The Girls and a Country Song

Confession time. I’m a country music fan. (If you still say “and Western,” please give my regards to 1980.) The music, at its best, actually says something. And in recent years it had gotten pretty good. For a while.

I also liked that it had a tradition of being family friendly, which is important when driving with two impressionable minds in the back seat.

But it seems that the high riding of country in an otherwise tanking music economy went to the heads of a few people, and the same frat boy mentality you saw take over Wall Street infected a once more gentlemanly world.

So, in the last year or so, I have had to have my finger hovering over the button to change stations in a blink. Otherwise I’d have to answer questions about “Daisy Dukes,” “painted on jeans,” “shaking your moneymaker” and other, much more objectifying portrayals of women.

Meanwhile, two other young girls, barely ten years older than mine, seem to have noticed the same thing. And they had the talent to express themselves. Maddie and Tae, a couple of 18-year-old singers, now have a hit called “Girl in a Country Song,” which deliciously skewers what has come to be called Bro Country. I cheered when I heard their song.

The Girl in a Country Song

But what is flabbergasting to me is that one bro country band actually had the stupidity to criticize them. One band member charged, “I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song.” Of course, if you saw the man, you’d understand. He doesn’t look the sort who would be allowed to call on the likes of my own daughters. Or any self-respecting man’s daughter.

No, they’d face the dad Rodney Atkins so well described in a song when my girls were just a little bit younger. And country was awesome.

Danged If You Don’t, Danged If You Do

Here are some things I did not do at lunch yesterday:

• I did not place a complicated order that required food preparers to vary from what was on the prescribed menu.

• I did not take more than two napkins—even for a burrito.

• I did not have to make multiple trips back to the counter for more straws, spoons, drinks, etc.

• I did not have to caution anyone on proper behavior.

For the last week now, I have had the freedom to choose when and where I eat my lunch and the leisure to eat it in the company of my own thoughts. For the first time in nearly ten years. Even the manager noticed yesterday. “The kids in school?” he asked. Yes, we were regulars there.

I told him of my newfound liberty. Like everyone else I’ve told, he asked me what I was going to do with all my free time. “Work!” I answered like the long-time dry workaholic embarking on a medically sanctioned bender.

did_at_lunchIt wasn’t long, though, before I noticed some other things I didn’t do at lunch yesterday:

• I did not play table hockey with the wadded up burrito foil and straws.

• I did not have anyone to hold my hand in the parking lot.

• I did not have anyone tell me my how beautiful my daughters are.

I thought, Danged if you don’t, danged if you do. Yes, danged. Because, even though I’m alone now, I’m still in the habit of watching my language.

And that way, I guess, a part of my girls is always with me.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It was an adventurous summer. I mean, we saw the Cahokia Mounds. For real! With the kids! What kid wouldn’t be enthralled by the sight of a large mound and the knowledge that, hundreds of years ago, people (though we don’t really know who) built that mound (for unknown purposes) and lived near them—until they gradually moved away (for unknown reasons)? How exciting!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This summer everything seemed exciting. To me, at least. This summer marks a transition. My younger daughter, as of this very week, is in school ALL DAY. For the first time in nearly ten years, I get to live like a quasi-full-time adult. Most of the time, at least. Which is way more than none of the time, so I will try not to complain about the occasional half days at school.

But back to the kids. It was an exciting summer for them too. Did I mention the Cahokia Mounds? I did? You mean I didn’t save that for the big, killer finish? Oh, well. The summer started with a family reunion in Phoenix. In June. Just when you want to be in Phoenix. Seriously. The hotel fares in June there are terrific.

And we were just a few hours’ drive from the Grand Canyon, which none of us had ever seen except from an airplane. So, naturally, we thought it would be worth seeing from—you guessed it—an airplane.

summer2014aNot the jumbo jet kind we were used to. The little kind, where you get to see everything up close, instead of at the observation rail with everyone else. It was a splurge idea, to offset the hotel savings.

And it made me wish we were back at the observation rail with everyone else. Because guess what! The Grand Canyon is windy. And the four of us, who never ever get airsick in the usual flyover plane, were all clutching desperately to our airsick bags. Someday, though, when I have the stomach to look at the pictures we blindly took, I’m sure I will think it was beautiful.

Back in Illinois, we enjoyed big adventure as well. Make that Big Adventure-on-a-Stick, because we spent a couple days at the State Fair. The kids went on all the rides they were tall enough to be allowed on. And, thanks to their Grand Canyon training, they didn’t get sick. That even made me brave enough to join Lucy on the Tilt-a-Whirl. And I didn’t get sick either! Unless you count turning green and not being able to look at food for a couple hours being sick.

summer2014bAfter a quick visit to a friend’s farm (where playing with sparklers was the big thrill), we headed toward the Cahokia Mounds, where we stopped just long enough to see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis from the top of the tallest mound. Minutes later, we were actually in St. Louis.

Special Parent Alert! Read this next paragraph very carefully.

If you ever find yourself with kids and a few hours on your hands, within 100 miles of St. Louis, you must—repeat, must—visit the City Museum in St. Louis. It’s more of an indoor-outdoor play place than a museum. Except that description doesn’t do it much justice. It’s an enormous old industrial building that has been adapted by some overgrown kids with waaaaaaay too much time and money—and imagination—on their hands. It’s more magical than Hogwarts. Or, do you remember the wacky maze-like tunnels from the set of the movie “Hugo”? Well, they are lame in comparison to the City Museum. Lame! Go online, look at pictures, but know that they don’t even scratch the surface of how cool this place really is. And I’m not even getting paid by the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce for saying this.

Believe it or not, however, there was something even better that happened to the kids this summer. Kids. Other kids. For the first year ever, there were other kids on the block to run around and play with. They swarmed from house to house, in and out of yards. A free-range pack with no agenda but to have fun. Together.

summer2014cThe best part of summer vacation, then, was simply being at home.

That’s something I had always dreamed of for my kids. And something they’ll always remember. Even if they forget the Cahokia Mounds.

Hitch Hike, Baby


Gone Fishin’

Well, it’s possible, at least. I’ll be kicking back for a while, maybe swing by an ol’ swimmin’ hole in the land of great barbecue. Or toss the canoe on the river out back. And if I’m not devoured by mosquitoes (the downside of a lush summer), I’ll try to have at least a cartoon or two back up when I return. In the meantime, hopefully you will be enjoying the rest of your summer too much to notice me missing.

Future Suit