Monthly Archives: August 2010

Humble

I used to blog a lot, just a couple years ago. Back in 2007-08 I was blogging almost every day and reading many blogs on a regular basis. But life changes, and so does social media, and for the past couple years the pace and brevity of media such as Twitter and Facebook have fit into my life better. My readership here dropped down to a small group of friends and relatives, in part because I was no longer out there in the blogosphere, reading and commenting on so many other blogs, and in part because I was simply not writing much.

This summer when I’ve found myself at home a few days a week with two kids who go off and play together for hours at a time, I have made more time to write. I was also inspired by the BlogHer conference in New York earlier this month, which reminded me of the wonderful friends I’ve made through this medium and the way blogging brings us into worlds we otherwise wouldn’t know. And so I’ve been writing more again this month. As always, I’ve found that there’s plenty to say when I stop and pay attention to my life.

Last Thursday night, I wrote up a post for Lyle on his birthday; a love letter of sorts. I scheduled it to post on Friday morning, and it did. When I saw that the first few comments had landed in my mailbox, I thought I knew exactly who they were from (I can usually count on 5-10 comments from the same small circle of readers), but nearly all were from strangers. That’s odd. Who posted a link to my letter? I wondered. They were all so nice and heartfelt; I’m accustomed to comments from strangers here being 90% spam. And they kept coming. All morning. Finally one of them congratulated me on being “freshly pressed”. I had no idea what he was talking about and I was out doing errands with the kids, so like any modern woman, I posted the question on Twitter:

The answer that came back to me (thank you, Kristen!) was that I was featured on the home page of WordPress as one of the top 10 blog posts of the day. I’d been “Freshly Pressed“. Furthermore, when I clicked through to the parenting page, my post was one of the featured articles and the blog continues to be highlighted there today, five days later. It’s a little surreal, to be honest.

Comments just kept coming all that day, and the next day, and they’re still trickling in. I clicked through to my commenters’ blogs and discovered some new ones to add to Reader. I trashed the few spam comments that had made it through my filter. What overwhelmed me more than anything was that the commenters were incredibly kind and generous, sharing their own stories and thoughts. I wrote personal emails or left comments on the blogs of as many as I could but now there are more than one hundred comments and the post has gotten more than 5,000 hits.

It is humbling to have my words read by so many; this is a first for me. I’m grateful for everyone’s words and appreciate every comment that was left. Sitting here a few days later, stunned by the sheer number of visitors who have passed through, I wonder if any will stick around. I find myself envisioning the scene at the end of Charlotte’s Web when Charlotte’s egg sac opens and, incredibly, hundreds of tiny spiders finally emerge, only to wave and shout, cheerily, “Good bye!”, “Good bye!”, “Good bye!” as they parachute into the sky, leaving Wilbur watching in disbelief.

And yet three spiders decide to stay there in the barn, building their own webs above his head.

I hope that of the thousands who have passed through in the past few days, I too might be lucky enough to have a few stay and join me here for a while. And to them I say,

Welcome, Nellie!

Welcome, Aranea!

Welcome, Joy!

Pool Party Success!

We had a sunny, warm end-of-summer day; perfect for Lyle’s 6th birthday party at a local Park District pool and playground! I chose an outdoor venue this year since Lyle wanted to invite more kids than ever before (he invited 18, we were so happy that quite a few of them could make it!). You may recall what happened when we hosted last year’s party at our house. I knew we had to move beyond these four walls this year!

I decided that rather than focusing too much on the venue or providing a full meal for everyone, this year’s centerpiece would be the cake. As many of you know, I have historically either made a box cake or bought something simple from Costco or Dominick’s. I’m not opposed to those options, but this summer I became aware of a new cake-baking genius who had opened up shop (in her lovely kitchen) right here in the neighborhood. Her name is Michele McAtee and she is the brilliant mind and hand behind Maddiebird Bakery. I “liked” her page on Facebook (you can, too: http://bit.ly/cOq6ce – or view her photos on Flickr!) and have been taunted by the sight of her incredible creations all summer, so I knew we needed one of those cakes this year! The cakes are highly individualized and after weeks of debate Lyle decided on a swimming pool cake. The second runner-up was a Toy Story 3 green alien cake, so Michele incorporated the cute little guys on the pool floatie she put her adorable replica of Lyle in! It was awesome (and incredibly delicious!). Take a look at the details: the ladder rails running into the realistic-looking water, the incredible beach towel on the edge, the tiny pair of goggles, the pool tiles on the sides and the depth numbers! Michele spent a lot of time on the phone with me discussing what would be meaningful and fun for Lyle and she pulled it off with style.

The party moved from the playground to the pool and then back to the playground. Lyle was incredibly happy to be racing around with his brother, a few friends from school, lots of neighbors, and his cousins. It was a very happy afternoon and when I asked him at bedtime what the best part was, he couldn’t begin to say.

“All of it,” he smiled.

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Now You are Six.

Dear Lyle,

Once upon a time, you were a little baby. An extremely cute one, at that. See over there to the left? There’s some proof.

But sweetheart, that was a long time ago. Because today you are six. Six is an age that sounds old. That’s because it is.

Yes, you’re starting first grade soon and maybe someday when you’re all grown up and reading this you’ll laugh about your silly mama thinking first grade was old and mature. In order to think so, you’d have to have been there right from the start.

But let me tell you a little about who you are at age six. Because, you see, you’re already shaping up to be a very interesting person.  When I was about to turn six, I wandered around my street in Hartford and told all the neighbors. On my birthday, a mortifying number of them showed up with gifts for me, according to my mother. I was interesting, too. Thanks for not being interesting in that exact same way, kiddo, I do appreciate it.

You are funny.

Oh, boy, are you funny. Your impressions are spot on and you have comedic timing that frightens me. When your humor turns mouthy it simultaneously scares me for your future and reminds me of myself and your Uncle Josh when we were kids. I had this coming. Last winter your violin teacher watched you performing for yourself in the mirror in your own special way and commented that you’re “the next Jim Carrey”. I’m not sure I’d have paid attention had not Daddy and I said the same exact thing the week before. More than one person has suggested you should have your own reality TV show. You’d bring in high ratings.

You are, apparently, an “angel”.

At school you only show your quiet side. We’re told you are a “rule follower” and you never get in trouble. Yeah, except I was that way too when I was in grade school and I know this won’t last forever. My behavior at school never reflected my “home” self in these years, either. Please keep it that way as long as you can, and I do thank you for not doing the PeeWee Herman dance on your desk in school like your Auntie Sarahjane did.

You’re thoughtful.

Last weekend you “helped” me at the grocery store by following me around and discussing what to give Baxter on your birthday* for at least forty-five minutes. We debated whether he likes books better than toys. (For the record we decided he might get more excited about opening toys, but he doesn’t really play with them.) I ordered him a book and forgot to tell you about it, so tonight you greeted me after work – the night before your birthday – by immediately whispering in my ear, “When are we gonna get Baxter’s present??” and you were greatly relieved that I’d taken care of it. This morning you stopped short as you were running past me and asked, “How are you today, Mommy?”

You love your family beyond the moon.

You’re smart as a whip.

Dude, you are always thinking. Always. Sometimes you come into the room where I’m working and just pace: “I need to figure something out,” you tell me, so I keep my trap shut.

You keep track of everything and everybody. When we’re on a walk and I ask which direction we’re walking, you know we’re headed north. You also know we need to walk east to get home. I couldn’t do that until I was 35. Baxter stares at you and wants to know how you figure it out. I do, too. You also have an amazing sense of time. You are constantly talking about what date it is, how many days until some event or other, and exactly what time you got up (“6:38”) and when you ate lunch (“12:42”). It’s impressive to me.

Last week in the car I mentioned to Daddy that we had a pool schedule on our fridge back at home and I didn’t know if it was the schedule for the city pool or my gym’s pool. “It’s for the gym,” you piped up from the backseat, then told us exactly what the gym’s acronym stands for and when the pool was available for family swim. And you were right.

“It must be nice for you to have someone else in the house who’s paying attention to details,” Daddy suggested thoughtfully. I agreed with him.

Although you learned to read last summer, you were very shy about it. It was a while before they realized at school you were reading years above your grade level. You told me you were trying to hide it. But, finally, this summer you are owning it. One night you asked for a turn reading a chapter book aloud and you’ve done it every night ever since. Your favorite series right now is Junie B. Jones; we fall down laughing over those books every night.

You hate attention.

For a kid who’s funny and so “out there” at home, you sure hate attention.  And as much as you love your birthday – I wasn’t sure you’d make it until today to turn 6 – you get very anxious about the attention on you. Two nights ago at dinner I smiled at you and you yelled at me (I believe you called me “Missy” and showed me your claws), and you told me not to pay attention to you. When I asked if this was because of your birthday coming, you burst into tears and sobbed on my lap. For the third year running, we will not sing “Happy Birthday” to you because you can’t stand it; it’s overwhelming, all that attention. And I promised you that at your party on Saturday everyone will be busy in the pool and on the playground and they won’t sit there staring at you. You were relieved. You’re learning to tell us how you feel and you’re figuring out what you need. I’m pretty sure that’s more than half the battle in life.

Six-year-old Lyle, I love your wacky sense of humor, your crooked smile, loose teeth, and twinkly eyes. I love you when you’re lighting up the room with happiness and when you’re growling at me in anger. I love you when you’re learning to climb to new heights on climbing walls and when you’re swimming in the pool. I love listening to your little voice reading with such expression. I love your confidence just as much as I love watching you overcome your fears.

I love that you’re turning six because I believe that at six you’ll be more YOU than ever before. And that is something I welcome.

Love,
Mommy

*Thanks to our friends Cara and Michael, we follow the “corner birthday” tradition, in which the sibling receives a small gift as well each year.

How We Define Cool

My older boy and I took the dog for a long walk together this morning, which gave us some time to chat. I don’t usually have an agenda when I’m hanging out with the kids, but today I did. I wanted to talk to him again about the contents of his new school plan, the one that lays out the modifications and accommodations he can take advantage of during longer writing assignments in the classroom. This was put into place at the tail end of last year and I wanted to be sure he understood what he could ask for, and when. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge this year: his comfort level with self-advocacy in a busy classroom so that he utilizes these strategies set out for him.

Eventually, I felt like our conversation had focused too much on the aspects of school that would be challenging for him, and so when we were just a couple blocks from home I said, “You know, fifth grade was my absolute favorite grade in school. I adored my fifth grade teacher and decided I was going to teach fifth grade when I grew up.” I told him about how I asked for a file cabinet for Christmas that year (yes, I did) and how I created files to keep my favorite activities so that I could replicate them with my students someday. I remember tangrams in particular. I still have that filing cabinet, but it’s filled with far less interesting and amusing files these days. He was disappointed that I no longer have my fifth grade activities files.

As I always do, I had to giggle a bit when I was telling him about my 10-year old self, and I muttered under my breath with amusement, “Talk about a nerd!”

I did this sort of on purpose. You see, a friend had called Baxter a nerd a few months ago and he knew it wasn’t a compliment. He had reported it to Matt tearfully, but he and I hadn’t had a good opportunity to talk about it. However, soon afterward he had read this book, in which nerds are glorified. All of a sudden he was proudly telling us that he was a nerd and we told him we were, too, and wasn’t it grand. We let it drop for a couple months.

But when I said it today, he was hearing it used again as a bit of an insult, even though I was giggling and it was self-effacing. I thought that would be a non-threatening way to bring it up again. He turned to me right away asking, “What IS a nerd, really, Mommy?” I told him I thought people usually said it about other people who were super smart but maybe not considered to be that cool. Which led to his next very earnest question:

“So what is ‘cool‘?”

I spent a minute trying to extract from him what he thought it meant but he was stumped. He had no idea. Honest to god, I love that about this child. So I tried to think like a more typical fifth grader. “I guess what kids mean by cool is that you seem like a bigger kid…maybe you listen to the kind of music older kids listen to, or you watch TV shows and movies that older kids watch. Maybe PG-13 shows? And you might dress fashionably.”

Baxter scoffed, unimpressed.

“But I think what really matters is what you think cool means,” I told him.

“My friends are really cool,” he told me after a moment.

“And what are they like?” I asked.

“They’re nice,” he said quickly, “and they never do mean things to other kids, or ever bully anyone. Ever.” He looked at me meaningfully, since he’d recently had his first experience with classmates treating him unkindly.

“You’re right. That is cool — very cool,” I agreed, feeling the pinprick of tears hit the back of my eyes as we walked down our alley. “I think what I also consider cool is people who are funny and smart, and who think about things differently than other people. They’re interesting.” He agreed.

“Does cool have anything to do with what people look like?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied, looking at me strangely.

“Is it about what someone wears?”

“No! Not at all,” he said.

As we opened the door to our house, I told him, “I like your version of cool. I want you to remember it, because someone else’s definition isn’t always going to be the same as yours and you know what? I don’t care and neither should you.”

“Okay!” he said cheerfully as he threw off his shoes and ran to find his book.

Winding Down

It’s mid-August — or maybe even late August, I guess. The cicadas are buzzing so loudly at night it’s almost deafening, but the temperature has moved out of the 90s. I’m sure it’ll be back, but the humidity has dropped this week.  One night leaving work last week I could have been wearing a light jacket. I think I may have forgotten cool weather – breezes – still existed these past couple of steamy months.

I’ve learned to “do” back-to-school gradually by now. About three weeks before school starts I started bringing more conversations around to the topic of school, their teachers, their school friends. We took care of the boys’ school shopping early and there are four bags filled with supplies in a corner of the dining room. I spent hours on a Saturday going through the kids’ fall clothes and making them try things on.  (All I can say about that is that their clothes must’ve been hanging off of them last year because they’ve both grown a lot and yet neither of them needs one single item of clothing for fall. I’m sure by Christmas they’ll both need completely new wardrobes, but at the moment I’m grateful.)

On Friday I took them for haircuts and referred to them as “back-to-school” haircuts. Today we took a ride over to the boys’ school and played on the playground again. Lyle wanted to practice the monkey bars before school started. Since it is still summer, we stopped at Scooter’s for some amazing ice cream cones while we were in the neighborhood. We’re also gradually adjusting their bedtimes back down to school year standards. Transitions are hard and this is a big one; anything I can do in advance to get the kids into the right mindset is going to help. I hope.

We still have two more weeks before school starts. Tomorrow we’ll get more summer books from the library and go swimming in a nearby outdoor pool. We have Lyle’s birthday coming up at the end of this week, so he’s flying high with excitement. We probably need ice cream at least once more. But amidst these last summer hurrahs I know I’ll see the first leaves turning yellow, signaling that fall is almost here. As much as I love all that summer brings, I look forward to the start of my favorite season and a new school year.

Parents of Very Young Children, there is Hope!

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post in which I was extremely frustrated that my kids had no apparent ability to play without me. At ages three and six, I believed (and still do) that – given where they were developmentally – they should have had the capacity to do so for more than 3 minutes. I remember with great clarity sitting at this very dining room table and venting my huge irritation over this. I couldn’t manage a phone call or a few sips of coffee without both of them dancing and hollering around me, begging me to play or insisting our downstairs was too scary to go without me. You know, the downstairs where they slept every night without a problem.

I am here years later to tell parents of younger children: there is hope. I report today that your children, if they don’t do so naturally but are developmentally ready, truly can learn to play by themselves or with each other without you. I swear it.

This took some time, but as Lyle moved through the preschool years I gradually played on the floor with him less and less. Now this was no easy feat for me, being a play-based, developmental therapist. I believe strongly in playing with kids and I learned a lot about my own children through pretend play. We also worked through some challenges through play. I think it has an important place in early childhood parenting and we had a lot of fun in those early years. Some kids just seem to wean themselves from intensive parental participation more naturally than others. I did a lot of “getting them settled” and then leaving to do something else for a while, gradually increasing the time I was away. It also made a big difference when Lyle was old enough to share some of his big brother’s interests (such as Pokemon) and they could play more together.

Believe me, Lyle had some major fits about my periods of unavailability, but he also had major fits when he didn’t like what was for dinner or when I didn’t let him in the bathroom and wouldn’t hold conversations with him through the door. About all of those things I said, “Tough luck.” He got over it.

And so, where are we now? Lyle and Baxter will occasionally play together in the play room for long periods. When their friends come over, they are out of sight for hours, only emerging once in a while to ask for a snack or because they need my height to reach something. They require zero supervision when playing. When they’re not playing together, Lyle has learned to entertain himself with toys or a book, and Baxter is typically reading. I would estimate that 3-4 times a week I hear the words, “I don’t know what to do” from Lyle. It used to be 3-4 times an hour.

I think it also helped that we started taking long road trips with them and taught them the fine art of boredom. They can take a 6-7 hour road trip (with just one stop) without any DVDs – just music, podcasts (they especially like Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and This American Life), books, naps, and conversation. I believe this made a big difference in their ability to entertain themselves.

In the mornings, my early risers have learned to sleep until 7:00 and know that if they do wake up earlier, they are to entertain themselves downstairs (where their bedroom and playroom are) until that time. No one wakes in the night anymore. Baxter has even learned the fine art of going back to sleep after waking in the morning, thanks to Matt, and so on rare occasions they are sleeping until 8 now. They no longer come into our room first thing and insist on snuggling and an immediate breakfast. The boys watch a couple cartoons together and then start making their own breakfast when we get up. Yes, they make their own breakfasts now.  I can often make my coffee and food and sit down with them. (Crazy, right??) Of course the counter is a mess, but we’ll work on that soon.

This morning was one of my days off from work and I was looking forward to lounging as long as I could get away with it. I asked Matt last night to walk Gus in the morning so I could stay in my pj’s and he did (thank you!). I was aware of the boys watching TV, heard Baxter feed Gus breakfast, and then I finally got out of bed at 8:30. (Unheard of!) I walked into the living room, thinking they were still watching cartoons, and saw this: both of them reading quietly, with their feet together.

I’m glad I’ve been writing things down along the way so that I can fill in the details of my spotty memory, because I immediately thought about how very different parenting was just a few years ago and wanted to read that old post. I’m sure in three years — when they’re 9 and 12 (gulp!) — we’ll be in yet another completely different world that I can’t begin to imagine today.

We Just Need to Listen

Earlier this summer I was handed a golden ticket to meet with a prominent pediatric neurologist in the Chicago area, thanks to a mutual colleague who connected us. This doctor is the kind of person who contacts you via a personal assistant who in turn gives you three choices for appointments in the entire summer, she’s that busy. I loved meeting with her. We spent an hour discussing our work, interests and contacts here and in the Bay Area, and found surprising commonalities at every turn. She is more experienced than me, having been in the field of pediatric intervention longer, and she’s incredibly wise. I would love to sit across that desk from her and discuss the complexities of my children the way her patients do.

At one point I complimented her quite sincerely on a recent blog post she had written for her institution’s web site. The topic was on the challenges so many children have, transitioning to summer vacation. This subject was near and dear to my heart as I was just coming down from the first few, very challenging weeks of summer with Lyle, and had also been discussing this issue with a couple parents of clients at work. “For some of our kids, it’s incredibly jarring to leave the comfortable routine of school and enter the no man’s land of summer,” I said. “We don’t want our clients to lose skills and yet many of them don’t quality for extended school year [summer school]. Typical camps are often too hard: big, loud, unstructured. I would love to have a year round school option.” And then I sighed, and said, “I wish there was a good solution for our kids.”

I wasn’t looking for a panacea, I know better than that. And yet – even though I know this and have said it to others myself – when this kind doctor smiled and said simply, “There’s no one solution. Every child is different. They tell us what they need, we just need to listen,” I was socked between the eyes.

Because it’s true. I flashed to Lyle the week before, crying and telling me the days at camp were too long. He was right and I knew it and I had hugged him and apologized. But still I was thinking that he’d be able to do it next year, I’d just started too early. And maybe he will, I’m not assuming that’s wrong; but maybe he won’t. I have to listen; he will tell me.

The next week I took my kids to visit a really nice after-school program. I was considering sending them there three days a week this year, a change from our usual babysitter-at-home set-up. It was a good place, the kids there seemed happy, and the staff appeared to be friendly and helpful. But it was chaotic. Turns out, summer camp there has twice the number of kids that the after school program has and it was really loud and busy. NOT a good time to take a look at the program. Lyle, who now spends more time out of his shell than in it, shrunk back. “I don’t want to go there, it’s way too loud,” he told me. “I’d rather have a babysitter at home. I like to be at home.”  It didn’t matter that he hadn’t really seen the program the way it would be after school, he was very clear. And I know he does love to be home, more than anyone I know. Based on what he’d seen he was absolutely right and I told him I agreed – even though Baxter loved it, would’ve been fine there even in the busy camp scene, and was disappointed. Listening to Lyle allowed me to accept the fact that it would be far easier for me to have a babysitter at home as well, and we’ve come to a solution that will work better for all of us. He told me what he needed and I listened.

Baxter acts like the big kid he is most of the time, although he seems to move easily between his middle childhood self and a young tween. I get some pretty irritating attitude and mimicry now, and yet when I come home from work he’s still the first one (okay, right behind the dog) bounding down the hall, giving me a kiss and a really big hug. When I ask how his day was, he always remembers to ask me about mine, too. (This quality erases quite a few transgressions from his record.) At night, after we take turns reading a chapter book together (usually Junie B. Jones, because she has singlehandedly helped Lyle turn the corner into reading aloud with us) I snuggle with Lyle in his bed while Baxter reads, and then stop over to give Baxter a kiss good night and tuck him in on my way out. He recently opted for more reading time, rather than a snuggle. He’s getting older and I wasn’t surprised. But some nights he grabs my arm and holds it without letting go, even while reading. I know he still needs that Mama contact, that time together, and so I listen. I stop and cuddle in his bed with him, even though he’s reading. And after a while, when I try to leave, he will hang onto my arm like a vise to keep me there, with his nose still in the book pretending he doesn’t care. Sometimes he’ll say firmly but quietly, “Don’t leave.” He’s growing up, yes, but isn’t that when you need your parents most?

We all know it’s not always so clear-cut. I finally have two kids who can verbally express their feelings pretty consistently, making it a heck of a lot easier to listen.  There were many times when I could only interpret behavior, usually negative behavior, to hear what they were saying. While not impossible, this is no easy feat and no one could possibly get it right all the time.

But the doctor’s words, delivered so gently and yet directly to me, “They tell us what they need, we just need to listen” has remained in my conscious mind all summer. They tell us, and we do need to listen to their unique, individual messages, and above all what they are saying has to be okay with us, even when it’s not what we expected or hoped for or longed for, and even though we can’t make all their dreams and wishes come true. In the end, I think that’s probably the very definition of love, isn’t it?

My Piano

Many of you have read posts here about my maternal grandparents in the past. You might remember how, three-and-a-half years ago, my cousin and I traveled to Massachusetts and spent Spring Break “hoeing out” the large old house that my grandparents had lived in for 50 years. And perhaps you recall that just a year later I dropped everything to be with them when my grandfather had a stroke, and one year after that my mom and I brought the boys there to visit. Then, last October, I spent most of a week there when my grandmother was in the hospital and doing poorly. They both survived those illnesses, but sadly, my grandfather passed away in January of this year. Some of you read my post about that visit (I was there when he died) and maybe the tribute I wrote to him and attempted to read at his funeral (thanks for stepping in, Matt).

Obviously, my grandparents have meant the world to me.

Just two weeks ago, my 89-year old Grandma D.B. (short for Doris Bird, how awesome is that?) left her apartment in Springfield, Mass., the town where she’d lived for more than 50 years, and moved to California. To me, this was a stunning act of bravery. You have to realize that not only had my grandmother never lived outside of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but she is legally blind. She knew her way around her hometown so well that she could continue to give me driving directions, unseeing. “Honey, at the top of this hill, you’ll see a white picket fence. And there’s an Italian restaurant across the street? Take a left there.”  She is also extremely attached to a great many family members and those of her friends who are still alive. Add to this the fact that my grandfather, her husband of over 60 years, was recently buried there in town, and I honestly don’t know how she did it. But she did. And so there she is in California, soaking up the warm sun and taking tai chi. (I kid you not.)

Although my grandparents were determined to take their upright piano with them to the independent living apartment a few years ago, the new smaller assisted living apartment in California could not accommodate it. And so, as I had mentioned a few years ago that I would love to have the piano should it ever become available, it came to me. The piano arrived this week along with a few sets of towels and a huge box of my grandparents’ beautiful china.

I sat down at the piano last night for the first time and automatically plunked out the “Do-Re-Mi” song from The Sound of Music, which is the only song I know how to play on a piano, thanks to my father sitting down with me at this very piano and teaching me when I was probably about Baxter’s age. There is a big scratch on the piano bench that I made as a small child; a few years back my grandmother found my father’s letter of apology and offer to fix it for them. One box that the movers carried in on Monday held the contents of the piano bench itself. There are ancient books of music, the most contemporary I found being the piano music to Godspell. I found pages from a notebook, a teacher’s scribblings to a student (my aunt?) instructing what to practice that week, and a birthday card my grandfather had given my grandmother. It’s hard to tell if the card is 10 years old or was perhaps the last one he signed for her, but I will send it to her. The piano bench, in and of itself, is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Tonight as I pulled into the driveway behind my condo building after work, I heard the plink-plink-plink of the piano keys coming through my house. Baxter’s experiments sounded much like my own at his age. I’ll have to teach him “Do-Re-Mi”. Perhaps some of us will take piano lessons. Or maybe I’ll just look at the photo of my grandparents I placed on top of the piano the minute it arrived, trace my finger on the scratch, and remember. Right now, that seems good enough.

What a tremendous gift.