Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Moment

I walked in as my daughter was telling someone something not exactly accurate.  It wasn't specifically a lie, it just put something I had done in a much better light than I undoubtedly deserved. I raised my eyebrows at her, but she waved me off and kept talking.

Later she came to me and said “Oh you so owe me for that!” With full parental pomposity,  I began to explain that, while I appreciated her attempts to guard my feelings, I would far rather be embarrassed than to ever have her perpetrate an untruth.

There was a long, long pause while my offspring regarded me somberly.

“Daddy,” she said “please don’t ruin the moment for me, okay?”

The Depending-on Tree

As I walked Moiya into school one day, she pointed to one of the trees on the grounds – and unremarkable tree towards the back and said something unintelligible. When I questioned her she repeated “That’s the Depending-on Tree.”

“Um… okay” I said. “And what does that mean?”

She looked at me as though I was dumber than a rock (an increasingly frequent occurrence as she gets older) and shrugged. “You know”

“No,” I assured her. “I don’t know what that means.”

Moiya sighed (also an increasingly frequency occurrence) “ It’s the tree that you depend on.”

“To do what?”

To tell when it’s Spring.. or Winter.. or whatever. You go to the tree and you sit under it and you think. And when you look at it, you can tell when it’s finally Spring. Everyone” she confided “has a Depending-on Tree.”

As I thought about it, I realized she was right, and that mine was the old maple in my parent’s front yard. It was my Depending-on Tree. I just didn't know what it was called till my daughter explained it to me.


 not all order is good, not all chaos is bad.

I haven’t updated this blog in so long..  almost exactly a year. It’s a little like exercise in that once you get out of the habit, getting back into it is an almost Herculean challenge.  Originally I stopped because we took a trip to Disney World and the experience was so rich and so filled with good memories that I wanted to get it down on paper exactly right.  But it was, as Dickinson said “so huge.. so hopeless to conceive” that many, many rewrites later I still haven’t managed it. And in the meantime it has kept me from blogging other events.

So I’m going to set the Disney Trip aside for the moment and move on to other things.

As is to be expected, much has changed for us in the past year.  Some months ago, we bought a house. After the financial devastation of the divorce, I had largely given up hope of ever again owning my own home. But then came the financial collapse and the housing collapse and the falling interest rates and we reached one of those “now or never” moments. The long daily drive from one state to another was getting increasingly difficult to pay for. The apartment complex was starting to jack up their rates at the same time they were starting to rent to increasingly unsavory characters.

But the real driving force was the sight of Moiya sitting on the steps of our apartment with her dolls waiting for someone – anyone - to play with.  Once or twice people with children would move next door, but they never stayed long. Mostly there were tough kids very much older who had no interest in a little girl and her dolls. And so she stood, day after day. Heaven forgive me, but out of guilt I would sometime yell at her to “For God’s sake come inside!” And she would. And then peer out the window when she thought I couldn't see, like a starving beggar in front of an eatery.

And anything ANYTHING is better than that.

I attempted to move to another apartment closer to Moiya’s school, but found that the rents anywhere I would be unafraid to raise my child were flatly unaffordable – with one exception. And after three months of trying to get a vacancy there, I gave up.

And so I began to look for a house.

Long story short, I narrowed the search to two. One I loved and about which was sure Moiya would feel the same. The other I didn't like at all. I showed the two pictures to Moiya and she pointed to the one I had all but written off

“That’s the house.”
“No, baby… see? This other one is much nicer.”
With the stubborn insistence of children, she shook her head and pointed again. “No. That’s the right house.”

I attributed this off to her being eight and clueless. But two weeks later the house she had picked had begun haunting my dreams – which is always what happens when my brain knows I’m being stupid and tries to straighten me out. So I went and had another look at it.

And damned if she wasn't correct; It WAS the right house.

And shortly after we moved in, several little girls came to the front door, introduced themselves, and asked if Moiya wanted to play.  And so our new life was off and running.

It’s been an adjustment for Moiya, who has never before had to deal with the dynamics of having regular playmates at home. There is always drama and politics (especially among girls), and at first Moiya was utterly bewildered, attributing much more importance to things than they warranted.  After some squabble, I found that she had written all her playmates notes (and enclosed money from her piggy bank as consolation) telling them that she could no longer be their friends and it was “time to move on.”  I have mostly tried to let her sort these things out on her own, but that time I stepped in and we had a quiet talk about the meaning of the phrase “burning your bridges.” 

And I think  she is occasionally seized with a wild fear that, having waited so long for friends, she might lose them again. And so there have been a few bizarre attempts to keep everyone’s interest.

Such as the time one of the neighbors texted me to offer their family’s sincere sympathies on the impending death of Moiya’s little brother.

As Moiya’s little brother was at that time still in utero and to the best of my knowledge doing fine, I was a bit… nonplussed.  But eventually we sorted it out and things have gotten smoother.

Sadly, the biggest problems relating to all these changes have come from me. For most of her life, I have been Moiya’s constant playmate. I worked hard on outings and grew to cherish our games together (some of which I've recorded here). But all that changed. With the advent of friends, Moiya didn't want to play at home any longer. Long-standing family events got dropped due to lack of interest. The imaginary characters that populated her imagination (and my world) disappeared. Even her beloved stuffed animals mostly sit unregarded in a corner of her room.  

And Daddy, I’m sorry to say, did not cope with all this very well. Intellectually of course, I knew that having my daughter move away from me was a good thing.. a wonderful thing. But intellect will only get you so far where your children are involved. . I pouted. I moaned. I grumbled and huffed. I've had to (and am still having to) adjust to a new role whose rules I haven’t really figured out yet. I've had to change.

"No. We're not getting into anything!"
But I've gotten better. The memory of my girl sitting lonely on those front steps haunts me still and pushes me to be better. Even Daddies have to grow up sometime, I suppose. Two months back I hosted a sleepover full of little girls and lived to tell the tale. 

And the trade-off has been  - if a bit lonely on occasion - wonderful. Now when I sit on the back porch or work in the garden I can hear the sweet sounds of birdsong in the trees. And beyond the trees in the neighbor’s yards, or echoing through my own house, I can the sweeter sounds of children  playing.