Monday, September 28, 2015

"Esta La Luna"

I lived in Queens, New York - Astoria, to be precise - in the mid-eighties.  The subway train was the double-R back then and the last stop was Ditmars Boulevard.  In fact, the conductor always announced over the PA system:  "Ditmahs bull-vard, last stop on the Double-R.  Ditmahs, Ditmahs, last stop."

One night, very late, I came into the station with a backpack of broken dreams.  I'd started out some twenty-eight hours earlier in Athens, Greece.  I'd lost my girl in France somewhere when we'd split company in a country town in Normandy.  I'd also lost my favorite wool sweater that I'd carried all over Europe.  I left it on the train I'd transferred from.  I was more upset about the sweater than I was about that girl.  So the conductor screeched that shrill "last stop, last stop" and I trudged out of the train and down the stairs thinking about journeys, adventures and their final acts.

Sometimes the story is about its ending.  Perhaps all stories are.

The details aren't important, but I remember them all the same.  I was coming home at maybe six-thirty one morning, I worked in restaurants back in those days, usually closing the one I worked in and then closing the bar I went to afterwards.  It was crisp and clear with a river chill from the East River not but a few blocks away.  Dawn was hinting behind the endless rows of buildings.  There were people out and on their way to work or out for coffee or a bagel or gooey cinnamon bun from the bakery.

A little girl of five or so bundled in a red-fringed, pink parka, dirty and worn yet serviceable - not unlike the neighborhood she called her own -  held the hand of an old man, her mittened hand in his brown and wrinkled, strong and proud hand.  He wore a tan overcoat buttoned to his neck and under a fifties style hat a fringe of grey hair was trimmed neatly.

The man stooped a bit and walked slowly but there was pride in his stoop and his step - the sort of pride that only comes with character and honor.  The girl looked up at him adoringly.  For some reason, so did I.

They were a few paces ahead of me and stopped at a crosswalk, waiting to cross Ditmars.  I lived on the side we were on and didn't need to cross.  The light changed and they started out.  I'd been fumbling to light a cigarette and stopped myself near the curb to cup the match which blew out in the wet wind.  I turned my back to the wind and glimpsed the girl and the man.  As I dropped the match I saw the girl look down the street and stop.  Surprise and joy flushed her face and she pulled the hand of the old man and tugged him to a stop maybe a third of the way through the street.

The wind turned her words to me and I heard her sweet voice say, "Oh, Abuelo, look.  Mira, mira!"

I looked in the direction of her gaze but saw nothing of note, only buildings and bricks and wires and signs and pigeons and gulls.  Their gaze was not up, but more out - straight down the street.

"Santa María, Madre de Dios," the old man said into the wind.  I knew it was a prayer, but I couldn't figure why.  There was no fear or concern in their faces.

I had to know.

I walk towards them and end up a little behind them and I follow their gaze and...

"My God," I say, perhaps my own attempt at a prayer, although I didn't know it then.

The street rises for a few blocks ahead of me and then slopes off towards the river.  There, where all those horizon and perspective lines meet a full, huge, shimmering orange moon is setting right in the middle of the street.  It is astonishing.

"¿Qué es?"

"It is the moon, my child," he says gently, "Esta la luna."

"Estalaluna..."  she says it all in one breath, as though it were one word.

He notices me behind him.  He smiles and gestures to it, as though he is giving it to me, just as his granddaughter had given it to him, just as wise old men have been giving the moon to beautiful young girls and foolish young men since we all first looked up.

"Esta la luna, esta la luna, esta la luna..." she sings and we laugh and I notice something else.  The light has changed, the cars are waiting, but, none blow their horns or curse out their windows, in fact it is quiet and all eyes are on the strange scene we must present.

I point to the crossing signal and the old man realizes we are holding it all up.  He laughs and nods toward me then looks toward the far curb.  He pirouettes the singing girl with his one hand and grabs my elbow with the other and we head to the sidewalk.  The cars rumble, the elevated clicks and clacks in the distance, air brakes pop, and time begins again.

"Gracias, thank you," he says, squeezing my shoulder as he looks me in the eye and deeper.

"No, no, thank you, I wouldn't have seen it if you hadn't been looking at it."  I mean it.

"I didn't see it, it was mi hermosa nieta..."

Yes, his beautiful granddaughter.  She showed us her moon.  She opened our eyes and stopped time.  We smile down at her, still humming her moonsong, and we wonder, with rivertears in our eyes, at how important it all seems.

I watch them as they stroll on down the street, a hear the tinkle of the bell in the bakery and I hope she gets a sweet, gooey cinnamon bun.

I'll never forget it.


I thought of them, Abuelo and his grandchild, last night as I watched the moonrise and then watched the shadow of the earth trace its crescent path across the blood orange moon.  I thought about the story, which I've told many times, and how I thought it ended.  When I told it in the past it was mostly about how fantastic the moon looked setting in the street, how other-worldly it was, how odd and juxtaposed the craters and shadows of it seemed against the  buildings.

But last night I thought about that girl.  I wondered how her life had been.  I felt her sorrow when the old man passed on.  I hoped she remembered that moment when they gave me the moon.  It was a new perspective on an old story.  Painted now with the brushes of  parenthood I saw it so differently.  I considered the many times I have shown the boys the moon - rising full reflecting in the golds of sunset; setting in the mornings straight down the east-west road we live on at solstice; a sliver of silver, tiny and pale above cirrus clouds in the blue of a summer's day.

One has a lot of time watching a lunar eclipse, it's a slow process, a slow, well crafted story savoring itself, listening to itself.  When finally the corner crescent flickered out like a lamp run out of oil, I thought of the other times I'd seen an eclipse.  On a hill in a pasture in Ohio.  On a rooftop in Brooklyn.  In a forest clearing I can't remember when or where.

I thought of conclusions.  I thought that that was a helluva a show.  And I waited to see it again.  And I waited.  There had been some haze and high clouds drifting through as I watched the eclipse, never obscuring but sometimes blurring the event.  I figured it had clouded over and I decided to go back in.  Just for fun though, I wondered back into the yard, further back, beyond the maples and the the dying locust tree and I looked up one more time. 

Like the slit of a cat's eye opening the story was starting again.  But then it hit me.  This was the second act, this is the climax, this is the happy ending.  And I got my chair and sat and watched the moon get big again and understood why we always watch the moon, why we show or sons and daughters the moon, why we've tracked this lunar orbit so carefully since the beginning of time - it is the ultimate story of redemption and hope and spirit and trust.

Just before the boys went to bed last night we trundled them out onto the driveway and showed them the beginning of the eclipse, just that part where the shadow first begins to nibble the edges of that round pie in the sky.  Nick mentioned that it seemed a little creepy to him.  He is right I think, but...

... sometimes you just gotta wait for the story to finish.

Here's a silly picture...

...because, sometimes you just need a silly picture to get your perspective back.

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

Nick: "You can't have a MEss without ME."

(there were chocolate frosted donuts at Donut Sunday)

Well, it beats that stupid there's-no-I-in-team one....

Thanks, as always, for coming around.  I like that you do.  I like thinking these words land somewhere and I am glad it was with you.

Peace to you and yours.

(I wrote a song once called  Nick and Zack Song.  In the bridge there is a line that says, "I'll watch you watch the setting moon."  I just now realized it is because of that little girl I knew I wanted to do that with, and for, my boys.  I wanted, when they were just infants, to give them the moon which was given to me as is the way of all true stories.)

Friday, September 18, 2015


    noun: contraption; plural noun: contraptions
    1. a machine or device that appears strange or unnecessarily complicated, and often badly made or unsafe.


      Thanks for looking in today, and yes, it's all sort of off-center here  Sometimes Blogger is most befuddling...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Touched Stones and Penciled Lines

She undoes the stiff knot she had moistened in her mouth and removes three white beads from a sinew cord which adorns the top of what you might call a satchel, though the native name - "traveling home" - means so much more.  She replaces the three white beads with three red beads and reties the strong string, cinching it tight with her stronger teeth.

She kisses it tenderly and fills the deerskin bag with nuts and fruit and some jerky and piece of steamed fish wrapped in shag-bark hickory and tied with a long blade of meadow grass.  A young man peers in from under an animal skin.  A boy really - her boy.  He will go out to hunt today, as he has everyday this fall.  It is his first year out with the men and he is doing well.

In his mind he is a young warrior, yet, as he opens his pack for lunch, he looks down at those beads and smiles as his hunter soul returns to sweet boyness.  She changes them every morning - different patterns, different colors, always three.

His friends and leaders do not notice the change but he does.  He feels loved and honored; cherished.


The streams run much calmer and easier on the steppes below the Big Mountains where the turbulent tributaries run wild.  Here, they meander through the forest on stone creekbeds and rivulets with an ancient patience.  He found the stone when he was eight or so in a creek near their simple homestead.  It was so unusual because it had a hole off center toward the narrow end of a finger long oval.  A hole, funnel-shaped, drilled from uncountable drips or eddies, over eons, by the water that always coursed through the forest - their forest.  He thought it mesmerizing, timeless, hopeful - he knew what it wanted from him.  He knew it was a gift.

He gave it to his mother as his father stood by, proud of his son's love, prouder still of his deep understanding of it.  A steady rain tapped softly on the bark shingles of the cozy, one-room home.  A fire blazed in the fireplace made of the same stone his mother clutched tightly, from the same creekbed, by the same six hands that passed the beautiful talisman.

She put it on a cord, strong woven hemp, and put it around her neck.  The string scratched at her gently, reminding her that it was there, all of it -  a family, a frontier, a life.

Seven or eight seasons passed and the boy came up with a fever and a rattling cough that shook the timber joists and logged and mudded walls.  Under blankets he shivered and the parents feared and there was no relief for the poor child.  As a plea, as a prayer, as a hope, as a supplication, as a gesture of faith and love, she removed the necklace and put it around his neck.

He slowly began to improve, as the snows accumulated and the wind blew the cough softened and finally left his sore and racked body.  Soon the fever followed the cough and the boy was hungry.  Meals of bear bone broth and honey-rye cakes strengthened his tired frame and he was able to get out of the straw and pine bough bed and walk to the rough table.  When he bent to pull the bench out, the stone fell from under his nightshirt and swung heavy on the cord and he knew.  He knew why he was better, how.

For years they traded the stone back and forth.  The father for the hunt or on a trip to the far village.  The son as he fished.  The mother as she labored through childbirth half a dozen times, twice stillborn, four other wild boys.  They passed it around themselves, playfully sometimes, tenderly at times, always draping it around the neck of a sleeping brother or parent.

And whenever they woke up with it on, or felt the rough string, or held it in their chapped and calloused hands each felt loved and honored; cherished.


The city is dirty, as dirty as the fetid Thames runs through the center of town.  The boy is up at dawn and runs down a narrow hall in a sooty, lamp-lit flat.  He grabs a bucket which sits at a table and and he smiles at the old woman who sits at the other end of the stained table, spools and hooks and a frame of white thread in front of her, making lace doilies for a few pennies a week.  She's already made the meat pie that waits at the bottom of the pail, a tired apple sits on top, sometimes a sweet, but not this day.

He rushes off to the textile factory where he minds the warps and woofs of the endless miles of fabric.  Retying there, straightening here, pulling down the old oak handle when the whole thing needs to stop.  Constantly moving and bobbing himself, cutting his knuckles or bumping his head as belts whir dangerously above him.  He will do it for twelve hours.

A bell sounds loudly, the whirring slows and stops, the boys all head to the long line of buckets up against the wall.  They are seemingly identical, some perhaps more worn than others, but they aren't.  Most have a piece of string or yarn or material tied around the handle to identify them - a piece of dirty tartan here, a bow of faded red wool yarn, a loop of old leather.

One stands out though, the one with the bright white string of delicate lace tied daintily on the rough tin handle.  The grandmother makes one for him every morning before she begins her piece-work, as the meat pies bake, before the dawn and the boy are up.  Every day, he puts it in his pocket and it helps him through the long day.  Every day, when he comes home tired and dirty he wipes his hands clean and ties it to the string from yesterday with a small knot he makes so well.

On Christmas morning he will sneak out from little, cold room he and his grandmother share and he will spin it around the pine branch they use for a tree.  He will do this for years.

When she sees it she will feel loved and honored; cherished.


Each generation, each culture, each time, each place - each individual really, you, me - invents or reinvents, designs or redesigns, discovers or rediscovers a particular way to assure those close to us they are loved and honored; cherished.

I purposefully phrased that last sentence as I did because, well, I am not sure which it is.  You see, I write the boys notes in their lunch boxes, I have since first grade.  At first I simply told them I love you.  When they were littler I would say funny things, make fart jokes and try to expand their vocabulary with words and horribly rendered drawings.  I'd like to say my notes have gotten better, matured in theme and tone... but, it's still pretty much "I love yous" and fart jokes with the addition of three stick figures named Pat.

Honestly, I never did it with much care or premeditation, I just jotted something down and threw it in, usually using the same idea for both boys, changing the name perhaps.  I just wanted them to think of me and to know they were being thought of, to make them feel loved and honored; cherished.

As I was cleaning out their first year lunch bags, hoping to get another year out of them (nope), one zippered compartment on Nick's seemed full, puffy maybe.  I figured it was a couple of paper towels up there or worse a forgotten sandwich, I unzipped the previously unnoticed (by me) pocket and, well, this...

Every note from every lunch for the whole of his first grade year.  He kept them, so I kept them, in fact I have all four years worth of notes in ziplocks, on a shelf, waiting - waiting for him to see them again and remember that he was once, and will always be, remembered.
Here's a hopeless little collage of a few notes from that first year:

As you can see, Marci helped me out with some of these.  I can't say they were masterpieces - hell, I can't even say they were clever - but they meant enough to a big-hearted, tiny seven-year-old boy, to keep them.

I guess it is a bit obvious that Zack didn't save his.  Well, Zack can't remember he has socks on when he gets in the shower, but, but... he remembers a lot of other things..

The first day of this year, their fifth grade year, they had pizza and the boys said they would "buy," just as I'd said to my Mom decades before.  The second day was an unknown, steak belonging to someone named Salisbury, and they opted to "pack."  I bumbled, out of practice, and it ended up taking me longer than it should have.  I forgot the notes.

"Dad, you forgot to make us notes for lunch.  Do more of the stickmen guys," Zack said as we walk down the driveway that day as the bus puttered off.

"Yeah, the Three Pats, Dad, those are great," Nick added.

If you look at the photo a ways up, you may notice a note - it's there in the middle above as well - that says "Three Pats, always and forever."

I introduced the "Three Pats" thing in a post long ago.  Basically, instead of saying "I love you" a give the boys three pats on the head or shoulder or wherever.  This has expanded over the years (years, how's that possible?) to be three hand squeezes in the scary movie, three kisses on a bear's nose, three taps on the bunk-bed frame - "taps" being "pats sideways" as Z put it.  What goes unsaid, but not ununderstood, is that it is a code, a short hand, a way to say it without others knowing.  Boys like that.  Me, too...

Anyway, sometime mid-year last, I was inspired to draw this:

Throughout most of that year and as we begin this one, I've kept the theme.  Here are some from last year:

My point today is not that I make pretty lame lunch notes.  It is not that boys don't want to say or hear "I love you."  It is not even that we need these stones and beads and lace and paper to touch and clutch through childhood, adulthood and beyond.

The point is that we do it - we make specific, personal, little things - thing small and yet, somehow, strong enough to hold the weight of memory, the weight of hope.  With sinews plucked from our very own hearts we cherish and love and hold.  These seemingly insignificant things stand in for the universal hopes we have for us, for them, for you, for me.  They are stokes of paint on the masterpiece that is humanity.

As I mentioned, the notes are stored by year in ziplock bags.  Just now, as I went to pack them back up, one fell to the floor.  I nearly left it there, what's one more note in the hundreds I already have.  But, it was sad and forlorn and very crumpled.  I picked it up and opened it, tearing it in two as I did.  It was this one:

"3 Pats praising"

Yeah, I think I'd like to save that one...

Thanks for visiting, I always appreciate it.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Maybe I shouldn't post this, Zack said he didn't mind.  Can he really know?  I don't.

"I am Powerful and Strong, Yet Peacful (sic) and Frail."

We all are, Zack.

Remember your frailty today, remember your strength and power, remember your inner peace.  Find it all inside you, all of it.  Understand that you are everything, nothing, light, dark and all the myriad grays in between.

Peace to you and yours, today... extra hugs for them all, alright?

(My friend Justin helped me get this image, which was in two scans, together as one.  He used magic... and a wand, I think.  He has a beautiful Instagram account, check it out here.)

I wrote this post, "NearRequiem For Innocence," on this same, infamous date two years ago... it may be better.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Hands Free Life"

In more than one image around here - usually of me holding something up - you might notice a thin, leather wristband twisted three times above my left hand.  If you look carefully enough you'll see that it's a few buckled bracelets which say "live hands free."  This is not by accident, these pictures; I have wanted to make sure that I have an image of them etched somewhere into this digital archive of memory, hope and love I erroneously call a blog.

Here's one from a post called A "Sowrd" and a Wand.

You may wonder why I want to remember them.  You see, as I write this, a new digital age is done dawning, no, it is upon us.  I, personally, neither like nor trust this new epoch.  But, I'll tell you what, it is certainly mesmerizing.  It temps us with a siren song that it is almost painful to ignore and indeed is beautiful and its tone hints at usefulness and necessity.  We want this stuff in out hands or at least accessible at all times.  I hear that siren song, I really do...

Fortunately, a dear woman taught me - in both word and action - that if I have something in my hands, they are no longer free to embrace a trembling child; to squish a face and smush it all around as laughter peals; to caress a forehead or scratch a back as a favorite baseball team loses once again.  They are not free to spin the spinner or roll the dice or throw the ball or put on a coat on that first, fresh, cool day of fall. Those three words, "live hands free," remind me when my hands are full to put down the thing and look for something different, warmer, better to hold - to hold a thought, a dream, a hope, a prayer, a future, all in the guise of a child, spouse or loved one.

These worn and weathered leather bracelets are my talismans and touchstones.

Here is another picture of the bracelets:

And, yes, that is the book in which I read the stories that led to the realization which led to the bracelets that led to a little bit better me.  The dear woman is Rachel Macy Stafford and she has written another book. I talked about her first in a post called Hands Free Mama.   In a review on GoodReads and Amazon, I wrote this of her newest book, Hands Free Life:

"Rachel Macy Stafford has written another important book here.  With practical advice and tool after tool to help you drag your eyes up from the device in front of you and out and into the eyes of those that truly matter - kids, spouses, clerks, teachers, garbage men - this book will help you through that difficult but transforming process.  It shows you what actions you can take, not just principles and jargon, but real, implementable tasks that can help you change your life. 

But that's not what I want to tell you about her book.  No... Rachel is a poet and a storyteller.  She is empathetic and so very loving.  Her stories will stay with you because of their detail and honesty.  She pauses often in these stories and her prose passes to poetry with a meter and tone that is simply unforgettable. 

Hands Free Life can, and will, help you overcome distraction in this crazy digital world, but, more-so, it can illuminate a life of "living better and loving more," mostly because you know the lovely author does.  Sometimes books shimmer and this one does, because Rachel does.  It is a hug from an encouraging and loving friend.

I really can't say much more than that... but I will.

I believe in Rachel Stafford.  I believe in her hope.  I believe in her kindness and in her charity.   I believe in her books, books steeped in love and decency and the deep well that is storytelling, which is song, which is poetry, which is prayer, which is Hope.

I would encourage you to get a copy of this book.  If you can't buy one right now, get your library to acquire some copies, I do all the time and they library is delighted.  She's a New York Times best-selling author, they will.

Ya'll know I am not a consumerist, in my heart I believe Rachel is not either.  What she did, what she does, changed her life... and what she shares is her delight and gratitude in that.  That's as good as it gets.

Peace to you all and thanks for coming 'round, and, if you get a chance wish Rachel godspeed and peace as well.

Oh, I wanted to show you this as well:

It is the pre-release package I got from her publisher.  Thanks for thinking of me, Rachel, every gesture you make is gracious and elegant and loving.

Mostly though, thanks for the wristband, mine's wearing down...


(Rachel's book is at Amazon, here.) 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Memories and Images

 (It'd help if you sang that title to the tune of "Photographs and Memories" by Jim Croce from which it was so embarrassingly cribbed.)

The words here won't matter, I think, someday in the future as the boys, perhaps grown men by then, surf the pages of this long love-letter I have been crafting for them.  Just as a letter drops the pictures out of the envelope, spilling them on the table, the pictures here will be seen first, letting the words wait, as words are patient enough to do.

That's the reason I have been so determined to include images - sometimes, perhaps too many - in this peculiar digital journey.  It seemed clear, at the start of all this, that I needed to save the small stuff, the offcasts, the easily forgotten misfits - the heartbreakingly adorable litter that falls from childhood's high chairs, tables and steps.

I suppose I should explain what's going on here.  Maybe I don't have to, you probably figured it out.  While I was away in Athens, Marci and the boys made these shirts.  They found drawings I'd scanned to use around here - there's, like six-hundred of them - and Marci transferred them onto t-shirts, a process that involves the computer, the printer/scanner thingee, and an iron... and magic, I'm pretty sure some magical paper is involved, Diadem Alley has it.  To further muck the story up, this all started because Kirby (not his real name, unless it is) wanted an "ihopeiwinatoaster" shirt and, she asked the boys if they wanted to make something for themselves when she made one for not-named-Kirby..

Not wanting to be left out, Marci made me the white one in the foreground there, a "handburger" Zack drew which was used in this post, cleverly called "Handburger."

Marci made the top left one for herself.  It began life as a Valentine if memory serves.  Now I'm curious, hold on a sec...

Sorry, that took a bit.  It was originally in a post called - these titles are not so good - "The Valentine's Day Post."  It's pretty good, really.  That's what took me so long, I felt I had to read it after I found the image.  Wait, I may have just got back to my original point... I'll be damned.

Nick chose a scan that I can't find anywhere else, in fact I don't know where they found it.  I remember the piece of paper, all it said was "Kids ______0______  parins ______2__________"  He thinks it is hilarious.  So do I.

The eight-legged-big-mouthed-antennaed-insect-thing in the center is on Nick's other shirt..  I never used it in a post but, man, it looks good on a shirt.

Up in the right corner is the "Pick Me" dude.  He is an amalgamation of images from two posts.  The "pick me" is from a piece of paper I found which said those words on both sides, I mention it in "Guarding Innocence,"  the little prince with a dagger is from the post "A Cast of Several and a Set Piece."  He's somehow creepy and cute.

Finally, on the orange shirt, is the little "hi" guy.  Marci place the image, at Z's request, down on the bottom right edge of the shirt, which is really nice because you don't see it at first and then you do and he says 'hi' to you, well, it's funny.  It is from a post called "Narrative Imperative."

I am not a logo shirt sort of guy.  If Nike wants to pay me a couple thousand dollars a year, I'll wear their shirts a few times a week, that'd be cool.  But, for me to pay way too much for a sweatshirt or sporty-spice-shirt and advertise their multi-billion corporation for free... no, thanks.

We aren't into Star Wars and we have not received the decoder rings that explain the over-complicated  super hero movie machine (actually I canceled that order and the truth is the boys don't care to see them) so no Captain Marvel or Batboy shirts for us.

We do wear Reds shirts around here and the requisite school district gear, I am alright with that.  But that's about it.  I have a few Life is Good shirts but, don't tell everyone, I don't really like them - they are soft though.

So, the boys wear mostly plain shirts, gray is a favorite, N looks great in blue and Z fancies green and, of course, orange - one of the local school colors.  

And, they wear the shirts Mom made 'em.  In fact they love them and wear them at least once a week.  Which, believe it or not, gets me to the point I want to make.  They love them because they made them.  Because they drew the pictures, the placed them on the transfers and helped manipulate the images and print them.  They own them.

In fact...

Let's see, uh, I started this before Zack got his stitches on Wednesday, so...

What?  Sorry, didn't I tell you about that?

I'll go with the short version, I've already told some long stories about injuries to both Zack and Nick.  Zack's forehead encountered a rock.  The rock was in Nick's hand but it was just a freak accident  It was a freak accident and it was a clean but deep cut.  It bled a lot, onto his shirt which I use to keep pressure on it, I bandaged it and he went back to practice for a few minutes but a thunderstorm came up and it was called short so...  I can't write a short story, can I?

We went home.  I cleaned the wound.  Marci texted a picture of it to pediatrician's office.  Off to Children's Hospital Urgent Care (always, always, always take your kid to The Children's Hospital if you can).

Let's see, um, right - check in, numbing gel, anxiety, vending machine, nice nurse, capable but busy doctor, heightened anxiety, tears, two stitches, sign papers, into the car and...

"Dad?"  It is a whisper of a voice.  The tone implores me to listen, my answer, I know will be important and everlasting.  I turn down the fan on the AC.

"What is it, Zack?" I ask gently.

"Will you be able to get the blood outta my "hi" shirt?"

I smiled.

"Yep, it's already soaking in cold water in the sink."  And it was, and we did get the stain out.  And, when he asked about it, I understood that he was saying was really:  Everything's gonna be alright, isn't it?

... home.

Home to the other boy who never said he was worried but kept commenting to Mom that we'd been gone a long time.  The boy who was so very upset after the meeting of forehead and rock.  The boy who later said he was so sorry through tears and a sob or two.

"Nick, I know it wasn't your fault.  It was a freak accident, everything's forgotten, forgiven..."

"No, not that Dad, I ruined his favorite shirt, ohhh..." eyes welling up again.

"I'll get it out, don't worry about it, it'll be fine, good as new."

With that he wiped his face on his eight-legged-big-mouthed-antennaed-insect-thingee shirt and trotted off to practice.  But I know what he meant.

Everything's gonna be alright, isn't it?

I can't guarantee it boys, I really can't...

I appreciate you coming around again, fewer and fewer folks are so it's not been so crowded.  I'm glad you did.

I mean that.

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

(sung a la Frozen)

"Do you wanna build a death ray?"

Hell's yes...

Listen, if there is one thing I want you to take away from this, well, it is not listen under the words, it is not make your own shirts, it is not that images make memories better than words often can, it is not even embrace the silly nor is it remember the stories.  No, it is simply this:

Always, always, always take your kid to The Children's Hospital if you can, they are the best for your kid, I promise.

I got to wondering what I might choose to put on a shirt.  I decided on this from "Post Father's Day Post":

Peace to you, whenever you might be...