If you happened to read the blog I wrote about how I solved prime on the weekend, you’re probably still waking up in the morning thinking, ‘well, did she?’ Let me put you at ease, yes and no.
I decided the blog approach of getting my discovery out there targeted the wrong audience. While drawing in the usual mild entertainment seekers, it failed to reach any math experts. Some well-meaning entertainment seekers furthered my cause by forwarding it to anyone even remotely connected to the subject of math or anyone smart, like retired teachers and doctors. [Crickets.]
I took things to the next level and joined my second ever forum (my first was Riders of Vision) called mersenneforum. Awkwardly, people from around the world who are very interested in prime discovery found themselves sieving through pages of my satirical blog to try and isolate any technical findings. I sent them a current photo of my archaic laptop running the program to not only substantiate my claim, but add credibility to my blog.
In full transparency and cooperation, I handed over all my notes (probably could have skipped the blog). After some deliberation it was decided that I narrowly escaped the definition of a crack-pot (https://primes.utm.edu/notes/crackpot.html ), those dangerous mathematical impostors who are responsible for spreading false math claims like a virus. Here are serious signs that one can use to recognize a crack-pot:
offering prize money (Asking my kids how they’d spend the prize money)
stating that your ideas are of great financial, theoretical and/or spiritual value (Claim to alter world events)
that you purport to have solved: twin prime conjecture (Infinite twin primes)
talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it (Publishing claims in a blog)
claiming to have a “proof” of an important result but not knowing what established mathematicians have done on the problem (Eratosthenes who?)
pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity (And owned a laptop!)
beginning the description of your work by saying how long you have been working on it (Completed all on a weekend)
favorable comparison of yourself to established experts such as Einstein (Guilty and even photoshopped myself in)
naming something after yourself (Millie Code)
expecting others to disprove your result(s) rather than providing the proof yourself
not knowing how or where to submit their major discovery for publication
expressing fear that your ideas will be stolen (or be the target of a foreign attack)
I take back my previous solicitation. If you share anything, don’t share this one. Get off this train at the next possible stop, which is probably where you got on. Hopes of prize winnings are gone, but look at the bright side: it was a FREE ride!
While eating dinner as a family, I decided to see what they thought of my latest discovery. “I think I solved prime.”
[Random family murmur]
“No, not like Optimus. Numbers, prime numbers.”
The statement was deserving of a singular response, which is what Husband and the kids dished out. “Baahahaha! [pause]. Oh, you’re being serious… bahahahahahah!”
Listen, I get it. Who am I? There are mathematicians who have been working on this problem since the first century. It was only in the late 70’s that these numerical bad-boys were harvested to scramble and unscramble coded messages online and securely transfer credit card numbers. What measly victory can I possibly contribute?
Looking for Prime
First of all, what is a prime number? It is an integer greater than one (I argue it includes ‘one’ but who am “I”) such that its only positive divisors are itself and one.
The thing is, people go looking for them. They stumble across them like kids playing ‘Marco-Polo’ in a pool. There is no way to find them by direct calculation. If you think you’ve found one, you must then verify it by checking it against all possible divisors.
A huge pain if you ask me! Imagine a kid finally stumbles upon Joey in the pool. Instead of opening their eyes and yelling, “I found Joey!”, they have to keep their eyes clenched shut and list every boy’s name imaginable, asking “Are you Bobby [no], are you Leroy [nope], are you Michael [negative], are you Bart [nah]…?” Kids don’t put up with shit like that because the game would take years and fingers prune up within hours.
So I thought to myself, ‘What if we could just open our eyes to see Joey and swim towards him?’ Is that cheating? Are there unwritten rules here that we want to keep looking for prime numbers; keep things all lottery-like so we can still offer prize money for finding the really big ones? The tragedy of solving all primes could be equivalent to cancelling the Annual Community Egg Hunt – forever!
A New Problem is Born
Let’s assume for a moment that my solution to finding prime numbers is legit. How do I ‘come out’ with this delicate information? A simple ad on Kijiji could suffice: ‘Offering: the Solution to Prime Numbers. Needs work. $1M O.B.O.’
Keep in mind, this isn’t just a $100 antique solid wood drawer set screaming for Chalk paint; solving every prime number could power Bitcoin, alter world events, and even add a button on the calculator!
With the potential to become a global game changer, I may require an agent to handle my PR before revealing too much too quickly. I need to consider how foreign military intelligence will respond before giving the world a sniff because I wouldn’t want my family to receive an exploding letter with a white powder substance in it. Any hinky activity in my backyard will be perceived as a potential threat, like if the mourning doves that normally nest within our eaves trough are lying stiffly on the ground. Those blasted birds have endured all manors of excessive precipitation and hail and only a deliberate attack could explain their sudden demise.
In full disclosure, I haven’t solved all prime numbers yet because I ran out of digital characters, but in theory the code could solve an infinite number of primes. I’d say I’m somewhere in between solving the back of a child’s cereal box and cracking the DeVinci Code. Hence ‘needs work’.
The real reason I’ve waited so long to share this discovery is that I don’t belong to any appropriate ‘math forums’ where people can casually unveil their discoveries, test theories, and discuss math. I only have a frequently idle mommy blog based on humour and satire. Who’s going to believe the newbie showing up late in a mini-van? Had I have shared my discovery right away in April 2018, it could have been accepted or rejected quickly and we could already have moved on with our lives. But I hesitated and now it feels a bit awkward here in 2021.
Burger Eating and the Full Weight of Prime
When you are at a fast food court and you notice someone is about to drip ketchup on themselves because their burger wrapper is struggling to support the pool of condiments that have accumulated outside of the bun, you have two choices: You either leap past rows of fellow lunchers to warn the eater of imminent disaster or you lay low for fear of sounding overly motherly or creepy. It’s more socially acceptable to just sit and stare from across the eatery, watching in slow-motion horror as the glob releases to permeate someone else’s crotch. You observe their moment of realization, panic, and disgust as they move through the emotions of burger failure and then feebly attempt to clean up the mess with a lone napkin in one hand and struggle to keep the burger erect in the other. As they smear the mess around, you are alone with your thoughts, ‘I could have prevented this.’
That scenario is not uncommon. The burger eater has a crisis they can laugh about years later, while you enjoy posting hashtags instantly. However, it is not socially acceptable to approach the person with stained pants after the fact and say something like, “You know, I was watching from over there [points] and I called this disaster 10 minutes ago. You had no idea, did you? You may want to try levelling out your burger and re-adjusting your grip between bites; goes a long way to preventing burger slip. And why didn’t you spread the foil wrap over your lap, are you that unbridled? Shame, let the ketchup fall.”
Worse still, would be finding out where they live and visiting them three years later to give them laundry advice. [Knock-knock] “Hello. We’ve never met, but I do remember you on that unfortunate day at Food Mania when you made a mess of yourself. I brought some vinegar and baking soda; tell me you still own the pants.”
The most convenient scenario is sitting right next to someone in those situations in real-time where you have the luxury of causally mentioning their unstructured burger without insult. A reassuring smile, a light chuckle, and then pretending to struggle with your own burger wrapper in solidarity. I’m way beyond that now. I missed my sharing window upon discovering a solution to finding prime numbers when it was still fresh and naturally exciting. Now I bear the weight of prime. Too embarrassed to post anything. Watching ketchup fall all around me, ruining countless pants.
Friday Night Foolscap
Why did I try to solve prime? The same reason people count the number of mosaic tiles in a bathroom stall; to pass time. My oldest child brought home a library book from his school called, “How to be a Math Genius”.
Flipping through it randomly one day, I read that no one had ever solved prime. Inspired, I grabbed a fresh pad of foolscap, sharpened an HB #2 and thought to myself, ‘Let’s give it a go!’ since I hadn’t done much math since the old uni-days. There are those who solve Sudoku puzzles, those who adult colour, those who go out, and the rest watch Netflix on a Friday night. I attempted to solve prime.
Some people resort to colouring in the Sudoku boxes if math is not their thing. I was planning to draw simple prime numbers using bubble font in various pencil crayon shades if things got tricky. Things did get tricky, but things got interesting too (thank goodness, I’m terrible at bubble font).
How did I solve prime? Sort of by accident using Excel. I coloured the cells of various rows and columns and then I saw things. Verifying what I saw had setbacks. First, I don’t know how to code. The only coding experience I had was in Visual Basic 6.0, which was loaded on my laptop from university and was buried deep in the basement. A faithful piece of equipment from another decade. This “laptop” outweighs most modern desktop computers and should only be carried on a full belly and inside a secure laptop carrier with double stitching and padded straps.
I expected the old beast would still power up for me considering we battled together in ages past. I still remember my first day back at university (cue twinkling noises and a spiralling mental picture). I didn’t have a place to stay yet, so I booked a room at the closest Comfort Inn about 2 km from campus. Like a mule, I threw all my textbooks into my backpack and hoisted the laptop onto my back, strapping the old beast around my neck and across my shoulders in order to set out for my ruck to class. Everest trekkers pack lighter. It took me the better part of an hour to arrive with multiple breaks and strap adjustment sessions. Running uphill backwards would have been less exhausting! I might as well have lugged an entire office on my back, but it was all worth the longest battery life she had in those days! She can’t hold a charge today any more than seniors can hold a fart; but with the abundance of public outlets these days, who really cares?
After getting the furniture dolly to carry the thing upstairs, I plugged in its giant AC adapter. The old girl powered up like an old Honda, except that Windows XP freaked out a little bit because it hadn’t turned on in over 10 years. A box came up “WTF year is this??!??” I immediately disabled the wifi, pretended it was 2004, and the operating system settled down. I got a strange feeling that one day I would become just like this old computer. “Settle down Grandma, you’re fine. Sure it’s 2018 if you want it to be. The year you solved prime.”
The Proof is in Notepad
I took a brief look at what other people posted when making primality discoveries and wrote something similar (I call it Millie Code):
The Millie Code was first detected by Millie’s mom at around 7:30 pm on the Friday evening of April 6, 2018, but was not fleshed out until after lunch and a hardy nap on Saturday April 7, 2018.
The primality discovery took a weekend. The program ran non-stop on a PC Laptop Computer with a processor older than Facebook. To prove that the program didn’t happen to calculate thousands of primes by chance, it was independently verified on a newer, but low budget computer never intended for programming, using the same Visual Basic executable program. It successfully calculated all primes to 104,723 in two hours and spit them out in Notepad.
Figure 3 shows a screen shot of the program calculating the first several prime numbers. The first column is the nth prime number (n). The second column is the value of the prime number prime(n). The other columns are my secrets that will be revealed to the successful bidder on Kijiji.
Figure 4 shows the end of the file where the 9999th prime number is calculated, which is 104723. This took two hours to compute.
Figure 5 shows my GUI for telling the program how many prime numbers to calculate. I think I spent more time trying to get the little rectangles to line up than I did solving prime.
Big deal, lots of prime numbers are sieved using code. Wait, calculated? Yes, calculated. I programmed my computer to calculate every consecutive prime from the preceding prime number. No more, ‘searching’ for prime numbers, no more throwing darts in the dark, no more yelling ‘Are you Bobby?’, no more prize money for large prime number discoveries. I almost forgot about the prize money!
That night’s family dinner conversation mainly centred around how each of us would spend the prize money. Roy decided he would like a cut of $100 in cold cash. Eric wanted his cut paid out in Trash Packs. I planned to buy new wiper blades for the mini-van.
I knew nothing of anyone’s work when I first took pencil to paper, but have since discovered a similar pattern in Wilson’s theorem discovered by Ibn al-Haytham circa 1000 A.D. Sure, he is known as “The Physicist” and paved the way for the modern science of physical optics, but did he solve prime in a weekend? It took over 700 years before someone finally announced his theorem (well stained pants!).
Wilson and my methods are quite different from what I recall. It’s been several years since I came up with mine and the Excel worksheet is still on the old XP gal. Needless to say, I’m not going to bother waking her right now. Anyway, I do not see any method for calculating the next prime number in his theorem without testing every number in between, so it appears my theory (code, more precisely) is superior. If he discovered the crumbs, I found the cookie. My “Millie Code”, the code that solves all prime numbers just announced, at least deserves an honourable mention on Wikipedia with a hyperlink to my blog.
What our theories do have in common is that they are both computationally cumbersome. Dead weight. They work, but they are slow. I’m not entirely sure of the root cause for my program’s slowness because the machine and programs that I used are archaic (over 15 years old). You can’t expect an old horse to keep pace with a Ferrari or a flying goose for that matter.
The Mystery of the Moustache
Why post about solving prime now? Blog readership. Some women post side boob, I show left-brain.
It’s safe to go public with Millie Code since I formulated a defense strategy against foreign intelligence agencies and any potential white powder incidents. Faces have been transformed by the moustache for centuries, but did you ever stop to think about why or how this works? The space between the upper lip and the nose is the most distinguishing feature humans have, a purely anecdotal statement based on the following pictures:
In Specimen A, Millie is pulling on her ears, crossing her eyes, and sticking out her tongue (the oldest funny-face in the book) and despite all that, she still looks like Millie. I on the other hand… I mean Specimen B, appear unrecognizable. Stare at it long enough and the image of a 70 year-old man jumps out at you like a Magic Eye poster. All because of a quick flip of the lip. Haha! A genius move. When word of my Prime Solver reaches foreign ears, this highly tactical maneuver will always be at my disposal, even with hands full of grocery bags. Not only will this disguise conceal my identity, it’ll act as a defensive tactic that will block my inhalers and heavily guard my nostrils against foreign spies trying to destroy me with their fancy powders. Fast forward to 2021 and COVID-19 prevention measures like face masks are on my side, which is great, but I’m thoroughly bummed that I trained in vain.
Biochemical threat issues aside, I should re-iterate that I’m smart and you should trust me on this. Not always “street”-smart or “common”-smart, but I’ve aced a few free online IQ tests in my day. My children confronted me with the latest one after they had each completed the test ahead of time and sat quite smugly on their high scores (Millie admitted to guessing on most questions and apparently still scored at a college graduate level).
Now it was time to test mommy. I complied and began answering the questions on the smart phone they had placed in my lap. Upon completing the test, round dots spun round and round as it calculated my result. The children nudged in close to me and I could feel six little eyes moving between the screen and me, trying to predict whether or not I was a fall-down or a hero. I could almost hear their thoughts, “Is she really an engineer or does she pretend to pack a lunch so she can push a cart through Wal-Mart? Sometimes she buys cereal we already have. Does she actually pay for all our toys?” The suspense was awful.
Their eyes widened, mouths gasped, and then they smiled. “Congratulations! Your IQ matches Einstein.”
Boom kids. Your mamma’s like Einstein, at least online. Given that their own results were only a fraction lower than mine, I won’t brag in public. But around the kids, I’ll take the genius status!
And I was extremely amused when Husband walked in the door and the kids yelled, “Daddy, you have to take the IQ Test. We’re all really smart and Mommy’s as smart as Einstein!” He wisely refused with the excuse that he needed to start the BBQ.
Upon showing Millie a photo of Einstein, a rather vain thought crossed my mind. Albert had a fairly large head. If my brain is larger than average, how will I age? I reached for a mirror, flipped my upper lip, and stared passed my reflection to see the 70 year-old man emerge. Nothing short of charming. In fact, with a wig added to my disguise I could pass for the Albert himself!
Millie Code must find the right hands for the sake of the advancement of scientific knowledge. Let’s be honest, if I’m right you’ll want to ride this train with me. Our family has already spent the potential prize money by booking an exotic all-inclusive family vacation, which was then cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Hopefully, by the time the creditors find us, Millie Code will finish computing a grand-prize worthy prime. And if not, don’t be surprised to see Einstein wearing a bikini on your next cruise.
Embarrassing moments occur with the obvious drama – wardrobe malfunctions, unrehearsed bodily air escapes, and fights with gravity. But they can also sneak up on you like a bear in the woods, no too obvious, like a skunk on a boat. Situations that should be flawless, automated, and uneventful can flip like a swinging hammock and leave you panic stricken, confused and ultimately, embarrassed. The most important thing to remember is that you are never alone.
My legs lay lifeless hovering over the cool grass. Plastic, yet surprising sturdy armrests held my splayed out arms. A foam filled headrest cradled my neck as I gazed at tree leaves dancing against a blue canvas. It was the perfect chair, my new Tommy Bahama from Costco. Sounds from dozens of children playing on the playground could be faintly heard in my subconscious and I took comfort in assuming that three of them were mine. I caressed the blue fabric seat that was soft yet strong for being so thin and probably at least water repellent or quick drying. A feat of engineering.
The familiar sound of my own children’s whining grew louder as the three of them came near. After several complaints of wanting to go home, I convinced them to do a few more slides and relaxed back into my chair. Knowing that I had already pushed my luck with several hours of undisturbed sitting time, I decided to start packing up before the kids came back a third time.
After getting out of my chair and doing a quick stretch, I looked back and smiled to myself a little, this was a good buy. I prepared to pack up the chair. I assumed the typical chair closing position by grabbing the upper back with one hand and the outer seat with the other and attempted to collapse my hands together. Nothing happened.
Having closed many chairs before, I troubleshot the next obvious thing and checked for little latches at the side hinges that sometimes need to be lifted prior to closing on certain models. This chair did not appear to have the latches. After attempting the collapse one more time, I did a rushed walk around and sat back down nonchalantly to allow the fellow park sitters time to pay attention to something other than me. I sat there like someone waiting out a flooded lawnmower engine. Convinced that I was not the local attraction, I did another subtle walk around the chair to investigate, while simultaneously packing up our other things. I even pretended to look for lost items that occasionally I made a show of finding. After three more reserved attempts at closing the piece of crap chair, I felt like I had lost my mind.
Think! I had retrieved the chair from our shed in the closed position even though I had opened it earlier on our deck. That means the husband must have figured out how to close it. I immediately texted him. While staring at my phone in hopes of his reply, I felt like an extra at the end of a Mr. Bean episode:
After a long encounter wrestling the Costco beach chair and all the social peculiarities that filled the episode, Mr. Bean would coast by me with a collapsed chair under his arm. He would stop short to recognize that I was still in agony, dramatizing his bewilderment at my difficulty to close a chair.
My eyes would swell of hope that at last my redeemer had arrived, but Mr. Bean would be too proud for such camaraderie. Instead, he would revel in the moment, clenching his closed chair against his chest while doing his little smirk and head wobble. His beady eyes mocking me as they went back-and-forth between his chair and mine.
This time he’d be the one pretending to forget things all over the park so that he could lap around me, enjoying every pass while I sat and waited for the park to become deserted. They’d need to cut the scene where I send him a chair shot straight to his face and leave him wearing my Tony Bahama. Good luck getting it to open now!
Finally my phone buzzed and Mr. Bean vanished from my mind.
Thankfully, the YouTube video worked and I am one of over 100k viewers who needed:
The pain is real in the comments:
Wow! We had to bring back the chairs from the beach opened because we couldn’t figured out how to close them. I Googled “how to close a Tommy Bahama beach chair” and there you were. My husband will be so surprised when he comes back from the market. Thank you thank you, kind stranger. You’re a sweetheart.
The fact that I could not figure out how to close the chair gave me low self-esteem. Thanks for raising it!!!
Thank you! I spent way too long trying to figure this out at the beach, so I just stuffed it in the car, brought it home, and watched your video. Perfect!
I was trying to close this today, pulling and tugging for 20 minutes and even to the point that I just threw it hard to the floor with frustration but still won’t budge… Thanks so much, now I’m trying to deep breath and relax.
Thank you. I was being defeated by this chair and no one I knew could figure it out. You’re a genius!
My boyfriend asked me to put these away and I struggled…now I’m not out here embarrassing myself, lol. Thank you!
I’ve tossed the chair around on the beach several times, been very close to having to strap it to the car or something, to get it home. Thank you.
Finally!!!…We drove home with them unfolded because after way too long of trying to close them we quit…
This chair infuriated my family for about half an hour. You saved our beach trip.
Awesome! No more wrestling with the chair.
I was so frustrated I almost threw the chair across my deck.
There is a life lesson here: In the moment you may feel stupid and alone, but there are over 7 billion people in this world. Some of them will comment on YouTube and at least one of them will post an instructional video. Thank you, kind stranger.
Some memories you try and forget. Most certainly, they are the ones your kids will repeatedly bring up at the dinner table. “Remember the time when Mommy was…” trying to annihilate killer bees.
Nothing like an impromptu BBQ in our backyard to motivate me to take care of the yellow jacket nest beside the house. It couldn’t wait for the husband to come home. I went to Google.
Yellow jacket colonies reach their peak in late August and can hold up to 2000 wasps. In addition, the last brood of wasps are born containing males and next year’s queens, making them extra protective and extremely aggressive.Wear full protective clothing.
I figured protective clothing meant all or nothing. If they do get in, they can’t so easily get out. I set up the soapy shop vac next to their hole and ran back into the house.
Five minutes later the doorbell rang. My neighbour and his daughter stood on our front porch, looking very concerned. He said, “Not to alarm you, but we saw an intruder wearing a hoodie run into your backyard.”
I opened the door further, widening the crack some more, and told them it was actually me.
“And watch out for the wasps!” They stood on my lawn for a while, wearing their ‘unprotective’ clothing, glancing around and looking for bees, smiling in disbelief.
Instead of mentioning that I been stung repeatedly as a child, having jumped on a nest and getting them stuck in my socks, I just let them laugh heartily. I had seven layers of duct tape around my ankles.
Running while pushing a loaded buggy is more strenuous than any exercise at the YMCA.
It had been a while since I’d taken Millie in the stroller for a jog. In the past, she’d sit quietly while I’d zone out and listen to music. However, her brain underwent inevitable toddler developments and now she expects me to carry on steady stream conversations while pushing her henceforth.
“Mommy, did you see that dog?”…”Mommy?!”…”I said did you see that dog.”
Gasping, “Yes, Millie.”
“Mommy, did you see that it was a small dog?”…[waits three seconds]… “Mommy, DID YOU SEE IT WAS A SMALL DOG?”
“Yes. [wheeze]. Small dog ugh.”
“Mommy, swimming and bed make kind of the same.”
“No, Millie. Swimming and bed do not rhyme.”
“Yes, they do.” (I’m already physically dying on a hill so I won’t fight her on this one.) “Mommy, why is that man riding his bike?” (Really? Like, philosophically speaking? Can I ignore this one too?)…”Mommy!!”
Actually, I’m in worse shape now than when I started at the YMCA. Pushing that stroller today proved it. I used to run effortlessly, but it feels like I haven’t run in months. Oh, but I have! – just not while pushing a loaded stroller.
So, the take home message is this: To improve your workout you need to be pushing a stroller. That’s golden when you have children that are of stroller pushing age, but not to worry. I believe anyone can disguise themselves as a parent these days if done properly.
For example, buy a cheap used jogging stroller online (make sure the front wheels lock or you will get massive turbulence and wheel flutter). Next, fill it with something heavy that will cause you to perspire noticeably even at a moderate pace. Babies work well, but anything remotely resembling the shape of a baby that fits underneath an afghan blanket will do, like bricks. Afghans are great because they look as though there’s a baby sleeping underneath without alarming a nosy passerby (reassuring ‘breathing’ holes).
It would be catastrophic to have someone stop you and instead of your sweet innocent baby, they pinched a watermelon. Keep all strangers at arm’s length. Regarding the afghan, not too ugly as to accidentally attract hipsters, millennials and other loom enthusiasts, but ugly enough to keep all fertile young females away. The older generation will not be fretted by mere afghan ugliness and will require a more specific repelling agent, such as a bad-ass rub-on tattoo. You will be amazed at the invigorating sensations you receive while pushing a ‘sleeping baby’ in a stroller. People will give you looks. The looks will become so repetitive and come with such consistency that you will become an expert at reading people’s thoughts.
You will then start to respond to their thoughts with your own thoughts, ‘That’s right, I don’t rest while my baby sleeps. I run! Bet you don’t run. You just water your garden in the middle of the day. Maybe you used to run or wished you had run while your baby slept. I don’t live with regret, I take action. I am a multi-tasking, buggy-pushing machine! Oh, you’re just staring at my strange tattoo flapping in the wind. That’s okay. Just don’t ask to see my baby and we cool.’
Millie, Grandma, and I drove into a familiar bank parking lot nearing the end of the day. While my mom briefly exited the car to run an errand, Millie capitalized on the opportunity to privately discuss Grandma’s man situation with me. No sooner did the car door latch shut, I heard, “Who is Grandma in love with?”
“Well…she loves you”
“No, I mean who is she IN love with?”
“Grandma is not in love with someone.”
“You mean she doesn’t have a man?”
The car door reopened and unsuspecting Grandma hopped back in. “Get ready, Millie has brought up an interesting topic.” I briefed her on the inquisition Millie made regarding her personal life.
“Oh, Millie. No, Grandma does not have a man. Maybe you can help me find one,” joked Grandma.
“I know, maybe you can buy one!”
“Millie, you can’t buy a man!”
“You can buy a dog, though.”
“Not the same as a man.”
“Or a cat.”
“What about you Millie, do you have a man?”
“I’m not old ‘nough to have a man. Let’s just not talk about that anymore.”
And we didn’t. Not for a while, anyway. Until one day, Grandma started behaving rather strangely. We received a phone call from her asking us to drop off her spare key as she had locked herself out of her car – in the next town. Worse still, she had already locked herself out of the house that morning! The following day, she left our house after a visit and took my purse my mistake. We only found out 15 minutes later when she sneaked in the door to replace my purse and take her own.
Similar stories from her friends began rolling in, such as reports of her new racing driving style. Apparently, Grandma behind the wheel had become erratic to the point of almost missing a turnoff and compensating wildly with a hard ‘Randy’. This caused all ladies in the vehicle to hop over the curb to make their exit. She brushed it off despite a car full of white knuckles and bruised bottoms. Another friend complained that she had shared a bed with Grandma on their NYC trip only to open her eyes to a man in the bed! Or so she thought, before her blurry eyes realized it was a Facetime screen perched between them and Grandma chatting at all hours.
We were all quite concerned. How were we to explain her sudden decline of cognitive abilities? Millie knew, it’s just being in LOVE.
*Photo taken of us at a spa getting our nails prepped for Grandma’s wedding. We may or may not have had the giggles in their ‘Quiet Room’.
On a walk with Millie, she points to a little white house. “Does anybody live there? I wish I lived there.”
“Yes, Millie. Someone lives there.”
“What about that house?” She points to the house beside it.
“Someone lives there too.”
“How am I ever going to find a house to live in if these are all taken?” Who am I going to live with if everybody already has a family?”
“Millie, I’ll tell you how it works. You live with us until somewhere between 18 and 25, depending on where you go to university. Once you are done school, you can get a job and then you can buy your own house. If you meet a man and get married, then you can live with him too.”
“So, someday I will meet a man? And live with him? And buy a purse? How does someone find a purse?”
…I pause to laugh…
“How will I meet a man?” She starts muttering to herself as if to eliminate her options. “I can’t marry the boys. And I can’t marry you?” She turns to me with compassion. “Oh, but don’t worry mommy, I still love you. And I can’t marry daddy, because he’s already in love.”
Now exasperated, waving empty hands, and showing her willingness to receive, “How does somebody meet a man!?”
I can’t believe we are having these talks already. Four is the new thirty.
The ability to steal five minutes for pleasure, wedged between mundane tasks and squeezing out every morsel of enjoyment, I consider to be one of my greatest assets (weaknesses). Whether for evil or good, I contribute my compulsive hot tub dips to this trait. If I feel the slightest chill, I go in the tub. Even a hint of a sore neck, go in the tub. Chance of rain tomorrow? Seize the tub today, I say.
And so I did. I went into the tub to wick some tranquility into my soul when I was interrupted by a high pitched noise. “Is your mom in the hot tub?” I looked over to see two heads bouncing a few feet away. Millie and her friend were stealing five minutes on the trampoline.
“Does she always go in the hot tub?”
Between bounces Millie shouted, “All the time! Every morning.” I disagreed adamantly in my mind, but my inner voice had already incriminated me with spooling thoughts of ‘Kids, I’ll be in the tub if you need me!’ I decided not to let it ruin my zen and sank a little deeper.
“Is your mom wearing a bikini?” (Really?)
I could see Millie scrunch her nose towards her eyebrows as she made a funny shape with her mouth, letting her teeth hang out. “What’s a bikini? Is it like the thing that covers your ass and…” (I’m going to have to talk to her about that word choice eventually, after the tub.)
You know what the worst part is about this whole COVID restrictions business? They expect you to wear a mask to the grocery store and not touch anything, but they still provide the same clear plastic vegetable baggies that won’t open.
Every time I tear one off the spool I feel my chest tighten. Inevitably, I’m stranded and left standing in the grocery aisle with a useless bag in my hand that I’ve now contaminated upon contact. I struggle for a while because I still need vegetables, fondling it between the tips of my fingers. The arrows taunt me that I’m working in the right direction, but I try the other side just in case they made a mistake at the factory. It just won’t open without a moist adhesive force! The only thing I can think of is to sneak a lick of my thumb under my mask. I pretend I’m adjusting the elastic for a more secure fit and desperately lick a finger. It opens and I finally exhale, thoughts of COVID dancing through my mind.
That was the apples, now I’m at the tomatoes. My mask is doing double duty to stop the spread and muffle my expletives. This time I give up and rest the tomatoes on top of the bag, hoping they don’t come into contact with the sterilizing agent dripping from the cart.
I’m probably going to get sponsored Facebook ads for silicone veggie bag fingers, $5.99 for a 4-pack. “Never struggle with produce section again! Gluten-free!” Our parents bought vacuum cleaners from door-to-door sales people that lasted a lifetime and we’re relying on people across the globe to solve our disposable veggie bags problems at the grocery store. Perhaps we need suited up staff, tearing and opening baggies for us cart pushing invalids.
Of course, the title of “worst part of COVID” will be passed like a baton to every teacher next week when classrooms fill with young brilliant minds. I wonder how long it will take them to realize that by holding up 2 HB pencils they are equipped with a fully functioning removable sling shot at the ready, holstered around their little faces. I took my mask and a small projectile out to the range (backyard patio) and look out NERF! I mean, it won’t drop Goliath, but it’ll put a dent in any second grader.
I remember when soccer balls were banned from our school playground as being too ‘dangerous’ an object. At first the kids were like ‘Cool, I guess we’ll just stare at the goal posts during recess?’ until the students finally signed a professionally written petition to get their soccer ball back, which they did. Think about it… one banned soccer ball verses hundreds of mandatory sling shots.
Good luck teachers.
Suddenly my plastic veggie-bag issues don’t seem that bad. I’ll just dangle my hands in front of the vegetable misting system.
Scuzzy public washrooms stimulate curiosity in a child’s sensory receptors more than anything I’ve ever seen. Buy them a new toy for Christmas and they stare at the box. Walk them into the toilet room at the back of a corner gas station and their little fingers flutter with anticipation at all the bacteria infested surfaces. A true Montessori classroom would be outfitted with a dirty washroom stall right in their central activity area.
We are not in an educational setting, Millie and I. We are on another long journey home, where seconds feel like hours waiting for Millie to pee. She starts caressing the grey tampon box next to the toilet and asks, “What’s this for?” Like an idiot, I give her the pat answer, “It’s for women’s pads.”
She leans in, “You mean like elbow pads?”
“No, it’s for bum pads, which is why we don’t want to touch it.”
“Why do women wear bum pads? In case they fall down?”
A few more silent hours go by. I try to telepathically make her go pee. Millie breaks the silence with, “WHY DO YOU THINK GOD GAVE ME SUCH A LOUD VOICE?” God doesn’t always give answers.
“Millie, stop touching the wall.” Even more dramatic feeling of the stippled stall wall ensues.
Suddenly (as if the water stained ceiling tiles parted and angels descended from heaven) and with Millie’s bare bottom squarely on the toilet seat: the automatic flush. Terror stole her facial expression momentarily, leaving her uncannily silent. The storm, caused by the transcendent flush, raged on beneath her.
This just became the one and only worthwhile child washroom experience. As soon as the torrent of water stopped, I heard the tinkle. Thank you, God.