Loren’s brother Alan is a philatelist and remarks on my root beer raised nipple (watch) which I didn’t know I had until Alan called it that.
A philatelist collects stamps, and Alan works for an auction house in San Francisco that organizes events for collectors to meet and buy stamps — a combination of art, ego, and money he says.
Three kids + Alan, Loren and me trying to scratch out a meal in Portland, by foot. Some place called Laughing Planet which is a chain but doesn’t act like one, not completely, though the staff (even tattooed and bearded) still has the trappings of a chain — this unspoken thing they’re all aware of, what could be a bad diagnosis.
I’m stubborn about using technology to navigate but my paper map doesn’t have enough detail and I don’t know exactly where I am, somewhere near the convention center, and it’s right as you’re arriving at your destination on a roadtrip the kids start to unfurl as do I, and Loren hears me launch an F-missile to the backseat as I’m trying to get them to quiet and ask in a not-so-obvious way how to get to where Loren is and I don’t really ask because I should be able to figure it out Portland’s not that big, and he says let’s meet at Laughing Planet but when I type it in, about seven locations pop up all over Portland, not the one on Woodstock like he said.
For a while, we just drive. It looks like we’re going the right way, I can let myself believe that. We’re following train tracks that must lead somewhere — and they do, but not where we need to be, so I get back on the 5 and wind up right where we started, and go a few more exits this time, and find our way to Holgate, then Cesar Chavez.
The restaurant has plastic dinosaurs in the windows and our kids have gathered them all up, like they’re supposed to be for all kids in the restaurant and there are many, they’ve commandeered the dinosaurs in armfuls and initiated some plot premise they’re dramatizing now and the grown-ups have all gotten beers.
Anything for 30 minutes, if that, of harmony with kids, trying to eat in public. Trying to pretend you’re not the slobbering, screaming, in-the-pants pissing monsters you really are behind closed doors, keeping the lid on the boiling water of all your childhood problems from bobbing and bubbling over when you address your kin, suggesting limits in a non-limiting way that still allows their mango-sized brains to blossom unfettered by bad conditioning — like what we all got, it seems.
They have salty, bland things, and my girls are ecstatic, like I’ve finally heard them for the first time, I understand their needs. And sometimes a hot meal tastes better than it should because you can just sit and breath and eat, and so you wolf it down while you can because it will turn on a dime, at least with three-year-olds, which is Loren’s, named Arthur Heron. They are like wizards at that age practicing spells, blowing shit up just because.
There are the same, familiar scenes to the day. The waking up ritual, the feeding / sometimes napping rituals, educational moments with books, games — then feeding again, and the going-to-bed ritual.
The going-to-bed ritual lasts too long with a three-year-old. It’s the longest day of the year and feels it. My girls settle into the bed where the three of us will sleep later after I crawl into it discreetly, after many hours of talking and drinking in the backyard with Loren and his brother, listening to difficult music, listening to Loren get stuff off his chest, spinning webs of the past and far-away places — how he learned to drink Scotch the way the Scots do, stories of unmarked bottles brought by old men to the study, where they gathered and talked about books and drank Scotch for hours, mixing it with water.
When I wake, I hold each of my kids in the crook of my arm and they settle onto my chest and we just lay that way for a while, for what’s not long enough it seems.