Even with our eldest child at college, the home front remains a bustling joint with two active teens on hand.
Either someone is running in, sweaty and shower-needy, from a sports practice, or is dashing off to confirmation or a concert, or is STARVING and has to EAT SOMETHING NOW, or is in the throes of a homework assignment at 10 p.m. that’s taking longer than expected (although s/he said at 5 p.m. it “will only take a few minutes” and then delayed its start until 8:37 p.m.), or arrives for a quick meal with unannounced friends in tow, or needs a ride, or lost a critical article of clothing in the laundry mix, or—well, this illustrates the typical scene.
And while there are rarely blocks of unclaimed time available for something as leisurely as TV-watching in our household, our youngest has developed the not-altogether-approved habit of switching it on at odd moments, most commonly during dinner on nights when he is eating alone because schedules have scattered three of us across town or region.
That’s how he discovered “The Middle,” a half-hour sitcom set in a small Indiana town that depicts, in comedic style, the lives of the middle-class Heck family. Dad Mike and mom Frankie (played by Patricia Heaton of “Everybody Loves Raymond” fame), plus their three kids (like ours, an eldest son, middle daughter and youngest son), experience crazy situations that are all-too-relatable.
So relatable, in fact, that when the rest of our family finally found itself in one place at the same time and watched an entire episode, we stared at each other with knowing eyes and dropped jaws, spending a minute in stunned silence.
“Mom, are you, like, secretly writing for this show or something?” my daughter suspiciously inquired.
“I wish,” I replied, picturing the riches that must roll the way of TV sitcom writers relative to the income of lowly freelancers like me.
“Do they have a secret camera somewhere in our house?” mused my son, studiously peering around the kitchen, his gaze lingering on THE IDENTICAL cow print that hung on a wall of the Hecks’ house.
“Wow, I was starting to wonder,” I said, trying to laugh.
How does this real-life episode sound as a possible plot line for Frankie?
Our daughter’s first cross country meet of the season was a “night run” on a golf course outside of Canby–very rural, very dark, very unfamiliar.
Cutting it close, as usual, three of us leaped out of the car after parking far down a gravel road, which was already lined for nearly a mile with the vehicles of more timely spectators. Despite earlier storm warnings, the weather looked good, so we left our umbrellas in the car.
The sky darkened as we watched the girls’ race, before all daylight disappeared and the boys took off. We were following the action when fat drops of rain began pelting us, slowly at first, but soon accelerating.
“I’ll run to the car and drive it close to the entrance,” I volunteered, thinking I’d be out of the deluge faster that way.
I darted up a slope and turned in the direction I supposed was that of the road. But as the rain kept pouring down, I became enveloped in streams of rain and blackness–and, with my glasses as useless as a windshield without wipers, I couldn’t see anything, much less a road.
Stumbling in mud, I happened upon…the most distant portion of the boys’ course, and I had to pause as runners passed, praying none of them recognized me as I tried desperately to get my bearings. Somehow spotting a similarly soggy course monitor, I cried, “Where’s the road?”
“That way,” she pointed–about 45 degrees away from where I’d been heading.
Changing course, I finally reached the road but couldn’t locate our car, so I pressed the panic button on the key fob. With alarm beeping and headlights flashing, I pushed forward until I collapsed, dripping, in the driver’s seat.
When I’d guided the car down the narrow gravel road, now crowded with other spectators and runners also frantically seeking shelter, I called my husband, who I could see standing about 50 yards away–looking in the opposite direction from where I was blocking traffic.
Another successful family outing!