Sweet Beautiful

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Fawn

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Dig-dabity-nab. Dang it. I deleted a love letter to my daughter. Thankfully I texted it to her already, but I wanted to record it for posterity. Sigh.

Can’t remember how this particular conversation started. But I asked her if she wanted me to tell her what I thought of her because she obviously was under the impression I thought poorly of her. (Mom mistake #382,789) At least that is what she said. When I asked her if she wanted me to tell her what I thought of her she said, “No, because you will be mean.”

Texting her from 3,000 miles away I chuckled at her youthful naivety and assured her I would be anything but as she would see, and I proceeded to list qualities to my daughter that I felt encapsulated my little deer. I say little deer because she has always resembled a fawn to her father and me. Remarkably she said a few people in her high school told her the same thing. To me, that is her inside skittishness shining through.

The following is not an exact rendering of my words, but it is an exact approximation:

Dear daughter,

You are heartbreakingly sweet, and you hide it.

You are quick with a comeback and smart when you want to be.

Artistic.

Mean as a snake when you feel pushed against a wall.

You have a poetic sensibility.

Love you, Mom

When I didn’t hear back from her I asked, “Do you think I’m right?”

One word – “Yes.” Then again the deer runs into the forest. She now lives across the country in California, I live in North Carolina. When she was at home our screaming matches sometimes reached baseball stadium decibel proportions. I think the Bobcats, our local basketball team that seems to lose a lot might want to hire me for their cheering section. Easily my screams could drown out the other team’s cheering section, although I’d probably smother the sound of sirens as well which would create a safety hazard.

I attempt to justify my cavernous mouth and huge vocal capacity (that’s what we call it now) by telling my children that my volume is in equal proportion to my love. “It’s oversized, baby!” Not once did either of them buy that excuse. I’ve seen enough Dr. Phil to know I have damaged my children with my rantings. I’ve justifiably gotten mad at them but I’ve also lost composure when I am actually mad at myself, yet did not realize it until after I’d “set them straight.”

I mean, you name it I have done it. Well, OK, not anything illegal but you get my drift. So when my daughter said “You’ll just be mean” when I asked if she wanted to know what I thought of her, her reticence to hear might have had a shard of truth. Maybe I yelled too much? Too critical? I’m told this by both of my children.

“You’re critical all the time, Mom!” my son or daughter will say. I am aware I have this flaw. (It’s so minor really, if you keep turning the mirror it practically disappears.) I’m sort of mean to myself sometimes so I know my tendency would be to be mean to others.

But geez. I mean really, what do they know? They’re just teenagers. Just children.

A couple of babies, really. Sigh.

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Aside

The other day my cell phone rang just as I began my ascent up the grand stone steps of my endodontist. Eerily, I had the same heightened awareness Indiana Jones experienced as he entered The Temple of Doom. A root canal waited for me behind the forbidding faux-wood door.

My right foot was poised to carry and guide me up into the suite of offices where stillness reigns, where polite smiles and firm handshakes hide knowledge of needles, gurgling saliva and bloody suction. Then … voila! My baby’s school called. (Well, maybe not his whole school. Maybe it was someone from the attendance office. Maybe he isn’t even a baby. These facts are trivial to my story.) Indeed, my little guy was sick.

When Mrs. E. from the school office told me EJD requested a pick up because he felt sick I asked to speak to him. She had to put him on speaker phone because he was not allowed to talk into her receiver. Understandably.

I asked him if he thought he could wait a few hours until I completed my dental appointment.

“No,” he said.

Say no more. I went up the forbidding steps and told the always pleasant receptionist I needed to reschedule because my 15-year-old son was sick. I told Katy (cause that’s her name) that had this been a few years earlier and had it been my daughter calling me to complain of sickness I might have made her stick it out and go back to class for a few hours. Because my sweet innocent daughter (seems contradictory but it is true nonetheless – just look at the picture above) could turn the truth into her own 3-dimensional executive assistant.

“I’m sorry, Ms. HRD is out sick today,” the executive assistant might tell a bill collector when in fact Ms. HRD might be in her office looking at an Urban Outfitters catalog.

My son doesn’t tell tall tales to escape unpleasantries though, so I knew if he was calling it was serious. When I picked him up I knew immediately I’d done the right thing, turned out he had a stomach virus and he was miserable – he stayed home the next day too.

EJD told me that Mrs. E had doubted the veracity of his ill health and had tried to almost ridicule him into going back to class.

“Oh come on, you can’t let your mom go to the dentist?” EJD recounted her conversation.

That’s the tough thing with teenagers, seems like they come in two varieties and I got one of each. In fact, when I recounted my tale to Katy the dental receptionist she grinned knowingly and said she’d been more akin to my daughter than my son. So that is what I explained to EJD when he seemed a little angry that Mrs. E doubted his story.

I told my son that Mrs. E deals almost all day long with students who approach her with pleas to phone home because of headaches, stomachaches, sore feet or pimples. Hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, especially when you’re not a farmer, or in this case, the parent.

I rescheduled my root canal.

Yay! It is my second root canal in almost as many months. Why? Why you say? BECAUSE I GRIND MY TEETH. I’ve fractured two of them. At this late stage of the game I’ve also scheduled a dental appointment to finally get a night guard. In some way, I know this is illogical, I kind of feel like I am bowing to the man by relinquishing my nightly freedom to an expensive piece of plastic. But my freedom turns out to have been more costly and constricting than any illusion of peaceful sleep.

Sigh. I knew my son felt better when he stopped letting me hug him and when I asked him if I could get him something to eat he said, “Mom! I can take care of myself!”

Later when I went in his room I got,  “Mom! Don’t stand so close to me!”

Then at the end of the day came the coup de grace, “Hey Mom? Can I go to the mall?”

The answer was no, and the teeth grinding commenced.

Dr. Do Little

Aside

Hey Boos. I know, that is so funny. Saying “Boo” as a noun is trendy to be sure. I think it is street lingo for baby. I love “Boo.” The Dude and I used to call our new baby girl Boo before she could walk and before trendiness wiped its clingy hands all over the word.

Bo-Bo became our pudgy son’s moniker. As a baby he was a ball of chunk and sweat – now he is long and lean (but still sweaty.) When I look at him I see me; his brown eyes, thick straight brown hair and darker olive complexion speak to my mother’s side of the family. He even wears a few moles on his face, my mom’s mother sported them also. The shape of his eyes though are his dad’s. His good observational skills and memory – dad.

I could go on and on. Our funny daughter HRD is not afraid to tell a tale to escape a scrape, a trait I see in The Dude and his mom. Sometimes I wish I had that chutzpah. I’m pretty boring and straightforward, can’t help it. I’m not honest all the time, but the creativity that the Dude and his ilk summon when under pressure is impressive.

When The Dude and I were dating I was concerned that I was taller than him. When my concern surfaced we stood in his kitchen and viewed our reflections in the window, our images showed him to be about an inch-and-a-half taller than me. Huh, I remarked. Odd. Didn’t seem like it but OK, who could argue with their own eyes?

Later I learned that The Dude, who is actually a half-inch taller than me elevated his heels when we stood side-by-side. That bit of subterfuge would never even occur to me. I wholly appreciate it and we love to tell our kids that story.

We are all little pieces of our parents and all who came before them. I remember an Oprah episode when comedian Chris Rock had his family tree unearthed and he discovered that a previously unknown ancestor was very accomplished and noted for his oratorical skills. His grin of acknowledgment and appreciation was evident.

My father’s father played the bagpipes and liked to write. He also unfortunately suffered from schizophrenia and died in a mental institution, but thankfully that gene seems to have skipped me and my children. One of my mother’s relatives, Uncle Tally, lived to be about 103. Yes! I want that piece of the pie. In fact my own mother is 82 and she kicks booty. She regularly babysits her 4-year-old grandniece, takes her to the library and is teaching her to read. (Please dear God don’t let me jinx her health by writing about it!)

Some pleasant and not-so-pleasant traits shuffle along our genetic byways. I love to watch the traffic. Easily I can delve into short but in-depth conversations with strangers about their histories or their lives because people are just darn fascinating.

It’s scary how much our past is our future and visa versa. Boo.

Boo is the new baby

The deal with driving

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My 18-year-old daughter got her license about a week ago in California while staying with her Nanna. The way I deal with it is, I don’t.

Wait a minute. Since arriving here she does drive our car, yes. Her very favorite thing so far is picking up her 15-year-old brother from the high school she used to attend. I’m told his friends think she is “hot.” High accolades indeed from a subset of boys she used to lightly scorn.

When I say I don’t deal with “it” I mean I do not drive in the car with her while she is behind the wheel. This is not cruelty, it is not meant to deride her, it is merely a plan to preserve our mother-daughter relationship and my own sanity all at the same time. Talk about killing birds.

I am of the mind that the world I live in is too crowded, too hurried and too lawless for teenagers to be licensed drivers. However these graduated licenses where the first 6 months the new driver is allowed only one person in the car with them and can’t drive after a certain hour have made huge dents in the accident rates for young drivers. Restrictions vary by state but teen-driving death rates have reduced dramatically.

But, some states allow an unrestricted license after age 18 and such is the case with California. Luckily our girl obtained a permit to practice driving and did so for 3 months prior to obtaining her freedom pass. Now studies are showing that states that allow immediate licensing after age 18, training be damned are also showing climbing death rates for 18-year-old drivers. Hum.

In seven years my husband and I have been in 4 wrecks, none of them our fault and all of them on the same half-mile stretch of road near our house. I, in fact, got in a wreck about a week ago while a young girl mistakenly pulled out into traffic, scraping almost the entire passengers side of my car. My son who was sitting in the passenger’s seat now has a mild form of PTSD in that he starts when cars approach our vehicle.

About a year and a half ago I was overturned in my car while driving to pick up my daughter from school. I’ll tell you the good thing about that wreck was I no longer have to convince my son of the importance of seat belts. Those accidents were barely a quarter-mile apart and my top speed was 35-miles-an-hour.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s streets wind like brain tissue with buses and garbage trucks meandering and stopping semi-regularly on clogged roads even during rush hour. Cars pull in and out of private and business driveways into streets clogged with people who should have been at their destinations five minutes ago. So yes, besides the fact I am already a little high-strung when it comes to driving, I’m really nervous with my children behind the wheel.

I remember how aggravated I became when my mother tensed up as I maneuvered our gold Oldsmobile through those manicured residential streets. Now, I’m five times worse than my mom. So I just don’t get in the car with HRD when she is driving. We’d argue and I’d probably make her nervous. So far she just drives the 5 mile radius around the neighborhood.

Slow and steady wins the race, honey. (I’m not implying there is a race however. Nope. Keep her slow. No need to speed. Slow down. Love, Mom.)

 

 

 

Screaming in the dark

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I just filled a quatrezillion Halloween bags (about 20) in preparation. I hid a pressure activated scary voice under our front door mat,”wha ha ha, come in if you dare.”

First, how come I never saw the little voice box the sound comes out of when I was little and heard that at someone’s house? I mean, it is just sitting right out there. Whatever. Probably the other people who used something like that went through the trouble to decorate their entrance and hide the box.

EJD and I did carve a pumpkin though. It’s cute.

Next: usually I try to black out a tooth, wear a witch hat and rattle my voice when I hold out the candy bowl for little hands. I probably won’t this year. I’m mean at 15 and 18  my kids are too old; I have put in my time.

I don’t like it when older kids come to my door for candy, and if you are going to do that at least dress up. Make an effort! I’m talking high school kids here, and I will say something, I have said something two years in a row.

To a couple of girls I simply said, “You are too old.” Now I kind of regret that because at least they tried. That incident was two years ago and I’m sure their parents said the same thing when they left the house. When they came to the door I could hear my father telling me the same thing when I wanted to keep trick or treating. I think.  But the more I think about that one the worse I feel.

Then last year I asked an older teen what his costume was; he had on jeans and a T-shirt. His two friends dressed up minimally, but at least they made an effort toward faking it. I no longer remember what the lackadaisical young man said but I remember he did go for humor. A positive sign.

This year I’m a little afraid. That’s what it has come to in this day and age. What if, gord forbid, I shut down shop and the older kids WHO WANT SOME CANDY DAMMIT get mad? Deep Breath. Yoga pose in my mind. Calm. Serene. Peaaacceee.

Do you think they will throw rocks at my front window if they hear the TV on? Should I sit in the dark until all possibility of a cloaked minor seeking sweets has vanished? What if they BANG ON MY DOOR crying with their mouths hanging open like that “Scream” mask?

Allow me to digress for a moment. When HRD, my now 18-year-old daughter, was about 12 she had a group of girls over for a birthday slumber party. We set up the big movie screen downstairs and the little pajama clad beauties huddled together and watched scary movies.

My husband, the father of our beautiful, sweet, trusting daughter put on a scream mask and stealthily crept outside into the dark night. He BANGED on the uncurtained window and pressed his masked face against the glass.

(Pause.) He really had a super, super great time with that. Let me say that again, HE really had a super great time with that. After the terror induced screams subsided one girl confessed that her father had once done something similar. Knowing that I didn’t feel quite so bad. The Dude had explained it to me exactly that way as I was protesting the “project” he was about to undertake.

“It’s what dads do!” he said. He was so eager to create that little bit of theater for those innocents. Now it’s a fun story for our girl.

Anyway. I made candy bags this year. Each little bag contains a miniature Nerds, Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Pop and my favorite, Bottle Caps. So fun. Surprises when they are good, are the best.

Surprises when they are not fun, might make you SCREAM!

The Great Unwashed

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My husband The Dude, and I and our two kids have joined the surging whirlpool of The Great Unwashed.

Except we are The Great Unwashed With Out Jobs. Since the great unwashed refers to common people, the “lower classes” as determined by a Victorian novelist and playwright in 1830; I’d have to say we are a step below them because now The Dude, the sole provider of this household, is unemployed. Soon to be anyway. January 13th is his last day.

It is frightening out there, and it is frightening in here. By “in here” I mean in this particular house and in this particular brain.

Sleep is a stranger. I read the reviews on these super-sonic wrinkle creams and I laugh. I know worry lines can’t be hidden. Except maybe by cosmetic fillers, but members of The Great Unwashed With Out Jobs can not afford cosmetic fillers.

The Dude hasn’t been paid in a regular and timely fashion for a couple of years. His employer is a shyster (a person who gets along by petty, sharp practices*.) The Dude and I learned an invaluable lesson from this experience – do a background check before you do business with anyone.

This is where that whole hindsight thing comes in.  Maybe I’ll go join the members of Occupy Charlotte, they took being a member of The Great Unwashed to a new level. I did donate two blankets and two pillows to their cause, knowing we will be moving I figured the exchange of bedding helps both of us. But now I might need to reclaim that donation along with a patch of grass.

I’m so tired.  I lay awake nights for hours, it seems I catch a few minutes of rest before I’m up and unable to sleep again. Last night my son came downstairs, it was after midnight. He just couldn’t sleep he said.

He knows his dad got laid off. I think of myself as pretty chipper, a fairly optimistic person trapped in a negative thinker’s body. EJD is still on his swim team, doing well in school and he’s active with his friends. But he knows things are not well. The air is heavier. Sweet boy. He laid down with me last night hoping for a cure to his wakefulness.

It was funny because I’d just been lying awake thinking back to when he was younger and would crawl in bed with me. His sister still will crawl in bed with me sometimes and I love it. But I was missing my boy. Then all of a sudden, there he was. Unfortunately our snoring dog annoyed my beautiful son and he quickly scooted back upstairs. I told him something I learned from The Dude, “focus on your breathing. It will clear your mind.”

I hope it worked. Didn’t hear from him again anyway. I saw a “for hire” sign up at a strip mall in town yesterday, I love this particular strip mall. It’s old timey. I’m going in tomorrow and will try to sell myself. I’d planned on doing it today, but I have a headache from lack of sleep, I can hardly keep my eyes open and can’t close them either.

I might miss something, something I should have seen a long time ago.

*Dictionary.com

Comfort food

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Food is not a fake friend to me. I know what food expects and I can provide that. Hands to grab it and a mouth to chew it. Simple demands that I can provide.

Food, my companion is always in my cupboard or a short drive away at the grocery store.

I.love.food.

So many varieties. We have the standards; sweet, salty, sour. There is almost nothing I like better than perusing a high-end grocery store. It’s not that I would even eat half the stuff in there, my palate is not that adventurous. But I love to look at the roasted and marinated meats (I’m a vegetarian), the prepared pizzas on homemade dough, salads of every color and texture and the sweet swirl of breads, pies and cookies. Lastly, sound the trumpets, are the decorated cakes.

I would marry a decorated cake. Perfect Endings Jack-O-Lantern Cake

Above is the perfect man. Cake. I mean cake dang it. He resides at Williams Sonoma under the nom de plume of “Perfect Endings Jack-O-Lantern Cake.”

I’d wed a cake if I weren’t already married and if it were legal. And if the cake could carry on a half way decent conversation once in a while. And throw a couple of dishes into the dishwasher. Run a vacuum. And …

Maybe a wouldn’t actually marry a cake, but I do have an eternal cake crush.

Whoever concocted the cake above loved the Beatles one can assume. It was probably the cake doctors on that TV show. Wizards without a doubt.

Because I am talking about food I am also talking about weight, cousins those two. And yes I have been walking. Wake up at 5 am and am out by 5:15 am for a 45 minute heated jaunt. I am ashamed to say I missed yesterday which makes it 4 days I’ve missed out of 11. Not great.

However, I just glommed onto a factoid: If I walk the next 3 days I’ll been successful 11 out of 14 and that just about hits my goal.

OK. Back on track.

Learning spanish

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Turns out when I went to get my face painted onto the side of my car in order to celebrate the “Best Looking” title I’d recently awarded myself, I made one serious error. You know that saying, all it takes is one?

It’s true.

Allow me to illustrate: I’d found the crumpled note written in spanish in a grocery store parking lot, it was held to the pavement with chewed gum which had seemed like a good sign at the time. Smart marketing, if nothing else. I mean, only people with money to spend go to grocery stores, right? The note, if you remember said, “Pintura de su cara de piel a menos que usted nos da dinero. Sentira como un coche por ti.”

I recognized a few words. “Cara” = face (I took a chance on that one because it could have been “car” but since I wanted my face on my car it was a chance worth taking), “usted” = your, “dinero” = money and “pintura” = paint. A make-over of some sort seemed promised.

I did not sign up for then drop out of those Spanish classes for nothing. Furthermore, I pride myself on being a student of the world; it is a quality I am forever trying to pass on to my children.

“This store is called World Market,” I told my daughter when she was 6. I spoke slowly so the impact of my words sunk in. “They sell scrumptuous and cute candy.”

I do what I can.

Back to the note. I needed work done and businesses owners who are illegal immigrants are far more financially savvy than their American brethren. I’m sorry but it’s true. Mexicans who sneak to our country are able to circumvent burdensome financial obligations like business operator licenses, health and fire department licenses, sales tax licenses, building permits, oh the list goes on and on. This ability to waive North America’s Kafkaesque financial minutiae frees illegal immigrants to pass the savings to the consumer!

I called the number on the note. Jesus and I struggled to communicate at first. After I clearly said “dinero para tu” his phone demeanor changed and the dogs in the background fell silent. Maybe I imagined the dogs.

Next day I gathered my best glamour shot from the pile I keep in case of an emergency and headed to the address Jesus gave me on the phone. It was a part of town unfamiliar to me but determination and a desire to show my face and not my a**  (as we say in the South) drove me onward.

We met on the corner near a dilapidated green and yellow building, not my best colors at all. I took my photo and held it against my left rear door and motioned that was where my picture belonged.

Jesus nodded and reached for my keys.

“Cuánto tiempo?” I asked, using my best bus boy spanish from the Mexican restaurant where I’d worked years ago.

“Wait,” Jesus said. He grabbed my picture and drove my car into his place of business. Weeds grew out of the broken sidewalk where I stood just a little confused. After 5 minutes I began walking into the building after my car and Jesus. But, zam! Out my beautiful automobile rolled.

While I marvelled at his work ethic I walked around to the passenger’s side anxious and excited to see the picture I’d chosen to announce my title of “Best Looking.”

Before I rounded the second tail pipe Jesus held out his palm., “$200.”

“I see first,” I said. I was not born yesterday or even last week.

Turned out we’d suffered a miscommunication. My beautiful picture indeed adorned my car’s rear door but it was shellacked on and there was a huge wrinkle in the paper so I looked like Cyclops,  not the award-winner I was. Reluctantly I put $5 in Jesus’s hand. It took another $20 to get my keys back.

That night I got my note translated. Turns out it meant something like they will skin my face for money. I don’t know about that. I’m certain Jesus wasn’t old enough to be a doctor.

Beauty contests and car washes

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Phew! I voted myself best looking today!!

What was that? Congratulations? Yes, thank you. I’m a little shy about it. Not too much, but a little bit.

There is that one pimple on my forehead that refuses to retreat, that’s why if you see me you might first notice the green band aide above the middle of my eyes. Star Fighter Fox Mouse is the cartoon character on the band aide, it was left over from when my kids were small and thought band aids were cooler than iPods.

Anyway, back to my award: I am so excited! First, today I am going to drive around in my car with the windows open. The sound pouring from my vehicle is my singing voice so don’t call in the Air Force or the Housewives of New Jersey. I said I won best looking.

After about an hour of slowly winding my way through some of Charlotte, North Carolina’s finer residential streets singing loudly as my frizzy hair wafts in my open window’s breeze I will stop and sign some autographs. I’ll tweet my location so be on the look out!

I’ve been accused of being a real thinker, and to honor that dialogue that I overheard when I was trying to decipher if I was looking at apples or pears in the supermarket, I am going to drive around with some car cleaning materials such as a big sponge from Wal-Mart, soap, a big bucket and a shammy. Then, when I do stop I will offer to let some on-lookers wash my car!

I know. I know. Wipe your tears because I did think of it first.

When my car is spotless (I’ve owned it for three years and never had it washed, I wonder if Guinness World Records is interested? What a joke. Of course they are.) I will then venture over to a certain car painting business because, drum roll please I am going to have my face painted on the side of my car! With my new title, natch.

Actually I found a coupon last week for reduced rate car painting. The coupon is in Spanish but thanks to the two Spanish classes I dropped out of and the French class I almost completed in high school I could understand almost the whole thing. MY life keeps getting better and better!

Here is the note I found: Pintura de su cara de piel a menos que usted nos da dinero. Sentira como un coche por ti.

I am going to get in my car. Even though no one actually per se, “voted” for me I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart and God too. I will fill you in on my beauty ride and car wash/painting.

So, so very grateful and excited.

Losing consciousness over clothes

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stun*

1. to deprive of consciousness or strength by or as if by a blow, fall, etc.: The blow to his jaw stunned him for a moment.

2. to astonish; astound; amaze: Her wit stunned the audience.

3. to shock; overwhelm: The world was stunned by the attempted assassination.
4. to daze or bewilder by noise.
Recently I read that Michelle Obama “stunned” in a dress she wore to a State dinner dinner. Then, today I read that Kate Middleton “stunned” in a dress she wore to a dinner. Curious I clicked on Michelle’s picture and while she indeed wore a pretty dress, I was not “stunned.” Wasn’t even close to losing my breath or consciousness, nor was I astounded at her choice of gown. It was pretty, she looked beautiful.
As I would expect. I’d have been stunned maybe if Michelle Obama showed up to the dinner in torn jeans and scuffed leather boots.
By the way I didn’t even click on Kate’s dress because I figured it was probably more traditional than “stun” worthy.
 
There was another word recently being bandied about in much the same fashion, I think it was brilliant. That word thankfully was thrown into the proverbial rubbish bin where overused words and phrases die forgotten deaths. Stunned hopefully will join brilliant very soon.
As an added note, I do have to say I have been rising at 5:15 or so and taking our lithe and fast dog for her morning jaunt. I love it.
This is a short post today, sorry. I will write more tomorrow.
*Dictionary.com