Sunday, October 21, 2012

Every Now and Then, I get a Clue......

Bob and Wanda are my in-laws and have been very wonderful to me. While I recognize we’ll probably never have a normal son-in-law type relationship, they have gone out of their way to welcome me into the Wade family fold. For our first Christmas together, Bob (a renowned Texas artist) painted a watercolor of Kim as a child. It hangs by what is now our bedroom door. I love it.

            Wanda has been a bit trickier. She has been wonderful to me and never mean or cutting like another former mother-in-law which I dare not speak her name. She may materialize from the pits of Mordor. No, Wanda has been great but the problem lies in our personalities being very extroverted. We’ve never clashed but we’ve both had moments of “Huh?” with each other.

            Last Christmas Eve after the surprise wedding proposal, Mom, Mary, and I invited all of the Wades over for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at my place. Kim would later share with me how Wanda was to remark how much nicer my place will look once someone “with some taste moves in here.” I fear she was referring to my shark head. None of these remarks are ever said with malice so I usually just laugh about it.
How could anyone not love Sharky?

Kim and Wanda talk frequently. Last week, it was a bit of a surprise when Kim shared part of her conversation where Wanda may have said one of the nicest things to me ever.

“That Robby just jumped right in. He’s doing a great job with those kids especially for someone who’s never had children before.”

I haven’t had the chance to thank her but it meant very much to me to hear that. Kim always says I’m doing fine but it’s nice to be reaffirmed. Lately I have a tendency to beat myself up and second guess because now that the summer and playtime is over, our little world here at the Geeky Hut has become less play and more work. Schoolwork.

It’s odd being on the other side of the desk dealing with schoolwork especially when it’s your kids. Jude is doing fine but poor Roni is having a tough time. Sixth grade is where homework gets real and the CRCT kicks in. I also can’t believe what is being taught for sixth grade math. We had it easy. She is already doing basic algebra and geometry. Hell, I don’t get half of what is assigned to Roni for math homework. Thank God, Kim is good in math. I pick up the slack on Language Arts and Social Studies but my lovely wife runs the bases with the hard stuff.

Many evenings are spent with much frustration. Roni is upset because she is not getting the math assignment. Kim and I are losing it because we can’t get Roni to listen to anybody else but the teacher. It was very reassuring when I spoke to a few colleagues who share their homework experiences with their own children are quite similar.

Still I tend to internalize my problems and take on the weight of the world on my own shoulders. I always say how history repeats itself. Watching the way Roni and I argue reminds me of the arguments I used to see between the Big Guy and my sister, Mary. I realize much of this is eleven year old hormones, frustrations, and coping with the world but I also refuse to tolerate any child raising their voice to an adult.  Roni is working on it but it is a bumpy road.

Every now and then I get it right and last week, I hit a double with both kids.

Roni was having a tough week and I decided to surprise her. Kim had mentioned how Roni had seen an ornament in the Hallmark store of Sully and Boo from Monsters, Inc. Roni remarked how the ornament reminded her of the two of us.
To clarify, I am the big, hairy one on the left....

Last Wednesday, I was late getting home because I ran by Oglethorpe Mall to pick that ornament up along with a card. I hid it in Roni’s backpack for her to discover while at school. The next afternoon, a little girl got off that bus with a smile so big I thought Roni’s face would break. Roni even wrote me a thank you note which I now keep on me to remind me we are doing fine.

Jude is easy. I pretty much take the same approach with him that I take with my sister. I just think of something I’d enjoy and it usually matches up. Recently, I introduced Jude to comic books and he loves them.

. On Thursdays, Roni has horseback riding so Jude and I are left on our own for the evening. We’ve started a weekly dinner date at B&D Burgers and a trip to the comic book store. I was about his age when I discovered Spider-man and Batman too so I get it.

I think we also share the same reason why we love going to these comic shops. They have cool merchandise besides comics. I love this picture. Jude has fallen in love with the Captain America shield and wants it so badly. I can’t blame him. I am an adult and I want the damn thing.
"Can I have this, pleaaase?"

I also introduced Jude to the magic of the pull box. Comic shops will set aside a special box and hold the comics you requested. Jude was very proud when I let him set one up for us. We are now the proud receivers of Batman, Sonic Universe, and The Walking Dead (The last one is my guilty pleasure; No way Jude will ever read Walking Dead until he is twenty.)

I got my triple and even ran home last night when I made everyone happy. Kim had taken Roni to go see Gone with the Wind a few weeks ago at the Lucas Theater. They loved it and I can’t blame them. While I am not a huge fan of GWTW, I love going to the Lucas.

The Lucas was the first movie theater in Savannah and goes back to the 1920s. My grandfather even did some electrical work there back when talking movies had just started. To walk around the place is to walk through history. The Lucas has been restored and going to see a movie there is an experience similar to how it must have felt back before the rise of the multi-plex and stadium seating. They even have balcony which amazed Jude and Roni.

Intrepid explorers.

Roni had been there previously so she had to play nonchalant to Jude’s excitement.

“Wow, they have a circular couch to sit on!” Jude would exclaim.

Roni replied almost with a yawn,”Yeah, Momma and I sat on it our last visit.”

“Wow, Veronica, look at all the cool stuff on the wall!”

Roni continued as a seasoned veteran of the theater, “Yeah, Jude, it’s all over the place. I noticed it on my last visit.”

Roni and I hung out a bit while Kim took Jude around to explore. This theater is not that big but there are lots of nooks and crannies which I could see being sensory overload to an eight year old. Here is a shot from their trip to the upstairs.

The Richardson-Yancey clan does not often go out to watch movies. I think in our short time together we have only ventured out as a group to watch The Muppets, The Avengers, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I was a bit worried about going to see Clue and how the kids might get bored. I was wrong. They were as mesmerized watching Tim Curry unravel the great mystery of who killed Mr. Boddy as when we watched Thor battle the Hulk and Indy rescue the Ark of the Covenant.
Tim Curry rocks!

I honestly believe part of the magic last night was the setting. There is something magical about a Savannah evening in the Fall. Sometimes I forget how Kim And the kids aren’t from here and they are still learning all the history and culture that comes from being a Savannah resident. My Pop and the Big Guy shared those lessons with me and now I am happy to return the favor with my new family.

Walking out of the theater, Roni sidled up to Kim and began walking hand in hand. Not to be left out, Jude grabbed my hand and held it tightly as we walked through Reynold’s Square. I realized the statue of John Wesley was spooking him.

“Jude asked, “Robby, was this where you used to tell your ghost stories?” Jude was referring to my time as a ghost tour guide several years ago.

Trying to reassure the little guy, I answered,” I did used to tell some stories but not here in Reynold’s Square. It’s actually quite boring and nothing to be afraid of. “

I could see Jude processing all of this while trying to fight his imagination. I figured I needed to say something else. “I am not going to tell you any stories which are going to scare you. I know how you feel about the dark and ghosts. There is nothing here to be afraid of. “

Apparently, I hit upon what was worrying Jude. He squeezed my hand and then kissed it.

“Thanks, Robby. I know I am safe with you.”

We walked back to Kim’s mini-van. Occasionally, Jude would ask a question about certain buildings and what it was like to grow up here as a kid. I happily shared those answers with him. We caught up with Kim and Veronica. I realized a few things on the ride home.

I do have a real family just like I always dreamed of. I have an amazing wife who still captures my imagination just as much as my heart. I am helping raise two amazing kids who have the almost super-hero like ability to make me second guess everything I do as well as melt my heart. I may not be their real dad but love doesn’t recognize genetics and none can take that from me.

I have been beating myself up and I need to quit. Parenting is not an exact science and mistakes are going to be made. The kids didn’t come with a text book to follow but they did come with a mother who is an expert. I just need to relax and follow Kim’s lead more.  

While it may feel like a lot longer, sometimes years depending on the day, I have only been doing this step-dad thing for barely six months. Much like riding a bike, playing the guitar, and completing the Red Dead Redemption Gunslinger Challenges, I am getting the hang of this and my confidence in my parental abilities is growing no matter how much I grumble at myself. Don’t take my word for it. Ask my mother-in-law.

On a side note, I have recently passed the two year mark on writing the Afternoon Tide as a blog. I wanted to take second and show my appreciation to all of you stop what you are doing and read my ramblings about pop culture, piracy, storytelling, and attempts at parenting. It means the world to me.  Thanks for reading my blog.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If Adventure Has a Name, I Wish It was Georgia Richardson

            On our first date, Kim came by the house and we had picnic plans at Bonaventure Cemetery. She arrived just as I was caught up in watching a broadcast on USA of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Indiana was safe aboard the Bantu Wind with the ark burning off all signs of Hitler’s regime. Marion had just finished kissing all the places that didn’t hurt and Indy had just elaborated with my now famous mantra of,” It’s not the years but the mileage.”

Kim arrived right after Marion clocks Indiana in the head with the mirror.  Kim started laughing because she admitted to loving this movie and had a son who wanted to be Indiana Jones. I remember replying something like how all males want to be Indiana Jones. And I still do.

I discovered Raiders of the Lost Ark in the original Kroger’s on Abercorn across from the mall during the early spring of 1981. It was that weird transition from being a kid to being a teenager because I was closing in 13 but still enjoyed much of my childhood toys. I was thumbing through the magazines trying to find a current issue of Starlog or a good comic book when I came across a magazine boasting,” Spielberg and Lucas together for the first time!”

It was one of those movie mags and I quickly found the article. My mom began calling for me so I had to go but I had skimmed to infer the movie’s story. I figured that Han Solo and a bunch of guys were trying to pull some sort of heist during WWII. I laugh at myself when I  remembered how little interest I had  about seeing this. I was too pumped about Clash of the Titans to care. Give me a Greek Myth back in those days!

About the time I was spending my annual few weeks in Savannah with the grandparents, I saw my first trailer on the TV while watching Batman on Channel 28. Night and day, people. Night and Day. Suddenly I had a new mission which was to go see and see this movie. I still remember the taglines which read, “From the director of Jaws and the maker of Star Wars”. The image of Indy grasping onto  Army truck as the BMW hood ornament crumbles is forever burned into my mind.

I can even hear the soundtrack at this moment
After conning my grandparents into taking me to the old Weis Cinemas located where the Cargo Freight is by the Publix on Abercorn, I finally saw the movie. I even scammed Mark Horton who my grandma made me take for “safety” regardless of the fact that I hated being around  Mark because he made farting noises all the time. He made my weirdness look normal.

Grandma bought me the comic adaption so I knew when Marion was “dead: she was actually in the hands of the Nazis. Capitalizing on the need for some more raisinettes I said to Mark,” I bet that lady didn’t die.”

“Robby, you’re an idiot. The truck exploded and that cowboy guy is broken up because she’s gone. Stupid! PPPHHHHTTTT!!!!” farted Mark.

“Wanna bet?” I had laid my trap.

Mark smiled greedily, “Oh, I am always up for some more comic book money.”

“How ‘bout loser buys winner something form the concession stand?” I asked

Mark just kept grinning. “You’re on and you’re dead too.” I kept waiting for Mark to make his famous fart sound but somehow he spared me of this. Twenty minutes later, I was pouring raisinettes into my popcorn much to Mark’s chagrin.

For the next couple of days, I drove my grandparent’s nuts by wearing one of Pop’s old dress hats and attempting to make rope swings all over their property. Many bruises later, I began to scheme ways to get a real bull whip. I remember asking my Pop who just started laughing and then walked into the pump house where he was always piddling on a project. I could still hear him chuckling from inside. I took that as a no.

                        I honestly believe Lucas and Spielberg found that proverbially lightening in a bottle with their creation of the Indiana Jones Trilogy (Yes, I said trilogy. Crystal Skull is the family equivalent of the creepy cousin in jail for selling meth to schoolchildren whom no one mentions at holidays). Henry Jones Jr. has these qualities which become endearing to both sexes. I honestly believe every guy wants to be Indiana Jones if they could.

            While working on this blog, I shared some these notions with my good friend/teacher/fellow blogger, Paul Sidney.  Paul mentioned how it’s not just the adventuring and the manliness but the prospect of discovery that strikes a chord within us. He went on by sharing how whether its’ fixing a pipe or discovering a treasured artifact, we are always seeking something which will lead to our betterment somehow. Interesting observation and another reason I love working with this guy.

            A few weeks ago, the Richardson-Yancey party made the two hour trip to Jacksonville so we could watch the restored IMAX version of Raiders on the really, really big screen. It was an EPIC time. On the long ride back, the discussion began. Kim shared some of her observations. Most dealt with the characterization of Indy. She felt it would have been so easy to make him an over-the-top super guy who always comes out on top but yet Lucas and Spielberg resisted. Rarely does Indiana Jones walk into a situation where is not already out-gunned, outmatched, or outmanned but it doesn’t stop him. This makes him so relatable because how many times daily do we feel this way? Somehow Indiana Jones is always in over his head but somehow fights his way to the top doesn’t just make him vulnerable but almost irresistible to women. He’ll come and save you yet he is not a cad about it.

            Every generation looks to the big screen to find those qualities they feel are what epitomizes manliness. We’ve have Gable, Bogart, Hemingway, and Steve McQueen to name a few. I contend our generation has Indiana Jones. He is not the infallible tough guy like McQueen was but reflects that early 80s rise of the anti-hero we have come to embrace while also showing characteristics which make him like us. Sure, Indy can sport a dusty fedora but he also looks cool in round glasses and a tweed suit. Everybody looks good in a fedora but not everyone can pull of the “professor look.”

            I watched my son and daughter engrossed in the first adventure of Indiana Jones and it was almost as much fun as the action on the big screen. Kim and I made a point to watch them during the big scare sequences and their reactions mirrored our own as kids. My heart swelled with pride as I watched the boy fight alongside Indy as he tried to steal the Iron Wing to whisk the ark and Marion to safety. Roni had a blast trying to creep me out during the Well of Souls because she knows all too well how much I hate snakes too. (Sadly the only thing I share with Indiana Jones)

            Part of the fun I have in writing this blog is how I get talk about the world I share with my kids and how much fun it is to rediscover the magic and surprises left for us. Seeing Raiders on the IMAX screen was twist. Normally, it’s all about Kim letting me be my big Geeky self, Jude gets excited, and Roni makes her comments but secretly digs it too. Indiana Jones is a character which is universally appreciated so Kim and I shared this together with the kids.  We got to do this as parents and I loved it.

We got ours and even gonna frame it!
            Another aspect, I re-visit in writing this blog is watching history repeat itself. Kim jokingly refers to Jude as “Little Robby” because, in many ways, it’s not a stretch to believe he could be my actual son. True to form, Sunday morning and I am drinking coffee while playing Arkham City on the Xbox. Jude joins, watches, picks his moment s and says,” You know what would be cool, Robby?”

            I am dying to hear what the Little Man is up to. I can tell by Jude’s manner it’s going to be good. “What would that be, Jude?”

Jude flashes his award winning smile in high hopes of breaking any resolve.”We should get a bull whip. A real one like Indiana Jones. We would have so much fun together. Think of the time we’d spend!”

            “Yeah, think of the hospital bills. Jude, guys like us aren’t meant to have bull whips. It’s a recipe for disaster,” I replied. I got up chuckling as I walked into the kitchen to freshen up my coffee in the pirate mug. As I poured another cup, I flashed back to that 13 year old kid trying to talk his grand pop into also buying a bullwhip and the chuckle grew louder. I gave the right answer just like my Pop did with me. As I added cream and sugar, I was a little proud that I acted like a grown up and said the responsible thing. But quite honestly, I also realized something else.

            I really do want that damn bull whip.