I was carrying the Halloween box up from the garage, and Jay seemed dazed. “It seems more like last month when we had this stuff out, not last year.” The years cycle more and more quickly for me, like riding in that horrible/delightful gravity-defying cylinder where I was both weightless (Look, I’m not standing on the floor!) and so pressed against the sides I felt I might burst.
Like all things, 2015 must end. The bits I remember were for the most part quite lovely.
Sad and excited, we saw my Godson Myles and his dads off to Boston, where John has an amazing new job. Myles spent the usual week with us at the Lair of the Bear family camp, which was a delight. Now he’s in 7th grade at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, doing soccer, rowing, and enjoying the academic challenges. In the movie version I picture him reading poetry with Robin Williams. We miss him like crazy, but are excited by what he’s making of his opportunities to check out a whole new coast, and be closer to his grandparents.
And Godson Alex was off to college in August! Oberlin sounds like both a multiplication of, and also completely different from Berkeley. The political correctness sounds tough to take (and that’s saying something for a Berkeley kid!), but it’s a dreamy-looking midwest town, and a whole new experience. Snow! And Alex’s weekly radio show (3am local time, but conveniently captured and streamed by his dad) is a welcome rock and roll respite from my daughter and husband’s teen pop each week.
Here in Berkeley, Jaden turned 5, finished preschool, and said goodbye (very sadly!) to Christina and the delightful Karen’s Kiddos. He jumped into Kindergarten, and now shares a school with his sister. It was a year of firsts: numbers, letters, swimming without a floatie in the deep end of Uncle Kenny’s pool. Scooter and skateboarding at the skate park. Bicycle without training wheels. And at long last big-boy underpants 24/7 (friends promised he’d get out of diapers before college, and they were right). He moved from gymnastics to the Brazilian dance/martial art Capoeira, perfect for his inner Ninja Turtle. He loves the structure and new challenges of Kindergarten, as well as a sweet and rowdy group of boys who doubtless make the wonderful Teacher Bill wonder what good deed he’s being punished for. (Three cheers for Bill, and all the fantastic, loving adults at their school… we’re lucky and blessed).
Shayla is 8 and tearing up third grade. Teacher Anita is patiently, lovingly working to channel the relentless drive and energy that some might find other names for into “leadership.” Shayla’s reading like crazy (we’re on Harry Potter 4), writing legends and stories, doing word games and puzzles, dancing and even singing in school shows. She did Fall Soccer (Oy, 2 practices a week plus weekend games!) and is on the school basketball team again (the only third grader on the team of fourth and fifth graders). Like her brother she’s a fish in the water. Over Thanksgiving in Austin she plunged into the chilly lake Buchanan and showed those Texans what we’re made of. She’s got a great sense of color, loves to draw, and do bracelets. She wants to know what the next thing is, before we even start the current thing. She’s got a steel trap memory, a goofy sense of humor like her Papa, and an even steelier will to get her way. Watch out.
I’m still doing web sites and visual design for wonderful clients, as well as helping out with the PTA and blogging here about being a dad.
Jay’s still Deaning away at the Business School at UC, and continued his work on the boards of Project Open Hand and First Place for Youth, two fantastic organizations we’re proud to support. Oh, and and he lost 30 pounds on Nutrisystem!
2015 had some wonderful getaways, including Sea Ranch, Palm Springs, Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, Los Angeles, and Austin—twice! We had great visits with Grandpa Mel, Grandpa Ted and Grandma Mary, Uncle Scott and Aunt Beth, Uncle Robert and Aunt Lisa, and many family friends. The kids finally got to meet Honey and Paul, my next door neighbors growing up and honorary aunt and uncle to many including me and my brother. The kids had their first overnight with Uncles Mark and Steve. We celebrated Jonathan Botkin’s 50th birthday by cheering him and his friends on their 50 mile run, a moving accomplishment.
We rescued a baby rat the cat brought in, which reminded me so much of my mom and her love of small creatures. We discovered it was a tree rat, couldn’t be a happy pet, and had to let it go. We’ve visited the site where we released Mr. Bubbles, and while we didn’t see him, we feel he’s very likely thriving. We plan to bring him a Hanukkah present this week.
Our Jack Russell Terrier Finnegan is quite the geezer, at nearly 15. He can’t generally remember why he came into the room, though he very much enjoys dinner. Tillie continues to hold down all the comings and goings, and mostly be a centering presence for us, when she’s not attempting murder of small woodland creatures. There’s talk of replacing Mr. Bubbles with domestic rats (you need a pair, they’re social animals) and this would give the cat something to think about.
I’m sure you remember, but I’ll repeat it happily: same-sex marriage was declared a constitutional right on June 26! It’s a huge, emotional change: we’re equal citizens. Still letting that one sink in. Thank you, Supremes (you know the ones I mean).
Books I loved this year: “The Golden Age” by Jane Smiley. This is the finale of a riveting, masterful trilogy, starting with “Some Luck“ and “Early Warning.” It manages to make a sweeping, giant family book written in an unpromising-sounding one-year-a-chapter format. Also loved “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton (New Zealand gold rush), “Americanah” by Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity,” Miranda July’s “The First Bad Man” (indescribable, discomfiting, and hilarious), “Funny Girl” by
Jay is stuck in the 70’s, finishing Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” and plowing through his “The Invisible Bridge.” He took time out to read “Blue Nights” by Joan Didion (another 70’s icon). A brief detour to the 1870’s (and 80’s) for “Destiny of the Republic.” And finally to the present for “The Narcissist I Know” (none of you, he promises).
Movies and video had to vie for attention with my impulse for a nap during any quiet moment. But some beautiful ones. I found Short Term 12 perfect and riveting, and we both enjoyed Trainwreck , Dear White People, Birdman, and Transparent (season 2 comes out soon!). Grandma with Lilly Tomlin is not to be missed. Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur both make my list of movies I’d see even without kids, and Paddington, Peanuts, and Shaun the Sheep entertained kids and adults, which is a precious thing these days. Lots of other silly stuff gave me a quiet hour and my children a giggle, for which I’m grateful. Jay was very involved with the last seasons of Mad Men, Looking, and Nurse Jackie. (Personally I felt the Jackie took the antihero and the amazing Edie Falco beyond where I was willing to follow her, though it was a vivid portrait of drug abuse. It’s possible Jay didn’t enjoy me sitting through the last season muttering “oh gosh die already.”)
At the theatre Jay and I got to see Book of Mormon, Miranda July’s quirky, thoughtful New Society, and the wonderful Idina Menzel in If/Then. And with Grandpa Mel and the kids we saw Matilda, which I enjoyed, though I felt a bit like Miss Trunchbull monitoring my squirmy children during the actual show. Newsies was an unfortunate expenditure.
Out in the world, it was scary and crazy this year, with no sign of stopping. I continue to worry deeply about our uncivil discourse and growing inequality. I feel better when I consume less news, though I try to be aware of and take in the truth of what’s going on, but for the most part I abstain from being wrung out by the news cycle. I do my best to cultivate love and calm in myself and share it with others. Some days this is easier than others. At my best I envision a world where we’re all enjoying the peace and goodwill that I believe is our birthright. Hopefully this next one will be our year.
May 2016 send many blessings your way.