Tag Archives: tang

A glass of astronaut juice

She wasn’t my grandma. I should probably start with that. Officially she belonged to my cousins. The matriarch on their father’s side. 

But Grandma Knapke’s screen door always opened just as wide for me as it did for her verified grandchildren. On those blazing blue summer days, the five of us would spill out of the van and pour into her house, stirring up small whirlpools of chaos and sound in our wake. 

She was a small but vital part of my childhood, her face looming large in my memory. And her laugh. That very distinct laugh is forever seared into my brain. I loved that laugh. I remember wishing I was funnier as a kid just so I could hear that laugh more often. 

This was the angel who introduced me to Tang. The drink of the astronauts. Flashy space juice. It was the most exotic thing I had ever had. No one in my life up until then had loved me enough to let me have Tang. Grandma Knapke let me have it by the pitcherful.  

Her house smelled completely different from my biological grandma’s familiar smelling house. It smelled foreign and therefore fancy in my eyes.

My very intense but short-lived skateboard career began and ended in her driveway. 

She took a bunch of us into town one day. Her hair was in curlers, secured in a hair net. She didn’t care. That was the day she became my personal hero. 

Her kitchen is the kitchen I always think of when I’m reading a book and the characters are standing in a kitchen. She’d probably be surprised to know it was featured in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” and “Little Women.” 

I remember one lunch in particular, a mob of us sitting around her table. My plate was piled comically high considering I was 7-years-old. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I nodded sagely at her, like I knew what that meant. I had no idea what she meant. But I remember thinking how wise she sounded right before I spent the rest of the day with an agonizing tummy ache.  

I got the news a few days ago. Grandma Knapke passed away at the age of 93. Leaving behind a large and loving and wonderful family.

And one freckled stray whose eyes are still too big for her stomach. 

It takes a special kind of person to open their doors to kids that aren’t theirs. To make them feel loved. Make them feel like they belong. It’s hard being a kid. It’s so easy to forget that as an adult. Which is why kids need all the open doors and hugs and special astronaut drinks as they can get. 

I was luckier than most. I had the best grandma in the world. But I also got a Grandma Knapke. A woman who took in an only child whenever she showed up and made her feel like one of the pack. 

And as I get older, and raise my own family, I can only hope I have it in me to emulate her love and spirit. That in the end there is a person who, when they hear my name, thinks back with a smile and remembers sitting at my table in perfect happiness. Fancy astronaut drink optional. 


Oh yes, another article about how to give your kids the best summer ever

Here’s a fun story. The other day I was scrolling through Facebook when I happened upon an article with one of those irresistible yet general headlines that made it seem like it was ALL ABOUT ME. Naturally I had to click on it. And it did not disappoint. The whole thing was devoted to how much better childhood summers were in the 70’s and 80’s. You know, when roving bands of neighborhood children tortured fireflies in glass prisons and we only came home when we finally got thirsty enough to actually choke down some Tang without gagging.

Yes! I thought to myself. I remember riding my bike all day around my grandma’s neighborhood, unsupervised and helmetless! My cousins and I explored the woods behind my aunt’s house all summer long! We didn’t even know what shoes were! Or sunscreen! Or basic hygiene!

We didn’t have parents hovering over us every second! In fact, we were expected to work things out amongst ourselves! Which is why we had so many “Lord of the Flies” level fights (and why my right thumb doesn’t work correctly and how my childhood friend Cyclops Pete earned his nickname).

Our childhood was magical! And look, we all turned out FINE! Cyclops Pete even owns his own car dealership! (Slogan: I’ve Got An Eye For Bargains!). Parents today. Pffft. So glad I read this to remind me not to turn into ONE OF THEM. My kid’s going to know freedom. Believe you me.

Smug and satisfied with myself that I was superior to pretty much everyone else (which is the only reason to be on Facebook in the first place), I continued scrolling where I happened upon a video that had one of those headlines that assured you that everything you were doing as a parent was wrong and your kid had probably died while you scanned this headline so you may as well watch this video because I mean, what else do you have to do, your kid is dead because you’re such a crappy parent, remember? It showed a man with a puppy luring children away from their parents on a playground, even though the parents had taught their children repeatedly about STRANGER DANGER. But the kids went off with the man ANYWAY. Because their unfit, neglectful parents let them play a whole FIVE feet away from them.

Oh god! I thought to myself. I’m never letting my child out of my sight! Ever! Wait, where is he? Holy crap! Where is he!?! Riker!?! RIKER!?!? Oh god, the man with the puppy got him! Must have gotten into the house somehow! I never should have opened the windows! It’s only 85 degrees! And I traded my precious baby’s life for a slight breeze. HOW COULD I HAVE LET THIS HAP…oh, there you are. Have you been in my lap this whole time?

Now, here’s the fun part. Both these things were posted by the same person. Within an hour of each other. A friend of a friend of an acquaintance of a random lady I once met for five seconds in 2006.

And that is modern parenting, y’all.

We now live in a world where people will monologue about how horrible this generation’s helicopter parenting is while simultaneously dialing Child Protective Services to report the 11-year-old playing in the park by himself. These are the same people who talk about how back in their day, they didn’t make their kids their whole world. They loved them, sure. But they knew how to still have fun. They knew how to let loose. They would send the kiddies up to bed and then throw wild parties. Meanwhile, they give me the stink eye for ordering a cocktail at brunch while my toddler sits in the highchair beside me (which is ridiculous since brunch without a cocktail is just lunch with eggs).

And granted, it’s only natural. People have been judging parenting styles ever since time began:

“Doth thou think we are letting little Johnny drink too much ale, my lord?”

“Aye, no, my lady. He’ll be fine. Look at my grandfather. He drank five gallons of ale a day as a child and he died at the ripe old age of 24 with three whole teeth in his mouth.”

“Ah, so true, my lord. And it’s not like we let him play with a ball of rags all day like the Pempletons. How on earth willst their children ever develop an imagination when they are constantly glued to that thing?”

The only difference now is that we all have multiple platforms to make our opinions known and shame parents publicly.

Which is why all of this has led me to conclude that there is, in fact, only one way to give your children the best possible summer:

Stay off the Internet.

Or, at least until September when we can once again freak out over articles about third-graders getting pregnant and a new trend where unvaccinated children lick your kid’s peanut butter sandwich just for kicks.