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Maternal Ties by Noreen Braman

An excerpt from the book Treading Water available through 

As most single parents know, there comes a time when trying to be both mother and father falls short. At no time is this more evident than when the children become TEENAGERS — when puberty hits them like a semi on the interstate. Dads of daughters are suddenly faced with running the gauntlet of the Feminine Hygiene aisle of the supermarket. Mothers of sons suddenly are dealing with deep-voiced strangers who eat everything in sight. 

My son is at an especially distinct disadvantage, being child number three behind two sisters. Only three years span my oldest to youngest, meaning the puberty hormones in my house can be as thick as a Cape Cod fog. So, living in a house of women is especially trying for my son. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me that he would not like shaving with a cute pink razor, or bathing with gardenia shower gel. And standing around in Victoria’s Secret, while the three female members of his household giggle over bras is not his idea of a fun day at the mall. 

Now he at least has his own personal care products, and gets to shop in the more manly mall establishments. I’ve made a diligent effort to be responsive to the needs of his gender and give him his own time away from “the girls.” Recently, without traipsing through a single women’s clothing department, we enjoyed a shopping trip to buy him a suit for his graduation photographs. Together we discovered that men’s dress clothes come in strange size combinations and apparently, it is very important to know how big your neck is and how long your arms are. To further complicate things, one cannot even try on a man’s shirt to see if you have guessed properly, as they are all packed up in unbreakable plastic like Tylenol in the drugstore. 

When finally, the suit, shirt, tie and shoes came home, my son immediately went to his room, to try on the ensemble. My eyes filled with tears of pride when he stepped out of his room, looking so much like a grown man. Except, the suit pants were dragging on the floor and the tie was hanging limply by his side. 

Folding, pinning and begging an older sister to utilize her sewing skills took care of the pants. By that time it was 10 PM, on the night before the photographs. As my son tried on the suit for the second time, I said to him “lets see the full effect, tie the tie.” 

“I can’t tie a tie,” he answered. “You tie it.” Ah, the faith of a child who thinks his parent can do anything. There was no way I could tie that tie. “Ask one of your teachers in school tomorrow,” I suggested. 

The expression of horror on my son’s face made me realize that this was another puberty/teenager/manliness issue. Asking a teacher for anything so personal was out of the question. So we tried to tie the tie ourselves. 

Rule #1 for tying someone’s tie – the gentleman cannot have a ticklish neck. Every time I even touched my son’s neck he collapsed into uncontrollable laughter. 

Rule #2 – Tying a tie is not the same as tying a hangman’s noose. At one point, this knot was so tight I though I would have to call the fire department to extricate my son from its murderous grip. Also, a square knot is suitable for a sailor, not a high school senior, and take my advice, don’t even mention tying a bow. 

Rule #3 – It is just about impossible to tie a tie that is around a neck other than your own.

As each attempt by me failed miserably, I was reminded of a story told to me by a good friend. Having grown up in a third generation family of funeral directors, leaning how to tie a tie was a skill he acquired at a young age. However, after injuring his hand, my friend was unable to tie his own tie, and he went to his father for help. After all, here was a man who had been tying his own tie for decades, as well as the ties of countless deceased gentlemen. Gentlemen who were reclined in eternal peace. There was only one way he could tie his son’s tie. “Lie down,” he said. 

Well, that didn’t work for me, and just about when we were resigned to a tie-less photograph, the cartoon light bulb over my head lit up. I rushed over to the computer and signed on to the net. 

“I can’t believe you are going online now!” moaned my son. But he didn’t realize what I was doing. After all, you can find out how to build bombs, buy drugs without prescriptions, spy on your neighbors and enlarge certain parts of your body online – why not how to tie a tie! 

Sure enough, we found a guide, complete with pictures. It was still impossible for me to do it, but eventually, after several attempts and a lot of head twisting, my son was able to successfully knot the offending piece of cloth around his neck. We celebrated like baseball players who just clinched the pennant. 

And just to be safe, my son slipped the tie over his head, and hung it — still knotted — over the hanger. Part of becoming a man is knowing when not to tempt fate.

Noreen Braman  – Creativity On Call,  American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA)Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), Certified Laughter Yoga Leader

Noreen’s Digital Dreams

Living on the Smile Side of Life in Jamesburg, New Jersey

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011




Lee Romano Sequeira
Twitter: @madnessmomandme

One of the things I most looked forward to (and some days despised at the same time) was our weekend family daytrips. Looking back, it seemed that we all—Mom, Dad, me and my cousin Tracy—were always jumping in the car to hit the best the New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas had to offer:  Turtleback Zoo, Space Farms, Roadside America (a vast indoor miniature village), Bertran’s Island Amusement Park (home of the most rickety old wooden roller coaster in the USA), The Land of Make Believe, Gingerbread Castle, The Snake & Reptile Farm, Jenny Jump Mountain, Jockey Hollow (a George Washington slept here type of park) or some other family type destination.  Places where the many happy normal families ventured to on the weekends but being Romano’s, we just didn’t “do” normal.

You may be thinking, why would a little girl despise all of these fun family places? Mom’s in the passenger seat. Driving to and from these events would be a total crapshoot. Would we go in? Would we turn around with me and my cousin Tracy in tears? Would Mom throw something out the window? OK, let me explain, here’s a typical scenario:  We leave the house with such anticipation of a family fun day ahead. Tracy and I are goofing around all happy and giggly in the back seat (unbuckled of course, as nobody buckled up in those days—we were all ready to be launched out of the car like a cold war nuclear bomb). Tracy and I would often play what we called “Cousin It”, which meant I’d flip my long hair over my face, put sunglasses on over my now hairy Cousin It face and wave my arms like a child maniac to the cars behind us. Our goal was to get the driver or passengers to wave back, offer up a peace sign or simply a smile. Tracy and I made it fun to ride in the car back then but that was usually only on the way there. 

When we arrived at our destination, brimming with excitement, there was still one caveat and our day’s fate was up to the tar—otherwise known as the parking lot. Yup, the freaking parking lot was our “fortune teller”.  If the lot was too crowded, Mom would say “Dom, let’s get out of here, this place is too crowded!” If the parking lot was empty, Mom would say, “Dom, nobody is here, let’s turn around and go home!”  If Dad put up an argument or disagreed—DRAMA TIME! Mom would take control of the situation her way, which meant throwing something—ANYTHING out of the car window. I’m not talking about a paper cup or trash, but I’m talking her wallet, her shoe or shoes (as if one wasn’t enough)—sometimes her whole handbag would go flying out the window if Mom was feeling extra dramatic that day! This antic of hers forced my poor dad to turn the car around, get out and get her f*-king shoe, wallet, purse, whatever it was, and proceed to head home speechless. After screaming “Nooooooooooo Dad!” and “Come on, Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!” begging Mom to stay, the car would soon be heading back to Dover, and Tracy and I would then begin making the nastiest faces at Mom and shooting her a violent finger (with both hands!) behind her back (from the back seat, she couldn’t see us of course). Sometimes, we’d first break down in tears at the thought of our totally ruined day—that just sucked. One thing you could count on was that Mom would get the finger whenever she turned her back to us for the remainder of THAT day!

Luckily, even with all of the turning around of the car, crying, kicking and screaming, our nutty little family still managed to see so many places over the years.  And yes, we usually had a really good time—I have plenty of photos to prove it—REALLY!


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