Monday, July 03, 2006

another fourth of july

Okay, so I'm back.

In my absence my teenager (a.k.a. Robotdrone -- his choice of name, not mine) entered the world of A.D.E. and realized he really sort of likes it.

It's been fun to watch him work and publish and go back and check for comments; oh the novelty. For him it's fun and new and almost exhilirating, or so I gather.

So I've just put him on the roster and let him run with it.

When he's traveling he'll be checking in now and then here with his own reports, and I'll go on writing as usual in between. We agree it will be a good way to stay in touch.

I've told him that, when journaling, I've found it helpful to examine each passing day with these questions:

  • What one thing would I want to encapsulate from this particular date in time?
  • Be it feeling, experience, sight, sound, taste -- whichever sense was appealed to the most significantly in the past twenty-four hours. How would I describe it so that anyone chancing upon it later would see it as I did, and know it in the same truth and particular perspective that I had? Just that one thing.
Actually this is a good exercise in general, whether journaling or not.

But for the past week or so I haven't done that. I've played with the kids, worked on the dollhouse, scrubbed some floors, washed dishes, folded clothes, cooked a few meals I really like, and leafed through books I've already read looking for familiar passages that comfort me.

Every now and then I'd see or hear something and pause, thinking reflectively: that would be something to write down. But then I'd let it go again, as a child's bubble floating luminously upward to pop unacknowledged into the ethereal. That felt like a luxury too -- wasteful, extravagant. To see it and not write it, but instead keep it to myself, my own found treasure.

The teenager and I took a walk late last evening with the dog, while the husband set off a few fireworks for the younger two boys. I ask the teenager to walk with me because he often does anyway, and for a few weeks at least this will not be a privilege I am afforded.

The dog practically breaks my arm when he veers off the path, distracted by another dog or a bird or the alluring scent of another animal's urine and using all his weight as he strays off course to steer me in another direction.

So I walk the dog at this lurching, staggering pace, me pulling back on the leash as if it's the reins to a spooked horse and the dog charging forward with his head ducked between his shoulder blades, making a big show of breathing heavily and plodding like a tired Clydesdale.

It's nearly ten p.m. and some of the lights have been dimmed in the houses we pass. I see muted lamplights in heavily draped living room windows and I can easily imagine the inhabitants inside, dressed in robes and slippers and sitting in easy chairs with a TV remote in hand, waiting for the news to come on. So I say in a near-whisper, "I'll miss you when you're away, you know."

"Whatever," the teenager says. He is walking on the curb, like it's a tightrope; I walk in the road, vulnerable, dragging the dog, or being dragged, it's hard to tell.

He is walking along, looking up into the star-studded sky. It is a beautiful sky and the air is warm but not close. The moon is a glowing crescent, its points sharp and yet looking melted in the center. We have rounded a south up-sloping block and are now above the property, looking down at the purplish-pink fizz of sparks flying up from the yard as the excitable cheers of my younger two sons pierce the dark: "More! More!"

It's transfixing, this spurt of colored fire and the great voluminous clouds of gray smoke that follow, smoke you can see even in the dark as it wafts past the streetlights. Even the dog settles on his haunches to watch.

Every now and then the light and smoke is punctuated with the pops and shrill whistles and screeches somehow ingrained in the paper-wrapped tubes of fireworks.

I'm getting old, I'm thinking; how long has it been since I watched a fireworks display with their enthusiasm or excitement? I look over at my son and he is watching with the same sober attention. I am thinking of his first fireworks display, a July in California when he was still an infant and my husband scolded me for not covering his ears when the firecrackers finally went off.

As we stand there watching our own fireworks display from afar I am thinking that if I had one moment to save in all the moments I've had in the past week, this one would be it. This very small space in time in which mother and son are standing quiet and peaceable on the same ground, equally prepared --or unprepared-- for what it is that lies ahead.

It was just one moment, but one moment was all I wanted.

Then we turn and walk back towards home, toward the brilliant flames and rockets and the acrid aroma of spent gunpowder and sulfur. Another Fourth of July.