Mama’s Always Gotta Back-Check: From Chuck E. Cheese to Neon Trees

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I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror to realize I had fallen to sleep with a full face of make up. Charcoal mascara blurred my eyes and accentuated the puffy, purple bags underneath my sockets--waiting to catch my corneas should they fall out of their place. Bright red lipstick stained my lips, still vibrant after a night of hard slumber. My cheeks still showed the peachy blush I lightly brushed on before heading out to church yesterday afternoon.

In my journal I wrote, "too many late nights, must get back to ten pm bedtime."

My life is a constant reminder of that weird human juxtaposition called aging. For instance, Friday when Chup and I rewarded our good-deed-doing children with a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Thanks to mornings of PBS my children have been bombarded with advertisements about this part-amusement-park-part-arcade-part-restaurant (if-you-can-call-it-food) complete with a stage full of animatron animals that sing and blink and very much creep you out no matter what your age is. Our Chuck E. Cheese establishment is across the street from Target and so as you can imagine my children drive by that tease of a place frequently and never once have they neglected the opportunity to beg to go.

So, when they had met proper requirements we went to Le Chuck.

It was ok until we found out every single machine had some sort of malfunction. Lights not working, rides not lifting, air not pushing the puck on the air hockey table. Chup grew increasingly frustrated as he kept guard over the gold coins we bought for the broken pieces of neglected machinery.

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Then Ever wound herself into the tubing of the jungle gym and was caught in a precarious situation where her little legs couldn't reach down to escape. There she was tangled for a moment before Anson could save her--he was the only one eligible, Chup and I were of no help with our adult sizes disqualifying us. There he discovered she had peed her pants while waiting for a rescue and Anson returned with honor holding the wet, soaking leggings she had managed to wiggle free of in her imprisonment.


So we asked Squish to take one for the team, stripped her of her own leggings and let her roam in a butt bouncing, sorta soggy diaper while Ever converted those size 1 full length leggings into some pretty snug capris. Then we became "those" parents who had one of "those" children who make places like "this" an unsanitary situation for the public to enjoy. We're sorry.

This is the kind of thing that makes Chup reevaluate his life, right down to his belief system.

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Desperate to leave, I took the rest of the gold coins and hit up the defunct pink pinball machine. I had seen a kid about four years old play this thing and each time he pulled back the lever dozens and dozens of tickets would spew out of it. Then he coiled up his trail of tickets and showed his mom who was deep in conversation with her friend while nursing a diet coke. She didn't notice, but I did. Oh, I did.

Ah ha! I thought, that's how you rack up tickets! Clever kid.

So with my skills, I dumped all my coinage in that horrid machine and pulled that lever and earned my children loads of ticket trains. And when I returned to our table I carried them about my neck like sausage links.

"Let's go claim some prizes!" I said like a hero.

"Yay!" I imagined my children responding, clapping hands, jumping for joy.

But instead they stood bewildered and I ushered and scooted them over to the prize table where they stood for far too long picking out toys that wouldn't last the hour.

The important thing to remember is that we all made it out alive.

Also to remember: never again.

Then only a few hours later, I was dressing up to hit downtown with my friends (and niece Emily) for the epic hour of Provo's hipster scene: Neon Trees concert at Velour.

The cold bit our bodies, chased us right into the place, until we had great seats on the black risers among Provo music patrons and scenesters alike. In no time, there I was rapping along with Chance and Apt as they warmed up the stage, and screaming for the NT to come out of their hiding place in the green room.

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Earlier in the day I was navigating a pee situation, here I was singing with my full heart to Animal and Everybody Talks and a cover of Human League. Here I was falling for frontman Tyler Glenn and his sexy voice like the teenage girls next to us who had waited all day in the miserable, contaminated, freezing air for good seats at the venue.

Here I was thinking, who am I? And, should I be embarrassed of myself? Why do I feel like both experiences--Chuck E. Cheese and a Neon Trees concert--ask chunks of my dignity I am uncomfortable parting with? What does a normal 35 year old female look like? Like this? Screaming and jumping and having a ball next to my 19 year old niece? Sure?

Certainly there were lots of concert attendees older than me there that night. But they sorta swayed and clapped, they weren't bouncing off the walls like I seemed to be doing. I couldn't help myself. Could they? Is it a trick I will learn with time? Do I want to learn that trick?

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After the concert--vibrant and exuberant and so happy--we were treated to a backstage access where we took pictures with the band and brushed them with ample compliments. Look, they are a joy to watch perform, but also they are so nice. I suspect a couple of them even know what it's like to hit up against embarrassing parental failures, or having to clean up body fluids of small children in unlikely places, maybe, even at least one of them has played defective, crappy pinball games at Chuck E. Cheese's hoping to impress their children.

Me and Emily with Elaine--drummer, and Branden--bassist + what is my face doing? and Elaine again as she talked to Scott Wiley about drum kits--as they do:

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Then, when we had smooched and venerated enough we headed out into the night and found ourselves in a dream land of fog so dense we could barely see where we were walking. Downtown was a gray blur illuminated by hazy lights you could sort of see somewhere in the distance.

And it pains me not to make this foggy state a metaphor for my life right now. But I will resist. It suffices to say though, I do feel like I am in a personal fog of sorts.

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We picked up Japanese food and took it home for consumption and conversation. There at home we ate and talked until early in the morning, stopping only because of those kids, you know, remember them? They wake up exceptionally early around here.

Isn't life a trip?

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“I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”
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