First day back at school. It’s not in session, but this was the welcome-back event, where kids are gently reacquainted with the rigors to come. It’s like decompressing so they don’t get the bends.
I’m sure some people regard me as an embarrassment for a variety of reasons, but only my daughter is mortified by my presence as a parent; it was bad enough that I walked into the school, but I actually got within two floors of her homeroom. It was important to head me off before we got to the stairs. Once I set foot on the stairs, all of her peers would come around the corner and judge her harshly for having a dad present. The jeering! The hooting! The sneers of superiority! And that’s just from her friends.
Like every parent, I ask: do you judge your friends when their parents are present? Well, no. So what’s the matter with me being on the same block? (indistinct sound that indicates how much I do not get it, and neither quite does she.) Fine, I say, and quote my mother: “I guess I just go eat worms.”
That’s why I’m in the car now, listening to the radio, writing this.
Just got a text: U were supposed to come up to the room ha
So I went back to the school, and met the teachers. Ways in which I embarrassed her:
Told the writing class teacher that she was 50,000 words into her novel (red face)
Said something too loud while taking picture with her friends
Repeated the phrase “honeydew bubble tea” twice in the presence of other human beings
Committed the mortifying act of calling her name OUT LOUD to get her attention when everyone was standing outside because some kid pulled the fire alarm. This was the worst. This was really unforgivable. A parent had called attention to his child at the school on parent day. Might as well have pulled my pants off and shinnied up the flagpole.
Once inside I said “when we get to the cafeteria for the ice cream I’m going to shout NATALIE HONEYDEW BUBBLE TEA” as long as I can.” By then the horror had passed, so it was a joke.
So we met the teachers, then drove to Panda Express for supper - she loves it, I try not to make faces; I really don’t know what I ate. Some sort of styrofoam packing peanut covered with sauce. Then a Bubble Tea to complete the special night out, and driving home cracking jokes and talking about, oh, things, just things. Got home and discovered that the ancient beloved dog as not still suffering from EGDS, or Explosive Green Defecation Syndrome. That’s good. Had two days of that. And I should note that he tries to get outside, but can’t always quite, and for months we’ve had to deal with the occasional gift on the floor. When he got EGDS I thought: This is really a bad thing to deal with. Really bad. But you know what? I’ll put down sheets on the floor in the room where he sleeps before I say “ah, that’s it, I’m putting him down, because that’s really disgusting.” It is. But I stick to my guns: as long as he’s eating. As long as he greets the bowl with gusto, and as long as he loves his Frosty Paws, he’s with us.
Daughter took him on a walk around the block. Came back with a report. Thumbs up! It was solid!
Before, it was warm. Then the clouds drifted over, like a god’s hand commanding our attention. The world fell quiet for a while. The planes came and then the planes stopped. I finished up some work outside and went in to see what Daughter was up to - noted that this may not be the best weather for the Ice Cream Social (what an old-time term, eh? There’ll be kids using sticks to propel hoops, men in straw boaters, women with tiny parasols, and a band in the park. The menfolk will talk about Spain and spit on the ground) but it’s nice now and then to have those dark summer days where it thunders, and you’re safe inside. It’s cozy. Houses are all about cozy.
Had a few minutes between jobs to clean out some stuff, so I went through a stack of magazines that have my column. Found a Disney Vacation Club issue, paged through it, felt a few pangs; as I may have noted before, I’m nostalgic now for Disney, since that cultural wind fell still around here a few years ago. Not the joy of going to Disneyworld, but just -
Besides the kid thing, there’s the personal aspect. For some reason, the calmest and most disconnected from everything I’ve ever been was in Disneyworld in 2007, right when the paper was imploding and the job was in peril; I was sitting in the theater off Main Street, next to the Italian restaurant, watching “Flowers and Trees” for the hundredth time. Completely at peace. Nothing mattered. Everything was going to be okay.
Odd memory, but there it is.
So: I put the magazine away, and put away the emotion that flutters around here from time to time, the sense of sharp longing for those days - I’m at the kitchen table writing, she’s at her little table playing that Cinderella game on her computer, the fire’s on, Jasper is sitting on the floor watching us both, and the snow is falling outside. It’s those moments in parenthood you remember more than anything else, I think.
Put away that emotion and finished cleaning and went to Daughter’s room; the hamster was up. She paused from writing her novel (it’s about animals who have a complex civilization, and I caught a line where the characters entered the market square; there were every kind of animal, including deer, and she noted that everyone took care to avoid their antlers. I like that) and we cooed over how cute Pretzel is when he wakes up.
Then I went outside, sat in the gazebo. The rain began. Rumbles in the distance, patter of rain on the canvas roof. And thought:
These are those days.
Today we have about 12 motels: Illinois and Kansas. Enjoy, and I'll see you around!