Friday, February 24, 2012

The Gift to be Simple

It’s not the big events I cherish, but the small ones – the everyday ones. I love when we’re out somewhere and my daughter just suddenly takes my hand. I love the wild turns of her interest and imagination. In fact, the thing I love about children in general – at least the ones that haven’t been spoiled by a steady diet of passive, electronic entertainment – is their utter willingness to make games out of anything that comes to hand.

I suppose that’s because I’m a bit… simple. I was once described as being “emotionally retarded” – which is probably more accurate than I’d really like to admit. I recall once playing a game for an extended period with one of the nieces now removed from my life by divorce, which involved some small figurines, a plastic tote bag, a good deal of running and a number funny voices. The thing about child-games is that the same sequence gets repeated over, and over, and over again – which drives some adults crazy, but which I just regard as a way to get it right. My Mother-in-Law commented later on my amazing patience and I thought (though out of respect did not say) “Patience, hell. It was way more fun than what the adults were doing.”

And so one of the joys of my parenthood has been getting to take part in Moiya’s spontaneous play and rediscovering the world the way it once appeared to my eyes. I love the tiny, impromptu games that we play everywhere we go. They’re so like snowflakes, always different, and gone in an instant. (And like snowflakes I so wish I could keep them against the dry, hot days ahead when an older Moiya no longer wants to play with me.)

We go together to the library each weekend (sometimes two - one of the fringe benefits of living in one city, working in another, and paying tax to both). And on the way up to the front steps I noticed Moiya carefully stepping around cracks in order to protect her Mother’s back. So I followed suit – until she very deliberately pushed me over onto one. I squawked “Cheater! And there goes your Mother’s back!” “Nuh-uh,” she replied, jumping to the next bit of pavement, “It’s YOUR Mother’s back.” And up the front steps we went, trading “Nuh-uhs” and “Uh-huhs” all the way into the building. I got some looks.

I get a lot of looks.

Leaving Wal-Mart later that afternoon, we had to walk carefully on the painted lines through the parking lot - or cracks, when no lines were available. Apparently cracks in asphalt are safe for Mothers in a way that cracks in concrete are not. Once in the car Moiya and I spoke over each other which earned me a jinx.
(Jinx: A penalty that one person can invoke on another when the two of them say the same thing at the same time – Wikipedia).

Moiya’s preferred jinx penalty is a free soda (no, she doesn’t actually get one.. but that is utterly beside the point). Somewhere along the way she’s picked up a variation in which one person begins counting from the moment of the jinx till the other person speaks and the number reached determines the number of sodas owed. I objected (once she got to 30 or 40) that I had been unaware of this particular refinement and so we had to start over.

“Say something.” She prompted.

“Say what?”

“Say anything.”

“Okay.. dog.”

“No, wait! I have to say it at the same time!”

“Okay. On three. One.. Two.. Three.”

And we both said “dog” after which Moiya began counting.

“Fred!” I said (Fred is my all-purpose word. Having an all-purpose word saves more effort than you can possibly believe).

“Okay,” said Moiya. “I got to 137.”

“WHAT? Did not!” Moiya by this time is giggling.

“Did so!”

“Do over!” And so we did it again. This time Moiya pretended not to hear me say Fred until I shouted it at the top of my lungs.

“I got to 500! You owe me 500 sodas!!”

“You CAN’T have gotten to 500!”

“Nuh-huh! I was counting by hundreds!”

Amidst much giggling and pretended outrage, we did it over and over and over with Moiya adding the totals the whole time. By the time we reached home, she informed me that I owed her 6,427 sodas.

Then we ran a footrace to the front door. I lost. I always lose, just like when we race up the stairs to the second floor (mostly because she grabs hold of the back of my pants).

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Shaker song, 1848

The Corps of Discovery

One of the three bridges that connect our little corner of Indiana with Kentucky (where I work and where Moiya attends school) developed cracks a few months back, necessitating it’s closure until repairs could be effected and sending an additional 69,587 cars onto the bridges and roads that we use on our daily commute. The result was huge traffics jams on the roads leading to the bridges and long, long waits to cross. We started getting up at 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic on at least one of the legs of our journey – which helped until the rest of Jeffersonville had the same idea. So we began experimenting each morning with different routes up to the bridge, with Daddy scanning Google Earth looking for roads less travelled. And it helped. We eventually worked out paths that, while they didn’t eliminate the wait time, at least lessened it.

And along the way, with all the delays and frustration and annoyance, something rather wonderful happened.

We discovered new worlds at our doorstep. We discovered that, by following our familiar paths and procedures, we had been blissfully, shockingly unaware of our own surroundings. We discovered that a view of the broad sweep of the Ohio River (surely several miles distant) was available within a few blocks of home. And as a consequence, our morning commute now takes us past Jeffboat, the largest inland boat builders in America. We see huge barges looming out of the darkness, tended by massive cranes rolling silently on unseen tracks. We especially enjoy the firework flashes of the welders as they go about their business in the early morning darkness. And across the street is the Howard steamboat museum. Moiya is taken with the lighting, which in the gloom makes the Victorian structure look like a haunted house. Daddy is more interested in the steamboat pilot’s house and paddlewheel sitting on the grounds.

And so on the way home from school/work one night Moiya suddenly asked “Daddy, can we go explore?” Usually, at 5 o’clock after a long day, I’d have said no, “perhaps another day.” But ‘another day’ tends too often to never come. And with the GPS set for home, I knew we get to the apartment from anyplace we found ourselves. So I told Moiya I would drive wherever she directed, and off we went.

And for the next hour, we drove wherever Moiya thought best. Eventually we spotted a rather nice playground off in the distance, surrounded by trees, which we decided to investigate. And there, in the middle of our rather grotty urban area, we suddenly found ourselves improbably in a nature reserve/private park. Beyond the playground we had spotted were long nature walks, 68 acres of tress (labeled by species) and a large waterway populated by a hundred or so Canadian geese who were joined by others as we stood and gawped.

Geese don’t seem nearly as large on land as the do when they pass within three feet of your head at 2o miles an hour. “They’re HUGE” Moiya yelled over the honks and squawks and splashing water. We ducked and giggled and decided then and there to go exploring. We walked the trails till the cold and dark forced us back to the car. We found a grove of trees so dense that the path between them felt like a cave. (We pretended that a witch lived in it). We were witness to the rather magical sight and sound of several dozen large waterfowl taking to the air at the same instant (close in, their wings make an unearthly buzzing sound).

And then we saw the deer.

On the way back to the car, we looked down the path and saw a young doe nibbling grass and leaves. Moiya and I both froze in the fear that we would startle her, but the deer clearly had no fear and walked up to within four or five feet of us. She stared at us (presumably waiting to see if the stupid tourists were going to offer food). We continued to freeze, and eventually she wandered further into the brush, at home and unhurried. We giggled all the way back to the car.

The bridge is repaired now. Traffic has gone back to its normal flow. We could resume our familiar patterns. Hell.. we could sleep an hour or so later in the mornings. But Moiya has said she’d rather keep getting up early. I find myself continuing to travel the back roads even when my daughter is not around to request it.

And we continue to explore.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Apocalypse Now

‎"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Moiya's Grade School Dance Party, and Hell followed with him".