Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Fountain of Youth

While pushing Amari on her swing today I let out a little groan of discomfort.
"What's wrong, Dad?"
"My shoulder hurts."
This, of course, led to the mandatory, "Why?"
"Because I'm old," I replied for no one else's benefit.
"Drink water," she told me, "It will make your old feel better."

Two hours later, enjoying our afternoon coffee and milk respectively, Amari asked me, "Are you feeling better now, Dad?" Confused by the question, but honestly feeling great, I said, "I feel awesome."
"You don't feel old anymore?" she asked. My answer was somewhere between and "no" and a "yes," but I was too blown away by the thoughtfulness of her question that I just smiled and laughed.

 The new swing set
 On and Amari enjoying the sunshine
A recent self-portrait by Amari B Fishman

Monday, May 28, 2012

Who? What? Why? Why? Why?...Why? Why?


Just for fun, the next time a friend shares a thought or an intention, something as innocuous as, "I'm pretty thirsty," just throw a "Why?" at them to see what happens. That's what life inside FishManor has been like the past few weeks. You can quickly see where this conversation goes.
"Well, I was in the sun for a while and it was pretty hot."
"I had to do some yard work out there."
"Because there were weeds growing in places I don't like them to."
"Well, the rain makes things grow..."

And eventually everything ends up as an intense conversation about photosynthesis, gravity, or genetic illnesses. Either that or it comes back around to me being thirsty. Pete and repeat are in a boat, Pete fell out. Who's left?

Refreshingly from time to time, however, Amari also throws in a little Name Game.
"Want a green bean?"
"Yeah," munch munch, "What's this guy called?"
"Ummm...it's called a green bean."
"Because it's green and it's in the bean family."
And then, as you can see, we're back to photosynthesis again.

Try it. It's like one of those weird math games somebody spent far too much time figuring out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nice Things All Around

Mornings can be an adventure. Sometimes Amari happily gets dressed, grabs a toy or a book, and climbs into the car to take Mama to work. Other days, every step in the direction of exiting is a battle. If she could have it her way she would spend her lifetime in pajamas. 

On one such occasion, we indulged her by letting Mama take the car while we remained comfortably PJed by the wood burning stove. Unfortunately, that was not quite enough.
Mama: Bye Amari
Amari: Where are you going?
Mama: I'm going to work?
Amari: Why?
Mama: So I can make money to buy nice things.
Amari (insta-whine): Nooooo. I don't want nice things.
Mama: I'm also doing good for society.
Amari (indignant): No! Don't do good for society. Do good for me.

Later in the week we were breaking in the fort on her new swing set when Amari decided to pretend to go to work like Mama. She walked out of the little wooden door saying, "Okay. I'm going to work to buy nice things." 
When she returned I asked, "What did you get me?" 
"Salad," she replied, obviously paying attention to the changes I've been trying make in my diet.
When she returned again she handed Mama a  handful of emptiness and said, "There you go, Mom. Olives," which are just about one of Mama's favorite things in the world. I often marvel at what the undamaged (by drugs, alcohol, trauma, age) is capable of. 

This morning, however, fell between the two extremes. Amari was good-tempered but not enthusiastic about leaving. After breakfast she asked if she could have a yogurt-covered almond. 
"It's kind of early," I said, "but I'll give you one."
"Two," she countered.
"One," I stood firm, impervious to her ever-improving negotiating skills. 
"Two," she tried again.
"I'll tell you what," I decided, "I'll give you two if you get dressed and ready to take Mama to work without complaining."
She paused, looked up at me, and said, "One." 

 The Negotiator
 The Artist
The Reluctant Sports Fan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Old Die Young?

Me: Where's Amari?
Carrie: Upstairs, I think.

As if sensing the uncertainty in her response, a loud, crashing noise comes from the bedroom above our heads.

Me (hustling to the staircase): Amari?
Amari (nonchalantly walking down the stairs): Coming.
Me: What was that loud noise?
Amari: I don't know. It was me.
Me: Well, what were you doing.
Amari (without hesitating): I was making a loud noise.

Later on, at the dinner table and for seemingly no apparent reason Amari says, "Annie's dead." It was true, Granny had  rough dog year in 2011, losing Tigger, Mr. Steed, and finally Annie, who is buried in our garden beneath a bed of poppies. Amari was at the funeral where Carrie introduced her to the concept of death by telling her that Annie was going to "outer space." As you'll see from the end of this conversation, I think she missed that part.

Amari repeats, "Annie died."
Carrie and I look puzzled. "Yep" we say together.
"Why did she die?" Amari asked.
I'll take this one, I thought, and say, "Well, she got old. And when you live a long time, you get old and die."
Amari ponders that for a moment while I silently congratulate myself for nailing a hard question until Amari blurts, "I want to get old and die so I can go in the dirt and cuddle Annie."

Carrie and I both had holy shit faces before we started giggling a bit. "Take your time, Amari. Take your time." 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Own Private Triangle

In some ways becoming a parent transforms your house into mystical and frustrating force of nature, a Bermuda Triangle of sorts which not disappears things without a trace, but also seems to spit out new things in their stead, creating what eventually becomes a comfortable blend of novelty and confusion. Some things end up victims of both - vanishing for weeks then magically reappearing as though a Pixar film were being filmed during the night.

Although for years my wife, Carrie, has attributed the disappearance of small things such as keys, wallets, or cell phones to my age and general forgetfulness, a description against which I have no defense, I do believe introducing a child into the equation has both changed the playing field and relieved some of the burden of my guilt. I may still be old and forgetful, but now there's a mysterious force at play lifting and depositing things into various boxes, shelves, and corners of our house.

When considered carefully, I've found three possible origins for our triangle. First and foremost, as the last in our circle of friends to procreate, we gained an incomprehensible amount of hand-me-down clothes, toys, and baby/toddler accessories. Bags of all of these things found their way into closets, guest rooms, and storage areas, leaking out slowly into the various play stations Carrie created when Amari was crawling her way around the world.

The play stations are my second hypothesis. Cleverly place in areas around the downstairs of our home, they all seem to include a variety of toys, stuffed animals, and housing units such as laundry hampers, dollar store baskets, or old lunch boxes for small toys and pieces to be tossed in during clean up time. When she's on her own, Amari is quite content to play with the toys and books she loves most or the ones closest to the surface of the toy receptacles. As a result, some things remain buried in the depths until curious friends up end the containers or conjure buried items from their graves with willful little arms.

Lastly, there is my wife's low tolerance for toys with loud, annoying sounds or large numbers of pieces to clean up. When Amari's friends come over, dominoes and blocks disappear, puzzles find their way to high counter tops, and keyboard, guitars, and creepy bear somehow end up in the laundry room. Although in her work life, her drive and attention to detail knows no equal, at home that same level of motivation (what I call preventative parenting - it's the best medicine) used to hide the toys in the first place will also leave them there until her old, forgetful husband stumbles upon them and thinks, "I don't remember putting this here."

Books are no exception to these forces. In fact, with full shelves littered about the house - upstairs and down, baskets overflowing by every potential reading spot, a much too small rotation of favorites stacked on coffee and end tables, and a handful hiding beneath car seats, US Weeklys,
and junk mail, the vanishing and emergence of literature, though once a bit crazy-making, now makes me feel like I'm shopping at a bookstore every day.

One series of books, while they existed, quickly became Amari's favorites. I believe they were left-overs from a summer reading program Carrie taught during grad school. Each book is titled, "When I'm feeling ________" and include descriptions of feeling mad, sad, loved, happy and kind. I especially liked the last one, because it sounded so sweet and unique when Amari would quiz me. After going through a few of the other feelings she would ask me, "Dada are you feeling kind?" And usually, by the time she got to that question, I was. If, however, I were ever feeling sad, she would immediately stop the questioning, wrap her arms around my neck, kiss my cheek, and say, "I make your sad feel better."

On Wednesday, Amari learned another feeling. We were over the hill in Ukiah where I'd just purchased a few items at Ross, including a new pair of flip flops for her. Although I explained we'd have to wait, she wanted me to put them on immediately and began to take off her shoes on the floor by the check out counter. I snatched her off the floor with one arm, held my bag, keys, and her old shoes in the other, and whisked her across the parking lot where I unlocked the hatchback and dumped the contents of both hands into the back of our car.

After changing her shoes I spotted another store across the street we could just walk to, so I picked her up, closed the hatchback, and had the immediate sensation that can only be described as "Oh Fuck." After a quick check of my pockets, I peered into the hatchback where I saw, partially hidden by the word Ross and a pair of my daughter's shoes, my car keys. Not too old to remember where they were this time.

Unfortunately, my wife did not bring home the "When I'm Feeling Oh Fuck" book from her summer reading program, so I had translate my frustration. After calling AAA, Amari and I waited by the parking lot, bathed in a pleasant, morning sun. I quickly noticed that although I was feeling annoyed and stupid, Amari could care less. She was hanging out with her dad, she was warm, she was full, and she was waiting for a magical yellow truck that I seemed to be pretty excited about. It was contagious, and for a while I'd forgotten my stupid fucking forgetfulness.

When, however, an already occupied yellow truck drove by with mangled car in tow, I relapsed into  my adult thinking and mumbled, "Dammit."
"What happened Dad?" asked Amari, pausing from her game of "I'm a frog."
"Oh nothing," I said, "Dad just feels dumb."
Without hesitating, she hopped over to me, threw her arms around my once again, kissed my cheek, and said, "I make your dumb feel better."

And she did.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Leggo My Ego

Children can be great for our egos - especially when they're full of hugs and kisses and can't say a damn word. Then language comes and still, for a little while, things get even better.
"My love you, Dada."
"You're best my friend."
"I love you to the moon and the stars and the fan."
These were all things Amari has said to me since beginning her mastery of the English language.

Even without words, she has made given me magical powers to heal boo boo's with kisses and dissolve fears and  sadness with hugs. She has helped me to finally feel like the grown-up I always imagined I would one day become. And then, in a matter of moments, she reduced me to the insecure teenager I used to be.

The scene was our front yard, a sunny enough day to pull out the dinky, fifteen dollar, plastic pool. While she splashed around, I decided to get some vitamin D on my magic hugging arms so I took off my shirt and lay down on a towel. I've never been a confident fan of sunbathing, but I was with my "best friend" who loves me "to the moon and the fan," so I went for it. Seconds later, on one of her jaunts outside the pool, Amari sat next to me and said, "Dada, your boobs are wobbly." I took it pretty well, and promptly rolled over onto my stomach. She took that well, and as an opportunity to climb on my back, poke my shoulder, and ask, "Dada, is your pimple happy?" For the record, it was a mole. But nonetheless, neither my mole nor I were exceptionally happy. It was all pretty funny, though.

Yesterday, I told Amari we might go to the park in the morning. With the weather changing quickly and creating some uncertainty about outdoor activities, I tried to disguise our plans during a phone call with Jim.
Jim: What do you have going on this morning?
Me: We're thinking about going to the P - A - R - K.
Amari (angrily): No, I don't want to go to the P - A - R - K. I want to go to the park.

And finally, tonight at dinner, she was talking to her food, creating a little dramatic scene between her and the starch. Playing both rolls, she says:

Rice says, "Are you going to eat me?"
Amari says, "Yes. I'm going to eat you."
(Pause to take giant bite of rice) "Mmmmm."