nothing. We live in different times, with a phone at the end of most arms, so drive-by visits usually come with an announcement. I do want to see you; I just want to know that I’m going to see you.

I suppose surprise visits would make me keep a tidier house, but I still recall my mother stopping like a deer in the headlights if someone knocked on the door unannounced. She would drop everything, snap off her apron, fix her hair and put on the kettle. Anything she was doing stopped.

I recall her gamely insisting people should stay for dinner, and then watching her magically make a dinner, planned for five, double. I look back and think only one thing: why? Why do friends and family do this to each other? In olden times, people actually did just drive around on Sundays and not have phones. These are not olden times.

I stopped by Pammy and Christer’s apartment the other day. It was his birthday, and I was scooting out for some groceries. I didn’t have my phone, but I knew he was home because I’d spoken to him an hour before. I simply decided to let my kid give me a spontaneous hug for giving birth to him, because birthdays should always be about the one who had the most pain.

I knocked on their door. All I heard was Alfie begin barking. I waited. Nothing.

I knocked again, knowing the layout of their home makes it difficult for them to hear.

Alfie, in the meantime, continued to lose his mind. He loves Mama Lorraine. More knocking, more nothing, more Alfie.

I could hear voices, so I knocked louder and yelled that it was me. Alfie answered in a higher pitch. I finally gave up and shoved the door open an inch.

“It’s me!”

“Alfie, shut up. Get back here,” Pammy yelled.

“It’s me! I want to say happy birthday to Christopher!”

“Is that my mother? I think that’s Mom,” I heard Christopher say.

“It’s me!”

Finally both kids came to the door, as Alfie nearly wet himself with joy.

“Why didn’t you just come in?” asked Pammy.

“I don’t do that,” I replied.

They’d given me a key when they moved in. It sits carefully on the counter in case one of them needs it.

“Don’t be dumb. Just come in,” said Christopher.

“I can’t. Like I can’t open your mail. I can’t just barge in your house,” I said.

Or watch them enter passwords, or scroll through their pictures, or read over their shoulder. (Note: never, ever scroll through the pictures on anyone’s phone. That is just rude.)

Pammy started giggling. “You’re so weird. Just come in.”

By this point Alfie was leaping around like I was covered in pepperoni. I let him snuggle me because I needed someone to be glad I’d shown up.

“From now on, if you come over, just come in,” said Christopher. “I mean, why wouldn’t you?”

“What if you were having birthday sex? I would not want to know that,” I replied.

“Ew,” said Pammy.

Christopher did a little grimace.

Well, they asked.

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