On the beauty of four-letter words

On the beauty of four-letter words

Four-letter words, the prompt said. Well that’s a struggle.

No, not like that. I have lots of swear words swirling around my brain. I am a military-grade swearing machine. I mean, not to boast or anything, but I’m practically a walking verbal weapon. And because I swear in two different languages, my bombs land hard and shrapnel wide.

But you folks are nice. I like you a lot. I don’t want to make your ears bleed.

Yet there is that prompt… it was almost kind of my idea, too. How could I ignore it?

I searched and searched and thought of writing about several annoying things, like snow or work or cash or body. Fate, fire or food? Wine. Beer. Love and luck. Pain and hurt. Play, game, dice. Hair, skin. Eyes, ears, lips. How the fuck am I supposed to choose?

In the end I settled on “parenting.” Or, if you insist on being annoying and sticking to the rules, “kids.”

Let me explain.

Once upon a time, let’s call it early summer 2021, I found myself at the grocery store. As the parent of three kids who are mostly teenagers or working very hard at it, spending time and a small fortune at the grocery store is kind of second nature.

Actually, I love grocery shopping, especially when I’m travelling. I always inspect the shelves and study unfamiliar products, like pimiento cheese which, to a northerner, is possibly the weirdest thing right after fried okra (speaking of four-letter words).

Provided you have time to explore and a little money to spend, grocery stores are a beautiful, sensory way of learning about a new place and its humans. I drive my people insane with the amount of time I spend in there, to say nothing of the money. Oh, did I include “time” in my list of four-letter words? I should have. Nasty thing I never seem to get enough of.

Anyway. Here I was, in my regular grocery store near my home, at the beginning of summer, and what do you know, my kids’ favourite cookies and cream ice cream is on special. At $2.99 a tub it’s nothing short of a steal.

Steal, incidentally, has five letters. We should fix that because it deserves to be included.

Secure a tub of fav ice cream I did. Wouldn’t I suddenly be the most awesomest mom ever? Look kids, I’m not just an evil vegetable tyrant! Here’s some frozen sweet goo just for you!

I’m also a poet, in case you didn’t know. That, too, is a four-letter word.

“I hate cookies and cream,” two out of three kids said. The third kid swears they hate the very concept of ice cream. What a freak.

“Since when?” I ask, incredulous. They fricking love cookies and cream ice cream. I know this. I gave birth to them. Nobody knows these bipeds like I do.

“Since forever,” they said with an eyeroll you could hear.

I tried calling bullshit but they stuck to their guns. Or maybe they were just enjoying gaslighting me. It doesn’t matter how much you personally love the flesh of your flesh, I guarantee you they enjoy yanking your chain just for the hell of it.

I wonder where they get that dark, twisted sense of humour.

Dark and hell, you noticed, each have four letters. And they, sometimes, sound like “p-a-r-e-n-t-i-n-g.”

I don’t know about you, but when I get something on sale (another fine four-letter word, that), I don’t just give up on it. Nope. I got a bargain here, dammit, somebody is going to enjoy it.

“Fine,” I said with the tone of someone who knew they had no viable options to save face, “I’ll put it in the freezer for later.”

Freezers are interesting places. Some people have theirs organized. Cooked meat, prepared individual meals, turkeys bought on sale for next year, those tubes of concentrated juice, ice cube trays full of crystal and not much more, that frozen vegan lasagna from the health food store nobody ever wants to eat, stacks of pizza pockets, arranged by flavour like anyone can tell the difference between meat lover’s and pepperoni.

Me? I’ve got frozen kitchen waste because I have critters rummaging through my compost bin and freezing the glop actually foils raccoons. There’s some cheesecake nobody remembers buying and that stupid tub of cookies and cream ice cream.

Fast forward six month. Bags of frozen chicken bones have come and gone, but that ice cream is still there, defying time and social conventions, like an icy middle finger raised to remind me that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be that cool, fun parent.

This ice cream is now bothering me. A lot.

I know that if I ask the kids again they’ll spurn it. And this time they’ll be right because there isn’t much that tastes as gross as frozen dessert that’s been accumulating freezer burn for half a year.

I admit defeat. There goes my $2.99, into the sink to melt so I can throw it down the drain.

Kid #2, happening upon the scene, gasps in horror. “MUTHER!?! What are you doing?”

“Throwing out ice cream nobody wants, why?”

“You can’t do that! I love cookies and cream ice cream!”

Next month if you like, I’ll tell you about clothes shopping with teenagers. It’s even more fun.

Just to remind everyone that life is a four-letter word, too.