Drawing Affection

As another Mother’s Day comes and goes, I find myself feeling frustrated. It’s something I have noticed more with each passing year since saying goodbye to college. It isn’t the day itself that frustrates me; it is the fact that no matter how much thought I put into it, I am unable to come up with anything better than flowers to get my mother.

For all my thinking, one thing has become painfully clear to me; with everything my mom has done, and all she has given me, I will never be able to truly say thank you.

I don’t make nearly enough money to buy her something really impressive, like a trip to Paris or a BMW. But even based solely on gestures, I struggle to find a single act or otherwise that would come close to the feeling of gratitude and love I have for my mother. Nothing I could ever find would do that justice.

Even in my wildest fantasies where I am a man of boundless means, my mind keeps wandering backwards to a gesture from my childhood.

I couldn’t have been more than 5 at the time, back when I still felt considerably smaller than the world. Dad was working, my sister had already started school full time, and my mother hadn’t yet gone back to work. So it was just the two of us at home those days.

I’d run errands with my mother, “helping” her do the things she needed to do, grocery shopping or waiting with her while she got her allergy shot. We traveled around New Hyde Park, buckling and unbuckling me from the back seat of that big powder blue Pontiac.

My memory has held tightly to a trip to the dry cleaners, though the specifics are hazy. It was a place around the corner from our house, not more than 2 blocks away. One day we went to pick up some clothes. I remember standing just short of the counter and feeling the mood change.

Something bad had happened. They had screwed something up, ruining a coat perhaps. My memory tells me that my mom had brought a sharp cream colored blazer there and when she got it back there was some awful ink stain on it. Whether or not that was the case is really of no significance.

But I remember my usually friendly and smiling mother losing her temper and getting very upset with the dry cleaners. I know whatever concessions they offered were not enough because my mother left there fuming and possibly in tears.

I’m sure I knew what had happened, but I also didn’t know what to do about it. I may have asked questions but I probably knew that it was better not to. Something about the situation told me to be quiet. It wasn’t like when my mom got mad at me. The rules and roles for that were obvious. There was an uncomfortable difference here. My mom was very upset, it wasn’t my fault, and I had no idea what to do.

We went home and my mother went into the office in the back of our house. Maybe to cry, maybe to call my father and vent about what had happened.

Uncomfortable and confused I felt so useless in this situation. I was only 5 but I knew I wanted to make her happy again. I felt that I needed a gesture. I needed to do something. So I did.

I made the grandest gesture I knew how; I drew her a picture.

I took a white sheet of paper and my crayons and I just started drawing. I probably didn’t lay out any kind of outline, I just drew the things I knew how to. There was green grass, a blue house, a small flock of crudely drawn birds, and a rainbow. And written in blue in the sky was what I hoped would be the cure for what ailed her;

“I love you mommy.”

When you’re 5, your ability to influence is dependent on hugs, tears, and crayons. It seemed like the third one was the best option at this point.

So I finished my drawing and walked into the office where she was sitting, and still visibly upset.

I approached her, hesitant, possibly a little scared, proffering my drawing before me like a document needing to be signed by the king. She took it from me, looked at it, and gave me a hug and a kiss, and I think it made her happy to see my work. She even pinned it up on the bulletin board.

And all was well with the world.

There it stayed for the rest of the day, for the rest of that year.

In fact in all our years in that house, she never took it down. It hung there until we finally had to pack up the house when we sold it last year.

Honestly it was just a piece of paper covered in colored wax, nothing artistically brilliant or creatively courageous. It was just a house and a rainbow and some birds.

But it always stayed up on that wall, through a renovation of that room. Even though that space could have been used for something more important, some necessary calendar or tax document. It hung there, scrawled in my 5 year old affection, “I love you mommy.”

Granted I wasn’t trying to say thank you at the time. I wasn’t indebted for anything. Hell, I was only 5 and my universe was barely bigger than my own neighborhood. But I wanted my mom to know how I felt, and while I didn’t have much to give, I gave her all I had.

It seems fitting that my little hands could only create a gesture as big as a piece of paper, but I think it was far larger than anything I could craft today, anything I could buy, anything I could do.

Perhaps it is impractical to place so much importance on a drawing I did when I was a boy. Perhaps what worked then couldn’t possibly work now. Perhaps I have found my very own Rosebud and developed a fondness for a thing and a time that exists only in my memory.

But as I chase nostalgia even at this young age, I find myself holding that drawing up not just as a memory, but a symbol. A symbol of who I was and who I’m trying to be. A symbol of a time when my thoughts didn’t impair my judgment, when my imagination didn’t outpace my ability, and when I could tell my mother everything she meant to be with a little blue crayon.

I love you mommy.

Death by Taxes

I’m going to jail.

Well maybe not jail, but I’m definitely going to get audited.

There is almost no doubt in my mind that 2009 will not only be the first year I did my taxes by myself, but also, the last.

If I think about my life since college, I pinpoint one major benefit of not having to go to class. And that is not having to do homework.

Not that I was any sort of prolific homework doer in college. But when it needed to get done, I done did it. Even if it was an easy homework, the stress and foreboding of this lurking cloud of obligation that must be done every night or every week, really cramped my style.

This is a perk I enjoy as an adult. Aside from the occasional trip to Bed Bath and Beyond or the Dry Cleaners, there really isn’t too much in the way of homework dragging me down these days.

But I moved into my very own apartment last year and since I am living on my own, working full time, and on my way into my late 20s, it is time for me to not just tell people I am a grown up, but to pretend I am one as well.

I have been given my first homework assignment as an adult, to do my taxes. And this, my friends, is why it is almost a guarantee, that I will be audited.

I would like to clear the air by first saying that I am great at counting. I can count from 1 to 10 no problem. Hell, I can even do it 3 languages. Where I struggle the most is with calculating.

That would probably explain why I couldn’t pass calculus in college. Calculus seems to be the root of calculating.

The first time I failed calculus I really didn’t have a chance. I was consistently the first one to finish tests. It wasn’t because I was brilliant; it was because I had run out of questions I could make up an answer for.

That mentality carried over to my adult homework of doing my taxes. In addition to being borderline incompetent I am also extremely lazy. So I downloaded Turbo Tax, the software met all the requirements I had for tax software.

Speedy Adjective in the title – Check
The title mentions “tax” – Check

I started doing my taxes and realized I did not have the attention span for this. The program does all of the math for you, but it asks you look at forms and pull numbers and get the information from your 1098 and 1099 forms.

What the hell happened to the first 1,097 forms? Shouldn’t I have to fill those out?

That’s like going to an empty airport but still having to fly out of Gate 27. What is wrong with all these other gates?

What kind of society do we live in that the government had to make 1097 versions of something before they got it right?

So I commenced using the software and filled in numbers, consulted my forms, and answered Turbo Tax’s questions about things that might be deductible.

Things like, Was I hit by a natural disaster in 2008?

Like did my house blow away? If so I think I shouldn’t have to be doing taxes thank you very much. It even gives you a drop down list to choose from states that were affected by government approved natural disasters.

I still clicked on the drop down menu.

I was curious.

New York wasn’t even listed. As it turns out Turbo Tax wouldn’t even let me pretend I was hit by a natural disaster in 2008. Maybe I wouldn’t be going to jail after all.

I even did my tax homework the way I did the rest of my homework in college

I tried to do it by myself for about 9 minutes while watching Seinfeld, then gave up and called my friend who had already done his tax homework to ask for help.

All the while hoping that my five million questions would get so annoying he would just give up and tell me to copy it before class…I mean work , the next morning.

The only real difference I have been able to delineate so far between college homework and this tax homework is that college homework I never really got any reward for. They’d give me a grade.

Oh a grade. Whoopee.

However tax homework, if I do it right, I get like… hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars. So I might be a bit more motivated.

But on the flipside, I never had the risk of going to jail if I didn’t do my college homework.

So I finally finished my taxes, or Turbo Tax finished them for me. Of course I gave it to my best friend who is an account to look at. He did and faxed it back to me at my office.

Though when he faxed it back to me, by the time I got to the copy machine the only thing there of the 24 page document was the cover sheet. The rest of my taxes were missing.

My taxes which contain my personal information, social security number, my bank accounts, my salary, and more.

This means that not only am I about to be audited and go to jail, but my identity will be stolen while I’m in there.

Awesome.

Screw this. Next year, I’m not paying taxes

The Cleaners

Since I moved into my new apartment, I started going to a new dry cleaner. This particular cleaner has an Asian mother-daughter tandem. One woman rings you up, the other one touches and rolls up the dirty clothes.

She does this without putting on any sort of gloves or protective covering. This disturbs me. I mean, I could work at the hepatitis clinic and spend my day wiping syringes on my shirts and then bring those clothes straight to the cleaners. Just think of all the awful things that could be on your clothes.

Perhaps this is revealing too much about myself, but when I don’t have a napkin or towel nearby, I sometimes use my pants. Lord knows what else the rest of the population is wiping on their pants. Mustard…sweat…snot.

So on my last trip to the dry cleaners to pick up my pants and shirts, I received a surprise. After I gave the nice lady at the counter my receipt, her mother retrieved my clothes and came back with a little bag of a new prescription strength antiperspirant. She handed it to me and said “Do you get this yet?”

My brain immediately went into overdrive. What the hell was this woman saying? Was she honestly asking if I had ever used antiperspirant before? Was she condescending to me saying that my shirts stink?

Listen lady, I know I sweat a lot, but it’s not like it’s my choice. I don’t wear wool undergarments and run up and down stairs so I can walk around town with really cool sweat stains under my arms. Some of us are just warmer than others!

After I had that entire conversation in my head, I responded with a much calmer, “What?”
“Do you get this yet? Do we give this to you?”

It was a gift; they were giving me a free gift trial size of a new antiperspirant.

“Oh, no no, I didn’t get this yet,” I said smiling. I thanked her.

“One man come back, he like it so much he ask us if we have more.” And she burst into giggles. I giggled with her.

But now that I had gotten my heart rate all riled up, I probably could have used the new antiperspirant right then and there. It was “prescription strength” antiperspirant. Reading those words on the box made me confused.

Had doctors just stopped writing prescriptions for antiperspirant? Were the medical limits of antiperspirant recently changed? Shouldn’t this have been something that was in the news? The last time I checked when I needed something that was prescription strength I did not immediately go to the people who wash the fruit punch stains out of my pants.

Nonetheless I thanked the nice ladies, and accepted my free gift. After all it was a pretty cool free gift. And it made sense that the drycleaners were chosen as a dispersal point. As it turns out, I quite enjoy this new antiperspirant. It makes my arm pit smell like a bushel of flowers.

Not bad right?

But the scenario got me thinking. Maybe it is because the dry cleaner handles your most intimate articles of clothing that they feel they are entitled to have such insight into your life.

Think about it. They know your favorite colors, your favorite articles of clothing, where you sweat the most, and whether or not you are a raging slob. But what would happen if all the service industry people we interacted with on a daily basis gave us “recommendations” without us asking for them.

Imagine walking into a pharmacy to pick up your prescription, the pharmacist taking one look at you, and handing you a pack of condoms. What would you do? I’m not sure if I would be more upset that she thought I was a whore, or if she thought I were so ugly that she didn’t want me to reproduce.

Or better yet, imagine being at the supermarket. You put all your food on the conveyor belt, the nice lady scans everything, looks at your food, looks at you, and then reaches behind the counter and pulls out a box of diet pills to add to your cart.

What the hell? Knowing myself, I probably would have just laughed, but would you? I can just hear the outrage of people in my head. “HOW DARE YOU?” We love asking advice from other people, but unsolicited advice makes us go bat guano.

It is funny how much you can learn about somebody just by the things that they purchase. Maybe we should pay attention to some of those suggestions? Or maybe we shouldn’t. All I’m saying is I did, and now my armpits smell like tulips. Not bad right?