The Holiday creates a silence in town. A rare occasion in a town like ours. For most of my life, I’ve lived in places where the most you heard outside was a mooing cow or a dog bark. In the city, you hear traffic, sirens, high school bands from miles away.
Today is so incredibly quiet. I sat outside, bundled up in my snowpants, watching the snow fall, and listening. What did I hear? Nothing.
I’ll tell you what you missed. I am now 5 months past my 21st birthday, and lemme tell ya, I’m not an alcoholic. That sounds silly, but I’m honestly surprised. The same beer has been in my fridge for two weeks. I got a promotion at work, but unfortunately not a pay raise. I’m still pretty happy about it though. I’m learning huge amounts and am constantly moving forward. I’ve met an incredible woman who I want to keep happy for ages and ages. I’ve never met such a equal.
For months, every morning when my daughter was in preschool, I watched her construct an elaborate castle out of blocks, colorful plastic discs, bits of rope, ribbons and feathers, only to have the same little boy gleefully destroy it within seconds of its completion.
No matter how many times he did it, his parents never swooped in BEFORE the morning’s live 3-D reenactment of “Invasion of AstroMonster.” This is what they’d say repeatedly:
“You know! Boys will be boys!”
“He’s just going through a phase!”
“He’s such a boy! He LOVES destroying things!”
“Oh my god! Girls and boys are SO different!”
“He. Just. Can’t. Help himself!”
I tried to teach my daughter how to stop this from happening. She asked him politely not to do it. We talked about some things she might do. She moved where she built. She stood in his way. She built a stronger foundation to the castle, so that, if he did get to it, she wouldn’t have to rebuild the whole thing. In the meantime, I imagine his parents thinking, “What red-blooded boy wouldn’t knock it down?”
I know it’s a lurid metaphor, but I taught my daughter the preschool block precursor of don’t “get raped” and this child, Boy #1, did not learn the preschool equivalent of “don’t rape.”
Not once did his parents talk to him about invading another person’s space and claiming for his own purposes something that was not his to claim. Respect for her and her work and words was not something he was learning. How much of the boy’s behavior in coming years would be excused in these ways, be calibrated to meet these expectations and enforce the “rules” his parents kept repeating?
There was another boy who, similarly, decided to knock down her castle one day. When he did it his mother took him in hand, explained to him that it was not his to destroy, asked him how he thought my daughter felt after working so hard on her building and walked over with him so he could apologize. That probably wasn’t much fun for him, but he did not do it again.
There was a third child. He was really smart. He asked if he could knock her building down. She, beneficent ruler of all pre-circle-time castle construction, said yes… but only after she was done building it and said it was OK. They worked out a plan together and eventually he started building things with her and they would both knock the thing down with unadulterated joy. You can’t make this stuff up.
Take each of these three boys and consider what he might do when he’s older, say, at college, drunk at a party, mad at an ex-girlfriend who rebuffs him and uses words that she expects will be meaningful and respecte, “No, I don’t want to. Stop. Leave.”
My dad called.
A stared at the phone, watching it ring without thought.
Talking to him freaks me out, even though he’s the kindest man I know.
He’s never said so, I can’t help but think that he thinks of me as a bum. No car, shitty retail job, little ambition. He actually doesn’t know shit about me. I work hard at my shitty retail job. I put my heart into helping people be aesthetically pleasing (as vain as that is) and on a good day, it’s incredibly rewarding.
I got the balls to call my dad back.
We don’t have a thing in common, which leads to my father’s steady rhythm of “well uh”s. I ask about his truck. He talks for 45 minutes and realize how relaxing it actually is. There I was, laying on my bedroom floor, listening to him gab, like I did as a kid on his living room floor while he chatted with a buddy.
In my head, my dad looks like a fit 35-year old who climbs telephone poles for fun and probably has toddlers at home.
When I occasionally see him these days (two or three times a year), I’m always taken aback by how he has changed. He could pass as a grandfather. Well, he is a grandfather, of nine to be exact.
His baby is turning 21 soon. I’m sure that scares the hell out of him, considering his past battle with the bottle. What he doesn’t realize is that I’ve been casually drinking for 6 years, and not a thing will change.
I’ve been wreckless, sure, but not lately. At 15, I stole vodka from the store, put it in Jones Soda bottles, and lined them up on my bedroom windowsill. My mother always mentioned how pretty those bottles of water looked in the sunlight. What a fool she was.
I respect my mom quite a lot more now than I used to. I told her about my vodka bottles, and she just laughed, joked about how they would have drank them, had she known. She’s not much of a parent, but she’s a fantastic friend and openly recognizes me as an adult, unlike my father.