Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Long Time Ago With a Family Not So Far Away......

 It was the summer of 1977 and Mom, Dad, and I were visiting our Uncle George in glamorous Claxton, Ga. Little did I know that my life was about to change in the fruitcake capital of the world. When I was little I always enjoyed hanging out at Uncle George because I thought his teenage daughter was really cool. That would change but that happens much later.
          During the game she began to talk about this new movie that had come out and I should consider seeing. It was called Star Wars and was a cool sci-fi adventure. Maria went into great detail explaining how the villain Darth Vader had a laser sword and was hunting our heroes. At the end, was a climatic space battle. There was even a wise cracking space pirate with his pet ape. I was hooked and have never bothered to cut that hook out of my mouth since that day.

What is so sad is that I still want my room to look like this.

To say I liked Star Wars as a kid was an understatement. Every poster I could find, I’d spend my allowance on to hang up in my room. I cut the promo pictures of the toy and cereal boxes to decorate. I kept very special care of all the toys and to this day, have them all including their tiny guns. I dreamed of being Han Solo and flying the Millennium Falcon through my own version of the Kessel Run. It was a great time for my imagination.
          As I got older, I never really parted ways with Star Wars in spite of Lucas’s many attempts to rape my childhood. It may not be my favorite movie but it’s certainly had the most influence on me and my love of cinema. It amazes me to see how this particular movie has touched so many people and not just the geeks like me. This is a pop culture, mainstream phenomena.  
          I get to relive all this now that kids are in my life. My often mentioned sidekick, Jude, has got me watching  the saga again. I love it. I forgot the simplest idea of enjoying Star Wars over the past 30 years. It’s best viewed with kids.
          Jude and Ronnie kept asking great questions and some actually made me think. I was also surprised to see how scary The Empire Strikes Back was from their level. Mary and my old friend, David Dowd, got to sit in on that viewing. All in all, it’s proving to be an amazing viewing experience.  

So Halloween is looming and Jude is still on this Han Solo kick that seems all too familiar. He has decided that seeing that we are best friends just like Han and his co-pilot Chewbacca, it makes sense we dress as them. I am thrilled and also amazed at how much delight I had searching for a Chewbacca outfit. Thanks, Ebay!
This is more fitting that it shoudl be....

          The only problem is that Chewie’s bandolier looks really cheap so I have decided to not only make a blaster holster for Jude to wear on his just like his favorite space pirate but now I am also making a homemade bandolier. Once again the internet surprises me with its resources and creative URL names. Who knew there was a www.making
          So to recap, I get to relive not one but three favorite experiences of childhood. I am digging watching my favorite space opera with my new family while at the same time getting psyched about making costumes for a favorite holiday that I have not gotten to enjoy for a few years. Now if I can only get a certain hot mom of said children to agree to trick or treat as slave girl, Leia, as seen in Return of the Jedi,  I’ll be ready to make my own “Life is Good” shirt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beautiful Girl

          So we are swimming in the pool yesterday evening. It’s Kim, the kids, Mary, and myself having a little last minute summer fun. In typical Jude fashion, he is splashing extreme amounts of water which surprises me in how such a little guy can create such tsunami style waves. This of course leads to me chasing Jude in a fake, angry pose. Veronica joins in and in normal Ronnie-style; she is in until the tables are turned on her.
            Ronnie begins to pitch this “crying-please-leave-me-alone-I’m-just-a-child-thing” but I’ve learned not to buy it. Over the past 8 months, I’ve come to learn how Veronica is the elementary school equivalent to Meryl Streep. I reach out to grab her and carry her off somewhere in the pool. I barely touch her arm and she begins to howl,” My leg! You’re hurting my leg!” I hesitate but Kim is overlooking this whole interchange and says nothing so I know that Meryl Streep is going for another Oscar. I pull her close but carefully because I am very aware that the kids recently had knee surgery. Something crazy happens.
            She goes from screaming to realizing that I am not buying and she calms down then wraps her little arms around me and holds me. It was at that moment I realized; we have never had a moment like this before. I hold her tight and tell her that I love her but I am not buying this “crying wolf crap” and it needs to stop. She nods and apologizes then explains that she is nervous when anybody holds her except for her mom. “My dad has made some bad choices and it’s stuck with me.”
            Out of the mouth of babes. That is the first time Ronnie has ever said anything about the father she has all this hero worship for. The same father who never returns calls or acknowledges either child except for when he wants to look good. I get it. I am lucky that my childhood is pretty much the poster for bliss but I have worked with kids long enough to realize that I am a very lucky minority. Ronnie and her brother are really blessed in that Kim has made them the center of their universe and really is Super-Mom. Regardless of that fact that he defended out country. As a father, this guy sucks so I understand why Ronnie is always testing me. She’s afraid that I am going to leave once she gets comfortable with the notion that I am a part of their lives.
"Excuse me sir, I do believe you are the coolest man in the world. "
"No, sir, that would be you."

Jude was an easy relationship to forge.  Boys are so much easier to deal with plus we have the same interests like pirates, Star Wars, and blowing shit up. It’s hard not to like each other. We are practically the same person but just at different junctions of our life span.
Veronica and I have had an interesting road together. We know that we both love each other but we just can’t seem to drop our guards with each other long enough. The sad truth is that, at times, there is that dark part of me that is afraid to trust her much like she feels about me. I am aware and working on this so as to be an example.
I do love this little girl and so much of me just want to grab her, hold her close and tell her that I love her and want her to know that I plan on running interference for her from now on. Much like the differences between cats and dogs, 10 year old girls aren’t wired like seven year old boys, and I have many hoops to work my way through.  Many times, I have wanted to figure out a way to get in touch with her piece of shit father and thank him for the number he is doing on his little girl through his blind indifference. I relent because I know that it will probably back fire and makes things much worse. Plus, I like the idea of him not being around. Kim and the kids seem much happier. I still get so angry when I see Ronnie try and call her father only to get another voice mail. It breaks my heart.
Summer Vacation

Yesterday was a big deal for me. We shared going crabbing and fishing together for the first time which was such a large part of my formative years. More and more, we keep sharing our previous lives with each other and it seems to be taking. Between the salt water dock time and the amazing embrace we shared in the pool, I feel like we’ve turned another corner in our relationship.
I am not na├»ve. I know that at some point today, Ronnie will say something smart aleck to me or her mother and I’ll call her down. I just hope when it happens, she is going to remember that hug and how I know that we both are in this together to the end. I know that is what I am using for the mantra in my head. Until we got to have another moment like the awesome last one.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Worlds are Colliding and it's Pretty Cool....

Yesterday might have been one of the best days I have had in years. Mary flew in from CT and got finally meet Kim and the young’uns. It went more than well. Not only did we have fun family time but I also got my birthday present form Mary. I always look forward in getting/giving gifts to Mary. We never ask the other what they want because basically we just buy something we know that we like. It works on some wacky geek-like level. Mary outdid herself this year in getting the oversized DC Digest featuring Superman versus the Flash. I used to collect these as a kid and still will pick them up when I can find them on Ebay. Remarkable stuff. There is nothing like 1950s internal monologue.
Sups v. Flash? Who wins? The reading audience..
So I was pretty nervous about Mary meeting Kim and the kids. On one level, I knew it would be fine but on the other Seinfeldian level, I was worries about how it can result when worlds collide.

Needless to explain, it went awesome. I t went so well that at many points, I did not recognize the small children sitting beside who were delivering loads of adoration and politeness to my newly arrived sister. It was like Jude and Ronnie was star struck by Mary’s presence and all I could do was sit back and be amused. In turn, Kim was sitting back and getting amused by watching my reactions to the kids especially polite and docile Ronnie who shared, once prompted by an incredulous me, that she was merely”making a good impression.”
I get it.
Watching the kids has made me realize just how much life repeats itself and usually not all that far from how it originally developed. Watching Ronnie took me back to how I used act when our Uncle Billy would fly in from California to spend Xmas with us. He was so cool and exotic, I had to follow him around because he was so interesting plus he enjoyed Star Wars which is always a plus to a 9 year old boy. In my world, we had much to discuss.
Kim took Jude down to dock after dinner and she told me this story of how Jude wanted to guide her because he knew the way and it was Kim’s first trip. Along the way, Jude is pointing out little tidbits that he has been told and relaying them back to his mom. He proudly announced that he has decided the he’s the family’s guide to the river on Saturday when we all go crabbing off the dock and planned on getting us all there safely.
I didn’t share this with Kim at the time. My man-ovaries were a little choked up from this adorable sentiment but as that ebbed away, I had a memory that I have not thought about in over 30 plus years. I was roughly about Jude’s age and loved going down to the river with my Dad and Pop just like Jude does. Somehow I made the conscious decision that I too, was going to be a salt water guide. I would usher all safely back and forth from the dock.  I also planned to include guided raft trips quite similar to the ones not unlike how I had experienced at the Jungle Cruise over at Walt Disney World earlier that year with my grandparents.  
I remember I even went so far as to wear my Pop’s foreman’s hat because it looked just like a Safari hat. Using spare plywood and my red wagon for a frame, a raft-boat-car creation was crafted. It did not float but that is another story and one about how cool my grandfather was in helping keep me out of trouble.

Robby & Jude's River Guides
Come for the Adventure
Stay for the Fondue

We like to consider ourselves as such unique and individualistic types of creatures but we really aren’t. From watching the students I teach, I began to catch on that trends really do repeat themselves. A lot of the same stuff sold at Spencer’s is exactly what I was buying when I was a kid like wacky shoe laces and sarcastic buttons/stickers.
 Now that I have children in my life that I actually watch learn and grow right in front of me, I begin to relate to just how many personal experiences also are on some external loop. Yet, rather than being boring, it seems to draw us together. Watching Jude and Ronnie makes me laugh and understand just how much fun they are having because I’ve been there before just with different people. For once, that is a rerun that I don’t mind watching again.