because it looked like I was having fun doesn't mean I was.
were not fun.
there was no school, but a day off of school didn't in and of itself
necessarily constitute "fun." If you were me, anyway.
And, say, eight.
I appreciate the two hours of Saturday morning cartoons I
was allowed to watch? (And did I especially appreciate the commercials
because I could memorize them and re-create them in the form of
stirring one-acts for the Nobles Day Camp Annual Talent Show?) Yes.
(And yes.) But fun? Not exactly. And likewise, while I enjoyed
Jazz dance class at the J.C.C. (think: rainbow bandanas, Lionel
Ritchie), still, it couldn't qualify as pure fun. Even Saturday
afternoons, when I'd play with friends -- friends whose homes had
Atari and chewy granola bars -- it was entertaining, but
I just wasn't capable of letting go and having real, unadulterated
you can't have fun when you're terrified, and frankly, Saturdays
lurking in the wings all day Saturdays were Saturday Nights. The
night my parents went out. Every single week. And yet every single
week I'd find myself filled with an acute separation anxiety, a
vile Saturday Night Feeling, an aching in my solar plexus that served
to define for my little self the very concept of desperation.
pinpoint the reason for the anxiety on Saturday nights specifically
as opposed to other times of the week when my parents went out.
But I do know there was a conditioning over time, a Pavlovian sort
of thing where Saturday's typical sounds and smells and vibe just
began to bring on The Feeling as a matter of course.
fear was that my parents would head out on a Saturday night date
and never come back.
by choice, of course. I knew they'd never actively run away from
home, what withal how much they loved me plus how remarkable I was
at singing certain numbers from Annie.
my panic arose from the notion that something out of their control
would happen to them out in the vast nightness of Saturday. Like
a kidnapping -- a crime about which I was quite savvy thanks to
a number of made-for-TV movies. I fully got that my parents could
be snatched from a parking garage, a restaurant, even somewhere
as "innocent" as the coatroom at a bar mitzvah. And then
I'd be orphaned. And then what? Would my brother and I have to go
live with Aunt Margie in alarmingly meat-filled Chicago? Would we
bring our stuff or would we have to buy all new stuff, made in Chicago?
And what of my parents? Would they be held captive somewhere terrifying?
Like a 14-passenger van? Would they be bound with duct tape in a
perhaps it wouldn't be a kidnapping at all. See,
unfortunately there were a million different things that could befall
them. Take the movie The Earthling in which Ricky Schroder
is orphaned when his parents' Winnebago careens off a cliff and
explodes. Who's to say the same couldn't happen to my parents' Toyota?
Boston didn't seem to have any cliffs but I wasn't stupid enough
to think that meant there weren't any.
every Saturday brought me back to the same routine. By mid-afternoon,
a gnawing sense of dread would have engulfed me and I'd have to
go find my mom. If it were summer I could usually find her in the
yard reading the Boston Globe and drinking a Tab. Winter,
somewhere else drinking a Tab.
would you say your plans are 100% definite?"
That's how I'd start.
of my interrogation would focus on their estimated time of return.
"OK, now, when you say 'midnight at the latest' does that mean
that it will not for any reason be one second later than midnight?"
didn't, by the way. But I was all about semantics, trying to ensnare
my mom with technicalities wherever possible. "Aha! You said
'late tonight' but then you said '1:00 a.m.' Hate to break it to
you, but 1:00 a.m. is not tonight, it's tomorrow. So
evening my parents would head upstairs to shower, signaling my anxiety
to careen towards its manic peak. Shower-time meant that we were
rumbling towards evening as planned, all systems go. The chance
of something happening in the external world to change my parents'
plans -- hail, say, or a nuclear attack on my neighborhood by the
Soviets -- was increasingly slim. While my mom dressed I'd be basically
in the fetal position on her bed.
My voice would come out all high and thin. "I didn't tell you
this earlier because I didn't want to ruin your day, but
developing a rash."
be busy rummaging through her jewelry box for the perfect dangly
earrings. Dangly earrings were expressly a going-out accessory.
So I hated them.
reaction! I'd press on.
also, I'm nauseous."
always felt weird to use the word "nauseous" because I
wasn't 100% clear on the pronunciation, but it was a four-star word,
so I went for it.
mom would finally press her hand to my forehead. "Hmmmm. Maybe
there's a little ice cream in your bangs? I'd really recommend a
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