Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Tampon Quarter

My husband’s family is Greek. Weirdly, that fact is an essential part of this blog post.

Recently, the Greek church in our area turned seventy-five and a celebratory dinner was held at the Harrisburg Hilton. We were on the guest list, along with our four children. My husband thought we should arrange for a baby sitter. After pointing out that the evening would include, at a minimum, several speeches in Greek about the founding of the church, prayers from the local priests as well as the bishop from Pittsburgh, and half-an-hour of Greek dancing by sullen children forced into it by their parents, he saw the wisdom of bringing our kids, including the baby, a/k/a Mommy’s little exit strategy.

About an hour in, long after the appetizer tables had emptied but before we’d been handed the ubiquitous Greek salads, we saw a film. It reminded me of those slideshows we’d watched in elementary school. Back in the dark ages, before the rise and fall of the Betamax machine. The need to change slides was heralded by a loud beep. Particularly memorable was a slideshow of Lord of the Flies. I was in fifth grade when I watched it.

Piggy is chased across the sand, while the narrator states in a flat voice, “Kill the pig! Cut his throat!”

Time and wine has blurred what I learned about the Greek immigrants who came to the Central Pennsylvania area. I do know my husband’s grandfather was responsible for bringing a large percentage of them here. He gave them a place to live and a job until they could stand on their own. He drank twenty cups of coffee a day until his doctor told him to quit. After that, he drank twenty cups of hot water. He died when my husband was seven. I wish I’d met him.

At some point, I got up to use the restroom, dragging Thing #2 with me. She’s eight and still pathologically reluctant to use the bathroom until she is no longer capable of physical movement.

While washing my hands, I noticed her messing with something attached to the wall. The tampon machine.  “T, wash your hands.”

“I did.”

“Leave that alone, you don’t need anything from it.”

She continued to screw with the tampon machine. Oblivious to the black clad seniors walking in and out and clucking to themselves in Greek. No doubt speculating that the obsession with the tampon machine is related to her being not one-hundred-percent Greek.

“Seriously, T. Let’s go.”

“Look mommy!” She triumphantly displayed the quarter, once wedged in the money slot, now freed by her efforts.

I made her wash the quarter, and her hands, and we returned to the table. Seconds later, Thing #1 announced she had to use the bathroom. She and her sister proceeded to check every tampon machine within a fifty-yard radius. At one point, the tampon quarter was dropped in a toilet. It had become Thing  #2’s precious. Something so wondrous, she could not put it down to pee. Although, in drafting this, it occurred to me she’d peed right before she found the damn thing in the first place. It’s best not to think too hard about how it got in the toilet.

The tampon quarter took several baths that night.

On the way to my mom’s house (the girls were staying the night with her), Thing #2 asked me what a tampon was. I promptly told her to, “ask Nammer.”

“Do you think she has one at the house? So she can show her what one looks like?” my husband asked.

I thought that unlikely, since my mom hasn’t had a uterus in about two decades.

The next day, I was informed by Thing #2 that tampons were disgusting. As someone who’s experienced the joy of menstruation for thirty-odd-years now, I could only agree.