Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Boring

Last night, after dinner, Dylan accompanied me on his upright bass while I worked on the chord progression for an Uncle Tupelo song. Gosh, he sounded great. The song I was working on is slow, and lent itself well to Dylan using a bow instead of plunking the strings.

Rhonda stood listening and smiling, until she announced it was getting near bedtime. Dylan walked to her and gave her a hug. He leaned back and looked at her with an impish little smile.

"Gosh, Mom, I'm sure getting taller than you."
"Yeah, well, I'll still kick your butt," she said.

She started throwing play punches at his chest and midsection until he collapsed in a chair, helpless with laughter.

The thing is, when Rhonda says, "I'll kick your butt," what we hear is, "You're acting like a booger, but I sure love you."

I took Dylan to school this morning, and during the drive, he repeated something he's said before: "I'm glad I don't have a boring mom." We laughed and swapped Mom stories until we wheeled into school.

I watched him walk into the campus, marveling at, indeed, how tall he's getting. I thought again about the mother of my son, how fun she is, and how easy she is to live beside.

As long as I don't forget the ice cream.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pondering the Reality of Night and Day

It's funny what can prompt a memory. I just read something on Facebook by author 
Jeff Bennington, and a memory from thirty years ago washed over me.

Here's Jeff's post.
Interesting night: I heard a tapping noise on my bench every few minutes last 
night. It came and went, sometimes every few minutes, sometimes every ten. It 
sounded like someone was tapping the eraser end of a pencil on my desk. When I 
put my hand on the desk where the sound was coming from, my hair stood on 
end--everytime. I could not find a reasonable explanation.

I'd been with my employer for about three years, flying helicopters in the Gulf 
of Mexico, when they asked me if I'd like to transfer to the new base in Santa 
Barbara, California. I grew up in Oxnard, less than an hour away. I didn't have 
to think long about my answer.

When I first moved from Austin, Texas back to Southern California, I stayed with 
my parents. I was back in my old bedroom in my old bed, and one night I started 
thinking about my little kid years, when I was just sure that a monster lived 
under the box spring. My mom and dad were patient about looking under the bed 
for a year or so, but exasperation eventually took root, and they finally 
delivered the big boy law: "You're a big boy now. Quit imagining things and go 
to sleep."

The first night after my parents saddled me with the big boy law, I tried 
talking with the thing under the bed.
"Can you talk?"
"Can you make a sound?"
A faint brushing sound, like someone sweeping the floor a few rooms away. Gulp.
"If you can hear me, poke the bed beneath me."

Immediately, I wanted my words back. My heart hammered, and my mouth went to the 
desert. What the hell was I doing? It felt like an hour passed, but it was 
probably minutes. My heart rate had slowed to something near normal, and I'd 
nearly convinced myself that I was acting like a baby.

Then, I felt a gentle poke through the mattress. My heart raced back from idle 
to fight-or-flight speed.

"Are you going to hurt me? Poke once for yes, twice for no."
One. Two.
My heart began to slow. I started breathing easier. I believed him. It.
"If I shine my flashlight under there, would I see you?"
A pause. Then one. No.
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Are you glad I know you're there?"
One. Two.
"Do you want me to talk to you every night?"
"Do you want me to talk to you sometimes?"
One. Two.

So, once a month or so, from the age of six until I turned ten, I talked to him, 
or it. Perhaps four or five times in those years did those subtle pokes come 
through the mattress. Once a year or so, it would let me know it was still 
there, but only after I'd fallen asleep and woken later, and only after 
midnight, as I recall.

In the wee hours, it seemed all so real. But after being awake for a few hours, 
a hard veneer wrapped itself around the memory, and I'd feel just sure that my 
imagination was running away with me. It was a strange dichotomy of perception, 
but it felt comfortable, and just maybe like it was part of some unwritten rule. 
I thought of it as The Daylight Rule: what is real in the night is not real in 
the day.

Fast forward to thirty years ago. I was back in my old bed. I'd moved away after 
going into the Army at the age of eighteen. At the age of twenty-six, I'd all 
but forgotten about it.

Until my third night back in my parents' house, that is. That was when I felt a 
gentle poke through the mattress. It was three in the morning. I chuckled. I 
guess I still have an imagination.  Another poke, but I felt even more sure it 
was my imagination, because it was barely perceptible.

But then, two knocks on my bedroom door. Muffled knocks. Not the kind of knocks 
a person would make. Not the kind of knocks my sister's cat would make when 
she's hungry. I chuckled at myself, amused at how realistic my dream about 
something knocking on my bedroom door seemed. But then, another knock. And 

I was scared, and I laughed at myself for being scared. I was grown man, a 
former soldier, and a big guy. Another knock.

I got up. I walked to my bedroom door. I paused, took a deep breath, and opened 
the door. Nothing.

Nothing, until I looked down the hall toward the living room. There was a shape 
at the entry into the living room. It was about a foot tall, and furry. My 
sister's cat was white. It was not white. It was dark. It moved farther from me. 
I took a couple of steps closer to it, and I sensed that it was about to run.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. There wasn't much light in the living room, but I 
could see its shape, and I detected movement, but not in retreat. It felt as 
much as looked like a wave of a  . . .

What? Hand? Paw?

It moved to the side, out of my field of view. I walked down the hallway and 
into the living room. I heard a soft brushing sound. I turned on the lamp. 
Nothing. Nothing but a feeling, a feeling that something had left, and was not 
coming back.

"Goodbye," I whispered. I went back to my old bedroom, got in bed, and strangely, I felt sad. I felt a little like when my mom told me Santa Claus wasn't real. Somehow, I knew that I wouldn't see or hear from the thing
under the bed again.

Thirty years later, I think back to those nights, and I feel certain that it was 
all part of an elaborate, realistic string of dreams.

At least, I'm certain in the daylight.