A Little Soul

1.

I sat there sweating in the sun, trying to match a diagram of a little kid’s jungle gym to the pieces of fiberglass, aluminum and plastic that claimed to be a real life little kid’s jungle gym.  It wasn’t going quickly, I was dehydrated, and becoming increasingly frustrated.  The frustration was mounting due to the beautiful little boy who just wanted to help dad–largely by picking up pieces that I’d painstakingly laid out–and moving them to another part of the patio.

I swore under my breath, shooing my son away, took two steps, nearly tripped over my Great Grandmother’s beagle, took another two steps and nearly tripped over my soon to be two year old son; he had stopped in mid toddle-run to dance.

I stopped, smiled, and then looked at my mom, who was grinning ear to ear watching him go.

“What radio station is this?”

“I’m not streaming radio, Mom…not exactly.  This is Pandora…”

“Oh!  Cool!  He likes it!” she pointed at the baby, who stopped wiggling his hips to toddle off to where his Great Grandma and my wife stood chatting.  “What song is this?  I know this…”

“Across 110th St.” I offered.

I looked back at the giant erector set.  “I guess I should play Soul more often, huh?”

I sat down and went back at it.

 

2.

I’m starting work on a pilot tomorrow.  It should be a fun time, a relatively easy time, as these things go–at least for me.  I have a humane start time for a change, and though I need to leave a little early to get there on time, I shouldn’t have to get up any earlier than I usually do.

I should be asleep already.

I’m anxious.  I’m anxious about the job, and about what comes after it; I’m anxious about how my wife is going to handle life for the two weeks (and crowded weekends) to come.  After three weeks of it being pretty much me and the little kid during the days, I’m anxious about missing him.

It does not help that he’s got a little cough cough.

He’s just this little guy.  Just a loving little man.  And with every cough, I jump up to make sure he’s not going to wake up, wake his brother up, or explode.

I want to lay down, but I’m worried that I’ll wake up my wife (who really, desperately needs her sleep), oversleep myself (with these kids? Really?  REALLY?), or that I’ll just lay there listening to cough cough cough.

So I’m going to lay on the couch, close my eyes, and say my prayers, on this the day after Easter:
Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray The Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray The Lord my soul to take.

Now to lay down and get to it.

 

3.

I envy the poets.  The *Great* poets.  The great singers, the great writers, the great artists.  The prolific ones.  The ones where it appears to come easily;  I envy the people who can put so much of their soul on the page, on the canvas, on the stage, and then just let it go with complete and utter abandon.

I’m mostly jealous because in my brain, they sleep all day.  They sleep all day, wake up and stare at the computer–maybe as long as I do–and then they just exhale.  They correct OODLES, but they exhale and it’s mostly there.

They say to themselves:

“Hey, you!”

“Who me?”

“Yes, you, kid!

“What’s up?”

“Time to write something, put it on the page and let it all hang out before you crash and burn.”

“Ok!”

“OK! Now…let’s get to it.”

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The Man In The Corner Shop

Every Sunday morning you can find my little clique of family parading through the local farmer’s market like a grumpy, giggly, squirmy Dungeons & Dragons party of adventurers.

My wife had her head down, a woman on a mission to get in and get out while wrangling one of our two festive monsters that we call children.

“Mind if I peel off for a couple of minutes, honey?”

“Sure, I’m good here.”

“You want me to take the Crazy One?”

“Nah, I got him.  Go, have fun.”

I left my wife and our eldest to gather resources for the week while I ventured off to explore the textile, crafts and curios that inhabited the tents on the other side of the long row of vendors.

“Come on, little bit!” I said to the wee one strapped to my back in his kid-carrier, “Let’s go see what we can see!”

We went down and around, the littler one flirting with folks in their booths, and both of us sharing the sights of brightly colored t-shirts, home crafted jewelry and ceramic art; and the smells of coffee, soap, perfume and patchouli.

I made a pass by the regular hat vendor to see if anything new might catch my eye.  I am big on hats, as my wife might complain–they kind of litter our little house.

“I have the cadet style caps, like the one you’re wearing!”  The lady who owns the hat stand was pointing at my lid with one hand while simultaneously digging out a series of hats from a stack with the other.

“Very cool!” I cooed, rescuing my glasses from the baby.  “What about these, here?”

“Those are ten dollars each; two for fifteen.”

“Sweet!  I don’t think I can get these for a little while,” I shrugged.  “Do you carry these in your shop over on 4th street, too?”

“Oh! We closed the shop a few months ago.  It’s just this, now.”  She motioned to the booth with a sweeping motion.

Suddenly embarrassed, I stroked my beard.  “Wow…what happened?”  I asked before really thinking about it.

“Oh, we just decided that it was too much, you know?  My husband and I.  We were open seven days a week, you know?  All the time.  Then we opened this booth.  We figured we’d make more money, but we just lost money.  Money and time.”

Noting my look, she quickly continued.  “We are great with just this.  We have less overhead, less craziness and we have more time with our kids, you know?  We’re here, at a few festivals, the VA once a week and at a couple more farmers markets.  It’s so much better, you know? So much more time for our kids.”

I smiled.  “I can understand that.”

“We have two girls,” she beamed proudly, “half black, half Filipino.”  She waved at the kidlet on my back.  “He’s beautiful.  I love his curls.  It is impossible to take care of my daughters’ hair.  It’s so hard!  So much work!”

I laughed, “I can relate to that–I’m lucky to have boys–we just cut it off.”

We shared a laugh, she waved goodbye, as she wished us a good weekend.  “We’re here every week!  See you soon!” she called after us as we walked to meet up with the rest of our merry band.

******

The director of the pilot that I’m gearing up to work on invited some of the core folks who will be at the week-long rehearsal process to brunch today.  His take (and it’s true) is that we are the folks who will be staring at each other for 60 plus hours, we should get together and figure out our merry troupe.

The big kid, L’il D came with me.

The director’s very charming wife shepherded my son off to explore the country club where we were meeting up, leaving me (nervously) to sit and chat with the adults.

I ended up talking largely with the propmaster and the on-set props.

“What have you been up to since our last show?” the propmaster asked.

“I’ve just been staying at home with the baby, spending time with him, and the big monster I brought with me today.”  I forked some potatoes into my mouth.  “My wife’s the big breadwinner for us, so in-between gigs, we take our son out of daycare and I get to keep him, save some money, and get good daddy time.”

“Yeah, I’ve been spending time with our kids, too.”  He chuckled, “You spend all your time at work wishing you could be at home with the kids, and then you spend all your time at home waiting to get back to work to get a break!”

“Oh, totally!”  I laughed.

“But we’re so lucky that we get these big blocks of time off; it’s hard sometimes, but how many industries allow you breaks to be a full-time parent?”

“You have two kids?”  asked the lady who does standby-props.  “I’ve got two, as well–seventeen and fourteen.  You son, L’il D is how old?”

“Six and some change…the baby turns two in a couple of weeks–he was born in the middle of a pilot!”

“Oh, wow!  You’re so lucky–they’re at a great age now.  They get sassy and full of eye rolls fast!  Enjoy them!”

“I do…it gets crazy at times, but I do…I try my best.”

******

“I haven’t seen you in a while!” exclaims the man behind the counter.  He begins ringing up the soda and candy bars that I pushed across the glass display case.  He smiles broadly from beneath a thick, black mustache.

“I’ve been working,” I say.  “I don’t get out too much  when I’m at it.”

“Where are your kids?  With your wife?”

“Yeah, they’re asleep.  Everyone is asleep, and I’m out and about for a minute.”

“But I wish I were were asleep!” he says through his accent, rubbing his face.

“Do you ever get a day off?” I ask him.

“Oh, I’m here most every day.  Sometimes my son comes in and works a while.  Sometimes my wife.”  He hands me my change and my goods.  “Here you go.  Have a good evening.”

“You, too!”  I say.

“Oh!  It’s going to be a very good evening,” he grins and says “It’s my wife’s turn to open tomorrow.”

******

“So, Anthony, what are you going to do after the show wraps up?”

I was standing-by the make-shift school room that we’d put together on the set and talking to the parent of one of our child actors.

“Gonna spend some quality time with the kids…sleep…look for the next gig,” I joked, looking over my copy of the call sheet.  “How about you all?”

Her family is constantly on the go–all three of her children are busy actors, all working regularly on pretty big shows and going to school; her husband a high demand director of photography, and herself a busy actor in commercials.

“We’re all either on hiatus, or between jobs.  We’re going on a family vacation for a week!”

“Wow, that must be exciting!  When was the last time you did that?”

“Way too long,” she confided.  “Our schedules are so busy, we don’t do these trips too often.”

“I can only imagine.  When do you guys even see each other?”

“In the mornings, mostly.  On the weekends.  Their dad travels during the week, so he’s mostly home that time.”

“Excuse me, one moment,” I begged off, leaning to the side to discreetly answer a call on my walkie.  “Sorry, you were saying?”

“It’s just that you have to take the time when you can, and appreciate it as much as you can.”

“Copy that.”

Save It For Later (2)

I’ve spent a lot of my life collecting.  Comic books.  Toys.  CDs.  DVDs.  Books.  Friends.  Odds and Ends.  Ties.  Stamps.  Quarters.  Matchbooks.  Hats.

When I was younger, my Grandmother (who never really understood *my* collections) would often ask “Why are you holding onto all this junk?”  I would just shrug.

These days, I hold onto craft-pieces, some new, some half formed, some in the works, some completed.  I have movies, and books and books and books, and games, and more ties…vests; I have hats and a music history library full of CDs.

These days, my wife (who I swear thinks she married a hoarder) asks me if I can “get rid of some of this crap.”  I shrug, attempt to re-organize so I take up less acreage and get back to designing my would be EVA Foam armor.

***

My son likes to hold onto various pieces of paper that he writes things on.  He holds onto bottle and juice tops, straws, little rocks, feathers, sticks that he finds while we hike; he picks up flowers, and those little throw-a-way toys from kid’s meals that seem to multiply like gremlins in an olympic pool.  Toys. Oh dear lord, the toys.  He holds onto his toys like they are little horcruxes, small parts of his kid soul that he’s scared to lose.

My wife and I both put it to him, “We know that you think that everything you touch is a holy artifact, but WHY are you holding onto those twist tops from the apple sauce pouches??”

He shrugs, stuffs the little green pieces of plastic into a ziplock bag and states sweetly, matter-0f-factly, “I dunno.  I just like ’em.”

***

When we first went together to San Diego Comic-Con, as soon to be parents, as a couple, Deb and I decided to buy some art together–something that was ours and us, that we could enjoy together–to curate *our* taste.  We walked out of that first Con with 3 or 4 pieces that we intended to frame and hang.

Several Cons later, we have a small (and yet growing) collection of art that we fully intend to get framed and to decorate our walls with.  We don’t have the time, money, or energy (and to be honest, the real estate on our walls) to deal with any of it.  But it’s all really *good* artwork, much of it original.  But we hold onto it, in a little, red, cardboard box that sits on a side table near my wife’s computer.

We don’t ask each other about it; rather we gaze longingly at it, shake our heads at the clutter around the house and move on.

***

My wife is much more spartan when it comes to living than me.  She’d rather do laundry every day than have an abundance of clothes; rather support our library system bi-weekly than join her husband in his forays to book buying frenzies at the local B&N.  She, in many ways appreciates the digital download revolution, I suspect (though she understands the merits in owning *some* media in the real world).

She does, however, have a fetish for journals–a modest collection of ones that she filled growing up, and a few new ones that she goes back and forth on filling with her thoughts, dreams and food habits (it’s great watching her write longhand when it grabs her); she has a small cadre of photos and paper mementos from various points in her life that she managed to rescue from her mother and that didn’t vanish in a robbery years past.

She seems to collect shoes, but that might just be an illusion.

She has a small army of My Little Ponies.  Some she found herself, thrifted or gifted, and more than a few sent from her mother in a loving reach to connect.  Of the things that managed to survive Deb’s travels and her ongoing attempt to live simply have been the ponies.  A bag and a plastic shoebox.

I suspect at some point, she considered why she held onto them.  A piece of her mom?  A love of the pieces of happiness from her childhood?  Pony Power?  I never really asked, not in earnest, and to be honest, if that conversation happened (and it probably did?  At some point?  I’m a horrible husband…), I may have not internalized it, or processed it.  For a while, on pony talk, I may have glazed over…

I came home one day to find her playing with our son with a Junta of ponies, and a pink plastic castle, and a plastic pony hot air balloon, and both of them smiling, and neighing and having a good time of our apartment floor.

I don’t have any pictures of that–I just kind of stored the image in my head–in what Stephen King has referred to in his writing as a Memory Warehouse, back in the stacks with the color of our rug at the time (tanish-brown) and what side of the closet was mine (the right hand side), but adjacent to memories of finger feeding L’il D, and watching Deb nap with the baby on her chest.

***
We spent the day down in Carlsbad at Lego Land this Friday.  We took a day off to be together, Deb, me and the boys.  Deb took the day off, in no small part, to remember her mother, who we lost 6 years ago.

More than once during the day, I caught Deb smiling at the kids’ craziness, but there was sometimes something more.  In my head, I saw her running amok in her own Memory Warehouse, skipping down the isles where she had a memory of dancing with her Mom and sister on a planter, or holding her baby brother, or hugging her Mom, or just laughing with abandon.  Maybe it’s stored back behind that one time D’s diaper exploded in the airport and giggling at the babies covered in avocado.

We didn’t really take any pictures of the day.  Instead, we just collected memories, like funny little pieces of plastic in a ziploc bag.

***

On the way back home, as the baby napped between bouts of harpy like shriek-crying, Deb shared a story with me and L’il D that I’d not ever heard her tell–of a story that her mom, Christine had shared with her of her mom’s childhood.

I chortled at the story–as young Deb had found something at the bottom of a seemingly random thing her mom had held onto since her youth; and how she had proceeded to tell her daughter of how she came by them.

When she finished, smiling, laughing softly, Deb looked into the rear view mirror at our son and said “That’s just one story about your Grandma Christine…I think you would have adored her.”

“Your mom?” he asked sleepily.

“Yeah, sweetheart,” Deb cooed, as she avoided a tailgater.

I looked at my wife, her cheeks glowed in the lights of cars.

“I’ll share more stories with you later, as I remember them, OK, honey?”

I’m sure she’s saved a few.  I’m sure she has a collection of those stories.  I’m looking forward to hearing them, as much as I’m sure our sons will, too.