Saturday, March 5, 2011

At the End of the World

We live in Los Angeles, in the city, not the mountains. It’s been decades since the city saw anything approaching white wintry weather. Yet last weekend it hailed, and then it snowed. This weekend it’s 80 degrees. Wacky weather like this always makes me wonder if the end of the world is coming.

As we sat at the table eating lunch and the first pieces of hail started to fall, my daughters started to scream. They’d never seen hail before, never seen snow actually falling. They are true California girls and since neither David or I have any need to rush up into the mountains and subject ourselves to the cold and snow we moved out here to get away from, the girls haven’t seen a great deal of the wintry stuff! Nicole was scared – had all kinds of questions about what the hail was and why we were having this crazy weather. All over the country the weather had been weird during the week – from massive snow on the East coast to flooding in the Midwest and now snow in L.A. As we sat watching it hail, there were more screams and laughter, great excitement mixed in with a little concern about what was going on with our weather, our environment. I jokingly said, it was the end of the world. Nicole, who has a tendency to take everything I say very seriously, panicked and started to yell at me not to say things like that. That of course prompted her father, who can’t resist an opportunity to tease her, to wonder aloud if we shouldn’t be packing up, getting ready for the final judgement. That sent Nicole off the deep end. Natalie, however, looked up from her lunch and asked, “At the end of the world, will there be more quesadillas?” That’s my Natalie, never one to miss lunch.

But the world has seemed as out of whack these days as the weather. From the retaliations to the protests rolling across the Middle East, to the shooting rampages in the U.S. and dealing with the pain and suffering of strangers, friends and family coping with the economic crisis as we look at paying $4.19 a gallon for gas and two hundred bucks a week to feed a family of four, things seem as if they are in constant flux, looking for normal, but not knowing what normal is anymore. It worries me, I find no calm in it and I struggle with how to explain the nuttiness of the world to my kids – informing them without upsetting them.

They are no longer of the age where I can turn off the TV and pretend that they are too young to know what is going on anyway. They need to know, want to know. Even if I did try to shelter them, they get information from other sources now anyway – friends, TV, radio, Internet - so better to “mom up” and tell them directly rather than letting them hear it in the streets. Nicole, my oldest, was in the room when the news reported about a man arrested for the kidnapping and rape of a middle schooler. She heard the lead to the story before I could change the channel and asked me about it. I explained in the most basic, non-descriptive way that the man had tried to take a child and hurt her. Nicole clarified, saying, “He tried to have sex with her.” So much for keeping it simple. I worry how much she knows about things that I think she doesn’t know yet. After that, it opened up the floodgates for showing her tidbits from the news and seeing her reaction. I let her watch an interview with Charlie Sheen ranting about tiger’s blood and letting his girlfriends (I resisted the urge to call them bimbos) raise his kids and asked her what she thought. Nicole looked me straight in the eye and said, “He’s crazy, mom.” Funny how perceptive kids can be.

Things feel out of whack right now. As I get ready for the morning and consider going out to the beach today – after cleaning up the yard from last week’s snow – I am beginning to wonder if maybe the end of the world is coming. But if so, no need to worry. As Natalie has confirmed, at the end of the world, they will be serving quesadillas. In that case, how bad could it be? I hope mine comes with chicken.

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