Operation

My sister’s twins just celebrated their sixth birthday. They have recently discovered Star Wars and Sonora – my niece – is particularly obsessed with it. (My nephew, Austin, is more interested in dinosaurs.)

I saw this game on Amazon and thought it could be a fun gift.

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I have fond memories of playing the original version back in the 80s. If you have never played the game, you have to remove little objects from little holes with electric tweezers and an alarm sounds if you touch the sides of the openings when trying to extract the object. It was a fun game and I feel like it was good for developing motor skills. (I wonder if I could get that goddamned butterfly, now?) Then I read in the comments that the sound effects are R2D2 noises and I swooned.

I may have briefly considered ordering two. You know. Like, for when the twins come to my house. (*wink* *wink*)

My niece was excited to see the words “Star Wars” when she opened the gift, but I found that I couldn’t quite explain the game to her. It barely makes sense when it was plain old Operation. Instead, I waited until the party was winding down to put the batteries in and get the game set up on the coffee table.

I claimed to want to “test” it to make sure it was functional, but really I just wanted to hear R2D2 make that “yeaaoow!” sound. It was exactly as charming as I suspected it would be, and the kids came running over to see what the game was all about.

We played a few rounds and it was a little tricky for the kids to remove the objects without triggering the alarm. Sarah (my sister) removed a piece easily on one turn which compounded Sonora’s frustration. “Mom!” she said. “You are so good at this!” Only it kind of sounded like an insult.

“We used to play this a lot when we were kids,” I said. “We’ve had more practice.”

“You did?” Austin asked, somewhat shocked. I think because he couldn’t picture us being kids.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “But it looked different. It wasn’t Star Wars.”

“What did it look like?” they both wanted to know.

“It was a man,” I said. “And you had to pull his bones out.”

They gave me a look that was either horror or disbelief. Or possibly some combination of the two.

I pulled out my phone to find a picture and immediately regretted it. It was easy to find an image of course, but I hadn’t remembered just how creepy the original version of that game was. I guess I knew he was naked, but I didn’t remember him being that naked. The man is barely covering his junk with his belly flap. Then there is his face. He had that crazy red pill of a nose that lights up when you hurt him. And his eyes and mouth are wide open. The anesthesia is obviously not working. There are just so many things to be upset about.

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Before I could close the browser, however, Austin had my phone. He stared at the image for several long seconds and his eyes got as big as the naked man’s.
“It’s a man,” I said again, guessing from his expression that he had no idea what he was looking at.

Finally he looked up and asked, “Where were you?”

“I…” I started. “I don’t understand the question.”

He turned to his mom and showed her the phone. “Where were you!?”

“It’s just a game, Austin…” Sarah said.

“No!” he insisted, grabbing his mother by the shoulder. “Mom! Where. Were. You!?!”
“At home!” She said. “At Grandma and Grandpa’s. Now take your turn.”
He gave each of us one more incredulous look before turning back to the game and then that was the end of that.
I was still thinking about it when I got home an hour or so later. “What did he mean, ‘where were you’? What did he think we had done to that poor creepy naked man?”

Then I remembered something that I hadn’t thought about in many years. I was a child… probably a little older than the twins. My mom had one of her sisters and some of my cousins over. They were pretty college aged girls and I wanted to converse with them. I don’t remember what I was trying to tell them, but I remember not being able to get them to understand what I was saying. They kept laughing at me and telling my mom how cute I was, and I was so furious with them and myself for not being able to make them understand that I went out to the yard and didn’t come back in until someone made me come to dinner.

We had this old ladder leaning on its side against the house. The wood was rotten and it was never used for its designed purpose, but when we were small enough we liked to walk back and forth across the top, balancing our feet on the edge and dragging our fingers along the house’s stucco exterior.

I remember I was pondering my frustration with adults and their inability to understand children. I didn’t understand them, either. But they HAD been children once. Why didn’t they remember what it was like?

Then I got the idea that I could make myself remember, so that when I was an adult I would understand. I balanced on the edge of the ladder and I closed my eyes and put my hands on the side of my head and repeated the magic words, “remember this, remember this, remember this…” for what seemed like a very long time. And I was pretty sure I would.

But I don’t. I remember a lot of things about that moment. I remember my pretty cousins laughing. I remember being frustrated. But I don’t remember what it was like.

And I have laughed at my niece and nephew. And once, when I laughed at something Austin said that I thought was so adorable, he burst into tears. The moment passed quickly – just like the one with the photo of Operation on my phone – but it stuck with me, also.

Austin is so imaginative. I was too, when I was his age. I wish I could picture what he saw when he looked at that image. I’m sure that he composed and elaborate story in the seconds he spent staring at it. One where my sister’s and I went on a crazy adventure with Mary Poppins and jumped in the wrong chalk painting on the sidewalk, and met an angry man with a red pill nose and butterflies in his stomach.

Whatever it was, I’m sure it was colorful and I would have found it amazing and hilarious, though he obviously didn’t see the humor. It’s too bad, really. I just don’t speak that language any more.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Blog

I made a terrible mistake in my last blog.

It wasn’t a blogging mistake so much as it was a life compartmentalization mistake. I should have followed Mike Birbiglia’s example, and kept a “Secret Public Blog.” But I blabbed, and it was my undoing. First, I told whatever guy I was dating about it. Then the next guy I was dating, too. And so on. I’m a professional singleton, so I repeated that mistake a few times. (Before you judge me, I’m talking about a period that spanned several years. And anyway it wasn’t THAT many guys.)

Then I listed the address on my social media page and before long I had a number of co-workers who were reading it. That was the real mistake. Not that I enjoyed offending the guys I used to date; I certainly didn’t do that on purpose (it was more of a positive side-effect). But with co-workers following my posts, there was a real danger of offending someone, and the inherent consequences therein.

Especially because: Mormons.

I grew up in Utah in a small Mormon stronghold of a town. Almost everyone I knew growing up was Mormon. My parents are Mormon. I stopped participating in “The Church” (as we call it) at an early age, but to this day I think of myself as a “recovering Mormon.”

Point being – there is the cliché in the writing world that advises “write what you know.” And Mormonism is what I know. Unfortunately, what I have to say about Mormonism is not exactly polite. I once wrote on my old blog that Brigham Young and Joseph Smith were thugs and con-men with a penchant for pussy. Just for instance.

The thing that really got me into trouble, however, was a post I wrote about Mormon heaven being a sort of waiting room where the dead sit on their hands, waiting for the second coming. There is a lot more to Mormon heaven, of course. That’s just the pre-Jesus-is-back phase. But my point was that if heaven was that similar to the DMV, I’ll just go on sinning, thank you very much.

If I am being completely honest, the co-worker who responded to say that she was offended was not over-reacting. Her comment was respectful and the chilly period that followed at work was not long-drawn.

Still, it changed things for me. Before that, my primary objective with my blog was to write about my life authentically, and hope that the humor was relatable. After this little incident, however, I couldn’t write without feeling that I had a set of highly sensitive and politically correct eyes reading over my shoulder.

I have always struggled with shyness. And in the beginning, blogging was this amazing life-hack that provided me with a way to let people in. I could share what I was thinking and feeling with my friends and my sisters in a way that I couldn’t quite do in a face to face conversation. After I got my coworker’s offended response, however, I felt like that level of openess been a bad idea. It suddenly appeared that the my edited self might have been the better version all along. So I quit writing the blog. Then, when an ex popped up out of nowhere and asked why I haven’t been writing, it seemed like positive evidence that I had made the correct decision.

Now, a year later, I’m not so sure. The problem is that I miss my blog. I miss the unedited me. And I’ve decided that the mistake wasn’t writing about the things that I care about or find amusing. The mistake was letting the response get to me.

I am a pretty sensitive person, so I don’t know if I am capable of preventing that from happening again. At least, not when the responder is someone that I have to see at work the next day. Instead, I have decided to start a new blog and share it only with the people in my life who appreciate my musings. People who are willing entertain the assertion that Mormon heaven is not a real place, but a comedy gold-mine. In other words, the people I really really trust.

And total strangers. I’m fine with them reading it, too.

I have been putting off writing this initial entry because I haven’t been sure where to start. I feel like I should introduce myself and explain where I am in my life. I want it to be clean and I sensible and I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to get it right. No more mistakes. But – as that isn’t possible – I finally decided to open a blank document and start there. It’s time to take what I have and see what I can do with it.

After all, it’s summer and life has provided me with a lot of lemons. Let’s make some lemonade.

Thinking of You

I have this card framed and hanging in my bathroom.

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