Life Longs For Itself

Falling snow harmonizes
a child’s sense of wonder
and the parent in me
wants to stop you running barefoot outside,
hands to heaven, twirling,
tongue poised for the sky’s gift
in an ancient celebration of being alive.

Political unrest harmonizes
a child’s sense of justice
and the parent in me
wants to stop you from stumbling blindly into the fray,
slap the slogans from your mouth,
cull from your voice any and all names and opinions
about what is wrong and wicked with this wandering world.

Yes, the parent in me
wants to stop you right where you are
and say some magic words to stop you right where you are,
magic words my own parents taught me but which I counter-spelled with efficiency,
magic words that are worth nothing to any parent ever
except me right here and now
wanting to stop you right where you are,
stop you in time,
just this single time,
stop you in time
to whisper,
“…”

Life Longs For Itself

I Ought to Understand Frailty

Across a stained, wooden table
     our daughter reads a comic book
     about a babysitter with diabetes.

We wait for hot chocolate
     at a packed coffee shop
     a short drive from our house.

This is a description of that moment.

Our daughter’s chin rests on her hands
     while her eyes scan her colorful book.

She wears a leopard-print coat
     and mis-matched gloved: one pink,
     one black with grey stripes.

No, that isn’t right.
She took her gloves off because she was hot.

Already hot.
Children so warm.
Little furnaces of biology.

She looks up and smiles.
“Was your diabetes like this?”
     she asks, points at a page.

No, that isn’t right.
She asked me to read the page –
     in my head, not aloud.

The pictures show a young woman
     (maybe the babysitter)
     with signs of wooziness, then
     falling asleep into a plate of food.

“It was a lot like that,” I tell her.

We came here for hot chocolate
     a few years ago and she spilled
     her cup all over the floor.

No, that isn’t right.
It was our son.
He thought I would be mad.

No that isn’t right.
He was mad at himself
     because he lost his hot chocolate.

Our daughter’s chin rests on her hands
     while her eyes scan back and forth
     over her colorful book.

She tells me she thinks she needs glasses.
She is seven years old.
She is seven years old and tells me
     the chalkboard at school seems fuzzy.
She tells me that’s why she stands
     too close to the television.

We are flawed, she and I.
We are flawed and in need of assistance.
No, that isn’t right.

I Ought to Understand Frailty

Kids

Children who were freshmen in high school when this dropped are now done with college (if they were so inclined to pursue that route). It – all of this – evaporates so incredibly fast. Laugh a lot and tell people you love them. Eat cookies. Sleep in the woods. Time is not on your side. Kiss your children.

Kids

The Bat Grave, or Talking with My Son About Living

treading the dull razor line
that’s hastily drawn
whenever we mention death

still young enough to feel
faint echoes of that communal hollow
from whence you sprung not so long ago
kicking, screaming, wondering in fever-pitched frustration
     why this now?

i only listen;
     answer with tender brutality

yes, it will happen to me
     to your mother
          to your sister

yes, other people will live
     in our house
          after we are gone

yes, even batman will die

i know, but even batman will die

for tonight, you don’t believe me

and that’s ok

The Bat Grave, or Talking with My Son About Living

The White Stuff (In the Middle of an Oreo)

Last night’s episode of The Goldbergs (a loving sendup of 80s suburban American) exposed our children to New Kids on the Block – and by extension “Weird” Al (which I’ll get to). If you didn’t see the episode, the two brothers find an old VHS tape of their older sister on which she’d recorded her mad love for NKOTB. The boys planned to use that tape to tease her relentlessly, but couldn’t help themselves from falling in love with the New Kids, resulting in the boys recording themselves lip-syncing Hangin’ Tough. The video gets out and yadda yadda yadda. Good episode (most are). Now one of the many, many awesome things about our kids is that when something grabs their interests they dig right into it – and after the show it was, Was that a real song? Who were NKOTB? Did you like them, Daddy? BOOM!

CUT TO:

INT – JDOUBLEP’S HEAD

We are in the Brainbow.

On a purple couch, suffused in the prismatic light of the Brainbow, sit JORDAN, JOEY, DONNIE, DANNY and JON, THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK, frozen in time around1989. They aren’t doing the New Kids’ dance. They are looking right at us, unmoving, unblinking, seemingly on the verge of tears.

JDOUBLEP
(Voiceover)

DID I LIKE THEM? SHIT. HOW DO I ANSWER THIS? NO I DIDN’T LIKE THEM. I WANTED N.W.A. TO GIVE ‘EM SUMPIN’ TO DANCE TO. I WANTED ICE T TO BREAK OUT HIS DRILL ON ‘EM. I WANTED THE GETO BOYS TO SHOW ‘EM THE MIND OF A LUNATIC!

JOEY

WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER FOR A LONG TIME, BABY.

JDOUBLEP
(Voiceover)

NO. NO. NO.

JOEY & JORDAN

DO YOU HAVE TO LEAVE?

JDOUBLEP
(Voiceover)

I REMEMBER HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I USED TO SING DIRTY RAPS TO MY EASTSIDE FRIENDS

NKOTB
(Standing up, hands over hearts)

PLEASE DON’T GO, J
WE JUST CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU
PLEASE DON’T GO, J
SO LISTEN TO ME… (DON’T GO, J)
PLEASE DON’T GO, J
YOU WOULD RUIN OUR WHOLE WORLD
TELL US YOU’LL STAY
NEVER EVER GO AWAY
WE LOVE YOU (WE LOVE YOU)

CUT TO PREUTOPIA:

No, kids, I can’t say I liked them – coolness codes of late 80s/early 90s forever prevent my saying those words…but I can tell you that I knew all the lyrics to their songs. Then my family teased me and we spent 30 mins youtubing NKOTB videos and doing the New Kids’ dance. I think I’m going to make some shirts that read “Donny is my home boy.”

Soon it was time to brush teeth and put on pjs. And while that was going on I mentioned “Weird” Al’s parody of “The Right Stuff”, which prompted: Who is “Weird” Al?

WHO IS “WEIRD” AL?!?!?

I’d failed as a parent. Our kids are pop music aficionados. They have incredibly nuanced and wacky senses of humor. They write their own parodies of Christmas carols about pooping! How had this taken so long? We quickly remedied this by foregoing standard bedtime routines in favor of 30 minutes of “Weird” Al videos which truly blew their minds and induced fits of giggles all around. It was awesome. They especially liked the Polka Face medley.

Finally, it was lights out and as the day faded away I caught our daughter humming lightly into her pillow: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh – Hangin’ Tough. Golden moments of parenting.

Then came morning and our son wakes up, rubs his eyes and asks, Can I watch some “Weird” Al videos? That was awesome, too.

This post is dedicated to my brother, M. The P family’s biggest “Weird” Al fan and only admitted NKOTB fan. (You didn’t hear that from me.)

The White Stuff (In the Middle of an Oreo)