Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brain Surgery, Summer Camp and Fireworks

Just when I thought things were getting too quiet and boring around here I noticed my granddaughter was performing brain surgery in our living room.

I was peacefully getting Essie packed for summer camp. We live so close to the camp that she can spend the night with us and we’ll take her to camp. This means that I’m the last adult to survey her bag before she gets to camp . We still needed to add a flashlight to her bag and a bar of soap. Funny how kids don’t think of soap when packing for camp.

I hadn’t packed a little girl for camp since that golden week almost 30 years ago when I sent both girls off to camp at the same time. You don’t forget an experience like that: a whole week of unbridled and carefree childlessness. I still remember that week. The first thing I did was buy a box of chocolates and set it on the kitchen table in plain sight. The next day I walked into the kitchen and opened the box to find that all the chocolates were still there. Several times a day for that whole week I re-checked the box and bore witness to the glorious fact that I was the only one opening the box. It wasn’t that I wanted to eat the candy so much as I wanted one single thing in my life to be undisturbed for however short a respite I had. And a box of chocolates was clearly the acid test. You remember milestones like that.

Meanwhile, a friend who had sent her own daughter to the same camp with my kid called me in a panic a couple of days later to say Karen had written her that the food was horrible, the counselors were mean and she had hurt herself and please come get her and take her home. “What should I do?” Ann asked me. I told her not to open any more letters until the girls got home then I walked over to the box of candy and helped myself to another piece. I’m one of those warm and fuzzy mothers.

So I was feeling very mellow and nostalgic about packing Essie for camp. Camp is one of those rites of passage, a marker of childhood, one of the constants of summertime life.

But then I walked into the living room and noticed Essie had called up a website called Edheads.org. It’s a site sponsored by Ohio State University and it features an animated, interactive virtual surgery. Written on a elementary school level without talking down to them, it lets the kid do either Deep Brain Stimulation on a Parkinsons’ patient or a Knee Replacement. It shows you in a very simple way what the surgery does then offers the kid a couple of multiple choices of how or why something should be done. Here is just one example: “Why is it critical to protect the sciatic nerve throughout this procedure?” I kid you not. I can’t remember if Essie got the right answer but she was a wiz at using the surgical instruments.

The girls were happily sawing off this guys knee cap and screwing stuff into his joint when they offered to let me try it. But I was so blown away that I had to take a short break to regroup. I’ll go back in a second and check it out. (You should try it, too…www.edheads.org)

Somehow July Fourth fireworks purchased from the local stand that shares a parking lot with Joe Bob’s gas station just doesn’t sound like it can compete this year with the chance to do brain surgery or a hip replacement.

But we’ll try our best to have an exciting weekend. You’ll remember that last year I got blindsided by a law our state geniuses wrote that forbids selling fireworks after midnight on July 4th even though last year this was a Friday night and we still had two whole days to blow stuff up. And, of course, we blew it all up on Friday night and then had two days of not being able to buy fireworks. And this is Texas for God’s sake where our Governor’s Mansion burned to the ground last year. I can’t imagine caution being that high on our priorities list.

July Fourth is about our only holiday where food takes a back seat to other activities like explosives. I’m afraid that we may be the only family who inventories dessert requirements before even considering hot dogs or potato salad. So far we have plans for a couple of cherry pies, banana pudding, chocolate chip cookies and an Italian Cream cake. I’m planning to stock up on three days’ worth of explosives then do a knee replacement or two before I dig into the pie. God is good.

PS: This is the time of year my friend Susan usually sends out a request for summer reading recommendations. I haven't gotten my annual solicitation letter yet and think I should inquire about her health. In the meantime, this is too good an idea to let fall by the wayside. So here's my list and I hope you'll add yours via the comment feature this blog has. Here's a few of the books I've read this last year that I recommend to you:

Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (also his other book, The Omnivore's Dilemma)
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman (I have yet to finish any of his books but I love the way he writes and know I will eventually finish one of the three I've started. They're all non-fiction; they don't have a plot--it doesn't matter that I don't finish them and I refuse to feel bad about that.)
Now, send me your list. Also, can somebody please tell me if Janet Evanovich will have a new book this summer?


Anonymous said...

The book I've read recently that I would highly recommend is called "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. It's fictional account (but based on so much fact!) of a 50-yr old woman diagonosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. It is a book you can't put down!
I'm reading "The Shack" right now (jury still out on this one) and have also started "The Invisible Wall" by Harry Bernstein....story of the barriers between Christians and Jews in an English neighborhood, WW1 era. Very compelling!
Have a great 4th! I am off on another world adventure!

Anonymous said...

Vickie's list reminded me of one I forgot: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. It's about life on one of the islands in the English Channel that was occupied by the Germans during WWII. Lots of interesting historical facts and an interesting writing method.