Some days you wish you were young again, if only to shed the cares of the world. How simple things are when you’re six. How fine and merry and uncomplicated, and better now than when you were a kid: television, for example, is different. You outgrow shows before they’re cancelled. Spongebob is eternal. Should he fall from favor for a year or two, he’ll be a rehashed retro retread on T-shirts by the time your kid hits High School. Ah, to be six.
Then the phone calls start. One after the other, your daughter’s friends call up to ask who she has for first grade. Today’s the day everyone got class assignments. First grade school bell’s breaking up that old gang of hers. It’s all the talk among the parents, too; I ran into one mom on the street, another in the grocery store. Who did you draw? What room? I reassured Gnat that she’d still have playdates with her friends; I resisted pointing out all the pals and allies long-forgotten from previous schools, and noting she’d adapted then and would adapt now. You can’t put a high happy shine on this. The school has made its decision. The school, of course, polled no one, sought advice, considered the intricate skein of relationships. Names were assigned to a room number, and that’s how it will be.
Oh, but it’s worse than that. Much worse. I was sitting on the back step with my daughter listening to crickets, watching the reflection of the OIWF in the trees above. I noted that they’d be turning in a month or so. We still had plenty of summer left, but September never felt like summer. September meant school. Even if they started school at 11:59 PM on the last day of the month, it would mean school. I noted that she’d be taking the bus in the morning. Yay! She said. And she’d be taking in front of her friend’s house up the street. Yay! She said. (A silent yay from me as well, since I did not want to stand on the same street corner and feel that dull chill you get when another year appears to have sluiced by like greased mercury.) And she’d be there all day. Yay!
I’ll miss our mornings, I said.
She became very solemn. No more mornings?
Well, we’ll have them on vacations and sick days and snow days and next summer.
Her bottom lip quivered. She hadn’t considered this, and I regretted bringing it up. On the other hand, it’s the truth, and I hadn’t considered it until that moment. Our mornings are done. Whether it was an afternoon at her Nana’s or pre-school v.1 or the Lab School at the U of M or Kindergarten, we’ve had our mornings, our routines, our lunchtimes together.
And it’s going to end. It’s going to end for good, more or less.
Neither of us could really get our brains around that.
Earlier that day I’d leaned into her room while she was playing with Barbies - they were in the Magic Forest, where sometimes you turn into squirrels – and asked what she wanted for lunch. Taquitos, of course. fine. I went downstairs, plugged in the toaster oven, made myself a sandwich while listening to Prager, as usual; ate standing, as usual, making her lunch, then tapped a few lines on the column, as usual. As usual I went outside to nip at the cigarillo, noting, as usual, the things in the yard that needed to be done. I had a bag of carrots and called her down. While she ate I tapped on the column and checked the news wires, as usual, and when she’d finished I told her, as usual, to put away her plates. Vitamins, hair combing, get your backpack, off we go. (Even in the summer she’s somewhere she has to be.) Jasper, as usual, hung around to check for scraps. Trust me: every day in the back of my head somewhere every common moment is fixed in amber and compared against the Inevitable, and every day I kick myself for somehow not appreciating it all more. Because the dog will be gone and she’ll be 15, or because I’ll be gone and the dog will be confused and she’ll be 7; you never know. The Lord works in mysterious ways, as do idiots who blow through red lights.
"No more mornings," she said, again. She hugged me.
“I love you more than school,” she said.
We sat on the steps and listened to the waterfall. Crickets, of course. The occasional plane. Then we heard a beep-beep inside the house.
“My Tamagotchi!” she said. “It has to poop.”
And she went inside to assist her Japanese toy in its programmed defecation.
Oh, there was much more to the day than that. It was the usual strange braid of specific contentment and general dismay that’s characterized this summer. Frankly, I’m weary of dismay. I’m tired of feeling like tremulous Belgium in the latter thirties. We need to buck up. To paraphrase: we need to barg the farg up. I’d say more, but it would just be a useless elaboration, and at the risk of sounding like the West itself, I am tired and I want to go to bed. Thanks for the visits this week; hope the Bleats filled the bill. New Quirk, and new Diner: hit the link below. (Plain vanilla MP3 is here.) It’s the second part of the two-parter, and will make little sense if you missed part one.
I found a way out of the cliffhanger, incidentally. I’ll say no more, except that it’s a pip, and gave me an excuse to use some stuff I’ve had around. Including Cheap Trick.
I love Cheap Trick. Well, some of it. After the third album they lost their way, and unfortunately they made 436 albums after that. And half the third one was forgettable. For that matter, the title track pretty much advertised the state of the band: we’ve been touring for nine solid years, our last album not only got critical attention but had an album photo that got our singer and bassist groupies in quantities usually reserved to describe the number of krill ingested in a sperm whale’s average meal, and we have stupendous hangovers so large and persistent we have to book separate rooms for them when we go on the road. So here’s those same three chords. Hope you like ‘em! Again!
See you Monday.