Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't Burst His Bubble

Number Two loves balls. His own, of course (what boy doesn't?), but also the other varieties: beach, base, basket, tennis, foam, and bouncy, just to name a few. His infatuation started with a balloon and now that's what he calls all these round objects, invoking the name with a precise glee that contradicts his otherwise meager vocabulary. My boy cannot--dare I say will not--utter the word "mama," but balloon rolls off his tongue with a smooth "ball" and then an "OON" that pops.

He could play with his balls all day (not unlike The Partner, though in that case I'm again referring to the baser definition). Number Two once had a pink helium-filled balloon that he chased around the house for a week until it was nothing but a pathetic choking hazard. He learned to walk, I believe, because it was easier to carry balls that way. He won't eat when in the presence of balls because food just isn't as interesting.

I was worried about his lack of vocabulary until "balloon" came along. Now I realize he only says what he wants to say. He is pointed. He is determined. He is a toddling, ball-holding bundle of obsession.

My baby boy's got balls.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Trip Halfway Across the Country - Part II (In No Particular Order)

We took our 27' recreational vehicle across 8 states with 6 occupants in 4 days before arriving in Missouri. Two of the travellers were under 4 years of age; one was over 60; another was a dog. The Partner drove. I sat in the front passenger seat, alternately reading, sleeping, and watching corn stalks whizz by.

The Boss's oft-professed hatred of Interstates did not articulate itself on the journey, except for one or two "I do not care for highways" that she threw in more as statements of fact than of complaint. Number Two kicked up his heels in his bucket car seat and only resorted to cries upon becoming hungry, a condition quickly alleviated when my mother would rush to his side with gifts of crackers and cheese.

We drove for more than 9 hours a day on the way out. We'd stay each night at a different state park or, on one occasion, at the home of friends. Each day got later, with the sun and moon competing for evening domination. The moon won out, as it always does, but the brighter ball of light put up a more valiant fight than it ever did back home in the northeast.

The rhythm of asphalt under 15,000 pounds of automobile set the tone to our days. The Partner and I were discordant in the front seats during arguments that went largely unheard by those in the back. My mother read to the Boss, or read to herself, or looked out the window for 40 year old memories in the form of defunct Indiana Army bases.

We saw things we don't usually see, like porcupines in the median, and Sonic Drive-Ins, and a river called the Mississippi. Most of all we saw this huge part of the United States that is integral in a way we'd never understood as suburbanized citizens of Connecticut.

The ride was long and uneventful. We drove for 1600 miles on the roads that drive us.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Trip Halfway Across the Country - Part I (In No Particular Order)

The house sat on a lake in Kansas. Unlike Kansas, it was modern and glassy. Like Kansas, it sprawled. The place belonged to the daughter of my father's brother, and it was our first visit.

Uncle Sonny left Hartford for good in the 50s. He stopped in Topeka more than twenty years ago, setting up house in grand style. His daughter's place is grander still, built on the strength of her husband's endodontics practice in a town with lots of bad teeth and few practitioners with the two extra years of schooling necessary to root all those canals.

Not long after we arrived, my mother asked me if I'd seen the bathroom. "It has a window for a wall," she whispered. I raised an eyebrow at her. "A window," she repeated. "For a wall!"

Two Bud Light Lime's later, I saw it for myself. I closed the door behind me to find a toilet to my left, a sink like white art to my right, and an unobstructed view of the lake in front of me. The wall was floor-to-ceiling glass. A screen, which could be raised and lowered via a control panel next to the door, was in the descended position. I could see out, but nobody could see in. Not unless they really tried, anyway.

The grass rolled from patio to deck to beach. Two boats sat parallel on a slip. The Boss was a red, white and blue dart across it all. The Partner sat on an weather proof cushion under a tree as he pulled at a beer bottle while talking to the endodontist. I went about my business, more conscious than usual of my every shadowy move. I exited with my back to the door until the last moment, marveling.

After awhile, dusk fell. My northeastern nights are early; these were late and lazy. The sun was weightless in its last gold hold-off to night. The Partner suddenly nudged me from where we stood on the grass between the house and the lake. "Oh my God, I can see someone in the bathroom!"

I looked up one level and my eyes went buggy. The familiar stoop of shoulders like my father's, of a craggy face like Uncle Jack's, was centered in that clear square of glass. I looked away. "We've got to tell someone," I said, not waiting to lurch off toward the patio in search of my cousin, or the endodontist, or any of the family members in a position to do something (although I'm not sure what) about it.

Uncle Sonny is the oldest of my uncles. He's a sharp shooting joker with three children and a bevy of grands and greats. A year ago, or maybe two, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There's medicine now to slow the progression, but his wife told me it's not working. The first night we arrived, he locked himself in his truck and couldn't get out. At a picnic on the fourth, he met an old acquaintance he no longer knew. My aunt says she can't get used to it, this evolution amidst the sameness of each new day.

"There's someone using the bathroom with the shade up!" I said to Andy, the first of my second cousins that I came upon.

"It's Uncle Sonny," The Partner added.

Andy turned back to the house and went in through the sliding doors. My duty done, I leaned against the deck railing. I thought of the shade's control panel right next to the light switch; I thought how the mistake could easily happen. I thought of the murkiness of the short-term against the clear view of a lake made to glisten by the tips of a fading sun. Below Uncle Sonny, his children and his brothers' children conversed, relaxed. Our own children played.

He looked over it all--caught inside that strange, contemporary enclosure of bodily functions--for all the world to see.