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.

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