SASS, Broken Hearts and Lost Childhoods

A Drawing I did of Five Year Old Hank (2012)

A Drawing I did of Five Year Old Hank (2012) at a time when we fed the dragons at our castle at least once a week.



Me: Hey there chicken, off to bed?

Hank: Yah. (lingering)

Me: Got something on your mind, buddy?

Hank: I was just thinking about my level of sass today.

Me: Yo, your level of sass this afternoon was at maximum capacity not to mention your defensive level.

Hank: What is defensive?

Me: A person is defensive when they are attempting to not feel big feelings or stop a another person from pointing out where they might be going wrong. When I begin to speak to you about a chore you’ve neglected or the fact that you left your bedroom light on, instead of calmly acknowledging and handling the situation you have a habit of throwing a jagged, barbed “sorry” at me and storming off to do it. That is being defensive. You are defending yourself as if you were in battle for something minor and insignificant.

Hank: I do that a lot.

Me: You learned that from me. I also do that a lot. I spent a great part of my life totally on my own and because I made all my own life decision without help or guidance, so when someone questioned my choices I would instantly get extremely defensive because I was scared to learn I was doing something wrong and just scared in general. It isn’t good behavior but I haven’t been able to break the habit yet. I am still learning, just like you.

Hank: Lately, I have this feeling deep inside that I just want to be sassy. I just want to be sassy all the time.

Me: Sass makes you feel powerful. It’s combative behavior just like being defensive. Learning to manage the sass is a part of growing up. I didn’t manage my sass level well at all when I was young.

Hank: Really?

Me: Your poor grandparents. I went through a lot as a teen which made matters worse. I was SASS-BOT-9000! I, personally, turned your Grammy Kate’s hair from blond to white in one year with the stress of my sass and bad behavior. Me, all by myself.

Hank: What?

Me: I was the worst. It was all a cry for help, but it backfired because I was so awful to deal with. Your Grammy Kate would say to me every time I left her side to be kind, every single time, and the truth was, and I am ashamed to admit this, I was kind to others, kind and very polite, I was just rude to her.

Hank: That makes me sad.

Me: Me, too.

Hank: Is this when you had a broken heart?

Me: Yes an extremely broken heart.

Hank: I get sassy but I don’t think my heart is broken. Well, maybe a little it is because my friends have moved away and Ana is in Ireland and I miss her.

Me: Sass and attitude and defensiveness and sarcasm are things you have to learn to control. Even a tiny crack in your heart can feed those things. Childhood is so magical and important that when you begin to grow up and mature your heart has to break a little when losing the magic of childish things, but Hank, the thing to remember is that it is just as much fun making magic as it is receiving it. And being kind, listening to people with an open heart and being respectful can also make you feel powerful. It is your choice to be sassy and defensive and the only reason I am telling you this is so you know you have a choice. You can stop being defensive and sassy before they become a habit.

Hank: It’s hard to think I am growing up when I am eight.

Me: (pulling him into hug) Growing up is a trap. Stay a kid as long as you can. As your mother I promise I will do my best to help you and answer all your questions as long as you want my advice. When you are doing with my advice then I am here to listen.

Hank: You grew up but your insides stayed five years old. That’s what papa says.

Me: That is a kind way of looking at it. The truth is I grew up too soon and I have been trying to recapture a bit of my lost childhood ever since.

Hank: That is the saddest thing I have ever heard.

Me: It is, indeed. Don’t be like me. Stay a kid, protect your special, precious heart, learn and grow, but slowly, enjoy the magic and when you are grown and you have kids…

Hank: That you will call your clucks since you call me and Molly chickens.

Me: (smiling) You will get to make all the magic of your childhood all over again for them.

Hank: And make some new magic.

Me: And regionally specific magic, too. I used to make dragon stew with my cousins in America in the forest and under pine trees but we didn’t have actual dragons near by!

Hank: You need a castle for a dragon. We haven’t fed the dragons at our castle in a long time.

Me: They must be starved.

Hank: They haven’t brought any luck to Molly.

Me: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Hank: We’ve gotta go out with Molly and collect dragon food.

Me: Eucalyptus seeds, pine needles and cones…

Hank: All white flowers and stones, mica and…

Me: Sea shells for salt.

Hank: And then we need to take them up to the castle and tell our wishes and dreams to the sleeping dragons and then when they wake up they will have their snack and smell our smells on the wind and come and bring us luck.

Me: And then we will make that luck real.

Hank: I love you, mama.

Me: Love you, chicken. Time to sail off…

Hank: (grabbing my hand and leading me off to his room) To the Island of Bedfordshire where I will dream my very best ever dreams and not of spiders. Mama, I saw the biggest spider today at Gomos (Hank’s summer program) with the biggest, longest feet.

Me: Ha! What kind of shoes was he wearing? Oxfords? Doc Martins? Berkinstocks? (giggling) What a funny and not scary at all way to describe a spider.

Hank: Now that I think about shoes he wasn’t that scary at all. He was wearing red salto-altos (high heals).

Me: Oh lala. Fancy spider going out for a night on the town. The very best and not at all scary disco diva spider, Latin name: Pracilla-Arachnidicus.

Hank: (giggling) Good night, my mama.

Me: Good night, sailor.




Apparently, Crayola Crayons don't survive 100 degree days.

Apparently, Crayola Crayons don’t survive 100 degree days.


(front door opening)

Molly: Mama?

Hank: Mama?

Pai: We’re home.

Me: (slow disco sway) Reunited and it feels so good!

Molly: Mama!

(Hank, Molly and I collapsing into a cuddle pile)

Pai: How did it go?

Me: Complete shit show, sorry Hank.

Hank: You had hospital exams again?

Me: Yup. Successful blood draw, but then the rest of the day was destroyed by pain. There were no chairs and an hour waiting on my feet.

Hank: There has got to be a better way.

Pai: We are investigating.

Hank: Molly, get up, Muggy. Mama’s hurting.

Me: (grabbing him back into the cuddle pile) Nope. We never focus on pain when we are in a cuddle pile! Cuddle piles are medicinal.

Molly: (grinning in full cuddle pike bliss)

Pai: It’s so hot in this apartment. Let’s relocate the cuddle pile to the veranda where it is fresh and I have great news.

Hank: (bouncing up)

Molly: (toddling up)

Me: (getting up with the grace of a newborn giraffe)

Pai: Wow. (holding a piece of paper)

Me: What?

Pai: Maybe, we should do the egg cracking experiment on the veranda. It is so hot today Molly’s crayons melted.

Me: YO!

Hank: Wow.

Molly: Da da (that’s my art!)

Me: Cool, we have to keep this. I am sad for the crayon, but it was a honorable death.

Pai: So, my news.

Hank: What is it, papa?

Pai: Do you think you will be well enough to walk into town this evening, Joy?

Me: Perdido por 100 perdido por 1000. (Lost by 100 lost by 1000).** Why?

Pai: We need to celebrate! Our Hank pulled his Portuguese grade up to a Bom (equivalent of letter grade B in the US).

Hank: What?!

Me: Oh Hank, I am so proud of you. Well done, buddy!

Pai: You did that work all on your own. I am very proud of you. It was your choice to raise your grade. This calls for after dinner ice cream. (giving Hank a hug)

Hank: Yea!!

Molly: Yah! (clapping, hugging her brother, clueless as to why but happy to be happy)

Pai: (handing over his grades) You also did very well in Robotics and your professor had very kind words to say about you. And English you are top of the class.

Me: (sarcastic) Shocking.

Hank: I don’t even need English class, really.

Pai: Oh yes, you do. Don’t expect to learning spelling from your mother. Her brain works in unique and mysterious ways. (grinning at me)

Me: True Story.

Hank: Então, se eu passar de terceira classe? (So, did I pass third grade?)

Me: (positively purple with laughter, hugging him)

Pai: Hank, of course you did! You earned two MB (A), four BO (B) and a SF (C). (super sarcastic) No, you have to stay in third grade. (handing over his grades)

Hank: So, I just have to work on improving Math next year. I can do that and I can study this summer. (deep breath) I am proud of myself.

Me: We knew you could do it. I am proud you made the choice, yourself, to improve.

Hank: This feels great. Mama, can we eat early so we can get ice cream early?

Pai: Sounds good to me, I skipped lunch.

Me: Hank, you get the talheres (silverwear). Alfredo, help me with the soup. Ms. Molly MaGoo, are you hungry.

Molly: (squatting by a veranda pot, mouth full of dirt, waving) Olá! (hello)

Hank: (laughing) I guess she’s hungry.

Me: Amália Sofia Hanford Pereira!! No!


** The expression, “perdido por 100 perdido por 1000,” (lost by 100 lost by 1000) is one of my favorite in portuguese.  It means basically: “I’ve already lost what does it matter if I lose more.”  It is something a criminal would say when being questioned by police or you would say taking your third piece of cake.



Drunk Skin Care Advice



Hank: (coming into my bedroom) Mama?

Me: (reading) Hum?

Hank: I wanted to remind you to wash your face before you go to bed because you are wearing makeup. And you looked very pretty today, by the way. I like it when you wear makeup.

Me: Thank you for the compliment and thank you for the reminder, Hank.

Hank: Yah, because I learned that when you’re drunk you forget to take your makeup off sometimes and it gets all (gesturing a smearing motion all over his face) when you wake up and that is also really bad for your skin.

Me: Hank, do you think I’m drunk?

Hank: (back peddling) No… No, no, no. I mean, I saw you drinking beer, but I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think I know what drunk means. Maybe?

Me: That’s probably because you have never seen either of your parents drunk before.

Hank: Right. Yes, of course. Exactly.

Me: (going back to my book, smirking) But great advice none the less.

Hank: (leaving the room) You’re welcome.