Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On hiding

Though the evenings, with their low-slung suns and softening shadows, approach something like perfection, Q and The Boy wanted to be inside to hide things. We'd each take turns concealing something (one of many stuffed animals, a wallet, a butterfly clip) in their room while the other two waited in the kitchen eating chips. (Okay, so the chips were my idea.) The two would then hunt for whatever it was, while the hider coached the lookers with "warmer" or "colder." We did this for nearly an hour and a half, and would have kept going if it weren't for the calling beds.

Why do children love to hide?

For fun, I asked Q why she liked this game, and, in true Q fashion, she said that she really didn't find it that fun after all.* The Boy, too busy for the question, just offered an "I don't know" as an explanation.

But Q did say that she liked to hide herself, and I think that answer reveals a lot. It's not the hiding itself that makes the game so enjoyable — after all, it's a persistent nightmare that you'll hide so well that no one will ever find you. Instead, whether hiding themselves or their things, I think it's the knowing something that others don't. Q really starts to giggle when I come near her or to what she's hidden, as if to say "How can he not see me? He's so close but doesn't know that I'm right here."

Perhaps, then, it's that edge between knowing and not knowing — between hidden and found — that triggers the delight. Where did that delight go? When does hiding turn into wanting to disappear?

*Note: I do not, not for one second, believe this.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not quite done with 9/11, I suppose

I suppose I'm getting better about the September 11th attacks. I no longer pay much attention to low-banking planes overhead, and we didn't feel like braving the rain for the still-arresting Tribute in Light. I likely wasn't going to say anything about it here either; I've already turned things over in my head here, here, and here.

It's not that we've forgotten. We still think about the kids of the dead, the ones we knew and the ones we didn't. We still live in one big construction site that, from the looks of it, will always be one. We still see the parades — shorter every year — of fire trucks and hallowed slag. The memories are just more distant now, and with Q and The Boy growing right before our eyes, it's hard to look at much else.

But then Facebook (of all things) kicked me back. Last Friday morning, among all the quiz results and posted photos, I saw a status update from a childhood friend of mine that he was in Kuwait waiting to deploy to Iraq. We haven't been all that close for a while now, but we knew each other for many of the years that a lot of books call formative. He's an Army physician with seminary and philosophy training as well, and in the picture he stands in fatigues in a sun-blasted background, huge buses over his shoulder perhaps ready to take him somewhere that I can't quite fathom.

Yes, the wars are still going on, particularly the one that had nothing to do with the hole in this city. May it all end soon and safely, for him and for others. May there be fewer holes in lives.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Washed away

washing over

As I recently said, nothing much came of this past* summer, but my hope in September was not misplaced. Just one early September day at the Jersey shore was enough to scrub and buff us back to a healthy shine. Q and The Boy spent nearly four solid hours testing themselves against the waves, with the waves winning more than once.

Standing in the edge of a thing that might as well not have an end, we didn't have to think of anything but how our bodies made an edge with the world.

Tomorrow, it's back to school.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The end of a summer that never really was

This ship has sailed

August ended with a wet sigh and little else. The official end of summer supposedly arrives Labor Day Weekend, but even this first day of September feels like the end of something that never really happened.

It's not that the past two months were uneventful: The Boy lost some teeth, my lovely wife and I crept ever closer to forty (with my creeping becoming particularly close), we had our ten-year wedding anniversary, and we traveled to see family, the latter involving (among other things) the feeding of aggressive pygmy goats.

Much of what was supposed to happen — what usually happens — just didn't, however. The Boy was a kindergartner last year, and in New York that meant school through nearly the end of June. Then a little over two weeks out of classes, The Boy broke his arm, which (through no fault of his own, of course) kept our July beachless. He was really a good sport about it all despite being no good for any sports.

Our poor luck didn't come off with The Boy's cast, though. Work for me was, and is, a puzzle with too many missing pieces. We talked about getting away for a short trip, just the four of us, but we never followed through. And we had plans for a long weekend last week in which we'd reacquaint ourselves with the coast that is always so close to us, but Bill and Danny teamed up to close the Atlantic for nearly a week and to produce just enough rain to make being outside annoying. We did rearrange our house while the weather worked over the trees in the park, but that's about as exciting as my wife's three-day weekend got.

Danny irritated us the most. Along with two to three trips to the beach each summer, we also make a habit of Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the U.S. Open. The Boy can play tennis pretty well, but he isn't the most motivated thing in the world. Taking him and Q out to the huge grounds for the kid activities (with prizes always donated by Hess Oil) makes him want to believe in himself. After Danny soaked all the fun out of a Coney Island trip we had planned,* it canceled everything at the Tennis Center but the stage show with all the tweens lip-synching poorly. We did attempt to squeeze a little life out of the butt of August with a Sunday trip to the Met (particularly the always cool Temple of Dendur), a Central Park playground, and Pop Burger. Q had a good time feeding the pigeons nearly half of her jumbo pretzel, but I'm sure she would have preferred Jersey sand crabs tickling her hands instead. But it is what it is.

There are so many metaphors that could ably stand in for this summer (broken arm, anyone?), but Bill and Danny let me be dramatic, so I'll let them serve. Large storms like those don't make land here in the city (thank goodness). Still, they bend our weather and waves enough to keep us inside with our faces on the glass. Throughout the summer it has seemed (and here comes the drama) like some enormous force has been spinning slowly somewhere too far away to be calamitous for us but close enough to remind us of our size, what we didn't and don't have.

I'd like to think, though, that September will remake us. Both Q and The Boy will soon go back to school, and I will be a bigger part of their lives in the months to come. There will be gymnastics (or ballet, if Q ever makes up her mind), and swimming and tennis and reading and — with the laziness of August behind me — writing. The days have already begun rolling down into fall, the most beautiful time in New York.

We can't wait for the change in the weather.

*And Coney Island was Plan B. We usually head for Robert Moses or the Jersey Shore, but both had been closed for a while.