having a versus

Standing at the back door after another day spent mostly in the yard, I looked at Hank and saw a face before tears. I'd hoped to help him inside for a quick shower, but his eyes were crumpling and his chin quivering. He explained that he'd had a conversation with someone he really likes, but they'd disagreed. He called it having a versus, and he said it made his heart feel funny.

They weren't talking about anything like immigration or religion or reproductive rights, but I knew what Hank meant, and how his heart felt.


or else

Fall leaves and fairy garden buffalo and tiny toy soldiers give the boys opportunities to think about lots of ways of being. Via brief doses of pretending they are someone or something else, the boys explore feelings, manage unpredictability and imagine mostly happy endings around here.


portable magic


only witches

It's been raining for three days and my skull buzzes like a radio between stations. Constant gray drizzle makes it suddenly difficult to recall individual days of summer. Their residue is mostly a feeling: it wasn't not happiness. 

Neither is this.
Inside more and learning virtually there is a strange, simultaneous abundance and total lack of time. Thinking about what school is and isn't, what this winter will and will not be, is such a process of what's best right now rather than what's best. 

Sometimes the house is quiet for a split second, or the wet leaves glitter through the window. Stacks of books, and peace, grow incrementally. The air is charged with static, but also with music and blessings. Days march forward, the rain wavers but the boys go steadily. They are alive in the real world, raking leaves and catching crane flies, free to find out who they are and already experts at making us all laugh.


stray gray marks

Michael Chabon wrote about the heartbreaking pragmatism necessary to function as a parent, equating lost memories of his children, the inevitable evaporation of the quotidian and the boring, with the seemingly endless flow of children’s artwork (much of which he ends up throwing away). 
For Chabon: Every day is like a kid’s drawing, offered to you with a strange mixture of ceremoniousness and offhand disregard, yours for the keeping. Some of the days are rich and complicated, others inscrutable, others little more than a stray gray mark on a ragged page. Some you manage to hang on to, though your reasons for doing so are often hard to fathom.

*all art by Tucker, age 11
** the single crazy-face guy on the gestural sketch and the horns on Mr. Barnaby were both late additions by a little brother


urban strings

There are plenty of irritations and sorrows and panics these days, but also some small joys.

The boys and I enjoyed an outdoor orchestra concert last weekend. The performers were well-distanced, strictly strings and percussion, all masked. The audience had carefully assigned seating and the weather was glorious. The musicians played Mozart and Miles Davis and Drake, and overall it felt like a masterclass in public events during a pandemic. We have not witnessed music played live for many months, and hearing them in person gave me hope that all of this might end at some point, and that even before it does, we can find ways to lift spirits and feel more connected to the world at large. 


Darwin & Calvin

We've been thinking about outdoor cats for quite some time, so our new kittens are not exactly pandemic pets. The opportunity to adopt these abandoned brothers did arise abruptly, and it was fun to surprise the boys. They've lived with us for awhile, but it's taken time to get to know them and to land on names that suit their personalities. We kept a running list of ideas in the garage, and narrowed those down to vote. Although there were a couple write-ins at the last minute, and lots of good contenders - Presto, Pumpkin, Clawde, Carmelito - Calvin and Darwin were clear winners here. The kittens are playful and the boys are learning new responsibilities and we're all enjoying the companionship.


a questing spirit

There's a throw pillow missing from the basement couch, the one embroidered with three robin eggs arranged neatly in a nest. It's stuffed inside a backpack, the one that is not being used for school this year. Also inside are several cans of green beans from the pantry, at least a day's ration, in addition to a flashlight, a small lined notepad and walkie-talkies. There's a boxy brown fall jacket nearby, with pockets full of plastic knives from the play kitchen, an old mint tin of "sardines" and nerf dart ammunition. There are sketches of weapons and maps of foreign fields strewn about and children camouflaged around each corner. The stack of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales keeps growing, each one reread and annotated, and bedside rests a book about Waverly Wilson and barrage balloons. In his closet hang's great Uncle John's military uniforms, and in his mind, a million historical reenactments and gallant captures and heroic escapes.



some combination of mud and magic