Sunday, March 9, 2014

Riding with boys

Seal Beach, 2014

I barrelled down the 405 yesterday, heading south to Seal Beach for a day of lacrosse watching. The sky was so blue and so clear you could see the snow on the tops of distant mountains to the east, and the edge of the Pacific dropping off the globe to the west. I had three boys in my car on a Saturday morning -- Henry and two other players -- but no one was talking. I heard a grunt every now and then, though, and turned up the radio. When the phone rang, we all startled, and when Oliver's clear, still-high voice came over the Bluetooth, we winced at its brightness.



Where's the lemon costume?

Um. In the costume drawer?

No, it's not there.

In your closet?

No! It's not there! Where is it?

Well, I have no idea where it is, I said. You'll have to do your lemonade stand without it.

Great, he replied, and hung up.

Bruce Springsteen came on the radio for about two seconds before the phone rang again. This time it was The Husband.

Where's the lemon costume?

I have no idea, I said.

The Husband and The Big O are frightfully similar in temperament, and I imagined a flurry of feathers, chest-beating, sticks being thrown, the sky perhaps falling.

What the he ---

The phone went quiet and Bruce came back on. I thought about glue for a bit, how I am The Glue, and then I thought about Bruce Springsteen, his arms, and how he plays his guitar, that thing he does, and then I thought about surfers, how watching them makes me warm.

The night before I barrelled down the 405 and took a walk from the field to the ocean, climbed over a rise of sand into blue and then walked back and watched three hours of lacrosse, I had come home from a delightful dinner with three dear friends, my head buzzing just the tiniest bit from one very dirty martini and a bowl full of pasta, to a boy fight. Is there anything more aggravating or tedious than brothers bickering? Men fighting? I don't want this to be a lament against the male species, so let's make everyone an animal and do some anthropomorphizing. The small and stout chicken is incredibly industrious but also likes to peck. He pecks and he pecks and he pecks. He pecks on the ape and he pecks on the cheetah. The ape can't stand the pecking, would rather sit and chew on a blade of grass for the duration. He reaches his big, meaty paw out and swipes the chicken, and the chicken squawks far louder than is warranted and begins to peck and peck on the cheetah who is indolent for the most part and good-natured but at a certain number of pecks, he reaches his huge, lazy paw up and makes the chicken fly. There's a burst of feathers and chicken tears because the cheetah is so terribly advantaged and just so damn gorgeous but a mystery, a deep, primitive mystery. There's a wild animal keeper who happens to walk in, she radiates light, the animals are afraid of her, and they love her, too, neither animal nor human, perhaps a goddess, or maybe just glue, and she plucks a feather from her hair where it has landed after flying off the chicken who pecked on the ape and then on the cheetah. She twirls that feather in her hand and catches the cheetah's eye before he takes off with a lacrosse stick held high, and the ape? The ape with his heart of darkness chews his grass, unfathomable.


  1. This is wonderful, thank you

  2. As I sit here watching birds, both wild and domesticated, you have no idea how apt I find this.
    You ARE the glue and sometimes it has to be impossible (where IS the lemon costume and why don't you KNOW?) but you do it every day and you do it so well and you are beloved, not only by your family but by us.

  3. You paint a very vivid picture. I can see them. Just so you know, I had a son and a daughter who fought like cats and dogs. The two girls fought too. I'm so glad they're grown and gone. I love them much better from a distance:)

  4. well, damn. you capture so much, the lives of families everywhere, on any given day. my own two fought constantly or froze each other out at the age your two boys are now; I thought they didn't like each other at all, i worried over it, but really, it turns out they were bonding, making those bonds tensile and indestructible, conducting experiments to see how much weight the bonds could take, how much pecking they could weather, and now the two have settled into sweet siblingry, no longer needing to make sure the bond will hold. veteran of the wars, i pray this lasts.

    can i just be a stuck record for a moment here and say how extraordinary your writing is? It truly is.

  5. Oh, I like your anthropomorphosis. That makes it seem more understandable, but honestly, the older I get, the less I understand. It's funny now, to think how much I thought I understood men - until I was left by myself in a house with two of them (after being used to being a family of two females and two males). Then they really seemed different. And they still do. I love them, and have no desire to bash them, either, but they really are wired so differently from us.

  6. There must be a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that you are the glue, the stabilizer, the problem-solver, even if it's also incredibly annoying to be in the middle of the bickering. (For the record, bickering is annoying REGARDLESS of gender!)

  7. Being the glue is tiresome for certain. That said, I am thrilled that you were able to answer "I don't know" and hang up, to walk in the sunshine to the beach if only for a little while. Maybe seeing them as animals with their own characterizations makes it a little easier to handle when they do what they were made to do - peck, sit and think, swat pests. Love.

  8. This is brilliant. I belly laughed, after I felt the sand and the sun. (And surfer warm, of course). You and I both had extra dirty martinis this weekend. Someday we will have them together.



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