Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Two-Way Street (MB)

Ah, yes.  It begins.  Now we banter.  Thanks for playin.  It's great to hear your voice, even if it's not us cackling around the kitchen table over dinner, so engrossed that we forget to feed half the kids dinner.

Condolences on the moving-again thing.  That is rough.  I am impressed that you have done away with more stuff.  I wonder if you can just stack up your curb there like you can here, and let the treasure-hunters have their way?  I haven't seen the pioneer period movie you mention but I guess I'll have to check that out.  I especially appreiate the pioneer analogy in the context of the faux-dobe subdivision.  That rocks.

I can totally picture and understand what you've got going on out there, though, Ab.  OK, truly honest -- the fact that you would touch yoga sing-along with a ten-foot pole has me just a wee bit freaked out.  But, truth is -- you've never been anything if you haven't been totally capable of the unexpected, the 180 degree turn, the passionate throwing of oneself at a new interest, the seeing the fun in something that others may categorically ignore, misunderstand, cast off.  So, I'll trust that if you think that the yoga sing-along is cool, it's obviously because there is some serious fun in it. 

I have to also admit that it's slightly difficult to imagine you and Frank pulling into Tennis Court Way every evening.  What's NOT hard to imagine is that you are all relishing that carved-out family-time extended-vacation space you have right now.  It's also not hard  imagine that Jimmy cut his bangs.  This IS the child that my family still holds in highest spitfire regard (something of legend) for flipping off the bus driver on the first day of kindgergarten.

Housing market out there sounds rough, from a renter's or buyer's perspective, frankly.  Sounds like waiting it out a bit makes sense.  The interest rates are surely enticing on the one hand but if you still think the prices are inflated wait it out.  You'll know if you're ready for the 30-year ball and chain again or if you see some killer value that you just can't pass up -- you know?  You'll figure it out.  And maybe once those boys' braces come off you'll suddenly find yoursef attending an open house at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's place in Hollywood, which they will have had to sell in the divorce process, and you'll be thinking "I know we can afford it, but I wonder if I can wire the entire house to play voice-command podcasts in every room?"

Of course -- no surprise to you -- we are right in the thick of all the things you left behind here.  East High School spirit, homcoming, sports teams, field trips, biology exams, trying to pick up mom-clues on the elusive lives of a 9th and 6th grader, carpools and all the other logistics, the insular nature of the near east side of this village we call Madison, etc.  There is no escape from all the silly stress/pressure/worry/drama that comes with this sort of quintessential middle-American family life, but Madison is a good place to be trapped if one must be.  The fall has been glorious with deep, wild colors and good crisp (but not cold) air.  The kids -- not only mine but all the kids we know from this little tight-knit neighborhood -- are all figuring out so much and really growing into their own entire almost-adult layer of the community.  It was pretty amazing sitting outside of East High after the homecoming dance and just watching this vastly broad spectrum of young people pouring out, looking fine, pretty grown up and in charge and confident. 

In general right now I am looking around and realizing I have a decade's worth of relationships with some of these people in our neighborhood here, and -- like family -- even the folks that annoy me the most are also the ones that I've learned the most about and therefore, have a certain inescapable intimacy with, at least for as long as we are in each other's orbit.

Man, I have so many things I could tell you about, but now I'm getting tired and I can't possibly do them justice.  The Brewers lost their chance at the World Series, tragically, and I cried pretty legitimately.  It was super fun while it lasted.  I went on a 50-mile relay run this past weekend in Door County with a bunch of moms (9 others to be exact) from the neighborhood (what was I saying about being in the thick of it?).  It is beautiful up there on the lake and on the backroads where we were running and it's a good bunch of ladies (although I always feel a bit weird because I'm the only unmarried/divorced one, and I'm almost 10 years younger than the rest so I end up having to remind myself a lot when I'm with them all that they've had a lot more time to get certain things established and in order and. . . . what a recipe for a developing a complex) 

Lately I've kind of been struggling with the realization of how much of my time is spent irritated, stressed, and feeling like I am just climbing a damn hill for heaven's sake, and there is not much of that youthful unadulterated pleasure or excitement that fills the tank, so to speak.  Work is demanding in all sorts of ways, and I can't let up and it's not going to ease up anytime soon.  The kids keep me on my toes because the thing is even when all is well there's just so much that you can worry about, and that you maybe should worry about, because wouldn't you feel like an asshole if you didn't worry about it and then something went horribly wrong?  What were you saying about yoga?  Sing-along chanting?  Reiki?

OK -- one final storytelling indulgence to spare us all from any more of my Eyore-like moping and then I'm off to get some work done and hopefully get to bed before it gets too late.

So today I go out to this environmental center where Madeline is having her 6th grade field trip.  I am helping out with these rotating small groups, at a pond where the kids are supposed to use nets to catch and look at insects, tadpoles, algae, etc. 

The greatest thing about this pond activity is that -- even if all these kids might have attitudes or complications in some other context, I'm telling you -- give them a net and a slimy pond, and suddenly almost every single one of them is off and lunging after anything they find interesting, and running and scrambling and hopping fences as soon as somebody has a frog to look at.  There's still a purity in them that emerges quite clearly when you get them out in a simple environment like that.

But the next greatest thing about this volunteer role I played on this field trip today is that I got to meet a bunch of new kids I had never met before, because -- since Madeline just started middle school, where several elementary schools merged, there are just tons of kids at her school from other elementary schools that I haven't met yet.  So when the small groups of kids rotate through our pond activity, I'm kind of chatting up the kids who might be hanging back a little from the rest of the group, or those who just have such vivid personalities that you can't help but talk to them.  I've got all kinds of hilarious anecdotes and quotes from today, but two popped out to me (names have been changed to protect identity):

1.  Darius: Wearing Sean John rugby shirt and souped up jeans with orange detail on the pockets, Nike high tops -- also orange.  We are walking with a small group of kids from the pond to the main lodge.
     I said to him "You've got a lot of orange on". 
     He says, "Yeah, I love orange.  I like the red and orange and that's all I want to wear.  I'm just an orange and red kind of person.  Today, I got orange shirt, orange jeans, orange shoes, and for tomorrow I brought all red." 
     I said "Wow.  You've got a pretty serious style goin' on if you are that coordinated both days like that.  Even the shoes?"
     He says, "Yeah, even the shoes -- I match my shoes every day.  I gotta have everything match."
     The kids around confirmed. 
     He said "You know, sometimes I feel bad, though, my parents having to pay for all that."
     I said "Yeah, my daughter would love for me to buy her clothes all the time but I say no a lot."
     He says, "Yeah."
     I say "But it must be pretty important to you to match and stuff.  Why is it?"
     He starts to say "Well, I mean, if I didn't, I just. . . . I mean, it wouldn't. . . " and I gather he might be looking around and realizing if he says what he wants to say it might slightly insult or hurt the feelings of the less stylish kids around him. 
     So I help him out "you just wouldn't feel as good?"
     And he says "Yeah.  I mean, if I didn't. . . " and he trails off again.
     So I say, "Well, if you didn't match one day, you'd probably be okay."
     And he says "Yeah, I'd just have to get up the next day and go back at it all over again."

2.  Shalia - Tiny little whisp of a sassy thing, flitting around the periphery of the pond activty, swooping in when there's something exciting going on like a caught frog, but otherwise off singing and doing aloof running commenetary on what's going on around her and with the activity to no person in particular.
     On our walk back from the pond, I say "How do you like the new middle school?  Did you have an older brother or sister who went there before you did?'
      And she says "No.  I only got one little brother and he off with my dad and we got no idea where they at but I don't care cause I get everything I want."
      And I say "Oh.  So you only have a younger brother but he doesn't live with you?'
      And she says "Yeah because he live with my dad and we don't have no idea where they at but it don't matter because I get everything I want."
      So I try to move off the subject a little and we banter more mildly with some of the other kids around about school, the teacher we're with that day, the field trip, etc.  There's a little pause in the conversation and everybody walks along for a bit and all of a sudden out of nowhere she blurts out, full of sass, "I tell you what I want; I want to go get me that otter!"
       And it's so completely out of the blue and unxpected I almost laugh but instead I say "You want to go get an otter?  Oh -- did you see an otter out here earlier today?"
       She says, "Uh-huh."
       "Was it cute?"
        "Oh yes it was," she says. 
        "So you want to go get it and take it home?" I ask.
        "Uh-huh" (with extra sass).
         "But don't you think that'd be kind of a disaster if you brought that otter home?" I ask.
         And she says "Oh no I do not think so -- not if I put it in a tub first, or a sink or somethin, before I can get a big tank for my bedroom to put it in."
         I would like to say for the record that I think, based on my conversations with her today, there is a chance this young lady could in fact get just about everything she wants. 

OK, that's all for now.  Miss you a lot but reading your letter is great. 

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