Evan’s DC Adventure – Day Three

While day one’s theme was walk until everyone drops and day two’s theme was fireworks, day three’s theme was family. Evan and his cousin played with their food together at breakfast where I heard, “It’s chicken o’clock” TWICE in the same restaurant. That saying sounded so southern that I’m disappointed I haven’t heard it all my life. The cousins tolerated my need to photograph the National Cathedral before they played on one of the best school playgrounds I have ever visited at Beauvoir Elementary. We snacked at Dolcezza, where someone non-ironically asked the server, “Tell me more about the salted caramel.” The cousins filled their pockets with trash they found on sidewalks. Evan had his first REAL babysitter while the adults went out for drinks and drinks and dessert and drinks. It was a very good day.

“My only babysitters are Tommy who never gets up from his computer to fix me food, Noah who walks in and stares at me every so often and Amy who watches tv and listens to terrible music. So, I guess Noah is the best babysitter.”

We speak “married”

She: “We should go to that place near the lamp store where you didn’t buy shades.”
He: “The Professor from War Games moved to that spot. The place you’re thinking of is by the yoga bakery that you like.”
She: “Oh, good. I’m ready to leave now.”
He: “Lemme get my pocket stuff.”

window into their souls

This is probably my favorite picture from the entire DC adventure. As I took it, I implored the two of them to stop leaning over the edge. My requests transformed them into Dickinson and Poe. They had a detailed, matter-of-fact conversation about falling and death that seemed perfectly appropriate in the gothic setting. It continued until they remembered that they were thirsty. While the twenty minute “dying of thirst” whines were less poetic than the gazebo chat, they were infinitely funnier.

restless mind

You twist and flip on your left
And then your flop on your right
One hand’s under pillows
You pull your blanket tight
But it’s the kicking legs
You really fear going insane
You can’t stay asleep again
You can’t stay asleep again

*Apologies to Rocky Horror

Evan’s DC Adventure – Day Two

Evan’s first day in DC was humid and exhausting. For day two, we slowed things down and focused on settling in somewhere to wait for fireworks. The only fault in our plan was the absence of a cooler full of drinks and a post-fireworks exit plan.

Before settling in for the fireworks, we visited the MLK Memorial. It was my first visit there and it is the perfect neighbor for the FDR Memorial. How the naysayers can’t see the in-your-face symbolism of moving mountains is odd. This memorial does seem less complete than the FDR Memorial and that may be by design to symbolize the unfinished work of Dr. King. I think the thing that is unsettling about this Memorial is its’ placement it in the shadow of the Jefferson Memorial. I hope that any future progress on the MLK Memorial addresses this. Until then, the Jefferson Memorial remains tomb-like, while the MLK Memorial quietly speaks volumes.

tragicomedy

The older he gets, the more familiar my father becomes with death. Last breaths at hospital bedsides, holding the hand of a neighbor internally hemorrhaging on the curb, waiting with a friend for professionals to remove their spouse from the home and endlessly facing his own mortality is my father’s life.

Every time death happens, my father enters several weeks of death rehearsal. Everything he says is carefully spoken in case it becomes his last words. He moves slowly and deliberately, like a slow motion scene in a movie. The longer the rehearsal, the harder it is for him to cease practicing death and resume living.

Grandaddy: “Remember that I won’t be gone. I will be…”
Me: “In Cades Cove.”
Grandaddy: < -grinning -> “You’re just like your mother.”

As long as I can remember, my Mother has had 95% of her requests to picnic in Cades Cove, or any other wildlife filled park, refused by my father. He prefers eating at a table in a climate controlled room to sitting outside with bugs and perspiration. He would rather eat a deer than take pictures of it. A decade ago, my mother announced that if my father died first, she would be sprinkling my father’s ashes in Cades Cove so that she could finally enjoy the park with him. I promised to help her.

Death is a tragedy. Life is a comedy.

Evan’s DC Adventure – Day One

The highlight of this day for Evan was the Lincoln Memorial. His constant complaint was our excessive walking when there were so many bicycles and Segways everywhere. The highlight of the day for Doug was getting to try Uber. What was the highlight of the day for me? Teaching Evan to Ferris Bueller a museum.

piñata personalities

Our family doesn’t do giant birthday parties or multiple events (nuclear family party, extended family party, friend party, school party, party-party) for the same birthday, but we do a small bit of decor to recognize the day. Once, we put ribbon curtains in the bedroom doorways. Another year, we put helium balloons all over each child’s bedroom ceiling on their birthdays. The year the local Party City was closed, we covered their bedroom floors with balloons. Last year, we added a disco light to balloons on the floor and ceiling.

This year, we have a balloon hunting cat. Westley will fearlessly stroll from balloon to balloon, casually popping each and every one. Why he does this is less confusing than why he isn’t afraid of the loud popping noise. The dogs flip out after every pop. So, we decided that balloons might not be a good idea until the cats are little older and less naughty. This became the year of disco light and piñata birthdays.

The youngest child turned nine and smashed his piñata into a billion tiny pieces while also destroying two walking sticks in the process. The tween who turned twelve, hit her piñata until it broke slightly open, then proceeded to wear the piñata remnants as a hat for the entire day. The man-child who turned 18, carefully peeled back the opening that was used to fill the piñata and proceeded to carefully remove a single bite of candy daily. This went on for so long that I was starting to believe he would be the only college freshman checking in a dorm with a piñata, but after a month, he carefully fished out the remaining candies and put the unbroken piñata atop the trashcan.

Westley the cat immediately removed the tissue and foil piñata fringe and scattered said decor allll over the house.

opening the doors

We met the relatives. It was surprisingly comfortable. It would have been easy to mistake the gathering as a normal family reunion of people who haven’t seen each other in a lengthy period of time, except we were the branch that they didn’t know existed. Oh, they knew that a baby boy had been born. They thought the baby died. What else would you think with an obituary in the Memphis paper? Nobody in their family ever talked about it. When they found out that relatives of that infant were trying to make contact, they opened their hearts to the possibility. They listened. They looked at the records. My father’s story is impossibly bizarre. They could have refused to believe. They didn’t just believe. They traveled to us with photo albums and family trees.

There is a commonality in being a southerner in rural communities that exists regardless of shared DNA. Everyone talked. Stories were told. There were shared life experiences to go with our similar accents. We sat down at a table together and shared a meal. Breaking bread together is a bond that is timeless and multicultural. Family pictures were scoured for similar eyes, noses and laugh lines. Too many of the cousins have the same zipper scar.

I won’t say that this has brought closure. Closure implies endings. It would be more accurate to say that locked doors have been opened. The past is less musty. The air feels clearer. For us, the secrets and lies inflicted by greed and self righteousness have been laid bare. Any story that remains belongs to those who were damaged irreparably. We carry them in our hearts.