26 October 2008

Mid-August Update


Hello Again Everybody,

Today is the final Friday of the summer for us in our new home state. We’ve done a fair job adjusting to the climate and the people and the other things that happen in our lives. We found a nice place to eat pizza, and another place that sells tacos for $1.00 a piece on Tuesdays. We found a park, the city library, and the video store. We’re just about set.

We even had time to take a half-day vacation this summer in the midst of all this accommodation. There was some dissention in the family as to whether we should go to the water park just south of Greensboro or to the ocean (the Atlantic Ocean), which is way off to the right of us I’m told. Since there have been water parks in all the other states we’ve lived in, but very few oceans, we opted for the latter.

On the way to the beach, we played our modified family version of 21 Questions, which would more accurately be called Infinite Questions. Naomi started. I said, “Is it a mineral?”

Naomi said, “I don’t know.”

Sam said, “Is it a place?”
Naomi said, “Sort of.

Zac said, “Is it a person?”

Naomi said, “Yes.”

I said, “Is the person in this car?”

Naomi said, “Yes.”

traci said, “Is the person Leah?”

Naomi said, “Yes, good job, Mom.”

traci’s turn took us through a series of questions in which we determined that the answer wasn’t blue, green, a person, a rock, a giraffe, the direction East, the cat, the Previa, Dad, or a turtle. We asked, Are you sure it’s not the cat?, yes but what about a really BIG rock, have you thought about making the answer: Pepsi, what about crackers, Cracker Jacks, Jack Sparrow, an unlaiden Sparrow, I think it’s a swallow, no it’s a sparrow, technically it could be either since neither could carry a coconut, are you sure it’s not the color blue?, I mean like a gigantic rock, like bigger than the moon?

We were, you all can imagine, just about stumped.

Naomi said, “I know, I know. Can you eat it?”

traci said, “Yes.”

Naomi said, “Are you sure it’s not blue?”

traci said, “Yes.”

Naomi said, “Grapes.”

traci said, “No.”

Naomi said, “Macaroni and Cheese.”

traci said, “Yes. Excellent.”

Nailed it. Naomi said since she had already gone, I could have her turn, which is good, because as is my way in all things, I’d been spending their turns preparing for my turn. We had recently watched the spoof _Meet the Spartans_, which makes fun of the movie _300_, which was based on the graphic novel by the same name. I kept the rest of the family easily at bay through the mineral, animal, etcetera part of the questions. Finally, they found my scent with traci’s, “Is it an idea?”

I said, “Yes.”

It took them a while longer to lock down the fact that it was a sentence, but once that happened, they made quick work of me. traci said, “A sentence? That’s not an idea. It’s probably a line from a stupid movie.”

I said, “Yes.”

Sam said, “Is it, ‘Come let us talk by the giant pit of death.’?”

I said, “Yes. Good job, Sam.”

And it was Sam’s turn.

Sam thought for a few minutes, and he said, “Okay, I got one. It’s a good one. But it’s way too hard to guess. So I’ll just tell you. It’s Nothingness.”

Zac said, “That was going to be my first guess.”

Sam said, “Okay, it’s your turn.”

Zac said, “Got one.”

traci said, “Is it bigger than a breadbox?”

Zac said, “You know, Mom, that’s a relative question. A breadbox, after all, could be as big as the ocean.”

Naomi said, “Is it the ocean?”

Zac said, “Yes. gg.” (gg is video game player, or “gamer,” lingo for “Good Game.” traci and I hold five English degrees between the two of us, and neither of us can explain to the kids why they shouldn’t use such shorthand in their speaking or writing, so we lol when Zac ggs us and move on.)

Zac pointed out that we had all already gone once, except for Desi who doesn’t have language, and except for Leah. He said, “I guess it’s Leah’s turn.” Now, this trip was in the middle of July, and she hasn’t gone yet, but we’re expecting her to bust out a really good one any minute now. She’s already had a long time to think about it.

It’s a four-hour trip to the beach, and the Atlantic Ocean was much as I had left it nineteen years before (my only other trip to the Atlantic to date) when I had taken my family to Myrtle Beach for some sort of Engineering conference, except that this time I couldn’t stop thinking about ee cummings’s characters Maggie and Minnie and Molly and May:

maggie and milly and molly and may
By e.e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

The poem doesn’t have any relevance to what I’m writing, nor does it add a layer to the letter, nor does it inform our reading of this text. It’s just what I think about while I’m at the beach these days. I hadn’t known of the characters when I was twelve, and otherwise, I jumped into the breakers, trying to beat the ocean at its own game. I jumped sideways, and head on, and dove through the waves, and rolled with the big ones, and I’m certain, if I had only had a little more time, I would have won – the same eternal struggle and conclusion I had drawn when I was younger. On the other hand, I hear that the ocean is very much like an Atari game that just seems to go on and on forever.

And that seems equally likely and unlikely to me.

We put on sunblock. We ran in small circles. We ate sandwiches and chips – I’ve always thought it ironic to eat SANDwiches at the beach. We chased Leah, who was chasing Desi, around the sand. We pretended to build a sand castle, but got distracted by the way the waves kept piling up on themselves and piling up and piling up, but not making anything noticeably bigger.

Then we drove home, listening to Modest Mouse’s album _The Moon and Antarctica_. All told, the beach was a fine decision. The day after our trip, I made mention of the fact that when we left for the ocean, I had been concerned about Leah, who hadn’t had a bowel movement the evening before, but after a short time in the ocean, she was regular – in fact, one could say, extra-regular – again. traci put a checkmark on the chalkboard beside “Things Daddy Should Keep to Himself.” And I pondered the possibility that the salt water had loosened her bowels up and that maybe it, the ocean, was good for all of us in ways that we don’t immediately recognize.

Naomi, who had been washing her breakfast dishes, said, “Well, the ocean does make shit happen.”

Yes. Little one. I suppose it does. But we’ll talk more about that another time. Right now, we have to compile our shopping lists – school supplies – for tomorrow, and hope that there will be something interesting left to learn when we start fourth, seventh, and tenth grades next week.

I suggest you all do the same. Take care, y’all, and we’ll keep you up to date on N.C.

Jackson, et al.

No comments: