Friday, September 27, 2013

Hurt Feelings

Someone hurt my feelings yesterday.  That's a hell of a thing for a grown man to say.  It's a hell of a thing grown man to realize, also.

Here's the thing, we talk about hurt feelings a lot with the boys around here.  I may say something to Zachary about dipping into a conversation between his mother and I and he may take it the wrong way and get his feelings hurt.  I saw Nick get his hurt one day at the pool when another boy snubbed him and said "who are you?" in what I thought was a rude manner.  I always try to explain it, try to make them feel better and, it's hard.

I suppose I hurt Marci's feelings sometimes and my Mom's and any number of people, but, I'd sort of forgotten what it feels like to have one's own hurt.

It sucks.

I don't talk much about being a stay-at-home-dad, or SaHD, as it has come to be known - actually, I like to call myself a "homemaker" because that's what I am, but that's a story for another day.  I don't talk about it not because I am ashamed or because I hate it, or because I think it is hard or soul-sucking.  I don't talk about it because I don't want the boys to think I thought that, ever.  I want them to think it's ordinary and common and natural, which it is.

However, some people don't think that.  Some people think I am a joke, a punchline, a gag.  Some people think I am less of a man for doing it, some think it's creepy, some think it is unacceptable and wrong.  And this woman, Jenna Karvunidis, thinks I want to try to seduce her while I am at the park with my boys.  You can read it if you want, but basically she says the parenting sexes should not commingle because men are inherently randy and can't be trusted, or something like that.

A couple of other guys took her on far better than I will here.  The fine man who writes DadNCharge, who has always been nothing but kind and decent to me, his children and his fellow bloggers, tried very tactfully and pointedly to point out that her logic was flawed and he has many female compatriots and he never even considered anything stupid or sundry as she so overtly and crassly suggests.  His post It's Just a Playdate, Not A Date is a beautiful and, I think, reasoned, loving even, response to her's.

Modern Father Online was a little less loving.  In a rhetorical masterpiece titled  Why Mums Shouldn’t Work and There Should Be NO SaHDs , he slams her thinking up against a wall, and not in the way she was imagining.  It's really good, he's an incredibly clever fellow and his blog is wonderfully wacky and very, very smart.  It should probably be on my "better bloggers" list.

So why, you might ask, are my feelings hurt?  I'd like to say it's because I feel like she attacked me personally; I'd like to say it's because I feel like she thinks I'm an idiot or a sub-par man; I'd like to say she hurt my feelings because I'm a guy and I am not a philandering piece of crap, but, it's not really any of those things.

She hurt my feelings because she thinks so little of children that she is willing to say these things about men that could easily affect my own children.  Imagine a mother reading her bunk and saying to herself, yeah, that guy is creepy, I am not going to let my son or daughter play with his kids.  Now, that makes it personal, that makes it incendiary, that makes it sad.  For no reason other than her own self-aggrandizement and love of her own pitiful and embarrassingly trite, pedestrian prose, she has condemned a whole group of men.  Men I know, men I respect; men you should get to know, men you should respect.

This woman is no stranger to this sort of junk, she's been in this sort of embroiled, embittering argument before.  I think she is insulting to women, to men, to children.  I think she is insulting to marriage and decency.  I think she is an embarrassment to whoever chooses to give her a voice.  But, more than anything, she hurt my feelings because her actions hurt my kids.

I know this isn't the sort of thing you expect here at IHIWAT.

I'll get back to my regularly scheduled nonsense Monday, I promise.  In the meantime, here is a pretty picture Zachary drew in Art Class today.  This ugliness needs some beauty to balance it out:

Thanks for listening, I feel better.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Last Night's Note Post

As I half-heartedly watched the Reds lose last night and as I whole-heartedly engaged myself in some serious dad blogger tomfoolery,  I made some notes for today's post.

Here's the note.  I'll do my damnedest to stay on task:


"Autumn Windows"

The Ohio Valley where I come from and where I live my life now is not a majestic landscape; no purple mountains nor roaring sea.  It is the solemn September march toward Autumn.  The deciduous woods and forests of my suburban  hometown come to life, quietly, respectfully, intensely, heroically, and outshine, for a brief forever moment, the most rough-hewn snow-capped mountain or the rock-strewn surf-smashed coast.  The colors are astounding, the smokey scents and apple tastes of fall are imperative, but...  Autumn goes beyond all that and sits, heavy and happy, on your heart.  We Midwesterners don't like to talk too much about it, it's is ours alone, a private glory savored one soul at a time.

I washed the windows yesterday.  It was cool and clear, that clarity in the air that hints of winter, fall's first whispering chords humbly beginning to swell.  I've washed windows a lot in my fifty-plus years here and, as I look back, I've done it a lot in the fall.  You might remember I have been thinking about advice I'd like to give the boys and this comes to mind:  It is very rewarding to wash windows on a perfect Autumn afternoon.

"Where to start"

I never, ever, ever know what to start with here.  I guess that sounds silly, but, I treat the words I write here pretty seriously.  (I know, you wouldn't know it, wouldya?)  I want to do it right.  I wish to engage you, whomever and whenever you are, but, that's the problem.  I am not sure who you are.  Are you Nick next week, Zachary a couple decades out, a guy in New Zealand who lives, like twenty hours ahead in the future, I fellow blogger I'd like to impress?  Are you my wife, a distant cousin an old, dear pal?  Do you know me from church or through the boys or from coaching or any of the bars and taverns I've worked in or haunted over the years?

When are you?  Are you today, a few hours from now?  Are you ahead on the timeline, looking back at a scrapbook of memories?  Are you... me?

Imagine how many ways I might begin - "start" - the conversation I want to have with you.


I mentioned in the post called Bio Poem that Zack's love for tacos was a story for another post.  So, here is what the table looks like before dinner on Taco Tuesday (or any other day of the week, actually, but we just seem to have them on Tuesdays frequently, and it's fun to scream Taco Tuesday):

That's one-and-a-half pounds of taco meat and a good fourteen to sixteen ounces of cheese, about six small ripe capri tomatoes, a medium onion, half a head of iceberg and sour cream which I thin with milk so it slides off the spoon easier and neater and the requisite taco sauce.

This is what it looks like after the boys - myself included - and Marci, have happily feasted:

There's more I had to say about this, about the memories that meals can give us, the hope that these images may, in the future, fill the heart of a grown man with the melancholy that is childhood.  There's more I'd like to say about how much more involved a child can be when they make what they are eating, the ownership that is your own taco, or sloppy slider, or ice cream sundae... however.

"Time is beating me down"

It sure is.

I wish I knew how to attack the feeling that time is winning.  Or at least accept it.  But, there's no time for that.

"Use This!"


"what #beejone slownr"

I got nothing, I do not know what that says, but, I will make this promise:  that is the first, and last, hastag you will ever see on IHIWAT.

I really do know what that last one says, now that I think about it, but, it is a difficult and sensitive subject and it might call for some tact and lack of the forthrightedness I so often employ here.  It's a post for a different day.

I sort of did this once before in this post about the curious notes I sometimes write on my phone.

I'm stalling because I can't seem to decide on a good backseat quote:

"God, please invent the salami tree."

That'll do.

Thanks for coming around again, take a look back at some older posts, if you feel like it; I may have written one for you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Cast of Several and A Set Piece

Here is who I've encountered just in the last week or so:

or who is flying.
A Ninja with an upside-down head...

A wookie with flaming hands and feet and a wild-ass mustache.

Masked Mayans.

A goggled butterfly mid-metamorphosis.

A silly fighting Irishman, and...
...his fire juggling partner.

A platycrocimander.

A creepy bird "pet" with udders.

A creepier duck in a fez eating a snake.

A wizard cat in a leopardskin leotard with an electric weapon.

A candle-headed owl amidst flying jewels.

An ethereal floating bunny.


A flaming hippie in suspenders.

This, uh, warrior in a big hat.

The Masonic-like lodge where they all live.

And this frightening little creature who is going to slay them all as they sleep.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bio Poem

I thought I'd let the boys speak for themselves today.

That's what they called it, a "bio poem" and they both wrote one for the Parent Information Night (henceforth called PIN) at the elementary school they attend.  Honestly, we almost missed them, but we saw a dad taking a picture of the wall and figured it out.  Marci had the wherewithal to grab her phone and snap a couple pics.

Zachary (which he is beginning to prefer over Zack, it turns out) is:  Loyal, Leader, Athletic, Religious He is all that, precisely.  He feels Gloomy when Alone, Scared when something new is going on and Angly (angry) when Bossed around.  He does need his cats his stuffed bear and to remember to feed the cats.  Honestly, I didn't know he fears being alone the dark and hights (heights, but, really, who can spell that?)

He does love him some tacos, but, that's a post for another day.

Nick's says he's Funny, eager, athletic, restless and wiled (wild).  If only I knew myself so well.  He is those things, especially wiled.  He loves his suffit (stuffed) buffilo (buffalo) Buffy.  He fears storms, being alone, and being hit with a baceball (baseball) and truly he feels curious because I'm always thinking.

Poignant?  I think so.

Revealing?  Very much so.

Essential?  Yep.

Adorable nonsense?  As good as it gets.

Sacred?  Your call...

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

N: "I went to get my shoes and socks and accidentally started to take off my clothes."

Z: "Hey! That's MY job."

(at least he knows he is the absent-minded professor)

It really is a Zack thing.  I mean Zachary... 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I ordered some new shoes for the boys today from L.L.Bean.  I am frankly tired of the boys wearing out cheap shoes from Target and the like and I feel certain these will last, but, that's not what I'm talking about today.

I could have ordered the shoes online, and, I nearly did but I find it frustrating and time-consuming to order over the innerwebs.  I know, I'm alone on that and, truth is, I often order guitar strings and parts and the like online.  Again, beside the point.

I spoke with Penny and we had a wonderful conversation and she quickly ascertained that I had twins.  Her twins were twenty-three.  She asked the boys age and laughed when I said "eight-and-a-half (because the halfs still count)" and she remembered that that was a "wonderful age."  We chatted a bit, I told her it's always nice to hear about grown-up twins, it's assuring sometimes.  We finished the transaction and she had to move on to another call I'm sure.  We said our goodbyes and thank-yous and just as I was about to end the call she said:

"Enjoy those twins, Mr. Peebles."

"Yes, yes I will," I managed, hiding an unexpected catch in my throat, that slight, little sob and dampening of the eyes I'd like to think we all get when confronted with the tender beauty that is Humanity.

We connected.  She made a difference to me, deep me, not consumer me or selfish me, but me, essential, human me.  I'd like to think I, somehow participating in a karmic feat of synchronicity, brought a moment of peace or beauty or remembrance or even grace to her soul as well.

Connectedness  (which it turns out is a word) is another lesson that can't be taught.  I can't tell you it will happen to you someday, boys.  I can't give you a heads up when I see it coming, it'll just happen.  A best friend, a teacher, a sad stranger on a train, a twin brother, a wife, a parent, a phone operator, a bus driver, a Kiwi writer, little boys with beautifully big eyes.  Anyone, and, if you let it, it can happen everyday.  Connectedness is timeless in construct, sweetly fleeting at times, deep and eternal at other times.  I believe it is intrinsically a grace from God.

Maybe it is God...

I feel sorry for Nick and Zack sometimes, sorry for what I perceive as their lost opportunities for meaningful connections.

They'll never know the connection an adolescent boy can feel talking to a girl through an avocado phone, a kinked curly-cue cord, a rotary dial, four prongs in the wall, miles of humming copper wire, four more prongs, a princess phone, a girl's voice, her hand holding the handset, her lips so close; connection.

They'll never stand out in a cold wind with a good friend, in a beloved back alley or a pine enclosed mountain meadow, and share the last match to light the last cigarette, sharing the sulfur smell, nearly cheek-to-stubbled-cheek, rough, cupped hands mirroring each other against the purposed wind; connection.

They'll never hold a love or "Dear John" letter, taking in the handwriting on the envelope, the postmark; never hear the tearing open or take in the faint, perhaps imagined scent, the pause of anticipation, or know the physical blows or caresses of the blue ink and loopy letters or watch a tear roll down them, of joy or anger or sadness; connection.

They'll never know the quiet connection of a doctor's or hospital waiting room, before devices disconnected us, when you wondered and worried and hoped and prayed and wept and smiled together with a few others as they wondered and worried and hoped and prayed and wept and smiled; connection.

There are more nostalgic scenes I could paint for them, but I'll stop here.  As I said before, I can't make their connections for them and, most likely, they will find connections in ways and places I could never myself imagine.

This is not meant to be a lament.  I hope it can be a lesson, another lesson I can't can't teach, a lesson I know you will learn.  It's sort of like that moment we have all had but no one talks about.  You know.  You've done it, I've done it, it's gonna happen.  Listen boys, just try to be cool when you do walk through a screen door or into a sliding glass door.  It's gonna happen.  Own it.

Oh, uh, well... you're still here.  No, you are right, that wasn't a very good ending, was it?

I can't really think of a good ending for this piece, and, knowing you are a forgiving lot, I should just end it here...

I won't, though.

This photo is one that rotates through my screen-saver thingee.  Whenever I see it, I can imagine that hug repeated through a lifetime's worth of joy and sadness, love and anger, repeated over and over, always in stripey shirts.


No, that wasn't very good either.

How about these snow-covered twin Maple trees in our backyard?  At times I feel so moved by these dear trees, three times my age, watching me, watching over us, that I feel they have a collective soul which reaches out for mine.


Well that's just new-agey and weird, Bill.

I know, two arbitrary, abstract expressionist string paintings from second grade presented upside down:

Nailed it!

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
(ok, the kitchen table, but bear with)

"When the first bite falls apart, you know it is a good taco."

Truth, righteous little dude, truth... 

Thank you for coming around and sitting a spell, I feel like we connected.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shel Game

Whenever we go for a bike ride in the neighborhood, after we've been to the basketball court or the playground, just as we head up the slight incline of the street, Woodwind, which leads us home, we stop here, for some water and a rest:

It's shady and cool, and usually a breeze at least whispers a little.  In truth, it's a lovely little spot.  But, I have never been exactly sure why we always stop there.  What started us doing this?  I asked Nick because he is the one who always wants to stop.

"You know, Dad, from those books we used to read when we were little."

I've spoken before on that moment where you suddenly understand something that a second before you didn't even know was waiting for you to understand it.  Yes?

Here are the books he meant, those three in the middle, the three we read everyday at lunch before they went to preschool, Good Lord, years ago.  They loved the silliness and playfulness and sometimes seriousness that leaped off the pages and into their fresh, happy minds:

Three by Shel Silverstein.  Falling Up, A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.  Three truly masterful, seminal collections of poetry from a poet to whom you need no introduction.

Here is a favorite of the boys:

Where the Sidewalk Ends
from the book "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1974)

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
and before the street begins,
and there the grass grows soft and white,
and there the sun burns crimson bright,
and there the moon-bird rests from his flight
to cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
and the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
we shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
and watch where the chalk-white arrows go
to the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
for the children, they mark, and the children, they know,
the place where the sidewalk ends.

Here is another image of the place we always stop:

"... and there the moon-bird rests from his flight to cool in the peppermint wind."

Now you know everything that hit me in that instant of joyous epiphany.  We stopped there "for the children, they mark, and the children, they know, the place where the sidewalk ends."  He remembered, he celebrated, he knew why we stopped there.

Actually, that is not all there is to this story.  When I was in acting school, perhaps my third year, I was teamed up with a group of actors and a director in what the school called "lab shows."  We put together a traveling presentation for schools that we mostly improvised with some scripted words.

The words of Shel Silverstein...

We worked on a lot of different ways to present the poem above but they all seemed too trite, too untrue, too pedestrian, if you will.  The director finally left it up to me.  I usually just walked into whatever was the brightest spot in the performance space and simply recited the poem.  It was probably some of my most connected moments of all my times on stage.  I knew what he was saying.

So did Nick...

Thanks for taking a little walk with me today.  I appreciate it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time and Bacon

I've only got an hour to do this today.  I had two hours about four hours ago but now because I was adding a minute and that really got stretched out and...

I'll begin again.

A few weeks ago I put my guitars away in hopes that it would inspire me to do the many other things I needed to do - painting, fixing - stuff, you know.  My open guitar case usually sits on the workbench, by the tools and the paint and the rollers and saws and, guitars and tools are generally mutually exclusive.  So I closed 'em up for a while.

Just recently, actually when the were still put away, I got my old Alvarez out and couldn't play and sing but for about ten minutes, my fingers fatigued and my voice creaked.  So I decided to just add a minute every time I played and it's been a struggle.  I was up to fourteen today...  I played for an hour and a half, reconnecting to old Dylan songs and folk ballads and some of my own tunes.  Guy Clark lyrics and John Denver melodies made my fingers stronger and voice more able.

At first I was worried because I felt I didn't have the time, and then I decided I'd make the time, and then I forgot about the time altogether.

There are lessons we must teach our children.  Teaching them the value and management of time is important.  Teaching the relativity of time is awkward though, not e=mc² awkward, but the 'time sure flies...' stuff and the 'why is five minutes so long waiting for the doctor, and so short at the pool' awkward.  And the 'Didn't we just have sliders?   No, that was a week ago,' oddness of time is something we all must figure out.  "The days so slow; the years so fast."  That is a bittersweet lesson for all of us.

However, what do I tell them?  Hurry up we gotta be there and do this, time isn't gonna wait, boys, move it.   Slow down, smell the roses, think it through, I'll wait.  Those are, well, contradictory aren't they.

I guess the time management stuff is necessary, encouraged by society and groups and teachers and such.  But what of the opposite?  Who says, slow down, don't hurry, listen, taste, see, think?  I imagine a time when one of my boys might want to learn to play guitar or bass or drums and, honestly, I don't see how they'd have the time to do it.

Time has to shaped and cajoled and squeezed and seized and respected and...

Listen boys, you're going to have to figure it out on your own.

Marci and I recently decided the boys were getting a bit too much screen time (yeah, I hate that phrase too but, it's necessary).  Mind you, they play kid games on the computer and Wii console and the vast majority of TV they watch is PBS.  Their favorite show is Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, for God's sake.  But, I didn't like the look on their faces in front of the collective screens they see every day.

They complained a little.

I sharpened their pencils and got new Crayons and markers and fresh glue sticks and scissors in their "craft-boxes" and stocked their paper.

And the time flew by...

Zack imagined a bridge and drew this:

Nick made a nifty bookmark:

And the table ended up looking like this:

Seems to me like they're wasting their time... or does it?  I told a fellow library volunteer one day that I wrote a blog, a "daddy blog" I think I called it.  She asked if it was like an advice blog.  I laughed.  She didn't know why.  I am in no position to give advice.  I will say that  a well-stocked craft-box, no screens, a lot of imagination and some time can lead to happy kids.

What about the "bacon?"

Right, I did say bacon in the title, didn't I?  Well, I am short on time but, here's the short of it.

As I realized that I had played guitar and sung for well over an hour because I had given into it, let it happen, I thought that it seemed like an important lesson to impart to the fledgling humans we have in our care.  It is, but, like I said before, it's something you can have explained to you but, you just have to learn it on your own.

Sort of like me trying to tell them to never, ever, fry bacon nude.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"You could do that ... but then you'd be in jail.


And I'd be at Skyline."

Goodness, that is a slam...

(Well now, see there, just over an hour - uh, plus the hour and a half editing and adding pictures and taking pictures and finding out how to make the "squared" symbol and in general rewriting the whole damn thing.  But, I do think somehow, this day snuck in some bonus time for me, but that's a lesson for another day.)

Thanks for stopping by and sitting a spell, I appreciate it.

((Never.  Ever.))

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Near Requiem For Innocence

Evil burns in this world, fact.  I am afraid of evil, fact.  I shelter my sons from evil.

Hate abounds in this world, true.  Hate makes me question faith, very true.  I shelter my sons from hate.

There is a relentless spotlight on terror in this world.  Terror makes me pity us, you, me.  I shield my sons from terror's spotlight.

Love abides in us, all of us.  I have seen and known great love.  I shower my sons with love.

What more of today's tragedy can we make?  Volumes?  Of course.  Silence?  Yes, to listen to our pain.  Remembrance?  Yes, every tear and shattered hope.  Love?  Yes, it is our collective default state of being.  I believe that.

So today, I will think of love.  And with that on my heart I will consider the day that I have to really sit down with a child, and, of my own volition and with intent, I will break his heart.

I will have to explain why, as a joke we sometimes say, "oh, the huge manatee."  And why sometimes I shudder when he says it.

I will have to explain Holocaust, and A-bomb and H-bomb (I suppose the F-bomb as well).  I will be forced to explain Manifest Destiny, a Civil War of battles brother against brother.

Slavery.  I will have to explain that, God help me...

I will have to look a bright-eyed boy in those crystal pure hazel or blue eyes and tell him that presidents and great men are murdered, because of their very greatness; that American Pie is about the assassination of a beautiful soul; that "I have a dream" is not just a catchphrase for a cheap joke on a cheaper cartoon network, but the defining words of a hallowed martyr.

I will have to help him understand The Wars, and war itself; bloody, real, putrid, violent, evil, carnage-strewn war.  My Lord, two, two, of them.  And, the hundreds of others...

I will explain the gassing of children, the hatred between cultures, the lingering stench of racism, sexism and homophobia.  And it will horrify me.

I will have to explain to a schoolboy, to innocence itself, that evil can stroll in with a gun and shatter limbs and skulls and futures and dreams in a place just like his own sacred place.  How, I weep, how?

I will someday, perhaps today, when one asks me at dinner, "Dad, what does nine-eleven mean?" have to explain the death and tragedy and courage and heroism of planes flying into skyscrapers, government buildings and lonely green fields.

I will have to explain terror.  And... that terrifies me.

So, should I put it off?  Should I wait?  Should I try to hold back the sad collective hurt, the sob of deep understanding that comes knowing evil is real, necessary even?

I have to tell them.  I must.

But I'm not going to today.  Not this September Eleventh, not today.

Today, under the seat of my truck, tucked up in a little rip, I found this:

 On the back of this:

It's Marci and me.  Oh, and it's you and your loved ones.

It's all of us, and a four-year-old loved us then.

I want him to love us a little longer, okay?

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Haunted Hous"

The boys played Super Mario World yesterday for too long.  I pulled the plug.  Well, actually, I was trying to change a busted light fixture in the basement and, in attempting to find the right breaker, I turned off their game.

What's interesting is that after an initial bit of complaining they went on to do other things.  They have only had a Wii a couple of years, if that, and I think they understand, somewhere deep down, that it is not really very satisfying.  Oh it's fun and exciting and challenging but it doesn't really beat, say, washing a truck on a hot September Sunday:

Or compiling stats for your favorite Pokemon team making up a new game planning out your monthly budget doing something which involves a grid:

Or maybe a little math:

(I know it's messy, but, I had to open a calculator to do it myself):

Or even spending an afternoon making what was, arguably, the lamest...


I'll set the scene.  The boys are in the guest room, initially they went in there because they got too hot on the porch after the car-wash fiasco and a Gatorade, which as everyone knows must be consumed on the porch.  Before long, a squirrel-like frenzy begins.  There is giggling, drawing, taping, giggling, hushed conferring, oh, and a lot of string.  (There are times when you just don't ask.)  This goes on for perhaps an hour or two, dinner is served and we are invited to their "haunted house" after supper.  Cool, sounds like fun, uh, I mean, that sounds scary...

So, after a somewhat rushed dinner, we duly, entered the haunted house.  First Marci and then myself.  Photos honestly can't do justice to the wonderful oddness we encountered (we tried to capture it on Mom's phone but, hey, it was dark, what part of haunted house don't you get?) but I took some anyway.

There was this spooky cat with a flashlight stuck up its illuminating it creepily, which you can't tell from the photo.

There was an obvious concealed trip line that connected a dead Furbee to a string of Mardi Gras beads.  The Furbee fell, which was indeed scary because, well, Furbees are freaky alive or dead, and rattled the beads against the blanket holder in which was concealed a small child honking ominously on a flat harmonica.

There was a fan blowing scary paper streamers shaped like hands reaching out for you (well, not so much) behind which was concealed yet another small boy shining a laser all about and giggling creepily:

However the piece de risistance - at least in their minds - was this carefully rendered poster of "Mr Bloodhead" which hung ominously on the closet door:

I cannot begin to explain WHAT THE HELL THIS IS!  However, they spent about thirty excited minutes bringing it to gory fruition.  I can tell you that the football shaped thing at the top is his mouth, those two red spots are his creepy eyes, there is a sword through his neck, a few open wounds and anything red is blood.  Yeah, lovely, I know...

In my opinion, the scariest thing in the whole room was, for some reason, this tipped over chair.  From what I gather from listening through the closed door from their delightful conversation, there was a lot of decision-making as to where this chair would eventually end up and its final impact on the whole set:

I think they nailed it.

Finally, let me remove my tongue from my cheek and tell you a thing or two.  I have been accused of making fun of the boys, especially when I do stuff like this.  However, I hope you, gentle reader, can read between the lines and understand the tenderness with which I approach this stuff.  Obviously, to shed light on it, to share it here in this public space, shows that I think it is worthy, funny, sweet, memorable, and, most of all terribly important.

Marci said it best when, after it was all over, after the pictures were taken, after our expressions and screams were dissected and reenacted, after it was cleaned up and we were sitting down to a snack before bed, she said:  "I love the way you guys worked together to make it."

Yeah, that sums it up.  We are so fortunate to have twins who, although, as I've said before, they would never admit it, are very good friends.  They laugh together, they share the same sensibilities, laugh at the same stuff and, honestly, truly, love each other.

For that, and so much more, I am very thankful.

Just one more thing, if you look closely at a couple of the pictures you will see scattered about several colorful fake flower leis.  I'd never thought of it before, but, somehow, in that beautiful, creepy, imagination-filled, lovingly rendered haunted house, they were pretty scary.

Thanks for coming around and sharing a memory with me.  It's important.  It's essential.  It's nonsense that simply must not be forgotten.

from Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear form the backseat ..."

"Those guys are missing something ... I know what it is ... death."

(thank you video games)

So, I think I'll turn the power off more often...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Love's Labor's Post

I've been reading some poetry lately.  I guess that sounds sort of uppity, or fancy or self-indulgent - and perhaps it is - but, mostly it has been in an effort to improve my skills at putting words in a row and making some sense with them.  Poets are good at that, for the most part, me, well... not always.

It is Labor Day around these parts.  It's funny, I have a few readers now in other parts of the world and find that I am more aware of my Americentricism (not a word) than I have ever been in my past.  I'd love to give them, and me, a succinct and definitive explanation of the holiday, but, I can't.  Here is a link to what the Department of Labor has to say about it, the gist of it being:  "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

I know, sounds lofty and important and, all in all, a great idea.  Sort of like poetry.

So, how do poetry and Labor Day come together?  Where, perhaps more accurately?  Well, in my mind, in this poem by Robert Hayden:

        Those Winter Sundays         

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

I've loved this poem since I first encountered it in the seminal anthology The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart published by Harper Collins in 1992, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade.

Well before I was a Dad myself, before my own father's death, before I knew the things I know now.  Before the heartbreak of parenting, before the bitter pain of of a dear man gone before his time, before, before... before I was capable of understanding it.

I loved it first for the language.  I often read a poem aloud and listen to it through my ears instead of watching it, observing it, with my eyes.  "Blueback cold" and "chronic angers" echoed as I heard them.  But, one line, even then - before - made me choke back the sob of all of sons:  "No one ever thanked him."

I remember that line smacking me in the face, a full, open-handed slap at my own indifference to my fathers life and integrity.  Like salt in the wound of youth it stung me, shamed me, embarrassed me even.

Now, as I grow into my own fatherhood I see this poem not as a lament, but as a celebration of the labor of love this journey so often becomes.  I know well the feeling so perfectly, sparingly shaped in that first stanza.  "Sundays too" is so familiar to me now, the knowing that there is no time off from the job, even though the hands ache from a week of hard work, the banked fires must still blaze.  The essential symbology of fire and hearth and home so elegantly stated, so cutting into the heart of a man.

"When the rooms were warm, he'd call."  Yes, I do that.  It's safe now, this house is yours, good, decent, ready.  I have done this for you, for us, for childhood, for mankind, for hope and tomorrow.

"No one ever thanked him."  That doesn't seem to matter any more.  I understand now.  "Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well."  I was indifferent to the man who could heroically conquer the cold and humbly take care of the mundane.  As a younger man I let this feeling overwhelm me.  I believe I stopped listening to the poem there, pausing to wallow in my own pity, I didn't hear the glory and dignity in that final, defining, quietly haunting last line:  "... what did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?"

Indeed, what did I know then?  I know now.  I know the loneliness of love, I know the sternness, the flint and steel of love.  I know the work, the simple, unadorned and constant labor of love.  I know all this and more.

I know I need not be thanked.  I know the labor is in the love.  I know the honor, the pride, the primality, the grace of love's austere and lonely offices.

I should not be thanked for my labors, I should not be lauded, feted, or praised.  I should kneel on life's stone hearth, before the glowing coals of duty, sticks and twigs clutched in my gnarled and tired and calloused hands, and feed the fires of youth and family, with a prayer on my lips of thanksgiving.

Fathers do this not for our children but for ourselves, for our children's children, for everyone, for the future, for humanity.

So how does this reflect on this Labor Day.  In the every description I could find about this day I saw something about the contributions workers have made to strength, well-being and prosperity.  Parents do that, fathers do that, you do that, I do that.

Labor ennobles love and vice versa.

I will bank the fires.

I will feed the flames.

I will warm the house.

I will shine the shoes.

I will cook the meals.

I will clothe the children.

Please, don't thank me.  It is my duty and my pleasure.

But, if a son of mine were to thank me, it might look something like this note Nick made a couple of years back that hangs on my mirror in the bedroom:

"thank you Dad for your good coking (cooking) too.  you are the most best cock r (cooker, he means cooker) in the U.S.A.  Nick
Thanks buddy, but, you didn't have to... I already knew.

From Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"We don't need any more ideas today. Ideas turn into bad things."

Yes, son, they do, sometimes.  But when they don't, they can soar...