Monday, April 24, 2006

A beautiful day, overall, especially the evening.

Morning was spent getting myself up early because I was being paged by the little guy. Got ourselves up and going, walked the dog with my son in tow, got him off to preschool and did some relaxation, some library browsing, and purchased a gift for the boy in my son's class whose birthday party we missed due to our Passover absence. I got back to his preschool early and peeked into his classroom to find him paying full attention to a favorite dinosaur book his teacher was reading to the class.

We went from there to the car and surfed the grocery store aisles in his favorite fire truck shopping cart. The little guy has so charmed a security guard at the store that she once went out into the parking lot to find the fire truck cart for him, since he was putting on his best pout. We didn't see her today, but we found the cart at the store entrance and went on from there.

Got home, unloaded the groceries, built a new train layout with the Fisher-Price GeoTrax sets my parents keep getting for him, vegged out in the house for a bit, and then we hopped back into the car to cross the bridge to Algiers and to our friend Justin's house, where his wife would do phase two of my son's testing for a Montessori charter program. Phase one occurred on Sunday morning, when we ventured across the river to Justine's testing partner's house to test the little guy's vocabulary and verbal skills. I recalled being in the next room listening to him with this lady, and at one point, he ventured that "his daddy picked his nose". I was relieved that he didn't go on about how he'd been squishing buckmoth caterpillars recently - didn't want anyone in a position to evaluate him psychologically to start going on about how cruelty to animals is one of the first signs of a budding serial killer. Boys just do this stuff sometimes.

One afternoon, my brother and his buddies were up in his room, quiet for almost fifteen minutes. Too quiet. They soon came clambering down the steps, and my mother overheard one boy say excitedly that "they could have electrocuted themselves!" My father's computer repair kit tweezers and my brother's desk lamp, sans light bulb but still plugged in, were being used to electrocute live ants - grab with tweezers, stick in hot socket.

I dare anyone to tell me, and tell me straight, that young girls will come up with similar schemes. And if so, what are the odds?

My son's predilection with squishing caterpillars comes from three sources, I think. One: he saw another kid do it and decided to give it a try. Two: he overheard everyone's disgust at having these little creatures roam around. For those not in the know, buckmoth caterpillars look fuzzy, but their fuzz carries a powerfully poisonous sting. Dog parkers have to steer their dogs around those areas, there are warning signs at the Parenting Center of caterpillars having been seen dropping from the tree in the outdoor playground there, and those doing gardening work have to do so carefully. And Three: squishing them in just the right way gives way to a satisfying crunch and to the possible spectacle of seeing orange guts spewing from the things like toothpaste from a tube. This last one has put my son off squishing the creatures for a while, however, because the last time he did it, the guts went spewing all over his shoe. Moooooooommmmmmmyyyyyyyyy! he yelled in horror. No stings from the guts, just the icky realization he'd gottten them all over his Thomas the Tank Engine sneakers. He treads a bit more carefully now.

He did fine with Justine's testing, though I think he was a bit distracted because he doesn't normally go into Justin's house to be quizzed on how well he knows his numbers and letters, and how well he grasps basic computation concepts. He was much more enthusiastic about playing with the Labrador on the premises, kibitzing in his way with the Canadian workers, who had returned for another helping stint with the tree service Justin operates, and greeting Justin himself with much joy and gusto once the man returned home. We all sat down to dinner, Monday's red beans and rice, with a little sausage on the side, and then Justine and I talked over a little beer and a touch of dessert.

We had talked earlier about what it means to be back in the area at this time. She had just returned with Justin from a short trip to North Carolina, and she loved it. Somehow, the conversation wended its way towards places to go in the event of a need to permanently evacuate New Orleans and its environs, and I was reminded of another talk I'd had with Dan's and my neighbors a few days ago about this very subject. Our neighbors, born and raised in the Midwest, didn't want to go back there, much as their families have been trying to urge them to return and make homes for themselves up there. They'd move out of the country first, the way things are going politically, one of our neighbors said. I did speculate that New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, which we'd visited last summer, wouldn't be half bad, relocation-wise, except for the cold cold COLD weather they can get in those parts.

Worse comes to worse, I told Justine tonight, we'd look a bit more into getting a house outside Baton Rouge, God forbid. Talk about really starting our lives over again, socially. Talking about having a backup plan for permanently leaving this area is pretty damned frightening, too. At least if this were Israel, the only barrier to permanent settlement of a disputed area would be mainly political. Here it would really come down to life and death.

So what could possibly be worth dying for? Justin, Justine, their Labrador, and my son and I took a walk on the West Bank levee after dinner. The sun was slowly setting over the Central Business District across the river, a large cargo ship was passing by, some Carnival float dens were on the other side of the levee from the river's action, and my son was running ahead of us all, giddy with every step, slightly overtired, and mesmerized by the passing ship and the Coast Guard helicopter that hovered overhead. He was so mad when we had to turn back, but his eyes lit up when he saw a man on a nearby bench playing his guitar in the twilit dusk. He wanted to play the guitar himself, I know. He danced on the sidewalk a little and clambered up on the bench next to the guitar player, bobbing his head to a beat within himself - a beat possibly combined with the one the guitar player was strumming to. I loved seeing him this happy with being in a place, feeling his pain when we had to leave the place, the moment, all of it behind for home and sleep.

I made my choice to come here for love of a place, most of all. I really want to share that love with my son, and deep down, I would love for him to develop his own version of this love himself. I am constantly het up by the ephemerality of our chosen home, however, and no amount of just sharing the love will make a difference unless action is taken to keep this place from washing away.

Yeah, I could die here - but my son must live. There lies the dilemma. It's why I don't blame others for flying this coop. And it's why I still struggle inwardly a bit. Which is why there is a lot of strength in keeping up with the everyday. Got to keep pushing along - get the kid in school, keep us all fed well, walk the dog, and sustain and strengthen the family relationships, and the friendships.

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