Limitless

Bunnyman, my 12 year old son, just loves school. His teacher starts talking and he mutes the video on his laptop, spreads a quilt on the kitchen floor, lays his head down, closes his eyes to catch up on sleep. His teacher continues teaching. It is a win-win-win because I sit nearby at the kitchen table drinking my morning coffee in the relative quiet taking notes for him thinking. I think about how to bring up his new school words and subject matter for later when he and I run errands and go to the grocery store and post office. Oh, look, I’ll say, to him when we stand in Produce, that lady looks like an archetypical mom buying an archetypical chicken. I wonder how many archetypical apples she needs for her two archetypical children if each child brings home four masked friends for a snack…(dicey work this math and me). Oh, Lord, Let there be a Lord. And if there is a Lord, Lord, speak to me in my love language and send me chocolates, a box of Kleenex and an empty UHaul with two strong masked men (of good humor) to help me clear my conscience for thinking ill of my rich neighbors with swimming pools that they’ve fixed with firehoses to soak their properties with the water (from their built-in sea water pools). Oh Lord, and please make me smarter. Make me not notice news so much and how these same my rich neighbors are so smart and parked large empty UHauls on our street to fill them with their house stuff in case there’s a fire evacuation order that comes down. Oh, Lord, I’ve done what I can, kept my kids safe (and extra calm) this week (extra credit please because we’ve even kind of gone to online school!). My Fortuny lamps in the living room will go the fastest. (Gold leaf on hand painted silk is like this). The oil paintings I painted over the last forty years will only feed a fire. The George Smith chairs and sofa in the old barn will be an amuse bouche for the fire (one for breakfast), my husband’s Spratling jug will be a silver cheesemelt. My young son’s teacher keeps on talking as he naps on, What’s the integer here? The teacher asks his class. I write the word integer down in my journal to work it into a conversation for later with my son and I will buy stamps at the post office. I’m stuck on the word integer now like how I’m stuck on all the extracurricular suffering these last months, kids in cages, BLM…hate worship, now come on! In the so-called richest country in the world? How does one measure riches, Lord? How can we pull together as a world? How to make people feel like they belong? Where is the deepest place, Lord? Is it our hearts? Maybe go ask Your father, God, Lord? Go ask Him/Her/They how we solve for basic decency and goodness? While your there, please ask Him how to solve for why?

Fergus, the Dog

Maybe it’s worth the extra fifty. Extra sixty, eighty, ninety bucks. One-hundred sixty. Six hundred sixty bucks.

For three months of sitters, I mean.

For one month of therapy, I mean.

For the paint and play class of mixsters kidsters glue-sters, pressing discard plastic Easter eggs into corrugated and clay in a class of parachute dance and art, the tot mountaineers with Miss Sandy, I mean.

Worth it for someone to run new figure eights on my old kitchen tarmac. The 60s pebble limey linoleum floor or outside, on the black top line going round our house, up the neighborhood drive. the money it takes for fresh horses, a sitter, to run with someone unseatable, our five-year-old, S..

Someone magic enough, with bubbling energy, enough day and night to follow ’round my little guy, stem my “I wonder if he’s feral (insert here. Help me reroute panic about his acronym diagnosis menu kind of thinking). Someone to follow Mr. Nonstop to the trampoline out back, jump their hundred plus along his forty-three prone flat on the mat. Someone to jar his noodle preschool body enough so my kid feels alive enough, enough to stop, pause, wait, calm himself back to quiet hands. Back to regular alive.

Parents in the know, know what I mean, know what I mean. Someone alive enough, to keep up with the alives. A Buddha Knievel type of helper. Buddha Knievel — Christ — “hey, what the Hell is he doing up on the roof of my car? — Yeah, someone so alive to take care of that kind of alive. Someone above humanity alive, but, but, but someone realler than that.

Even if this someone is a dog.

Someone dog enough — so dog un-tired running out the front door round back, out to the mailbox, out to the vegetable garden out by our foothill road where we live off the main line of Los Angeles.
Someone nice enough too. Willing to go the distance. There and back. There and back. There and back. Again. Again. Again. Just takes practice. A lot. And a village. Thank you very much.

Thirty times seven times three hundred and fifty two times infinity times.

That’s how much practice, how many times it takes to get it right, seconds to count to cool, to get chill enough to deal.

I need someone who can hang on. With clamped teeth hang on. Hang on a Frisbee. Hang in with the yelling, banging, tumbling, head butt leaping and transition switch-ups. Okay with playing too hard scrabble through dry grass, thickets, mulched oak to slick parquet. Someone like — Fergus — our neighbor’s dog. Fergus, the dog. I need someone like Fergus the neighbor’s dog, a Wheaton terrier.

A dog so good at being a being, that my afraid-of-dogs-little man now calls him his dog that we keep at her place, and my dear neighbor does not mind.

So good a dog that Fergus is I call him Sir.

Sir Fergus the Dog, thank you, very much.

This, the dog I want to be when I grow up someday. This the dog I want to be when I wake from the nightmare gnarl of autism tooling, paring our old parenting ways. The ups, downs of autism. Even high-functionaries like S. leave no room for rest. Fergus doesn’t need the rest. Fergus says, “Bring it on.” This pup wants action. I want to be as good as this dog, I mean.

So good is Ferg, that if he pushed a grocery cart, slid pot pie in the microwave by six each night, maybe, could type this when not ‘sitting freeway shevasana’ in daily traffic, could take over my daily meditations of ‘ohm building,’ run my son to his special behavior camp, us stuck in the 405 traffic school twice a day, stuck in the carpool lane, two to four hours a day — I’d be out of a job. Quite the pair.

So good at being a better me that Sir F. pup is that he gets the better of me. I have to laugh and thank heaven.

F. and S. on loops around our place, in and out of our falling down early 1910s farmhouse and barn, kicking gravel into piles, making train tracks, tug o’warring, F.’s rope knot in the dog’s mouth, the two begging favors for treats that I beg too, sit too, sit up too, sit back, take notes, watch the all day puppy fun.

Fergus and S..

“Fergus’s my brother,” my son said two days ago running past into camp kitchen.

His seventeen-year-old brother knows, laughs it off, knows S. is right. The dog is magic, transforms the day. Brother love flows rivers between our first born and the two ‘pups’ by different Dads. With F., S.’s so easy to have around, his fun side flips onto sweet, manageable, he even acts his age.

I pray the sweet days stick.

Give me that cuddle boy we adopted five years ago at birth, give me the kid who asks without grabbing, without impulsing heedless vibes into streets. Days, I pray someday he’ ll come back when I call, will be safe from his too-forward hellos to strangers, safe from his tippy-tip toes to his head, gain the tools for a future, not dip so much into sad.

Days on end I want to run away too. Or, take a clue, go outside and run with friends, be the third silly pup in the picture to the right, maybe be Fergus the dog for a day or two, hang loose, and be Ferg, be like him.

Me, as Ferg. Me as F. with S.

My son’s small hands running through my Wheaten dog dreads, my Wheaton hair (not-fur) messy shag, my ‘I-see-the-big-picture’ now clear, unteary,now, unshaken, me as pup. Tail wagging, my ‘don’t stop now boy’ springing, ‘we’re almost there c’mon kid, keep trying, keep going, going, gotta keep going, up, up, up, and away. Cool water just ahead. Days, I can see the long run from here. And, it’s good, real good, puppy-boy.’

Days on end I want to feel my dogface joyface in my son’s, my dogface joy licking my son happy. Hands, arms, legs. For my son to see me. My regular Mom lady face like he sees Fergus’ face. See my ‘I’m too tired,’ but I’m still a lover, still a giver face, you can count on me, your Dad, your big bro. All of us next to S. and friend F.

That day, I’ll declare a holiday, say, “Somebody play me something with trombones, trumpets, something Aaron Copland.”

Each day it’s triumph.

The days, I watch and learn from F..

This, I’m told our best chance. Learn to play. And, so I observe the two and I start again. I play, we play.

Ferg’s temperament not undone like ours, mine. The dog, not undone by S.’s close-range screaming. Days, I reach for my Bose headset and go toss a ball. Fergus,’ not frayed in the least, by the five, six door slams — nothing emergency — unlike myself. S’s dysregs., stims, almost-Tourettables, his “I hate you, Mama, hate you, hate you, hate you. You’re not my friend.” Blade turn every time.

Fergus, the dog saint, doesn’t mind the yucks.

“Tell me about that again puppy-boy,” I can almost hear him saying, “I don’t believe you mean that puppy-boy. Get ready to roll puppy-boy. I am going to nip you, frisk you, bite you back to happy puppy-boy. If you go too far, I’m coming back anyway, puppy boy, you unshepherdable, unshepherded friend, my Snaggletooth will test your Little Debbie Snickerdoodle arms and legs. I’m a lyin’ dyin,’ open invitation eatin’ Wheaten greetin.’ Nothing matters when I’m with you friend, nothin’ but your puppy-boy sunshine. Play me friend, neighbor, eternal friend of the special sunshine kind, let’s teach your parents it takes lots of practice to be special, to be the parent of a kid with special stuff. I see you’re in there kid. Come out and play.

Rain or shine someone puppy, someone people, loves you, kid. Someone is loving you, me, the kid. Someone knows you need a shepherd kid, maybe a fluff-ball shepherd who needs the work, works for cheese wages, someone who knows It’s just the work we shepherds do.

Hold On World

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Hold on, don’t jump, slow down world, let me brush your wild hair, let me brush your teeth, let me gag you so I can skid the house, the world quiet.

A knot of candy hair hit, and off he soars, reeling.

What was between hands now all run away.

The whole world foaming at the mouth, unkempt, unclean, half-dressed, half-naked, in knots.

My own tiny world too dammed up, too damned behind thin skin, thin heart membranes, too thin protections.

Ahhhh, I sigh, I weep, for him, for her, for Boston, for the ache within, for the lost souls, for our innocence ebbing,

Ahhhh, I breath, ohmming for the unfeeling, ohmming for the feeling too much, ohmming for the breaking inside, for the too much that got’s a hold of the world at the minute, a hold on me.

Wait for me world, wait one minute more,

hold me world, hold on lover world, hold on lover boy, lover world, hold on and wait, wait, wait, hold on with me,

and I will hold you too.

It gets better, got to get better, wait with me world, and let’s just breathe.

Breathe an I’m-not-done-yet-breath, a-neither-are-you-breath, neither of us licked,

holding on together breathing, each of us warming the air between us,

holding on, lighting candles, breathing, holding, waiting.

Judge Not

So far things are going fair at today’s church fair.  Saturday’s October Fall Fest Fair I mean.

By eleven fifty I paint two butterflies, two ladybugs, a few ghosts while I nurse my coffee, a big invisible sign over my head reads:  ‘Enter At Your Own Risk.’

A toddler waddles over, asks for only knives and skeleton tattoos.  I comply.  Hope kids are not too particular with my attempts with stub crayon details.  Hate painting their superfine skin.  Ask them not to wiggle so much.  From one Botticelli I take four tickets for a greased cherry and purple flower.

Another comes in, switches me up.  Just the hair, she says.  Hot pink.

Okay, okay, I can do this, I tell myself.  Suit up, put a paper towel over her eyes.  A glow cloud sprays in her direction.  Hangs over the both of us.  Weather conditions prevail.  It goes everywhere.  Splatters mostly on the chair where she sits, drips across her thin trash bag apron.

How much are we both breathing of this quality air?

Still I cannot get her hair to turn vivid pink.  More a fade of sheer.  I keep spraying until I get a splotch over her forehead.  A widower’s ‘dot,’ fuchsia.  Hand the kid the mirror.  She thanks me sweetly, hands me her four tickets.

Keep the tickets, I say, feeling a twinge, I’m just tuning up.

Ten minutes later, shift over, booth manager arrives from her son’s soccer game to take charge.  Thanks me profusely for doing nothing.  Your welcome, I say.  Hand her my clean apron. Watch the booth from afar for the rest of the day.  See the boss go to work.  Spread her flat bristle tip tools of the church carnival trade across the table.  Plastic gloves, baby wipes, alcohol, make-up assorteds, face paint, pirate press on tattoos – large, small – roses, ribbons, candy designs, photocopy examples for make-up counter consults.

Then, she takes out her line of hair products.

Super gooey epoxy stuff from the black depths in her purse.  Comic color neon hairsprays, hair waxes, that will take weeks to wash from baby hair.  Ones teachers will write notes home over all week.

‘Maestra Capelli.’  Spaghetti hair meets its match.  A hair contortionist.

Hair that should not stand up, goes ridge pole in her hands.

In an hour flat, the church parking lot fills with rainbow punks, flare freaks, Goths.  Lines wrap the Gathering Tree from where I sit to watch the scene where I take notes with my colleagues, other off-duty types in the ‘volunteer breakroom,’ a place where we parents do double duty, where everyone’s a winner, sales always brisk.  We sit back and peel yet more tickets for our kids, greenback answers to young and old.

Do our prayers.  Where all is forgiven.

‘Done,’ or not, we are unjudged in the pop-up chapel for the fallen away.  The Beer Tent. (c) MK Smyth 2012

Moving Day

Closing Cottage, oil on panel, 26″x48″, by M K Smyth 2012 (c)

We roll away from the house in our new car.  Our uncle’s aqua ’66 Chevy station wagon.  From the flip rear seats our old world goes by.  Our new one still to come.  The car windows, our road TV.  We keep up with the moving van, packed with everything we own.  Everything we don’t know we care about most in the world now too small behind us.

The English copper beech tree we see for one last time.  A specimen tree where we discovered who’s best climber, told crybabies to go home, they were too little to climb, probably couldn’t get down.

Our house, a village Tudor Mom and Dad try to sell as a ‘package deal’ with the tree lot when we are 3000 miles away. Dad’s company buys from them.

Our fort unguarded.

No turning back when you don’t have money and a somebody who does plants a fast buck.  History is leveled.  Something strange now where something grand stood.  A tree whose whole measure is three cooperating children around — fingers stretched, palms flat, tippy tippy points touching.  A rare planet spot with river view leveled in slices to ordinary.  Chunks again

st the grain that lean for years against neighbors’ sheds for the hundred conversational coffee tables that don’t get built a mile around in every direction.

Traitors.

Something different in the old neighborhood.  With our parents too when we return to live across town near the Links.

Yet today we are on our way.  To California.  Amnesia settles, brightens our mood.  I will not have to share my bedroom with a sister, remember what happened in that room upstairs.  Go to a place where tiny white carnations with red edges are planted on hills, my house look just like my neighbors.  Where the first week, a movie is being filmed on our cul de sac, and a star asks for my autograph.

“Me?  I’m nobody, just the new kid,” I say. My hair curled this morning, my best dress on, Mom’s mascara on powder lids.  School uniform in my lunch bag.

(c) M.K. Smyth 2012

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