In Praise of the Quiet Dads

Bob with Jordan shadow

Gazing at your infant son as he locks eyes on you, both of you as yet unused to such amazement.  The reverence of such a moment.  This is what you signed up for.   This is what sustains you through long nights of wakefulness and days of wondering whether you’re doing it right–this parenting business–so necessary to keep the world chugging forward into a brighter future for us all.

What a hefty weight a parent bears.

Here.  Let me remind you of the connection you made, long ago as it was.

Let me show you how you have loved.

 

p.s.  Sorry about the coffee.

 

A Love Song

bob & jordan France 2

Just an old-fashioned love song,
One I’m sure they wrote for you and me.
Just an old-fashioned love song,
Comin’ down in three-part harmony . . .

~~~  Three Dog Night

 

Of all the photos I have ever taken, this one is my favorite:  My husband and our son walking down the street in a French village twenty-two years ago.  They are walking away from me not to go anywhere in particular, but to allow me to record how astonishingly narrow the street is, using them as a measure.

I don’t remember where this was specifically.  Somewhere in the Provence area.  We had rented a car and were driving around to various places we’d pinpointed on a map.  A guide book I read mentioned a villa outside this village that Picasso may (or may not) have lived in for a short time.  We thought it would be fun to say we saw where Picasso may (or may not) have lived.  It was the first trip we’d taken where we needed passports.  We were giddy with excitement.

Thanks to the digital services of online places like Zazzle, this photo now adorns the case on my cell phone, as well as cheering me from a mug as I enjoy a cup of tea.  I bought three mugs bearing this photo, one for each of us.  To remind us.

We are a love song.  The three-part harmony.  The Boy and his Dad striding step by step along side of one another, me capturing the joy of a free and easy moment to carry us through life’s rough patches.  For me, the thought of that is all the Valentine I will ever need.

 

On a Rooftop Dreaming

Jordan last day on earth

This is The Boy.  He is an Epic child, a Mythical child.  He is pure joy.  Look at him, sitting up there on his roof, gazing heavenward.  Dreaming.  Making it up as he goes.  Always climbing.  As a child he scaled whatever heights he could find.  We have the pictures to prove it:  the Boy in trees, atop statues, fences, and walls.

Now he writes songs about rooftops and soaring through space; about sailing the seas, wanting to be a pirate.  He dreams in such bold swaths of color and clarity, and with such passion, it takes my breath away.

He set this photo up of himself on his roof with a tripod and a timer.  It was still daylight at the time.  When he sent it to me I took the original and made it night, threw in some stars and a sliver of moon, because that is how I have known him best — at night.

Even as his life was forming, the wriggling/squirming/kicking came at midnight.  (Oh, how that kid could dance.)  And I was up anyway at that hour. So we introduced ourselves, and communed through the wee hours of the night.  Not for nothing, it was midnight when the labor pains began.  As though he’d decided then, Knock, knock, can I come out now?  Ten hours later he arrived with a skinned nose to mark his blazing entry into the world.  Eyes wide open.

He hasn’t slowed down a bit.

He’ll be home later today for a whirlwind stay.  He has a dentist appointment in the morning, after which, we’ll put him back on a train to where he now resides.  But this evening will be filled with music and laughter reaching into the hours when most people are long in bed.  And the stars will shine among the clouds and the moon will be there, as always.

And he’ll tell me his plans and dreams, and it will all still take my breath away.

Addendum:  The video below was made by the Boy a few years ago for a song he wrote and composed, Aurora Boreality, featuring the Boy and his band — Break Stuff, Steal Things. 

Until a tiny thing trips you up (Flash Fiction)

 

London Eye pm 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a mother in possession of a young child must be in want of a crystal ball.

She wasn’t afraid of anything: Smoldering fire; hail storms of passion; blood-sucking leeches, reeking of desire.  Bring it on.  Her hobnailed boots were made for stomping, and she could dance, by god.  She could move.  She could run long and fast and still have breath enough to laugh in the face of all that friction.  Drive a truck with her old life across country toward her future?  Piece of cake.

She, and the man she knew would never try to change her, made a new life in a place where people lived on fried dough and clams.  A baby arrived one winter morning weighing less than the four-layer fudge cake she was planning for her birthday later; a clear-eyed boy careening headlong into the world so furiously that he took her breath away.

But time is a forward moving thing that cares for no one.  It will not pause for one second, no matter how nicely you ask.  She learned this on a ferris wheel as her child laughed between her husband and herself. The wheel lurched forward and backward, filling and emptying, still moving ever upward, and then slowly around and down, where she asked to be let out.  She walked away and watched as the wheel rolled upwards carrying her heart.

She pictured the wheel collapsing, sending the cars flying through the air, saw her husband and her child (who still believed she could make monsters disappear) hurtling downward while she had chosen to save herself.  She could do nothing to stop the inevitable.  Hobnail boots were useless.

She knew that all she had was now.

 


 

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Flash Fiction.  296 painstakingly sculpted words.  The limit was 300.  As is usually the case, I chose the photograph first and let it tell me the story.  Apologies to Jane Austin for the bastardized version of her opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice.

The sound of falling snow

View from porch using iPhone & Hipstamatic app with Diego lens & Dixie film

I actually ventured outside while it was snowing for this shot.  Taken with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app with Diego lens & Dixie film.

It begins as a whisper.

A few tiny flakes whirling and twirling. The Boy and I (back when he was a little-B boy) called them snow fairies. I don’t mind this kind of snow. The light hangs like a pale scrim softening the sky.  Eventally, the snow fairies become a pageant, the twirling, whirling becomes more boisterous, like happy children dancing, their wild hearts aflutter, while bubbles of laughter cling to their lips.

It is a glorious music, like the joyful tinkle of piano keys.

But it doesn’t last.  The cloud cover chases the scant light away.  Burlier snowflakes barge in like tipsy uncles with round cheeks tottering through a party.  They stumble and fall one on top of the other at a steady tick, blustering protest.  They are the noisy jokers who must be heard.  Splop. Plop.  “Out of the way.”  “Move aside.”  They shout at one another, still clumsy, falling this way and that.  Piling up.  Piling up.

And then, nothing.  They are asleep in their piles, dreaming, quietly breathing, dampening the sound of passing cars with their plump presence.

I have been watching the performance, and listening, trying to find something new, something a little creative in yet another bit of polar vortex melodrama. A meager attempt to bolster my already tenuous hold on sanity.  It’s kind of soothing to look at a snow storm this way.

Until it begins to rain.

P.S.  I did get some lovely pictures and a bit of fresh air, so there’s that.

How I won the Super Bowl* (or a Happy Birthday to the Boy)

January 20, 1989, roughly 10:30 am.  Picture me sitting in a room, utterly slobberknocked.  My husband has just kissed me on the forehead and gone off to “get some sleep” he said.  Get some sleep?  What about me?  I’ve been awake for twenty-six hours and this is all I get?

Actually, what I got was a 5 pound, 14 ounce package of energy and sweetness that would change my life forever.

The Boy arrived at 10:14 am.  I remember seeing his little face for the first time–his eyes wide open, looking right at me.  I was shocked by the intensity.  A few minutes later a nurse whisked him away, my husband left, and I was alone in an empty room with all this discarded equipment, feeling like I’d just played ten hours of pro football.

Best day of my life.

Fast forward twenty-five years.  Zip past the infancy, the toddler-hood, the childhood that flowed into early adolescence without a hiccup.  The teen years, years of homeschooling, learning to drive, part-time jobs.  Then college, then a first real job.  You could pack it all into a two-hour movie.  Piece of cake.

Last week my husband and I attended an open house at the place where the Boy works.  Throughout the evening, several of his co-workers, including his bosses, took the time to tell us how much they thought of him, how creative he was, what a nice guy he was.  All very gratifying, as well as reassuring in today’s job market. Exactly what every parent hopes to hear.  At one point, the founder of the company jokingly asked me what I had fed him for breakfast, as though how the Boy turned out had anything to do with me.

And that’s the point.  Beyond the love we offered unconditionally, beyond the boundaries we set (and constantly negotiated), who the Boy is now has more to do with who he was when he arrived:  eyes wide open, curious, imaginative, tenacious, persistent, and with a sense of humor.  He loved music and words and laughing, right from the start.

And we are the better for him, his father and I.  He has taught us far more than we ever thought possible to learn.

The Boy leaving for Africa, wearing all his cool clothes

His bags are packed, he’s leaving for Africa, wearing all his cool clothes.

The music that inspired a wish to go to Africa in the photo above.

*NOTE:  I didn’t really.  It’s a metaphor.  The Super Bowl took place two days later.  The 49ers won.  But there was much rejoicing in our house, all the same.

If it’s Monday, I must be home. . . .

My friend, Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom, hosts an I Don’t Like Monday Blog Hop. She’s invited me to join the party.  The best thing about the invitation is, it’s not necessary to dislike Mondays.  Which I don’t.  In fact, I rather like Mondays.  The way I look at it, Monday is a whole new beginning.  A chance to start anew on those pesky things I didn’t finish the week before.

That’s why I’m almost always home on Monday.  I try not to schedule appointments or errands for that day.  I want my new beginning to be really new.  Like having fresh dirt at the starting line in which to dig my heels. . .Get ready. . .Get set. . .Go!

So, because it’s Monday, and I’m busy being all new and getting stuff done, feel free to entertain yourself with this really cool video I stumbled across a few weeks ago.  The Scared is scared.  A senior project by Bianca Giaever.  Music by Alpenglow.  It’s a six-year-old’s imagination made manifest – word by wonderful word – in video.  Worth every second of it’s 7:52 running time.

Welcome to Monday, people.  This is guaranteed to put a smile on your face for the rest of the week.  Trust me.

Christmas Kindness: a Story

bag of gold small

Image futzed with using a photo by JWP.

Like the best stories, this one begins, once upon a time . . . .

There was a father, a mother, and a baby boy who was born in the dead of winter on a very cold day.  (I should warn you that if you think you know where this story is going, you are wrong.  This is not THAT Christmas story.  This is a different story entirely.)

The father and mother had little money, but they had a warm home, and their boy was exceedingly healthy, so they believed they had exactly what they needed.  The father worked at building machines and the mother worked at building the boy.  The boy was full of light and laughter and curiosity.  He had a mischievous sense of humor, a powerful imagination, and above all, he was persistent.  (A quality some people call stubborn, but those people are wrong.)

Years passed as years do.  The boy grew and grew.  People began to ask – what do you want to do with your life, boy?  What would you like to be?  But the boy didn’t know, for he was still a boy (albeit taller).  His parents said, be happy.  And he was.

The boy grew a little older, a little taller still.  He went to college and his head filled up with words and ideas; his heart filled with passion.  One morning he awoke to find that it was time to graduate.  A degree was bestowed upon him and there was much rejoicing by his family and his friends.

He found a job that he liked very much, but it was temporary.  He could have worried about what he would do when the job ended, but he chose to remain positive as he had always been, and to do and learn all that he could.  Happily, this strategy paid off.  The job became permanent.  (It’s called persistence, people.)

Christmas came.  The boy got his first Christmas bonus.  But this was no ordinary bonus.  This was merry Mr. Fezziwig extending joy and Christmas kindness.  This was a bag of gold coins.  So happy was the boy at this surprising presentation, that he laughed for a full minute.  The kind of sustained laugh his mother had marveled at throughout his childhood.  A laugh that began in his heart and rippled through his body until he looked ready to burst with the energy of it.

When he stopped laughing the boy knew what he would do.  He would carry the bonus around the city and give it away, coin by coin, to people who could use a dollar or two and a happy surprise.  So that he could share with others a moment of joy like the one he had felt in receiving the coins.

And that is exactly what he did.

Not The End

P.S.  If you like this story, feel free to share a kindness or two with someone, anyone, even by way of a smile.  It will make you feel good.  I promise.

P.P.S. This story was written for The BOY by his mother who is proud beyond measure of the superlative person he has become.  And also the mother is a tiny bit smug because she knew what his true worth was all along.  (She hopes to be forgiven of this.)

Oh, little children . . . .

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 

— Kahlil Gibran

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school tore through my heart and has left me numb these past several days.  Like most people I have struggled with feelings of grief and outrage and anger – for the guns and the violence, and for an imperfect mental health system that too often fails the people who need it most.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing anything; so many have already talked about, and written eloquently on the complex issues surrounding this tragedy.  I doubted that I could add much to the conversation.  My voice is small, my words feeble.  What more can there possible be to say?

But, I can’t stop thinking about those children.  Those beautiful, beautiful children.

I adore children.  I’ve always believed that they are sweet, guileless cherubs put here, not merely to propagate the species, but to remind us that, difficult as the world may be, it is still a place filled with magic and wonder, laughter and light.  I marvel at their capacity to love, at their willingness to trust.

When I was nineteen and about to leave home for good, my seven-year-old brother pushed a note under my bedroom door.  It said – I love you – just that, but it touched me more than any words have since.  That was when I first knew that the world was a better place for all the children it contained.  I still have that strip of paper, still curled from my brother wrapping it around his finger before he slid it beneath my door.  It reminds me when I forget.

We pin our bright hope for the future on our children.  Which is why we are all so gutted by this shooting in particular.  So I add my words to the throng, and hope that words do count, and that love can heal what’s broken.

Make a mark!

September 15th is International Dot Day.  This excites me to no end.  Dot Day is all about being creative, and fearless, and thinking outside the box.  It’s about inspiring children to make art, to learn and to connect by sharing their art and their vision with one another.  It’s based on the book The Dot, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, and published by Candlewick Press in 2003.

You can find out more about Dot Day by clicking here.

Teachers and librarians and children all over the world are participating.  You can watch the video, “Two Libraries, One Voice Dot Day Celebration,” a collaboration by Shannon Miller and the always amazing John Schumacher here.

And for the occasion, I have made my mark, which you can see below:

Dots, lots of dots. This makes me happy.

So, let’s celebrate.  Children – and all those who used to be children – go out and make art.   I think the world could use some dots today.  Don’t you?