Ok, an addendum to this. It turns out that Ess is trying to say “helmet” and it comes out subtly different than when she actually says “home.” So, well, that kind of removes all the poignancy from the story, but still let’s strive for accuracy here.
Our little family took a trip last weekend. Essie’s longest road trip thus far, to Wisconsin Dells, to the Kalahari Resort. Mykala had dance competition obligations, but since the hotel was connected to the convention center where the competition was held, we got to see her on each one of her breaks, and got to see Ess go to a waterpark for the first time. We expected a reaction from our nearly-two-year-old when she got in a giant kiddie pool full of swings, a miniature lazy river, giraffe sculptures, baby elephants squirting water out of their trunks, and colorful slides with water running down them. Ok, we thought, this could go one of two ways: she’s going to let loose and splash everywhere, analogous to her at home when she goes “run run run!” and then just runs around. Or, in contrast, she’d get really chatty, like she does when she’s sitting on the front of Mykala’s bike and watching the world go by. Hidden option C: Ess did neither of the things we guessed, instead going into some kind of Zen state of total focus and relaxation. Just staring out, happy but not gleeful, calm but not sad. We were taken aback. Then, Mykala took her down a slide. Did she like it? “MOEMOE” she said, and when I picked her up “NO-MAMA”, her favorite way to specify whom she would rather do the thing at hand with her. I think Ess had fun.
We slept Ess in the same room as us, but the pull-out couch squeaked every single time we moved. It was a series of naps strung together, which is what they say the first night you sleep somewhere new (something about how only half your brain sleeps at a time the first night in a new place). However, Ess made it all the way through the night, probably owing to her extremely short nap in the car on the way. We’re thinking Ess could come with us to Chicago sometime soon. This is exciting.
So, anyway, we got home and now it is time for Essie’s second birthday party very soon. We left to find a patio umbrella recently, and I got to sit in the back of the car next to Ess on the way home. She sometimes demands this, and there’s nothing like being greeted by an excited toddler when you get into the back of a car. Typically, she quickly goes back to what she was doing before I got in the car, and I get to see up close the way her mind is turning over and fitting and re-fitting pieces of the world together. She’s combining thoughts and experiences and colors and numbers and injecting the mix with her own creativity. She thinks sometimes we should call her “wiggleworm” so we do. She thinks every stuffed animal needs a nap and/or a potty-break diaper-change, so we tuck-in and ‘clean-up’. She thinks pats are very important to help you fall asleep, so we pat. She thinks her mother goose should have a salad of Ikea stuffed vegetables, so we put a bib on her and lay out a meal. And when you are doing something right or just-so or aren’t coming quickly enough to see something, Ess can get pretty upset. Then you find yourself feeling exasperated, like, I’m trying her kiddo, give me a second! And then she tucks herself in and you say ‘you can close your eyes’ and you watch as she squints them shut, still learning how to get them to hold closed, and she holds them this way for a moment or two until she cries ‘wake up!’ and she sits bolt upright and runs off to do more stuff.
Mykala threw Christmas in June at the precise halfway point between Christmases for her family at our house. Lights, decorations, Christmas movies, egg bake, French toast bake, and of course, sugar cookies! This is Ess helping to cut them out the night before the festivities.
Just finished giving Ess a bath and putting her to bed. Her adorable, beautiful pink cheeks were sweating a bit at the playground this evening, as it is in the 80s and quite humid. Not much wind. She ran and ran and we walked behind her, steering her out of harms way and keeping her from the things for which she wasn’t yet ready. Now, the sun is setting on this summer evening, one of the longest of the year, and I sit out on the patio, watching the sun set, next to our tomato plants, herbs, and kale. Everything around me is growing and alive and I love moments like this because I can actually convince myself that all the trouble of maintaining all of our stuff and our finances, all that stuff I trouble myself with isn’t what is important. This perspective above the forest doesn’t last long until I fall back to be blinded by the trees. Weekdays seem to be more foresty, weekends more elevated.
It’s a tightly knit community in the dental world, so it wasn’t long until I found out that one of the orthodontists to whom I refer, the one who treated my bite when I was younger, one of those adults who was present, though just in the periphery, of both my adolescence and early adulthood, suddenly passed away. He was 59. Pancreatic cancer. And these things come in clumps: Mykala just buried her grandma Irene. And I loaded up Daring Fireball and right there, pancreatic cancer took someone’s wife. She was 36.
I don’t know, I just can’t make any sense of any of it. Free will. Do we have it? Do we exist in any way after we die? What am I doing here? Religion just utterly falls down for me with these questions. Everyone standing around at Irene’s funerary service saying she’s in a better place. It’s too simple, too sure, too clear-cut, too… dismissive of this huge, impossible mystery. What if it is Occam’s Razor? That the simplest explanation… that all my memories, all my life, all my hopes, everything that makes me me, disappears when I stop breathing, what if that’s it? Then what the hell am I doing each day? Paying back loans? So I can do what? A blink-and-you-miss-it existence. I see those folks, two generations behind me, feeling like their years are dragging on, ready to be done. To me, life feels like it stretches ahead so far, AND it feels like nothing at all. It is nothing at all. Billions of years of the universe and then another little blip of a human. Sitting there, hopelessly occupied by minutia, distracted by entertainment, troubling with trifles, while the galaxy expands, the stars turn, and the indifferent universe carries on.