Thirteen and Three (Episode Three)

(If this is your first visit to My Own Space-Sharon Wheatley's not-so-covert operation to become the next Erma Bombeck...

Erma Bombeck, my idol. 1970's funny Mom and writer.

Erma Bombeck, my idol. 1970's funny Mom and writer.

Welcome!  It probably would be best and least confusing for you to scroll down to Episode One of Thirteen and Three because I don't do a "previously seen on Thirteen and Three" wrap up.  Don't worry, it's not too much to read, I keep the episodes short.)

For our regular viewers, welcome back!   I know I left you hanging, so let's just get right back in.

So we've got Charlotte handing me the sex ed book It's So Amazing after getting of the M5 bus on 86th Street.  She holds it up and says, “I finished it.”  I was surprised. “The whole thing?”  She looks up at me with a wry little face and says, “You wanna know what the biggest surprise of all was?  I mean the thing I really had NO IDEA about?”

86th and Riverside. Dusk.

86th and Riverside. Dusk.

"Tell me what you had no idea about."

"Okay."  She takes a deep breath and pushes her little lips together.  "It's kind of embarrassing."

"It's okay.  Take your time." (I act patient and nonchalant.  Like, you know, this happens every day.  The birds and the bees talk with your kid on 86th and Riverside.  No big deal.)

Words fly out of her mouth much sooner and at a much louder volume than I was expecting.  "Okay!  Okay!  I had NO IDEA that a BOY was involved AT ALL!"  She throws her arms up in despair and stomps away, laughing.  She keeps talking loudly, whirling around with her arms open wide.  "I mean, it's just so..." she searches for a word, looking to the heavens for help; laughing and dumbfounded.  "..weird*."

*Weird, for those of you without school age children, is the official descriptive word for all children in grades 3-5.

"How was school today?"


"How do you feel about the earthquake in Japan?"


"How do you feel about going to Disneyworld for a week?"


"What do you think of my new haircut?"


It's normal, parents.  Don't let it weird you out.  It just needs a lot of excellent, well thought out follow up questions, like the one below.  I'll show you how it's done.

"Uh, well, weird horrible or weird okay?"  (So maybe I could have done a little better.)

"Weird okay."  She starts to walk down 86th street. " I'll probably have some questions."

That's an understatement.  "That's fine.  Ask anything you want."  I smile too widely.  I run to keep up with my girl/woman.  I'm a freak.  This is hard.  The doormen we pass see me sweat.

We walked along in silence.  Sometimes the best thing to do with Charlotte is to just let her work through things by herself.

Smart child preparing to riddle me with questions.

Smart child preparing to riddle me with questions.

I could practically see the wheels turning in her head, and I knew questions were coming--and I was starting to panic that they would be really science-y.  Truth? I got a D in science.  I run through the technicalities of sex in my head and try to remember all the names of everything.  The fallopian tubes guide the egg to the cervix?  What's the urethra? not to be confused with Aretha.  I hum R-E-S-P-E-C-T to myself, distracted by the Queen of Soul, comforting myself as I remember,  Rob (former Notre Dame pre-med) is in charge of science.  My job is "emotions" and getting beyond "weird."

We get to our apartment and lug ourselves and our books up the 5 story walk up*.  Charlotte grabs the book and heads to her room, shutting her door.  I nervously start dinner.  And by "starting dinner" I mean I look through take out menus to see what we should order in.

Lots of stairs = cheaper rent

Lots of stairs = cheaper rent

(*Sometimes in New York you have to make giant sacrifices to live in a good neighborhood.  We knew we wanted Charlotte to go to a certain school, but the school "zone" (same thing as district) was 79th street to 86th street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Not cheap.  Our giant sacrifice to live there was a 5 floor walk up and no bath tub, only a shower.  If you want numbers--and everyone in New York loves to talk about who pays what for what--I'll tell you it was almost $3000. a month in rent for a small 2 bedroom (900 square feet) with a terrace the size of a diving board).

A few minutes later, Charlotte comes out of her room with the book. She is holding a place with her finger.  "I have a question."

I am able and ready.  I am Judy Blume.  I can answer sex questions directly and honestly.  I can Google.  I take a deep breath.  "Shoot."

Charlotte opens the book to what I like to refer to as "the centerfold."  It was a picture of a cartoon man and woman "doing it" under the covers.  You know what?  It's too good to just describe.  I'm going to take a picture of it (this took much negotiating with the 13-year-old Charlotte Meffe, who complied only after I promised that she would come out of this story looking like the fantastic hero that she is.)

Here it is:

And folks, don't get mad, but I have to stop writing.  I promised myself that the posts wouldn't go beyond 800 words and I'm at 841 and counting.  Besides, I have to give Beazer a bath and get both kids to bed.

So join us Monday for Episode 4 of Thirteen and Three.  I'm taking the weekend off from the blog because I have to do a reading* of a new play on Saturday and the kids own me totally on Sunday.

(A *reading is when actors get together and do a read through of a play so the playwright can hear it.  No sets or costumes or audience, just the director and writer and the actors.  It's fun, but I have to work on it so I don't look like an unprepared mother.)