What do you get when you cross Dennis the Menace with Calvin aka Calvin and Hobbs and ramp up the cute factor by 1000 degrees - You get the Damon.
I've been with this kid since the day of his birth. Rocked him, fed him, cooed to him and played the role of ZAZA for all of his just turned five years? And still, when I suggested to his Dad that I could take him with me on a road trip for 2 weeks while I went to see the adorables he looked at me and asked, "Two weeks? Are you sure?" I thought he was worried about the kid. Now, I realize he was worried about me.
I'm thinking well, of course. I took the Adorables with me every summer for a road trip. Now, I'm going to see them and he has reached the magic age of five - he should come along. It's like a tradition now. Road trip with Zaza. The Adorables have reached the savvy years of Ten (almost 11) and Fifteen (almost 25). They have been irritated (just my guess), exasperated (just a guess), shell-shocked (who wouldn't be) and occasionally charmed by the kid they adored when he was a babe. It's that charming few seconds that he works that keeps him from being sent to his room until he is 45.
He is just - all boy? Is that a real thing any more? I guess it is since I went to his pre-k 4 year old graduation - yes. It's a thing. And I don't think it should be a thing. But I went anyway and when the kids eyes lit up when I walked into the auditorium I wouldn't have been anywhere else in the world. He was the first kid to make it to the 100 club last year (counting to 100) and letting me know the rest of the kids were coming along and giving it their best shot. He also let me know he sat by Miss Wendy everyday at lunch. I thought maybe he was her favorite or something. Now, I realize she was trying to keep the school from being burned down. Accidently. The kid is not malicious. He is - - - - curious. Like a scientist. Which is what led to our 911 call.
So this is how it happened . . .
Maybe it started with a trip to the dollar store. This is where we bought bath fizzes and little capsules that turn into sponge shapes. The kid happens to be faster than flash. As evidenced in photo where I turned my back and he had located a sword and stuck it down his shirt, prepared to fight demons and dragons I suppose. Only before he made it back to the sword isle to replace it he had drawn it on a woman who might have been in her 70s. I was rushing to snatch it away and apologize when she whipped out an imaginary sword and begin defending herself. I went back to what I was doing. Obviously she was in control of the situation.
THE BATHTUB EQUATION
The Adorables have a friend staying over. They are watching one of my favorite movies. Moonrise Kingdom. Everyone has eaten. The television is about six feet from the bathtub. I put The Damon in the bathtub with magic shapes and bubble fizzes. I stand up and watch part of the movie. He yells Zaza. I go back to the bathroom. Yes, That's a t-rex. Good job. Back to the movie. I love this movie. He yells Zaza. Back to the bathtub. This goes on for a long time. I never, ever sit down to watch even five minutes of the movie. I never sit down. The girls are my witnesses. All the spongy things have turned into shapes and I am about to supervise the out of the tub and into the Mickey Mouse pajamas when I go back to the tub and in the six feet five minutes break the kid has - Gotten out of the tub, found a GLOWSTICK like they sell at fairs and for 4th of july - gotten back into the tub and decided to maybe bend the glow stick until it breaks to see what is inside, have it leak into the tub.
THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED PROCEDURE!
When I step back into the bathroom I immediately realize something has gone wrong in the last 2 and half minutes. There is a horrible chemical smell, the bath water is not the right fizzy color and I pull child from tub, tell him I need to wash him in clean water, start to drain the tub and then the kid starts to SCREAM. No parent or grandparent or nice neighbor next door wants to hear a kid scream like this. The fact that he is holding his privates with a look of pure panic and screaming is a serious CLUE that glow-sticks broken in tub do not mix well with boy parts. The screaming GET'S LOUDER AS I AM DRAINING THE TUB TELLING THE KID IT'S GONNA BE OK. Pouring cold water over him and over him and over him and the screaming get's louder and all of this in maybe sixty long seconds and I have two thoughts -
Call poison control but I can't turn loose of the water and screaming kid. Tell the fifteen year old to look up the number for poison control and call them - or - insert blood curdling screams and visions in my head of the child burning from the inside out here - call 911.
Adorable One calls 911.
What is the emergency?
There is a screaming kid in the bathtub.
Can you go to a room where I can hear you?
Yes. There is a screaming kid in the bathtub.
Why is he screaming?
I don't know. Zaza said call 911.
I am trying to explain why he is screaming but he is screaming. The lady on 911 is asking questions. The fifteen year old is trying to ask me questions. The kid is screaming don't touch me and clutching himself and I'm pouring water on him.
By Minute number 4 there is an officer standing in the door of the bathroom. I don't think I've ever been happier to see a guy in uniform. Officer sees the kids eyes get eversowide and calmly tells the kid - You are not in trouble. I say two words. Glow-stick. Bathtub. My eyes as wide as the kids. He looks at my wide eyes and says - Not Toxic. These are two of the sweetest words I've ever heard.
INSERT a little backstory.
At the grocery store the day before a police officer was standing next to some people taking a report when Damon asked -what are the police doing at the store? and a certain Zaza MIGHT have said - looking for little boys running through the store that don't mind their Zaza's. Then the kid wouldn't get out of his carseat. When I asked why. He said -Are you kidding?! I can't go in there! The police are looking for me!
(Don't lecture me on proper parenting and telling kids police are their friends. I've been on the road for weeks)
BACK TO BATHTUB -
I explain to the kid in my calm it's not toxic voice - This man has all the same body parts you do. I'm sure he'll know exactly what we need to do.
(I think this is pretty brilliant reasoning tactics. If you ever have to deal with boys of any age I suggest it. They seem to take this part seriously.)
At which point the screaming subsides, I'm still pouring cold water and the kid is calming down. Then there is all that detailed stuff like - another officer is guarding the door outside (not sure why) I have to explain that yes, I am the guardian and look - I have witnesses - i've been in this bathroom all night - minus those 2 minutes.
The fire rescue guy arrives. I must show my id, sign a form, and do all the things one does to help the emergency a) determine nothing wicked is going on and b) people wrap up this visit and go off to help people in danger from worse things than a glow stick.
When they leave the kid is wearing his Mickey Mouse jammies and eating watermelon. But he doesn't let the Rescue guy leave until ---
"Do you like slime? Do you have any slime? Here, see my slime? I have blue slime. Touch it, go ahead just touch it! "
Rescue guy touches slime. Says he's got his own slime he has to get back to. Says goodnight.
"Still burning?" I ask the kid when he leaves.
"Yeah, it still burns."
Four ginger ales and four trips to the bathroom later we safely call it a night. I don't want to hear my son tell me one time - "I told you so."
Looks like I've made it. I've got the Big Corner Office. A Great view over the city. Steaming Java courtesy of Fido's. Here's the deal. A lot of people who dream of being a writer want the romance of a lifestyle often afforded to the rich and leisurely lifestyles of the rich and famous. But there is so much more behind the page and beyond the view going on. Always.
On this particular day I did cop a corner office with a view for a few hours of writing and research. Poet and Writers mag opened and at the ready to find those hidden places writers can apply for a little time and quiet to get a few good words down. But all of that - the moment of freedom, the financial upturns, the kudos from readers (most important) or from critics (greatly appreciated) isn't the whole picture.
For one thing - when I learned that I was a writer I didn't know squat about a lifestyle. Couldn't tell you if a writers life was different than a farmers or a judge. So it wasn't a lifestyle that called me. It was a calling.
When I was a little girl my mother read Four Little Kittens to me. It was one of the books that I would say - Again - Over and over. Wore it out. Here's the premise - A barn cat has four little kittens who one day ask their mother before they go out into the world to please tell them what kind of cats there are. So she sits up, half closes her green eyes and begins to tell them about the other cats in the family and what they were. Ships cats, Alley cats, Barn cats. But one little kitten tried all those things and none of them felt right until finally he was picked up in a dark alley and taken home to a little girl. Then he discovered he was a cushion and cream cat - in other words - a house cat.
Most of us spend much of our young lives trying to discover what kind of cats we are. As a little girl I had a cowgirl outfit with fringe. I don't ride horses although I still like fringe. Being a cowgirl wasn't my destiny. I also had a red painters smock and I loved to paint. But I didn't grow up to be a painter. I can skate like the wind but I didn't grow up to become s roller derby queen. I danced like crazy to everything I heard and I still love to dance but I didn't grow up to be a professional dancer.
But I grew up in the lap of story - that is all things southern. Heat lightning, long summers, family stories , a front porch. A wild tribe of cousins. Pick up trucks and back roads. Creeks and crazy. Jesus fans in tiny back woods churches.
By sixth grade I was writing prayers and poems with a slight sophistication so that my teacher requested a conference with my mother to tell her - She's a writer. (many of you know that story so hang in here) That moment was the aha moment of my life. It was my four little kittens moment where one knows what one IS. I didn't know anyone in the family who was a writer. I didn't know anyone in the whole entire world who was a writer. But suddenly I knew I was one. And from that moment on there was nothing in my life that I pursued that wasn't related to that. No matter how many jobs I had to support myself or my children - the inside story was the true was. I was a writer. A Storyteller. It was my destiny. Still Tis. On stage, page, or on air. Same, same.
The first time I went to college it was on a small scholarship for broadcast journalism. I'd been broadcasting in my senior year under the awesome mentoring of teacher Anna Kelly. She recognized something in me that meant business. A desire to discover the truth. To find the story, to tell the story. So my path led that far. To a college station and doing the news. To learning to drop my W's. To enunciate on occasion. To sound much less southern than I am.
Years later I returned to college in Pensacola at the beautiful campus of UWF and fell into a playwriting class while studying broadcasting and journalism. I met Dr. Yolanda Reed and a handful of young writers (God, we were still all so young looking back) It was pretty much perfection. A moment, a Zeitgeist, Kismet, Divine Intervention - the turning point of things to come. It was in this group I found my voice. The tone and timbre of things to come.
Then life. More life. Thousands of words. The publication of one novel, two novels, three novels, four novels, a collection of essays, and a book titled Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit. To a mystery novel completed but not rewritten. To a spiritual memoir under contract and due soon.
Then all hell broke loose. I went through a dark season that seemed to have no end and to a separation that ultimately led to divorce. Which I will not discuss. Period. Let the past bury the past. Let seasons change. Count all good times and good blessings, every answered prayer, every precious Divine moment clasped and kept. As old Frank once sang, Regrets, I've had a few but then - too few to mention.
Point of all being - I stopped writing. What I had written when I returned to the page to rewrite I didn't like. I didn't feel like I was at that place anymore because I wasn't. My life, my experience, my hopes, my dreams had changed. It took me awhile to stop lamenting and look forward.
When a writer loses their words it's a sad day. In the midst of all the good fortune, the company of my children, the delight of my grandchildren, the treasure of my sister, my mother and the laughter of cousin Deb - the prayers of readers, the toasts of good writer friends - there is still the silent emptiness where the words should come but the well feels dry. Painful. And in that silence there is a fear that is unnamable. It is the untouched truth, the silent cry, the disrupted truth.
But time and angels wings heal wounds. Salty tears. And a courage that finally shows up strong enough to face down the angriest winds of regret and remorse. That stands like flint in the sandstorm. Rage on. I will not bend. Not again. God's got this, always did, always has.
And has always known that I'd come back to the words. That I'd sit down and open up a vein and begin again. Sure nuff.
Final rewrites on Confessions of An American Mystic: Stories and Faith and Fiction and - - - (subtitle still in progress) near completion. That rewrite on the mystery novel right behind it. Circling the final
chapters on the Sugar Baby novel and the completion of that new dystopian novel I'm 30,000 words into - soon thereafter. This year I am praying that God will give back the years the locust have eaten. For me. For you. For us. In spite of EVERYTHING.
Time to move forward by moving on and stop pretending to be someone else. Someone quieter, smaller, weaker.
Oh, I do believe I feel a rooftop coming on.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.