Go Home Again

In the past few months, I’ve been traveling a lot. I’m not going that far geographically, only about three hours drive, but it most definitely is a world away.

The day before Christmas, I sold my business of the last ten years. This was, as you can imagine, a difficult choice to make and one that took a lot of introspection before the final, irrevocable decision was made. The trick, as with any business sale, was finding the buyer. As I put the word out that my company was for sale, I started to really discover what was going to be needed of me to make this happen. I was a manufacturer of a specialty home item and though it wasn’t rocket science, any prospective buyer who didn’t have a direct background in this process was going to need a lot of hand holding. This meant that I was going to be doing a lot of direct instruction and thus, away from home for an appreciable period of time. There was no escaping that reality.

The first individuals whom really looked interested were a very nice couple out in California. I spent several hours teleconferencing with them as they tried to make their decision to buy or not and though I was excited at the idea of selling, I also thought about how hard this was going to be. I would naturally have to go out there and show them the ins and outs of the business and that would take my time and their money. Then, I got a call from another company with some serious interest. They wanted to talk and… they were just one state away. Better than that, they were in my childhood hometown. As the California folks waffled and the economy got bleaker, I heard from them less and less and from the new folks “back home”, more and more. In the end, the new folks bought it.

In one day, most of the shop was packed up on a truck and moved lock, stock and barrel to its new home and plans were made for me to put on my instructor’s hat and follow along until they had everything in hand. Finding a place to stay three or so days at a time was no problem at all since my folks still live there and don’t mind seeing my face turn up on their door step or hogging up the bathroom first thing in the morning. I don’t get back to my parent’s home much and it’s rather a novelty to be there again.

One of the complications of this is my other loved ones. My dear Wife would be left in the house with two small children running on 100% pure high octane crazy, and though we both love them immeasurably, being “on duty” solo for days at a time can grind you down faster than an eraser in the hands of a third grader. In an effort to keep things as easy as they could be for Action Girl, I took Short Stack with me on several of these trips. Sitting in the passenger side back seat, Short Stack would watch the world go by one truck at a time with a “director’s cut” commentary going for the duration. In an effort to improve his view, I’d remove the headrest from the front passenger seat, thus giving him a much appreciated and unobstructed view of the road. He’s a great traveling companion and never complains about anything. He will point out every single piece of heavy equipment that you come across and ask you roughly a gazillion unanswerable questions though. You just have to deal with that. His favorite is to point to a random street as you drive along and say, “Why are we not on that road?”

Once I got to our destination, my parent’s would watch Short Stack and I’d get to work. I really didn’t get much of a chance to look around town since I was there to instruct, not reminisce, but I was taken with how much things had changed. The changes, in fact, were almost all I could see. The new plazas, the missing fields, the giant bypasses and the new roundabouts. Where had my little hometown gone? My view of my past home, colored in fading Kodachrome, matched up badly against what I was looking at now and it made me a little sad, even if I knew very well that things inevitably change. My days were full of instruction and work but it was good to see the torch being passed as well. I was happy with my decision and the buyers were the right ones to carry it forward. When I’d get home it was to my old house, my parents and my son. Talk about things changing with time.

My last trip back to instruct was solo. Action Girl decided that though she loved her one on one time with Lulu Belle, she needed some verbal company while I was gone. It did take some of the pressure off for me, being on my own. Even if I didn’t get out to poke around town much, I did get to work late and finish up the lessons, thus insuring that I was done traveling for extended periods of time. I promised my self that I’d be back in the springtime, just to enjoy being there and perhaps go hiking with the family. Running out for lunch on the last day, I decided to take a back route I remembered from my childhood. The small roads wound through residential neighborhoods I hadn’t passed in a lifetime and as I crossed a small bridge, I had a flash of a face race through my mind.

She was a tall and thin with soft features and a warm smile. She was wearing a long skirt, simple blouse and a headscarf as was common in the nineteen-seventies. With her were two boys enjoying the remains of their ice cream cones and talking happily as they walked over this very bridge. I was one of those boys and the other was my friend Charlie. The kind woman was his Mom and I can just recall stopping to drop the soggy ends of our cones over the rail and then racing to the other side to see whose was first as the current swept them away. She had taken us out that day for a walk and other than that brief piece; I can’t recall any of the other day’s happenings. I was probably seven at the time and didn’t know that she wore the scarf for a reason other than fashion though I’m sure Charlie knew.

I remember him being absent from my life for a while not long after that sunny day. The cancer had moved quickly and as friends and classmates, we all tried to fathom what it would be like to loose your mom. The idea alone scared the hell out of us. We couldn’t imagine what he and his twin sister were going through. The only frame of reference I had was the TV show, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” starring a young Bill Bixby. In the show, Bill’s wife had died and left him and their six year old son alone. I remember it being a good watch, not funny, not sad, but poignant and a bit melancholy at times. It wasn’t hard to imagine the boy being played by my friend.

Charlie and I remained close for years and years and I don’t think even once brought up his mother to him. I don’t know what I would have said at any rate. Bringing up topics like that are hard enough as an adult. When you’re a kid, well… they seem better to leave alone, like a scary dream or dangerous looking animal. The odd thing that struck me as I drove along, away from the bridge and past Charlie’s old house, was the realization that I had remembered that moment with his Mom and the ice creams before. It occurred to me that it popped into my mind whenever I crossed that spot. It had just been so long since the last time I had been by here. I hardly remember her, but I knew her son very well, and I think she would be proud of him today indeed

I lost track of Charlie after high school and haven’t been able to find him since, though I confess, I haven’t looked terribly hard either. We were very good friends once and spent a lot of time playing in each other’s yards. His Father I recall being a little domineering and over protective, but with children of my own now and trying to imagine keeping a family safe and strong through the loss of your spouse, I can’t blame him at all. In retrospect, he was doing an amazing job.

As I drove back to work after picking up my lunch, I took a different route back. I still know all the back roads and remember riding my bike down the shaded, cracked and uneven cement sidewalks, so long ago. It feels strange now to be here again but nostalgic, all the same. It stirs memories that have long lain dormant. I hope I can get back this spring with the family so we can do some good poking around. If time permits, we might go for ice cream. If I can remember, I’ll smile to my self and silently thank Charlie’s Mom for her kindness so long ago. Wouldn’t it be good for all of us to be remembered like that some day?

Rolling Down the Snow

So, last night, the car started acting funny. Actually, there was nothing funny about it. The car was packed to the gills with small, wiggling children, seven tons of groceries and many hard won trophies from the hunt at Target. We had been out since eleven that morning and, naps be damned, we had stayed out until close to three thirty! Sometimes in the effort to have some semblance of a normal life, not to mention trying to actually accomplish goals you set for your self (such as having food to eat) you need to forgo the normal routine that ostensibly keeps your children sane but keeps you anchored to your house. This is exactly what we had done and we had the station wagon full of booty and crazed children to prove it.

The excursion had all in all, gone well. Neither Short Stack nor Lulu Belle had inflicted an emotional meltdown on us and both seemed happy for the chance to do something interesting. The rainy, cold weather had prompted me to do something! By ten that morning, I was looking down the barrel of hours and hours of hanging out in the living room with the kids, slowly going insane to the pitter patter of raindrops. Normally, I’d have jumped into a project, but with both kids home, that was decidedly NOT going to be a possibility. Plus, I didn’t want to.

By the time we were pointed homeward, the sky was looking brighter, the February rain had stopped and Short Stack at least, had managed to nod off for a few precious minutes. We were wrapping up a good afternoon outing. We drove back to the boat terminal and were the first car in line to board the ferry for the trip back to our island home. When the boat was ready, we drove on, parked and shut off the car.

Bad move.

Some time later as the ferry pulled up to the dock, we got the kids back in their seats and turned the key.

“Raur… raur…. raur.”

“Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!”

My wife, Action Girl, was driving at the time and she was looking at the dashboard with a mixture of disbelief and hate-lasers. If any mortal being had been given that look, they would have had to shield their eyes or burst into a torrent of flame. The car, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care.

“Raur… raur… raur…”

There was obviously no way it was going to crank fast enough to catch. Having to make the other cars behind us wait while the crew went to get the onboard jumper pack was bad enough, but remember, Action Girl is a captain here. This is her turf and she knows every one and they know her. Plus, she HATES to be embarrassed. Needless to say, I wouldn’t want to be the car right now.

So, with a jump, we got home with our cargo. It just about died when we pulled into the yard and after going for a quick spin to charge up the battery, I’m pretty sure it’s the distributor or possibly, the alternator. Either way, it’s not reliable and is scheduled to go in to the garage later this week. Should be a fun drive to get it there.

This morning we all got up early enough to have a leisurely breakfast before heading in our various directions. Action Girl is working an AM shift and needed to be gone on an early boat and Short Stack needed to get to pre-school. Lulu Belle and I were the only ones loafing at home today. Not trusting the car to behave was no problem for Action Girl. She didn’t need it to get to the ferry landing and thus, to work. The question was, how to get my son where he needed to be. His pre-school is on the island and not a very hard walk at all, but as anyone who has gone for a stroll with a nearly-three year old can attest, the power of the “distraction” factor is with out equal. Everything is worth inspecting with deep interest and care when you’re that age. To make matters more patience grinding, Short Stack is in the full blown “why” phase of life.

“What is that, Dad?”

“It’s a parked car.”

“Why is it parked there?”

“Because, the people who own it must have left it there.”

“But why did they leave it there?”

A quick intake of breath as I see the conversational precipice loom before me. “Well, maybe they live in the house next to where the car’s parked.”

“Why do they live there?”

“Everyone has to live somewhere.”

“Why does everyone have to live somewhere?”

I rub my brow in an effort to smooth out some of the rapidly deepening wrinkles. “We all need a place to be, I guess. Look Short Stack! Is that a robin?”

He’ll easily blow past my pathetic attempt to redirect the conversation and pulls things back to the confounding persistence of the car to remain parked there as well as the philosophical need to belong to a place. All this time, we will have moved, oh… two and a half feet if I’m lucky. I try really, REALLY hard to answer each and every question he has, but if we are attempting to actually get someplace, it would have been faster to box the two of us up and mail us than let us walk.

No. Walking there was out of the question. Plus, yesterday’s rain had turned into last night’s snow and a couple of inches of the fluffy stuff covered everything. Remember, two inches to an adult equals at least five to a three year old. If we walked, the tulips would be in bloom by the time we arrived.

Action Girl actually came up with the solution. The roads were still covered and perfect for the sled. When breakfasts were finished and snow suits donned, I packed Lulu Belle into the kid carrier backpack, hoisted her up and strapped her in. Then, we dusted off the sled. Short Stack needed little encouragement to hop in and was beaming from under his knit hat as he hugged his school bag.

“Ready, buddy?”

“YAH!”

The orange plastic sled easily scooted along and as I trudged along, we left a trail of compressed snow, happy laughter and exclamations of glee. This was the best way to go to school ever! The trip took marginally longer than it would have with the car and was defiantly more appreciated. The sun was bright, the wind low and the world sparkled with its clean, while mantle. We arrived without incident and once he was pealed out of his layers of winter clothing, he happily joined the table of other children covered in paste and construction paper. I had to actually ask for a hug and kiss goodbye.

As Lulu Belle and I tromped home, sled tucked under my arm, I looked down at the trail we had only just made. It was still flat and unblemished by footprints. The crisp outline of the track stood out strongly on the smooth snow and it made me think of times long past. Days when the roads were rolled after a snowstorm to pack it down for the horses and sleighs. When children going to school by sled was probably anything but odd and looked forward to as part and parcel of the winter season.

rolling2

It’s days like this that I really love where I live. Being in northern New England provides us with the “Currier and Ives” old world of barns and colonial era houses that I enjoy so much and island living means that traffic is thin at worst and non-existent at best. It also makes the sledding all the more satisfying.

I almost decided to keep walking when we reached our front yard but Lulu Belle was starting to flag and her crib was calling to her. It was, after all, time for the morning nap. I walked up the steps and looked back at our trail, now starting to melt in the morning sun. By the time I need to go collect Short Stack this afternoon the snow would likely be gone or at least, un-sledable. Looks like we’ll be walking after all.

I’ll be sure to pack provisions for the trek. We might be gone for a while and have to make camp.

“But why do we need to make camp, dad?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Hello?

“So where the heck is Turkish Prawn? Why is everything so quiet? Where are the funny stories?”

I know! I KNOW!…

Just in case you were noticing that the installments have dropped like a lemming off a cliff, not to mention the lack of me posting pithy quips on other blogs, let me explain in brief… briefly, because that’s all the time I’ve got.

I have sold my company that I started lo ten years ago. It is gone… mostly. What I’ve been doing every week is traveling to the place of the new owner and showing them the ropes. They had no idea how to do what I did and me teaching them was part of the sales deal. That phase has thankfully, just about ended. What this has meant though is that I live away from home for three out of five work days, for ten to twelve hours shifts. When I am home, I’m on “full dad duty”.

Here’s the catch…

I always do my writing in the morning. Well, just about always. It’s definitely when the creative juices are basting my brain the best, and I haven’t had a quiet morning to write since… oh… Christmas. This is a problem.

I’ve got more to say. I have more things I want to cover, I’m just having a hard time getting time to write when I feel a story coming on. The first major impediment will be gone soon. I’m just about finished with the business lessons and can go home and stay there. The kiddos will always be a major distraction but, hey, I’ll see what I can do. The last trick will be the classes I need to take to start my next adventure. That will be yet another time suck, but hey, I’m used to that, right?

SO! I promise to pick up the pace here… somehow. I don’t know how, but I will. I just wanted those whom I count as friends (Nat, Razz, Ross, Mike, Inmate, Ladybug, and all the others) that I haven’t lost interested here. I’m just going at 1000 miles per hour and need to get this out of the way.

I’ll write if I find no work…

Play it Again. And Again, And Again, And…

Lulu Belle and Short Stack are down for the night and here I sit, in the young evening, wondering what projects I can get into. Tonight, I’m solo. Well, not if you count the bundle of pink fluff in the crib, and the snoring boy, but I am the only one awake. Action Girl has a new schedule and with it comes one night per week when she is unable to make it home. She has a good friend in town with a spare room and though she naturally hates being away from her children, she also gets the opportunity to sleep through the entire night with out interruption; something that hasn’t happened in this house for almost three years now. An opportunity like a sleep filled night is beyond rare in our lives at the moment, so at least that can take some of the sting out of being forced away from home it a bit.

So, what to do when trapped in the house with a sleeping baby?… Hmmm.

One of the issues I have to deal with is that, A: our house needs an astonishing quantity of work done to it, and B: I can’t do any of it because it all involves power tools and hammering. Lulu Belle would most defiantly not approve, though Short Stack would likely jump at the chance to help, even if dressed in nothing more than his blue helicopter and airplane PJ’s.

So, as I sit in my small, open concept house, I try to do only the things that would make the least possible noise. Naturally, in a totally silent house, just about anything creates noticeable noise that would wake the kiddos, and so I’d pretty much be left with darning socks and brushing the cat. What I need is audio camouflage! What I use is Norah Jones.

norajones

Various artists have been employed in my search for the perfect cover for my evening bumblings around the house while babes sleep fitfully in their respective rooms. Classical is good but can get too soaring at times and the brass section, too triumphant during the crescendo. Ambient music is a good alternate as well but lacks vocals to mask the hushed phone conversations or the actual chatting done with my wife when she’s home in the evening. Vocals are also handy for smothering my hissed expletives, shot out from between clenched teeth when I inevitably stub my foot on a chair or toy truck. As Action Girl has pointed out on many occasions, a stealthy panther of the night, I am not.

So, Norah Jones fits the bill and I can honestly say, I just about can’t stand her any more. There was a time, long before munchkins invaded our home, that I really liked Miss Jones. Her voice, her songs, her presentation… I really, really liked her. After the gazillionth listening though, I’m cooked. This is not the first time this has happened to me, but it is the latest.

I can recall, years ago, the first time I burned out on an album. This is back when albums were big, flat, black and made of vinal. I had experienced one of those magical, youthful moments of ecstasy that we all seem to go through at some point. The moment you fall completely in love with an album. You love it. You live it.

YOU understand it, MAN!

It’s not just music! It’s way purer than that! The normal outcome of this euphoria is to listen to it over and over again until it fuses with your brain. I had fused with this particular album and had proceeded through all the steps of discovery, adoration and finally, was just setting it aside for the next musical infatuation. Then, the guy down the hall discovered it too.

To be fair, he did nothing worse than I did. He just did it at a time when I had moved on and was looking at new listening pleasures. Being in college, he did what everyone else did and played the hell out of it with the door open and the volume turned up to eleven. With the incessant replaying of this one album stacked on top of all my own incessant replaying, I started to crack. Finally, with its twenty-fifth iteration in the same afternoon, I was forced to explain to him that it was time to either find something else to play or witness a sad and terminal fate befall his stereo. With a judicious quantity of grumbling, he shut his door and turned it down to nine. Very considerate of him considering our age.

I still can’t listen to that album.

The next overload was far more evil because I never really cared for it in the first place. Immediately after I graduated, I took a managing job in a downtown store. We sold beads, rocks, hacky sacks, rain sticks AND… music. The genre was classified as “World Music” and it was all we were allowed to play by the sadistic owner. The owner, I should add, rarely worked behind the counter, had an office far away from any speakers, plus had his own radio which mysteriously never seemed to be tuned to world music. He never had to listen to the endless loop being run over and over again of Brasileiro or hideous third-string-folk-musicians in the store for more than a few minutes a day. I, on the other had been quickly loosing my mind to the sounds of traditional South American festival music. Every noon, our evil overlord would leave for a couple of hours for an extended lunch, and I, the disloyal underling, would immediately toss in some other music in an effort to cling to my diminishing sanity. I was always thoughtful when I selected the CD’s to smuggle into the store in preparation of my musical interlude and never played anything that would have been inappropriate to hear in your average retail shop. It all made good background music. It just didn’t involve maracas, pan flutes or incessant, repetitive refrains from songwriters who should have stuck with their day jobs.

The trick with my subversive behavior was that I never knew the exact return time of the owner. It was like the feeling you had when you were looking at some friend’s father’s Playboy Magazine. You loved every minute of it but were just waiting for the inevitable, “What the heck is going on here!?” coming from the doorway. The anticipation of being found out seriously cramped the enjoyment, but you did it any way. I also, naturally, got caught on more than one occasion.

Listening to the music, that is.

They never caught me looking at the Playboys.

I worked at that shop for about a year and a half and was so scarred by my musical ordeal that I find the prospect of traveling to South America and possibly being subjected to the live version of this torture makes me want to scamper up a tree and hide.

So now, Norah is just starting her gazillionth and first time around on the iPod and I’m doing my best to blot her out. I could find a good substitute for her, I know. I have an absurd quantity of music to listen to, but here’s the thing. I like my other music… and I want to keep it that way. Norah Jones has become my musical work shirt, if you will. She’s stained, ripped, dirty and has paint spattered on one sleeve. I have lots of other shirts I could put on, but then I’ll just start wearing them out too. No. I’ll stick with her for a bit longer rather than start to burn through some other well enjoyed album or artist. This works for now.

Some day, far in the future, my son or daughter will no doubt play some Norah Jones in the evening and will wonder why dad’s starting to twitch. Hopefully, they won’t decide that she’s the best thing ever and that she must be replayed again.. and again.. and again… and…

A Cute Earring

I’ll get something pithy and entertaining together later this weekend. For now… Here’s an oddity for you from one of my favorite movies: Yellowbeard.

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