I looked down at my son in his baggy shorts and Star Wars t-shirt, the top of his head barely up to my shoulder. I forced a grin from erupting. “No, son, you are not quitting school. You have eight more years to go, then college. And although you’re smart, you don’t know everything.”
A storm filled his eyes. “Yes, I do, Mom. I know everything there is to know! So I don’t need school anymore.”
I learned a word when he was three and his sister was six that I pulled out whenever the argument started smoking. “Nevertheless,” I said, “you are not quitting school.” He stomped down the hall, slamming the door to his room. This shook our entire 48 x 60 mobile home, rattling every goblet in the built-in hutch, but I stayed glued to my spot in front of the stove, where my spaghetti sauce and I shared a silent chuckle.
After he came out of his room and got over his pout long enough to eat spaghetti, he went to a university, procured two degrees, and became an animator/writer par excellence. But there were a heckofalotta neverthelesses between that pout and those two degrees.
The summer he turned fourteen, I forced him to choose between taking music lessons and joining a sports team. I was thrilled when he opted for guitar lessons, since I could barely tell the difference between a hockey puck and a pie tin.
He came home crying after the first lesson. “Mom, my fingertips are so sore, they might fall off by the time the summer is over. I’ll have to live with little callousy stubs the rest of my life. You’ll be to blame if I fail in my chosen profession because I can’t use my hands.”
My word helped me circumvent a trip to the guilt farm. “Nevertheless, you are not quitting guitar. If your fingertips fall off, we’ll find a teacher with a huge glue stick to paste them back on for you.” When he started composing songs for the band he formed, I asked him if the glue didn’t ruin the guitar strings. He acted like he hadn’t heard me. Of course.
But my favorite use of the word was during his junior year of high school. I had pushed him through Algebra, dragged him through Biology, and prayed him through Government. All he wanted to do was draw cartoons.
“Mom, I will never use any of this stuff they are teaching me. I don’t need to know how many bones are in my feet, or why we have negative numbers. Animators never use that junk. All I need is art.”
“Nevertheless, son, you have to take these classes to get into college to study animation. They’re the hoops you have to jump through. Sorry.”
That was over ten years ago. Last month the animation studio he works for announced the completion of a project they’d done for Microsoft’s Halo action comics. I let myself grin this time, and patted my word on the back. “Good job, nevertheless.”
*** artwork copyright Ron Levellie, 2009
“Nutty with a dash of meat” best describes Jeanette Levellie’s speaking, writing and life. She has published hundreds of humor/inspirational columns, articles, greeting cards, and poems. A spunky pastor’s wife, Jeanette is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and waitress to four cats. Find her mirthful musings at www.jeanettelevellie.com