My 8 year old Girl is reading a book about Presidential elections, my 5 year old Boy is making a “sword that transforms into another kind of sword, and sometimes a gun.” I’m measuring infinity in units like the poetic yard and the GigaWaffle (Cool Whip x e9, or something like that). And technology. I just told my speaker to “play jazz for deep thought,” and carried it outside while Miles Davis spun up. It’s just past 11:00pm. My sleep schedule has shifted since school started, going to bed much later now, as I spend much of my evenings saying goodnight to my kids, then goodnight to my wife, then doing homework. But it’s after 11:00 and I’m just getting drowsy. I submitted an online Philosophy quiz, removed my headphones, and realized in that howling silence of a sleeping house, that there was rain tapping at the window over my shoulder. So I told the speaker to play that jazz, turned off the lights behind me, and stood in the open front door. Right shoulder leaning against the jamb, feet crossed, and the languid cacophony of the night. Dogs, sirens, rain. The soft friction of a giant Western Red Cedar across the street. A hundred feet tall and probably as old, sounding in the whispering night like all of its nested birds are shushing their babies to sleep. It creaks when the wind is stronger. The fear of God. The sound of traffic is distant, and at this hour it is sporadic. The airplanes cannot be heard over the rain, but their strobing lights give them away as they play tag with Boeing Field, and Seatac farther south. There’s a U-Haul sign all lit up about half a mile off. On a clear day it’s the herald to our view of Mt. Rainier, another hundred miles south and east.
Tomorrow we’ll read poems at the breakfast table. Five or six by Silverstein every morning. I’m at the head of the table with the kids flanking me. We’re in Where the Sidewalk Ends, have already finished A Light in the Attic, and before that we read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. Abstractions and delights (that would make for a nice title to a collection itself). As we start they are seated plainly, but after a verse or two they have gotten to their knees, leaning way in towards the book. Towards the center of the table. Towards me. Our heads nearly touch and call to mind a funny Far Side comic:
My daughter can read and she is scanning the words as I say them. My son cannot read and he is scanning my face instead. I am stared at and I stare back and I pause: “Papa needs his coffee.” I love our rituals. They’re always eating before I am (no, L.T., the troops eat first), and as I come to the table I see the book at my place. Set there by The Girl. She’ll put it back after, too, but not until The Boy tucks the dust jacket over the last page we read and closes the book on it, marking our place for tomorrow.