What Happened to Fun?

slumber partyI was so good, and for such a long time, two weeks at least of decent work and adherence to my schedule. Two weeks of self control, discipline, and a rule—twenty minutes of prayer, ten of spiritual reading, thirty of new writing, one to two hours of old writing and editing, fifteen of cleaning and picking up, with the rest of the afternoon devoted to planning and executing dinner.

Evenings are entirely for the children from two-thirty to ten. Exercise after the kids are in bed, go to sleep at a reasonable hour (sometime before midnight), and I felt so satisfied, was coming to such a place of peace with my life and what I’m doing with it.

And then I took a day off, if you could call it that. It was a Saturday. I refused laundry and dishes and meaningful work, because I was spending time with the kids, see, going to soccer games and helping them visit their friends, and otherwise resting and waiting and falling deeper and deeper into a pit of unquenchable longing.

This happens sometimes. I can almost predict it—though I never bother to try—when I have been unbalanced in my affairs, often, ironically, while attempting to live a life of balance. Evil can only fill a void, the spiritual teachers say. There’s no time for misbehaving when I’m living a full life, but there’s also no time for fun, and I miss play.

By play I mean something primal and social, but not exactly childish. It’s a matter of improvisation in the company of like-minded people, inhibition set aside, a bit more physical than ordinary conversation, with a hint of practical joke or slapstick, and it involves guttural laughter. [Read more…]

The Abandoned, Broken, and Burned

1950s DishwasherBy the time you read this, inshallah, we will have the new dishwasher purchased and installed in our kitchen.

I’m not holding my breath. It’s been this long, so it is easy to envision a horizon of expectations that continues to recede into the distance a few more weeks or months.

“Oh, come on,” my brother said to me a while back, “what is a dishwasher? $500? $1000? Just buy the thing.” It’s not that we didn’t have $500 lying around to spend—it’s just that there are so many other expenses— private school tuition, church donations, the remainder of our 2014 taxes—to cover, and it is always well to have a little cushion lying around in case of emergencies. (Our cushion is pretty little.)

We are well-paid, middle-class professionals (upper middle class if you look at the average household income for most Americans, though we actually feel pretty working class in our expensive coastal metropolitan area where two twenty-seven-year-old lawyers can easily clear $450,000 a year—First World, problems etc., etc).

So $500-1,000, in our house, is kind of a big deal. [Read more…]

So Much for the American Dream

Daisy YardMy six-year-old son caught me off guard. “I wish we had a backyard,” he said one afternoon. He had been playing more or less quietly with his Legos, and I was enjoying a book.

“Oh, yeah?” I responded. “Why is that?”

“Then we could just play outside and you wouldn’t have to watch us,” he said, and I knew he meant that he could play outside while my wife and I could stay inside doing the kinds of things we give as reasons we can’t take our children to the park, like working, cleaning, preparing dinner.

“Yeah, buddy, that’d be nice,” I agreed and let the subject drop.

I omitted any mention of how he hit on one of the only regrets I have about not owning a home—and the only regret on that short list that makes my heart ache when I think of it. [Read more…]

Drive-By Memory

nastroeniya-cvety-cvetkiMy first memory takes place in Lakewood, CA, a small suburb south of Los Angeles. Lakewood, the nation’s first planned community, also happens to be the subject of D. J. Waldie’s Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir. “In a suburb that is not exactly middle class,” Waldie writes at the beginning of the book, “the necessary illusion is predictability.”

Because the families that settle there are anything but predictable.

After they married in 1969, my mom and dad bought one of those small, square dream homes from my father’s parents. It was my dad’s first marriage and my mother’s third. Heidi, my sister born during one of my mother’s prior lives, was in junior high. The street, Maybank, figures nicely into the Facebook formula for “my stripper name,” along with Penny, my first dog.

On August 4, 1972, Penny Maybank took the stage. [Read more…]

Eden’s Border: Where Objects Have Stories

IMG_8506We’ll have to go back to the gun shop today. There’s no way around it. It seems that the barrel with the modified choke got left there when my mother placed the twenty-gauge up for sale sometime before Christmas. But since there weren’t any takers, we went back to the shop to retrieve it when I got home in December. Unfortunately, the owner forgot to give us the other barrel, so we’ll have to go back. My brother has decided he wants it.

The only reason she was selling this shotgun out of the many others we have is because nobody could remember how we came to own it or whose it was in the first place. Coming from a long line of hunters, our family has stories behind these weapons. Among them, there’s a rifle with a scope my grandfather deer hunted with (we used to have two buck heads that he kept mounted on his wall in the study), an A.H. Fox with an engraved plate that my other grandfather traded a man for during the Depression, a 410 that my own father began to hunt with, and an Ithaca with a sawed-off stock that I was given as a boy because the gun was originally too long for me. [Read more…]