About A Boy
I went to the movies on Saturday night. The Saturday night before Christmas. At a mall, in Bellevue, where they literally block off streets every night during the season for something called Snowflake Lane or I don’t know what. I’m not sure I’ve even been within a mile or so of a mall that close to Christmas. It was insane.
I didn’t even want to see the movie, that’s how insane. I was just looking for friends to go to the movies with me, as that was a thing I thought maybe would be fun to do, with several titles out currently, although Mary Queen of Scots was nowhere near that list.
It was very good. I was stunned by the acting, and I appreciated the quiet, not-very-bloody way it took us inside the lives of these two remarkable women, and into the time. I just wouldn’t have picked a historical drama. So, in that sense it was an excellent thing. And I saw it with friends.
And, most importantly, it took me about half an hour to get to Bellevue on the freeway, and another 30 to go the mile or so from the exit to the parking garage. That there is a recipe for anxiety and I was fine, so whatever that thing was once is not active now, you know? Parking anxiety or stress or whatever, which has nothing to do with parking or driving, really. Anyway. I noticed.
Today, then, my wife and I are heading south to Portland, to meet some friends from back east who are visiting family. They mentioned this trip in their Christmas card and wondered if we were free to shoot down I-5 for a quick catch-up, and I just ran with it. We love these people, and see them often when they come out. It’s just, you know. We saw them a few months ago. This was spontaneous, doing something because it felt like a good idea to do something, even if we were musing about the wisdom of taking a day away from a holiday week and driving for a chunk of it when we didn’t have to.
And now it turns out I’m going to Arizona in a couple of weeks, but that’s another story and I’m just trying to make a point. Sometimes you throw your hat over the wall so you have to climb the wall. As awkward as these little trips are and have been, not to mention the expense, the alternative is more of the same. Sitting at home. Wondering what to do.
Just like Mary, daughter and mother of kings, condemned to house arrest and ultimately death for daring to accept her birthright. Maybe not exactly the same. OK. Just trying to get back on track.
I’ve been surfing a wave of boy bliss for a few weeks now, surprising myself. I’ve told the story often of how impatiently I waited for my daughter to be old enough that we could have actual conversations, stand in the kitchen together and discuss the cosmos and the meaning of life, those kind of conversations. About two years, then.
And I’ve been waiting for my grandson to get here, to where he is, old enough to remember me from my last visit, if vaguely. I’ve made how many trips? A dozen, since he was born? More? All of them knowing they’d be my memories only, but maybe leaving a strand or two of something winding its way around his neurons. Some bonding material, maybe. Some grandpa glue.
I can literally just make this shit up forever. I have no idea how any of this works. I just love this boy and he loves me back, and we had a great time in Texas this time.
He essentially ignored his grandmother, which she understood and tolerated. I hadn’t seen him in a year, and I have a certain amount of charm, by which I mean I never say no. You want Grandpa to crawl up and down the stairs like a crab? You got it. You need a couple of hours of him doing that? Really, it’s not even a problem.
And I loved his new technology, so the two of us could hang out while his mom and her mom went out on errands, to have lunch, to shop without me having to give him insulin injections or otherwise feel nervous about his diabetes. Just check his sugar, adjust the dose, feed him, and crawl up and down the stairs.
Make map puzzles for hours. Burrow under blankets like different kinds of moles (he knows all the kinds). Talk about planets and black holes and the big bang and evolution, oh my. This kid loves the idea of evolution, loves to look at books with pictures of how animals adapted and grew lungs and limbs. For being just an ordinary boy in so many ways, this is the most science-y kid I’ve spent time with.
He’s become my happy place, I realized, and my muse. I still write like a hesitant pedestrian at the moment, everything tentative and not all that fluid, but I can feel him creeping into my creative side. I don’t know what this means. I just know it’s there, it exists, it’s a real thing. He makes me more of who I’m supposed to be, I think.
Our Christmas was nice. You didn’t ask but I’m just letting you know, nice. I got warm clothes as presents, a winter coat to replace the monstrosity I’ve been wearing (warm but really too big) and some casual stuff. I’m always going to be cold, and they know.
I also received cooking stuff, little things that make a difference (a gift card to Penzeys for one thing, the spice people). It’s funny how much pleasure I can get from a new spatula, but it’s true. You use stuff every day, you appreciate new models.
I made a couple of hundred cookies, handed out on Christmas Eve, as well as a dozen of a special kind that one woman I know just seems to love. That was kind of special, too. And bread, and then there was just sugar, good grief. My son shoved a bag of M&Ms in my stocking and I inhaled it over two days, me, M&Ms.
My appetite has returned, too. I’m ending the year as I always do, eating more than I need to, but you know. I can afford to, and the pleasure is all mine. There’s no danger here of overloading on junk, because I lost that gene somewhere along the line, but I have a nice, ordinary appetite again, most of it due to having my wife around the house more with school on break, but let’s be clear.
I saw a movie. I got a new coat. There were M&Ms involved, and baking, and some singing of Christmas carols and all, but this is about a boy. I’m sorry for the cliché, but then not sorry at all. I needed to be reminded. There’s some magic here, it’s real and it’s palpable and knowable. I’m 60 years old and I believe in Santa Claus, you bet. Nothing marginal about it.