Wednesday, October 13 2021

the midwestern accent, cockroach dreams, and ray beezies



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Wednesday. How are you feeling today?

With Rodney shipped off to school bright and early, we just have the stay-at-home squad holding it down in the dining room. Between the thwacking of a hammer, the clacking of a canvas stretcher, and the yammering of the computer keyboard, Marissa and I are unintentionally competing for the loudest sound in the house. And our resident baby Miles is just contently shoveling Cheerios into his mouth. Oh, and as always the fresh coffee runs out of our carafe like a strong coursing river.

Sip. Quick silent survey for the readers out there - how do you say cockroach? I've learned that I say it wrongly. I feel the need to add an extra syllable: cock-uh-roach. Cock-uh-roach. If I even try to remove the uninvited uh in the middle, it feels like I'm saying a completely different word.

Marissa says it correctly. For all the times I've corrected her grammar, her spelling, and just generally played the role of English know-it-all, she has a metaphorical boot planted firmly on my neck. I congratulate her for the fresh kill.

I can't even really pin this one on my Midwestern accent either. People from Illinois love to tout their Midwestern accent, but the truth is the Minnesota accent makes Chicago sound like California. The Minnesota accent is like the Midwest accent concentrated down to a slurry. On top of the well-known signifiers like the nasal vowels (cot and caught), Minnesotans use phrases I had never heard of. Oofdah. Fer' shame. I need this somethin' fierce. No doubt, if cock-uh-roach was anywhere in the Midwest it would be in Minnesota.

Isn't Midwest speak great? At work, I come across a lot of people that learned English as a second language, and nothing gives me more joy than giving them a supplementary lesson in Midwestern English. The lesson usually boils down into these instructions: plug your nose and say Eat a sammich, take a pitchur, gimme a hunnerd bucks.

Sip. Cockroaches have been on my mind a lately. I've been having reoccurring cockroach nightmares in my sleep. Dreams about the cockroaches escaping. Dreams about falling into a pit filled with cockroaches. Dreams about giant cockroaches stomping on my house. I'm no psychologist, but I have a feeling this has something to do with the new cockroach colony I've set up in our bedroom. I think it's just my brain processing the new responsibility. When I got my first two spiders, I had a lot of spider-related nightmares too.

And all things considered, the cockroaches are easy pets. The don't like the lights, so most of the day they hide underneath the egg cartons, venturing out only to get food.

I finally treated Spidey to his first cockroach last night. I tried to record capture the takedown on video, but while I was fumbling with the buttons on my phone, Spidey did a swift 180 and plucked the freshly molted roach right off my tongs. I missed the action, but at least I captured his gratuitous touchdown dance.

I was glad for Spidey - he deserved a good meal. I've been cutting back on his food, and this spider diet has been making him grumpy. Since his last meal, I've watched him pass through the stages of grief all colored with different types of hunger. He waited at the mouth of his burrow in denial, certain that another meal was minutes away. I watched him hang off his ceiling vent in anger, which he only does when he's trying to annoy me. Depressed, he sulked in the corner for an entire day. He even wandered out of his burrow to watch me change his water, which I think counts as bargaining. And lastly, acceptance - for spiders, that takes the form of a gyrating happy dance. Now the cycle will start over.

We had a good day yesterday. The day seemed to fly by, leaving our family feeling zapped. We decided to go out for dinner to our favorite pizza place. After Rodney, Miles, and I grabbed a quiet booth, Rodney got out of his seat and gave his brother a hug. "Take a pitchur," he said.

And even though Rodney had his hands positioned like he was going to wring his brother's neck and he was looking in the wrong direction, I obliged his request.

As we ate pizza, Rodney regaled us with stories about school. Now that everyone's names are second nature to him, the stories come more easily. Rodney told us about how all the kids fight over who gets to be the "line leader", and his friend Arthur tries to cut in front so often that his teacher sends Arthur to the back of the line by default. Rodney told us about "reach class", and each time he referred to reach class or the reach room, he automatically made a reaching gesture with his right hand. Rodney's daily life at school sounds like something out of Squid Game. Regimented activities with consequences he doesn't understand. Special privileges that bring out his competitive side. Delicately navigating rivalries and alliances all under the watchful eye of the faculty.

Rodney remembered one last story just as I was putting him to bed. "I need to tell you something that happened," he said just after bursting into tears. "I forgot my Ray Beezies at school... and..."

I sat patiently, letting Rodney sniffle through the rest of his thought.

"They broked. I found a piece of them... the piece that goes to the ear," he sobbed. "Maybe somebody stepped on them."

Later that night, in his backpack I discovered the plastic ear piece of his sunglasses. Thinking of a defeated Rodney scooping the plastic scrap off the ground made my eyes well up with tears. I couldn't even tell Marissa about it without crying myself.

"Momma's on it," she said, pirouetting to the computer chair. "I had better by two - one as a backup."

Everything is going to be OK. Another pair of Ray Beezies are en route. It's a good thing they only cost eight bucks a pop.

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by today, have a great Wednesday.