From December, 2007…
An interesting thing happened over the holidays.
Christopher, 16, has been working at one of the big electronic stores. On December 24, I picked him up late at night after an extended shift. He’s been weary coming out most nights; working in a place like this over the holidays is enough to quash the most determined festive state of mind.
“You look beat; you okay?” I asked. He exhaled heavily.
“Somebody ripped off my Christmas presents,” he said quietly.
My eyes widened in amazement. Somebody had stolen from my son? Somebody had caused my lad this grief? My son had bought Christmas presents?
“I bought my stuff, and before I could start my shift and get it put away, a customer asked me some questions. I went to find some merchandise to answer him, and when I got back, he’d swiped my whole bag and taken off,” he told me tiredly. He was clutching a giant gaudy bow, part of one of the store displays. With a weak grin, he told me it was now my Christmas present.
I wanted to ask him why he’d left the bag out. I wanted to ask why he trusted anyone. I wanted to know if he’d asked for help, or told his supervisors. I wanted to make it better.
I made a couple of quiet remarks about how he would one day appreciate learning this lesson at a fairly cheap price, but my insightfulness was lost on a boy who had done a good thing, and got smacked in the head for his efforts. I opted instead to shut up.
I made it about two more blocks.
“Soooooooooo. What’d you get me?” I asked him. He smiled, his eyes closed as he rested against the seat.
“That CD you wanted,” he said. He named an artist I’d never heard of. Ever.
“Remember, you picked me up the other night, and there was a song on, and you asked me what it was? I got you that,” he said.
From a few dying notes on the radio of a song he hadn’t known himself, he’d found out what it was. I was impressed. “Wow, thanks,” I told him.
He’d rounded out his list of gifts with movies and music and gadgets that let me know my son was indeed becoming a man: He’d shopped his whole roster from an electronics store, and he’d done his shopping on Christmas Eve.
We got in the house, me holding the bow. Ari, 13, came bounding down the stairs. I started explaining to the Poor Sod what had happened. Christopher was too tired to be incensed but I was newly invigorated by this betrayal. Ari brushed aside the injustice of the theft and got to the more urgent matter at hand.
“What’d you get me?” he asked his brother.
“A special mouse for your computer game. It’s got all these extra buttons, so you can play faster. It just came out,” Christopher told him. There was further discussion about the game, which from what I can determine involves dragons and war and swords and much flying around.
“Has it got that button that lets you move sideways?” Ari asked.
“Yeah, that one,” Christopher replied.
“Wow. Cool. Thanks.”And with that, Ari went back upstairs to continue playing with his old mouse.
I packed that big ugly bow up with the rest of the decorations yesterday.
I plan on putting it up every year to remind us all that it truly is the thought that counts.
As exams have descended upon my household, I have to remind myself that my remote control kid, Ari, is going through the same time of year, but at a distance. I get odd notes or texts asking for editing or alterations in his exam schedule so that I can be there to pick him up at *exactly* the moment he emerges from his final final. But as I prepare yet another dinner of comfort food for the crew here – so they can be strong of body as they become stronger of mind – I remember Ari is fending for himself. He assures me is fine, and I believe him. Well, I believed him until I received this last night:
Written underneath: “4 eggos, about 2 cups of syrup, frozen raspberry and 1 banana. Best dinner yet.”
He may never come home.
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…so of course I enjoyed this. Victorian-era photography was a cumbersome affair, and getting pics of babies was nearly impossible. They wiggle and flop and won’t hold still; at the time, a photographer needed about 30 seconds of family rigor mortis to get the shot. They’d use the mothers of the tots to hold them up, but they’d disguise the mothers as drapes or chairs. Because you totally couldn’t tell that’s what they were doing. Some of the pics themselves are here. I love the second baby with all his ears going on…
The article recalls some of the tricks that photographers used, like keeping monkeys and birds in cages to entertain the bored sitters. When all else failed, they’d resort to the best line in the whole piece, for me: ‘recreational chemistry’. It’s like an early version of doping your kid up before a flight!
Coupla things: most of the ‘hidden mothers’ just look like women in burqas. It’s weird. It’s foreign, and yet not. They also note that often, people only ever had one picture of themselves (this, in a fabulous time before duckfaced selfies), so often the photographer was taking a picture of a dead baby. I find this fascinating and sad, but I also know this was very close to the truth with my own grandmother. I don’t care what era this was, losing a child would be devastating, and I can’t imagine having to sit through that to have a remembrance.
I have zero recent pictures of my sons. They won’t let me take any. I’m sure they have them with their friends, but I’m not allowed to have any.
Guess it’s time to get a monkey.
Atlas Obscura, a regular Slate feature that is rapidly becoming one of my favourites, scores again with this.
If I could have met Bob Cassilly, I would have told him I like the cut of his jib. I can’t meet him so I can’t tell him, but how refreshing would our world be if you could pack up all the nannying killjoys who see nothing where people like Cassilly see adventure?I know we’ve spent generations convincing people that fun has to be formed in the shape of a timed ride through a land of mouse ears, but looking at those pics, even in their starkness, shows me a place every kid I know could happily lose themselves for hours. And many no-longer kids, too.
I was not familiar with the battle for Tarawa before I read this. A fierce attack by American Marines was made on this atoll halfway between Pearl Harbor and the Philippines and ended up being one of the most deadly. The Japanese had fortified Tarawa with troops and concrete and cannons; the landing Marines miscalculated the tide and were picked off like sitting ducks, leaving 1100 dead over 3 days.
That was 70 years ago, but the link a fascinating count of a man, Mark Noah, who is dedicated to bringing home the missing marines – over 500 of them. The area is so tiny, but the challenges are huge, especially when you factor in that he has to go against most levels of the government to do it.
You’ll need ten minutes or so, but well worth it.
I love fishing. A lot. I rarely do it anymore, but fishing at the cottage was always a blast. An often boring, mostly hot, usually futile blast. My sister Gilly and I could tell you fish stories this big.
I read this is Slate just now. It’s about those massive carp (carps?) that are invading the Mississippi waterways, and are coming to a Great Lake near you. They’re trying to prevent it, but it’s working as well as keeping Rob Ford updates out of my newsfeed. At least he doesn’t jump right into the boat. These mutant carp from Asia were introduced on purpose in North America on fish farms to clean up the crap (my autocorrect is very confused right now). They basically will hoover up anything, but they’ve spread and are now a huge problem, the number one invasive threat to our fresh waterways.
You’ve probably seen some of the Youtube videos that feature them: they’re the huge (up to 50 pound) silver fish that just hop in the boat, saving all that need for bait and tackle, and in some cases, even the knowledge that you’re out to catch fish that day. Scientists are struggling to keep them out of the Great Lakes because of the damage they will do, much like the zebra muscle invasion in the past 20 years or so. I remember reading about that, and of course imagining black and white striped clams. When I finally saw some, they looked more like an ugly top my mother wore in the 60s, that she called a teu-nic and I called a tunic, but either way, it was ugly. Brown and white zigzags, which Mick Jagger might have been able to pull off, but my Mom wasn’t Mick Jagger.
The linked piece is interesting in offering up what to do with all these damned fish. A lot of it goes back to human nature: tons and tons of fish that is apparently decent to eat, but for our aversion to eating ‘junk fish’. I think of what is in processed fish burgers (actually, no I don’t: I have an issue with eating things that are 9/10ths science project) and can only think of the Maritime history of lobster being ‘junk fish’. They fed it to prisoners, who threatened to mutiny or whatever prisoners do. I’m all about the seafaring lingo now.
Anyway. Interesting read, and we should probably be paying attention….
I can call him that. All his friends do. Says so right here. Outside of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I haven’t followed much of Redford’s career. Dunno why; he’s seems pleasant enough, but to quote Lillian Carter (Jimmy’s mom) in the piece I linked, “Mighty glad to have you here, but I’d much rather have Paul Newman.”
Which is why the piece is worth a read. Found things I didn’t know, explained some others, and reminded me Redford is 77. I will still forever idolize Paul Newman as Hud, because, well seriously, have you seen him? but it’s a good character piece on an actor I take for granted. I also realize I like him better as a director. And, I really want to see his new movie. Old man in a boat. No dialogue.
PeeCee the new cat is settling in nicely. For anyone wondering. Well, Maggie and JoJo don’t agree, but we knew that would happen.
Oh, and I meant to link this last week, but I haven’t been in a mood to blog. It’s from Emily Bazelon on Slate, and is a horrific, amazing piece on what anatomists did during WWII – so much of what our doctors today learn from is based on information gathered during the Nazi reign. Unbelievable, but important.
I have some other stuff to link, but I’ll get to it later.
Well, that was the easiest labour, ever. And I had easy labours.
This is PeeCee. She is officially ours. Roz, her foster mom, is at home gently weeping. I picked up our new little girl cat an hour ago. She is lovely. She is hiding under the couch. She is a native of Roz’s back deck, and after the adoption of Eugene (waves to Zena!) and Bob (who marched right into Roz’s house), this is the final placement. Her name is Pam’s Cat (Pam named her; ya think?) but PeeCee has stuck. And Little Pea. And Sweet Pea. And Little Girl Cat. I’ve had a pinball machine kind of week, so I’m hoping she settles in soon. I could always use a third cat sleeping on me. Right?
I’m hoping Maggie and JoJo will be nice to little PeeCee. Maggie is shaking her head sadly at me, asking how it worked out the last time I got her a sister. That was JoJo. That was ten years ago. She still hasn’t forgiven me. PeeCee does come with a money back guarantee, Roz has assured me. Bob took to his temporary sister, and the two were inseparable for three weeks. When Roz told Bob that PeeCee was leaving, this was the pic:
I’m really happy to be co-hosting this year’s awards, once again, with the formidable Pat Gonsalves.
Looking forward to seeing the two-wheeled version of motorsport tonight, and ushering a new crew into the hall.
Look forward to seeing you there.