When our son, Owen, was little, he used to ask my husband and me, "For real life?" when what he actually (really) meant was, "Really?".
I'm less than a tweet's worth of characters into this and already I need to correct myself. I should have referred to our son as "younger". It feels less than accurate to have called him "little". He did not come sized according to age, at least not until he grew from babyhood, to childhood, to closer to adulthood. At his early pediatric visits he was nearly off-the-charts long. Yes, long, because he could not yet stand up. Remember that, people with kids? There was a time when they could not stand up.
"For real life" became part of our language. Every time we went to say "really", whether asking a question or making a statement, we said it that way...for real life. We still do, as a matter of fact. Furthermore, we say other strange things that people outside of our table-for-three might not get. Things such as, "I'll see you in, like, sixteen or fifteen minutes." Even if what we for real life mean is, "I'll be back in two hours." There are more of these uttered-long-ago expressions, but I'm sure you get the point. We say them because, well, you know. You can't freeze them--those kids--in time, so you bring some bits of time with you.
I often wish I had a better handle on gauging just how much time has passed. If something happened two weeks ago, it likely feels more like two days or two years. An event that left its mark decades ago might just as easily have taken place yesterday or in, say, the "sixteen or fifteen" hundreds. I'm only guided by the fact that I wasn't born in the seventeenth or sixteenth centuries and can, therefore, narrow down the time frame slightly.
Recently, I thought about Owen's audition for the first American season of X Factor. Rather than getting it wrong, I just looked back through the archives (that sounds so serious, when all I meant was my archived blog posts) to see when it had taken place. It was just about three years ago. Strangely enough, I probably would have guessed that. But, it would have taken me awhile to get through all of the personal signposts to arrive there logically.
The X Factor was not a random thought. I recalled waking before dawn (way before), driving to the Los Angeles Sports Arena on a Saturday morning, standing in the parking lot for hours, anticipating what? Fame and fortune? No. Of course not. We were waiting for instructions on what to do the next day, which was hardly any different from the first day, other than the eventual singing for a cranky judge at 6:00 p.m. and getting sent home. Dumb reality show. We celebrated by taking off on Monday morning for New York, semi-spur-of-the-moment, to see an eighty-six year old woman sing her ass off at The Regency Hotel. My husband's mother, my mother-in-law, our son's grandmother. She showed us how it was done. We didn't mind waking up before dawn that day to surprise her.
So, here is why the X Factor thought was not random. It came to mind a little over two months ago.
At 4:30 a.m. on a Friday in November, I dragged our just-turned-eighteen year old son out of bed. Truth be told, I had to drag myself a bit, too. We left for the airport and hopped a plane to New York. My husband was already there. He had been gone for ten days already, and I was happy he stayed and waited for us. I had booked the early flight so that we could arrive before dinner time. Owen had the equivalent of room service (restaurant delivery) in the New York apartment where we were staying. My husband and I walked along Central Park South until we found an amazing restaurant.
Two days later, on Sunday, our son went through a four hour audition process for college. We flew home the next day. Eighty-four hours later, he and I were on another plane. Another pre-dawn, drag out of bed experience. We flew to Boston. I went to dinner with my best friend from college. Owen ordered for real life room service. He had a hard time deciding what to get, so I told him just to get everything he felt like. That included lox and bagels, garlic naan, a multi-colored pepper soup, a smoothie, and a Diet Coke. I tweeted, "Eloise is my role model". I wasn't kidding. On Sunday, our son went through another four hour audition process for college.
This... this... is the for real life reality show.
Season Two, by the way, will be coming to you from New York.