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Modern day intercom.

Ring.

Ring.


"Mom, can you come here?"


It's Peyton calling from her bedroom six feet away. I set the phone down and make my way to my sleepy girl. "I had a really bad dream again." I sit on her bed quietly, not wanting to crowd her as she wakes herself to the day. "Wanna talk about it?" She shakes her head and cuddles deeper into the covers, the weight of the day already casting its shadow across her face.


"Hey, it's gonna be okay. Let's kick this day in the ass and start over." I whisper. She knows this loosely translates to take 30 minutes, get your booty downstairs, and we'll get pancakes before school. And, oh yes, we will be late...or maybe early...for second period--perspective.

"Psssst...Robyn. You awake? I can't sleep."


It's my brother. We are 13 and 9, respectively, and it's 2 am. I roll out of bed, add some layers over my pajamas, and follow him to the garage. We grab our bikes in silence and head out into the dark, looking to the stars to help us avoid potholes. Down the street and then another, and then another, finally leaving all fear and civility of normal life behind as we climb into the wide open desert. We are pleased with ourselves. Zig. Zag. Making our own path in the soft desert, hitting jumps as they come, the scent of juniper waking as the sun and temperature begin to rise. That's our clock. We know we have maybe 45 minutes until the day begins for our father. We pedal like crazy out of the silent desert to the only open restaurant we know: Paragon on Hesperia Road. A quick slide into the brown pleather booth, fingering our pockets filled with quarters that will soon pay for our hot chocolate and biscuits and gravy, before we make our way home, sneaking into the house, no one the wiser.


"We had a system." I tell Peyton over breakfast. "We also didn't have lights or helmets. We just floated through the night. The world belonged only to us." The fear of her early morning dream seems to be dissipating. We take our time. A year of zooming for school has left me with very little respect for the rules. We'll get to school, but first we will eat good food, gather perspective for the day, and get our mojo back.


Peyton and I also have a system. We find ourselves with two phrases. Neither are very genteel, but it is a shared system between us that we use to navigate the world around us: 1) OTS and 2) FTS, which stands for own that shit and fuck that shit, respectively.


The first is used for when we start to stammer the shoulda, woulda, coulda's (P: I woulda done my homework, but <insert excuse>; Me: I couldn't write today, because <insert laundry list of excuses and finger pointing>): OTS.


The second is used for when we tell ourselves stories that are not true and to make matters worse, we've added to the tale with some extra projection (P: I thought everyone hated me and I wasn't deserving of friends; Me: They don't see me as I am--it's like I'm invisible.): FTS.


It goes a little like this:


"Say it, P."


"FTS" A glimmer in her eye beneath the tears. Her mom is actively prompting her to F bomb.


"Girl, say it louder five times. Let's do this."


"FTS! FTS!" FTS! FTS! FUCK THIS SHIT!"


"YEAH! That's right. That story you just tried to tell yourself is not true."


We high five.


"So what is true? What really matters?" And then we get down to business.


Obviously, no mother of year trophies are coming my way any time soon. But dammit, the weight of our times is one heavy beast. These systems, no matter how crass, are life lines. We need the connection, to know that we can get a little dirty and still be okay. We need to know that we have our people and our people have us, because on many days, it seems that all the other people, acquaintances, schools, government, etc. have lost the plot. We need to know that there is space for tears, laughter, lies, and truths and all the things in between.


We need to know when to own up and take responsibility and when to call bullshit on the stories we weave in our minds--or that others weave for us. It has never been more important.


As for the post-pancake check in at school, my entry looks like this:

Appointment with mom. We be late. OTS.


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