From the backseat the other afternoon whilst shooting towards the Golden Gate Bridge on the 101 South:
Ev: “Dad, I wish there was such a thing as a ‘Gravity Bill.'”
Me: [Pausing to digest this tidbit, searching my distracted brain, half-panicked trying not to reveal how much more intelligent my 8 year-old is than I.] “Oh? Why?”
Ev: “Because I wouldn’t pay the bill.”
Me: [Realizing immediately that the jig is up, once again. I haven’t the slightest idea where he is going with this, and our intellectual chain of command is so fragile. Creaking loudly and about to snap altogether.] “Oh? Why not?”
Ev: “Because I want to float around, not be stuck with gravity.”
Me: [At once both proud of my 3rd grader’s flexible mind and disappointed in the fact that this line of thinking has never occurred to me. I whisper, hopefully not audibly, “Damnit!!”] “Yeah, that would be cool, huh?” [Then I try to regain my footing, to catch up with him, to show that I am a worthy brainiac companion.] “Although, whom would we pay? The city? The County of San Francisco? Planet Earth?”
And then the moment was gone. Everett has paused long enough to give me a glimpse of his mind’s inner workings. Just to let me know that his being quiet back there does not mean he’s contemplating the right moment to pick his nose undetected. Some deep thoughts going on back there. Far deeper than the thoughts going on in the driver’s seat. At least when I’m the one doing the driving.
These exchanges — infrequent and brief, but powerful — remind me how woefully unequipped I am to provide my children with a fertile environment in which to exercise their minds. By the way, as if to underscore this point, I first typed “inequipped” in that previous sentence, before being scolded by the dotted red underline for my grammatical ineptitude. (At least I got “ineptitude” right all by myself.)
We are all four together pretty much only at dinnertime. By then, I’m tired. Beat from juggling consulting work with a number of interesting clients. Truly interesting work, stimulating, and with neat companies. But it sometimes feels like I’m jamming a week’s worth of work into a few hours of intense hammering away. Somewhere in there I will have managed to walk the dog a few times. Maybe even a longer walk in the Presidio, say, where it feels like she might actually be getting the run she needs. And usually I will have managed to break a sweat of my own, hopping on the lightly-rusted spin bike, slipping into the Bay, or going for a short run on rickety legs. Some element of carpooling, to-practice driving, or bus stop pickup will come into play. And then I have learned to really enjoy prepping dinner. I have a very limited array of dinner options I know how to make, but it’s my array, and I’ve become fairly dependable within my own, narrow culinary parameters. And I’ve also somehow gotten very interested in the table setting stuff — table runners, chargers, cool little napkin rings, the whole sh-bang. Dunno how I fell into that, but fall I have.
Net net, by the time I lower my 46 year-old carcass into my dining table chair, I’m pretty much spent. Done. Functioning on only the barest of brain functions. Relying on my autonomic nervous system to keep taking air into my lungs. Not exactly prime time, then, for being the fantastic, engaging Dad I fancy myself. Particularly in this age of omnipresent digital screens, dinner time time is supposed to be the time. The best time. For engaging in true face-to-face conversation. The tribe reconnecting over the fire at the end of the day to share stories and continue an ancient oral tradition.
If we were a tribe, and if I were sitting near the fire, I would smell something burning, realizing 30 seconds too late that my heel is scorched and blistered. And probably grossed out that I had been thinking “hmm, something smells good, did I cook that?” only moments earlier.
So like I said, tired. And once again, probably guilty of setting unrealistic expectations, too. Guilty of that, for sure.
Fortunately, I’m wide awake and reasonably alert at 8am, which is when I write. Blog, I mean. And sitting here now, clear-headed (sort of), it occurs to me that the opportunities to noodle over the pluses and minuses of gravity are all around us. Happening all the time. They can’t be curated or conjured up on demand. They just happen. And that’s the fun of it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find that damned Gravity Bill. I have a nagging suspicion it hasn’t been paid this month, and all hell will break loose.
Thanks for reading.