10 October 2011

An Alien in my House

Cason
by Jan Grape


Okay, I'll admit that sounds more like a sci-fy story than a mystery but I can explain. This alien landed on our planet in 1993 and quickly wormed his way into our heart. It took him a long time to learn to speak English but he did finally master it. Now every morning I'm greeted by "Whatsssup?"
In fact, he says it sometimes three or four times a day. "Whatsssup, Nana?"

My explanation. I have two black cats, Nick and Nora who have lived with me for fourteen years, we're comfortable with each other. The alien?? Is one of my grandsons, an eighteen year old grandson, Cason by name, has just moved into my new house with me. He's like many young people nowadays, just not exactly sure what he wants to do with his life. Tried really hard to mess up his life by dropping out of school when he only has half a semester left until graduation. He already admits that was one of the biggest mistakes he could have made and is getting prepared to take his GED so that if he decides to go to college he'll be ready. At the moment, he's working at a car wash in town for minimum wages and he does know he doesn't want to do that the rest of his life.

Of course the alien part to me is that I haven't lived with a teenager in many years. My oldest are in the youth of middle age and everything is quite different than it was when they were teens and of course totally unbelievable (to them) when I was in my teens. No believes I walked to school and back uphill both ways in twelve inches of snow. Okay, that was a bit of fiction, but I actually walked in sandstorms so heavy that I had to go to restroom to wash the dirt off my face and had to grit it in my mouth half the day. But I digress...

It has been fun being around Cason. He's good-looking, funny, smart, charming and full of life and himself. He's part man and still part child although he's around 6 feet 3 inches tall. I'll admit it's so much easier dealing with a grandson than a son or daughter. Having that generation gap makes most of what he does seem like, "I've been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt," and doesn't upset me. Much.

I'm learning again what teenagers like and don't like, and a little about how they think which certainly will help me next time I want to create a teenage character. In my most recent book, What Doesn't Kill You, Cory was sixteen except she lived so far out in the boonies they didn't have cell phones or computers. Today's teens have no concept of life without iPhones or iPods. They are totally fluent in cyber technology and how computers work. That's what they've grown up with and it is second nature to them to "Google" for information. I want to reach for a dictionary or an encyclopedia and while I'm looking something up, Cason has already found it on Google.

Music is so different now than when my daughter and sons were teens. They were into The Beatles, Heart, The Eagles and the music of the 70s and 80s. Cason is into rap and rap and more rap and there's something he calls "the beat." None of it sounds like music to me, but I'll admit my music is boring to him. He has an iPod and those earplugs in his ears all day and all night. He'll pull one side out to listen to me and to talk to me, then put it back in and is quickly back to moving his body to the beat.

He doesn't watch TV, can't sit still long enough for most TV shows. Things have to move fast, be action packed. Attention spans are not very long for teenage boy-men. He loves junk food: chips, dips, taquitoes, corn dogs. pizza rolls and pizza. He will eat a Caesar salad if pressed to eat some vegetables. He loves to be with his friends constantly and fortunately is able to make friends easily. He loves to "chill" as he calls relaxing. One of the new words cropping up lately from adults is "chillaxing." I'm sure a teen thought of it first.

Cason has lived in the Nashville, TN area most of his life and that's too far away from Central TX for overnight visits so we've not been together often or for very long at any given time. So I'm getting to know this alien in my house and am enjoying every minute of this bonding experience. I definitely can see that my alien may still be a mystery to me, but I'm learning more every day.

Now if I can get him to sit still long enough so I can't pick up more of his lingo. I definitely want my teenage characters to sound like teenagers.

6 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

Jan, you make me realize how fortunate I am that my grandson Aeden lives only ten minutes from me.
I predict you will, indeed, be able to write better teen characters having Cason around. Last week, riding in the car, listening to HIS radio station, not mine, 11-year-old Aeden said, "Just think, G-mama, when I'm grown and my kids are riding with me and this song plays, they'll think it's old- fashioned." Yesterday, I started a story with that long, run-on line.

Dixon Hill said...

Great post. Reminds me of my oldest son (22 yrs) and my 16 year old daughter. Driving her to marching band practice at oh-dark-thirty weekday mornings, we have interesting "radio experiences" where she informs me that what I think is rap, is really something else. "It's not rap," she says. "I know you don't like rap, so I wouldn't play it."
(But, I'm telling you: It's rap. She just has me wrapped around her finger.)

Velma said...

Dixon… (giggling) She's having great training.

R.T. Lawton said...

Jan, grandkids quickly become great resources and examples for writing young characters. Dylan, the 8 year old grandson we do day care for 10 months out of the year has spawned the orphan incompetent pickpocket in my 1660's Paris Underworld series, the little Nogai Boy in my Armenian series, and most recently, the unnamed protagonist burglar in the San Francisco Gold Rush era for an anthology. To my knowledge, the kid has never actually committed any crimes, but some of his characteristics and mannerisms do make my young protagonists more endearing to the editors and readers.

Leigh Lundin said...

RT reminded me that I patterned a little girl in the mid-1800s on my niece. I haven't attempted to sell the story yet, but it has possibilities.

Jan, can we borrow your grandson to edit our stories?

Jeff Baker said...

All my best to Cason! Being around my brother's teen-age daughter and her friends will hopefully make my contemporary writing more, uh, contemporary. (I almost said "with it.")