One wonders what the United States would look like now if the first colonists had landed on the shores of California instead of at Jamestown and Plymouth Bay. Would the lands comprising California’s nine national parks have survived in their pristine state if colonization and the War of Independence had played out on the West Coast? Would America’s eastern shore have been spared some of the ravages of industrialization?
TV screens tuned to CNN and Fox News trumpeted the impending government shutdown as we made our way to our gate two Fridays ago, boarding our flight to Phoenix hours before a lapse in appropriations, which is now in its 13th day and appears to have no immediate end in sight. Our automated furlough notices arrived the next morning, as we started our second Southwest road trip with an ambitious itinerary of national and state parks in Arizona and New Mexico.
“A moment of silence, please/
for those who never get the chance.
They show up to the party/
but they’re never asked to dance.”
It’s funny, this quality that certain songs possess of burrowing into the subconscious and then surfacing on a moment’s notice when their lyrics come in perfect harmony with our lives, as if they had been written for us or about us. Songs of love and loss are the most obvious examples, given the universality of these human experiences, but there are other, more off-beat matches when a song’s lyrics mysteriously fit and the totality of the music expresses one’s emotions much more perfectly than words alone ever could. The song playing on repeat in D’s mind these days is Streetlight Manifesto’s “A Moment of Silence” — a loser anthem that cuts to the core of D’s current job search frustrations despite being written about something else entirely. Read more
Munchkin’s rapid descent into superhero obsession took us a bit by surprise. We consciously limit his screen time at home, but parental controls are no match for playground fads. As soon as Munchkin entered pre-K in the fall, his fealty to Paw Patrol and P.J. Masks was overcome by an overwhelming interest in Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and the like. At the library, he would pick out simple comic books for beginner readers; superhero-themed clothing began to multiply in his wardrobe; and the Disney/Pixar films D would sometimes watch with him on the weekends gave way to comic book-inspired cartoons.
Azure, still waters of an alpine lake, shimmering under the glare of the noontime sun, cold as the snow-melt that feeds it. The craggy contour of jagged mountains, dappled in snow, ringed by evergreens. The flutter of a bird-wing and its owner’s clarion song — nature’s calling cards, beckoning us toward adventure. These are the mementos from our home leave road trip this past summer, and the images that fill our imagination in planning our next sojourn out West over the winter holidays.
“You see? This is exactly what I meant when I said her spirit animal is a raccoon,” S said, nodding in the direction of Junebug, who had snagged an entire chicken drumstick before scampering to D. Content with her acquisition, Junebug sat perched on D’s lap, gripping the drumstick tight in her little fist, making content nom-nom noises, and happily wagging her head side-to-side while chewing through her mouthful of chicken.
For a while after Munchkin started speaking we endeavored to write down his amusing sayings. There were plenty of mangled words and off-the-wall pronouncements that were precocious in their seriousness. As his speech grew more advanced, we largely stopped keeping track of his verbal creations, contenting ourselves with enjoying them in the moment. Of late, we have begun once again to take note of Munchkin’s speech, though for far less pleasant of a reason.
Parenthood, or at least our experience of it to date, seems to be defined by two constant, contradictory mental states. On the one hand is anticipatory nostalgia, fueled by the realization not only that everything is a stage, but also that all good things come to an end way too quickly. On the flip side are the doldrums that accompany each particularly challenging phase, which always seem to last forever, and the usual batch of negative feelings one experiences when reality fails to match one’s expectations.
Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.