It was around, probably 2 or 3 in the morning. The sound of rain was hitting the windows and streets outside, adding nature’s own little lullaby of sound to the night. I awoke to the sound of our son’s voice calling out from the other room, scared.
I went in and found him in bed, sitting up and talking about a bad dream he had about Willie the Giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk trying to eat him. I gave him a hug and a kiss, told him it was all right – that we were all here, all safe, would keep him safe, and started making my way back to the other room.
It was not to last.
He was soon scared again and this time, the hug wasn’t going to cut it and allow me to cut out and back to bed myself. It wasn’t said, but I just had this feeling that I would be sleeping somewhere other than my bed tonight.
His room was freezing so those hardwood floors were not going to cut it. There’s a rug in front of the couch in the living room and although still atop hardwood floors, it seemed like it would be at least a little more comfortable. We found our candidate.
Grabbing his pillow, his teddy bear, and a pillow for myself, we made our way to the living room while mommy and sister slept. Him plopped on the couch with a nice cozy blanket over him, and I right below on the rug with a blanket normally draped over a nearby chair. The blanket didn’t quite reach from my toes to neck as would be ideal on a cold night, but beggars can’t be choosers and so you choose your priorities. In this case, covering up my feet took precedence over the habit of pulling the covers up tight around my face.
The floor was cold, hard, and I still feel the stiffness in my neck halfway through the morning as I sip my coffee and write this. He talked, a bit too much at times for a groggy daddy who was trying ever so hard to fall back asleep before the 6 am alarm went off.
Eventually, though, it all fell into place and we both faded off into La La Land until my phone started going off with text alerts about local school delays and closings every other minute. Then the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel’s Only Living Boy in New York played from the other room as my clock-radio alarm went off per usual to alert me it was time to hop into the shower and begin the day.
Fortunately for me, he stayed asleep through all of my morning routine, only to wake refreshed some time later.
And though a bit worse for wear in the neck and mind on my part, we made it through, no giants (or humans) harmed in the making of this impromptu sleepover and I got a big hug in the morning that he didn’t want to let go from.
I’ll take it.
It’s that time of year for many.
Decorations go up, lights strewn around the house, frantic attempts to finish shopping in time, and that age-old question “what do you want for Christmas?”
It’s an answer that in youth came with ease. I see it in our son with how easily he rattles off a few ideas whenever anyone asks him what’s on his Christmas list (and, we, the killjoy parents reminding him there’s such a thing as too much). But I get it. I was there once right where he is, where the possibilities were endless and exhilarating.
As time goes on though, I find myself puzzled when asked that question by a relative getting ready to do some holiday shopping. I rarely have an answer. Even as an adult, in the past, there’s been books, or a nice sweater or shirt. But, the more time that passes, the more I really and truly find myself wanting nothing.
Scratch that. Wanting nothing but the chance to just get together, have some good food, some good company, and spend time with people.
I know. It’s a cliche. A total Christmas commercial cliche.
Maybe it’s a sign of age. Or maybe it’s a sign that I’m becoming quite boring (if I was ever really interesting to begin with), but whatever it may be, it has become what I look forward to the most at the holidays.
It may sound naive, it may sound cliche, but I’ll gladly take it. No wrapping required.
The little guy and I went for a short walk when out of his mouth he says to me:
“Memories lose their meaning…”
When I asked him what he meant he said he had no idea, but my head began swirling nonetheless. I couldn’t shake it as we walked along, internally laying out the case with myself like Sherlock Holmes trying to unravel a mystery.
Anything we possess, the places where we live, it all comes and goes.
In the larger scheme of life, we’re here for such a short period of time.
In the end, our memories are all we have. But there are memories that fade. Things we can’t quite recall in the vivid ways we once did. Which ones start to fade and what dictates that they do? Is it because we are filled with new memories, or were they not vivid enough to burn permanent places in our brains?
I thought of the memory videos I make for the kids around each birthday time, filled with photos and videos of the previous year. I’m always amazed to see how he recalls things that happen when he was a baby, or a year, etc…something I’ve often wondered if could be attributed to the videos (which he enjoys watching and asks to see rather frequently) reinforce those memories, making them less likely to fade as quickly.
Where was this all coming from? What did it mean? What memories were once of the utmost importance to me but have since faded and lost their meaning?
And how was he so astute to blurt out this mind-blowing revelation to me on our walk?!
It rattled my brain.
Later, while riding in the car, after all that contemplation at this profound statement, Meg reminded me that it’s actually a line from the Beatles song In My Life.
He’s been a fan of the Beatles for some time, the Sgt Pepper album especially. Much like cartoons, comics and pop culture, a lot seems to come, not from us pushing anything on him, but his mere exposure to it through us – what we’re reading, watching, listening to. Some things he honestly admits he doesn’t like, and others (like superheroes, or The Beatles, or The Monkees, or certain Christmas songs) he latches onto and weaves it into the fabric of his own mind and personality.
Recently he found himself overjoyed upon our discovering a Netflix Original Series called Beat Bugs, a CGI animated series about a group of friends who are various bugs and learn valuable childhood and life lessons often told in musical number renditions of Beatles songs.
Oh, and did I mention that he recently told us his favorite Christmas song was Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney? It’s one of quite a catalog of Christmas songs he spontaneously has burst into this time of year.
It makes me happy to see a whole new generation discovering the music, the meaning, and the spirit of timeless bands, whether it The Beatles, or other favorites of his such as Mamas and the Papas or The Monkees.
And even if dear old daddy can’t tell the difference between a song lyric or a moment of profound life guidance from a preschooler.
Of course later that same day, from the backseat I hear…
“You have to let things wash over your victims.”
“What, buddy?” I ask.
He laughs, followed by a chuckling “I have no idea what that means.”
Me neither. Except that, sometimes it may be profound, sometimes it’s just repeating (or partially repeating) what they pick up elsewhere, or just kids being goofy kids.
And whatever it is, it’s a-okay by me. I’m just enjoying the ride.
I’ve been quiet lately.
But there’s been a reason. Actually quite a few.
I’ve been juggling.
Traveling with the circus in a polka-dot shirt and shiny silk pants I toss balls in the air as fast as…
Okay. If you’re with me this far, then thank you because you know that’s not the type of juggling I’m talking about yet you still stuck around through my ridiculousness.
No, I’ve been juggling a lot in terms of life. We all do. Some do so better than others and other times some things give. For me, one of the the things that gave was the ability to stay on top of reflections and writing those day to day anecdotes and lessons of life. But that’s because I’ve often been so incredibly exhausted by the end of the night that I fight to keep my eyes shut.
See, we moved about two weeks ago, give or take. The weeks leading up to it were a maze of packed boxes in our previous house and now that we’re in our new digs, it’s an explosion of boxes as we continually try to get unpacked, and settled. And as many probably know, that kind of task, with a one year old and four year old, is not exactly the easiest.
Throw in our day jobs, the trips back and forth to school for the little guy, my grad school studies, trying to finish packing up the remainders at the old house (the basement and garage, especially), juggling the expenses of two homes until we sell, and anything holiday related – from getting a tree, to shopping, to decorating, everything in life seems to be hitting at once and admittedly, it’s hard to juggle it all. That’s not counting any of the additional work that either of us do freelancing or volunteering. It may not seem like a lot when you see it on paper, but when you’re living it, it’s a handful.That said, the kids have adjusted very well to our move, as have our three feline boys. Knock on wood. Our son loves his new, bigger room, the cats love having a fireplace to lay in front of, and the baby – well, she didn’t even flinch at the change of environment.
It makes me think that we adults are the ones with the most baggage. Whether it was leaving behind the kind neighbors we had gotten to know and see every day as we came and went, or the stray kitties who would come and go from our yard, there were things that completely tugged and continue to tug on our heartstrings about the change.
But there’s so much good. Our commutes have been cut into at least half, if not more, which means more time together and less time spent on the road each day and a little more space as our family grows.
And once we make our way through all the boxes, the clutter, the chaos, I’ve no doubt we’re going to find even more good to look forward to. Okay, let’s be honest. The boxes sometimes never go away and the clutter comes and goes. And chaos? Well, I think anyone with kids can agree that chaos is just part of the daily agenda.
But in between that, slipping through all of it each day are the moments, those little moments that before you know it add up to a life. A pretty good one at that, and for that, I consider myself truly blessed.
Our family was recently driving back from a little weekend getaway. The kids were in the back seat, asleep at the same time for possibly the only portion of the multi-hour ride home, when Meg looked over from her magazine to the radio and read the song title currently playing on40s Junction, the 1940s Station – “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town.”
She went back to reading her magazine when, a moment later the words that came out of my mouth were “I forgot Edward Hermann passed away.”
Accustomed to her husband being a weirdo, she took what seemed like a random response in stride, and even humored me when I explained the flow of logic that got me there in a split second that, in my mind, seemed like much longer.
“In a Shanty in old Shanty Town.”
She had read the word shanty town. Which made me think of Hoovervilles (the shanty towns built by homeless people) in the Great Depression, which made me think of Little Orphan Annie, which made me think of FDR. Who has played FDR more than anyone else, including in Little Orphan Annie – Edward Hermann. Edward Hermann was on Gilmore Girls. I liked him on Gilmore Girls. Netflix is making new Gilmore Girls movies. I wonder what they would’ve been like if Edward Hermann were still around. That’s right, Edward Hermann isn’t around anymore. I really liked his work. That makes me said.
“I forgot Edward Hermann passed away.”
Our brains can work in pretty weird ways, don’t they?
I am fascinated with the ways children evolve from their completely dependent forms – making nothing but sounds or cries, but eventually forming words, then sentences, then complete conversations like little adults. From needing to be spoon-fed mushy puree to sitting down to a meal with mommy and daddy like the little human they are.
Lately I’ve gotten to witness more of the evolution as our son, now four, suddenly has begun to recognize words.
We were at Barnes and Noble recently with a friend and her little one, waiting for a cup of tea at the cafe (I love that African Autumn tea) before heading back to the children’s section for some Thomas the Train Engine time and general book browsing. Nearby stood the little countertop with napkins, creamers, stirrers, etc, and the flapping door of the garbage can underneath, with two words embossed across it.
“Does that say thank you?” his little voice asked.
“Does what, buddy?”
“That,” he said, pointing to the flapping door on the garbage can, clearly saying “Thank You” on it to those who throw away their trash and not litter.
“It does, buddy! How did you know that?!”
“I dunno. I just did.”
And thus has been a bit of a trend lately. We’ve been fortunate enough that he’s been interested in and fluent in his alphabet since early on, but this…THIS….to see his eyes move from one end to the other, his mind taking in these letters and putting them together, and recognizing the words they form. It has truly been a remarkable experience, as a parent, and just as a human being.
I thought back to a time in recent months at my mom’s house, where he was hanging out for a bit while Meg and I ran some errands and my mom asked about lunch. Not wanting to give away the options up front and lock ourselves into something he’d hear, we spelled our options, including when she said “I can make g-r-i-l-l-e-d c-h-e-e-s-e?”
“That would be great,” I said.
Then his little voice popped up, “Yeah, I LOVE grilled cheese.”
Or when I asked my wife what she was in the mood to watch as a family one particular evening, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or some Adam West B-a-t-m-a-n.
“Batman?” we heard pipe up.
Suddenly it dawned on me as we stood there at the cafe in front of the thank you sign, hearing him read this aloud, that he’s been doing it, little by little, right along – only I haven’t paid close enough attention to realize these are no flukes.
Seeing this string of word revelations over time is a revelation to me that we are in a brand new stage, one that will open the door to a whole new era of life, and of knowledge for him. I couldn’t be happier. Or prouder.