Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Perfect Day

The monsoon arrived last night.

I don't know if it was the monsoon, but it was a tempest the furosity of which I had yet to witness in India. By 4:00 it was pitch as night. Within minutes, lighting was crashing around the house as though I were sailing in a boat captained by Zeus through the Bermuda Triangle. Seconds later, a wave of water washed away half our drive, and a river a foot deep filled the city streets.

By morning, most of the rain had gone, and I rose at five hoping the rain had brought cooler weather. No such luck. The humidity was suffocating. I decided to run anyway, and stumbled off into the night at a pace that could barely qualify as running. I'd punished my body exactly one week ago today and was not eager to repeat the feat.

A mile in, I already wanted to walk. I don't know how or why I kept going, but I did. When I passed through Bishop's Garden, I spotted a lime green dot in front of me...a fellow runner. I locked onto the target, careful not to increase my pace. I followed--and subsequently passed--her going over the Adyar Bridge and was fortunate to find two more rabbits. I fell into stride with them and let them pull me all the way to Elliot's Beach.

I ran the length of Elliot's Beach, turning around in front of a crowd filing into church. Despite the humidity, the air smelled cleaner. The rain had cleansed the beach of the usual fetid cloud hanging over it. Even the fish stalls smelled better. I headed back, after five and a half miles, though completely drenched in sweat, even my shoes, finally finding my stride.

I crossed the Adyar again. I heard drum beats coming up behind me, and a truck full of youth beat bongos as they passed. It was hard to keep from speeding up. At eight miles, I stopped and walked the rest of the way home. Anything more than that would have been pushing it into the red, a place I decidedly did not want to go this morning. I had a long week ahead of me, and needed to be able to walk.

A new batch of brown ale is on the stove and is in the first 60 minute boil as I write this. Today will be a good day. I may walk to the Sheraton and have a Kingfisher and try to find some food. I may watch cricket or highlights from last night's World Cup matches, including Brazil eeking out a win against Chile in a shoot-out, on the big screen. It will be a good day, but it will hardly be the perfect weekend day as I have come to know them in India, and the fact that this day is so different from most reminded me of the days when Elise would sneak out of the house at 6:00 a.m. to explore the city, camera in hand.

The kids and I would eat breakfast. Maybe we would have doughnuts if I had thought to stop at the shop on the way home from work. (A brief aside: there are not a lot of indulgences in Chennai. In a city has populous has this one, there is one good doughnut shop, one good cupcake shop and one good ice creamery besides Baskin & Robbins. That being said, they are the absolute best doughnuts, cupcakes and ice cream I have ever had in my life. What the city lacks in variety it more than makes up for in quality.)

The kids and I head for the pool and spend many hours splashing in the sun. Upon our return, I make them all chicken noodle soup for lunch, and I have tuckered them out sufficiently for naps. When they zonk out, I jump on the treadmill. When they get up, it's cartoon time, and dinner soon follows. If it is Saturday, Elise and I head out to drinks and dinner. Mani picks us up in his auto and whisks us to one of the city's five-star hotels. We have no qualms ensconcing ourselves in a little swankiness. We've earned it. I may order a manhattan. Elise may order a dirty vodka martini up.

Today is good, but it is far from perfect. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Scrub Noses

As I see the photos of Elise and the kids' vacation in the Pacific Northwest and read the text message updates of them having bowls of warm clam chowder at Ivar's while they watch the ferries sail in and out of the Seattle terminals, it's hard not to be jealous. I am feeling especially emotionally tenuous as it is. I am flying on fumes. Four hours sleep is not quite enough. Almost, but not quite.

I drove to the airport at 11 last night to greet a new family arriving to India. I sat in the car, dozing off occasionally. When I opened my eyes, I saw steam coming out of the hood. I elbowed the driver. He hopped out of the car and lifted the hood. A small hole in one of the coolant lines spewed steam in our faces, and a puddle of water ran from the bottom of the car to our feet.

Within seconds, a dozen helpful Indians surrounded us. Thankfully, the crowd included a driver from the German consulate who took a strip of plastic and carefully knotted it around the hose at the risk of steam burns on his fingertips. A few bottles of water later and we were good to go again.

At 2:30 we were finally leaving the airport, the family and their twoo cats having arrived safely, sadly without their car seat which would hopefully arrive tonight. And a little after three I was finally in bed, only to have to rise a few hours later to come back to work.

I have never felt further from Elise. It doesn't help knowing she is on the other side of the planet. I cherish modern technology and the ability to, if nothing else, catch up on her days and nights and try to absorb some of the stress single parenting as bequeathed to her via text message. I am learning to use emoticons, among other things. Early on, we texted each other pictures of chicken legs. I don't remember why now, but at the time it was hilarious. Perhaps, in retrospect, it was one of those "you had to be there" moments.

Last night, before heading to the airport, a friend and I went to the a trivia night hosted by a gaggle of Brits. I quickly concluded I need to hang out with the British more often. Our team, the Americans, faired miserably, products of our declinging educational system, no doubt. To be fair, how much are a bunch of Yanks supposed to know about cricket, the Queen, rivers in Wales, rugby, and British medals of honor.

I met a friendly Brit named Andy, a bear of a man, with a scruffy beard and graying hair askew from a recently completed tennis match. He was married to an American woman living in New Hampshire who, sadly, was not able to join him in India due to her ailing, elderly mother. He had six kids, perhaps from different marriages. I was dying to know, but didn't ask. He told me he had trouble sleeping, and often rose at four in the morning and walked 75 minutes from his home in Bishop's Garden to work through the busy streets of Chennai. I quickly took a liking to this man. He seemed honest, though melancholy. I was missing my wife, too. Perhaps, in that one commonality there was kinship.

As I see pictures of Sam, Petey and Clementine, I hold the phone screen close to my face and touch my nose to it. When I put them to bed and, sometimes, when I wake them up, I "scrub noses" with them, rub our noses together like polar bears in a Coke commercial.

I am standing in the kitchen as I write this. I often put my laptop on the kitchen counter in the morning when I wash dishes. One morning a month or two ago, I was listening to the Band of Horses "No One's Going to Love You Like I Do". I wasn't paying attention, and Elise snuck up behind me and wrapped her arms around my waist right around the two minute mark in this song.

We held each other tight and wiped tears from ours eyes, knowing how lucky we were.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

South India Saturdays

We may be far from home or close to home or something. What? I don't know at all anymore, but we aren't quite at home because we aren't all together, but when we were, last, we were in India. To say we are missing this guy would be a lie, we are aching for him. 

Absence makes the heart grow absolutely wild with fondness. 

I didn't grow up here in Washington with Paul, but it doesn't feel at all right to be here without him. My best memories here have faded and been replaced with only memories I've made here on visits home since we met ten years ago. The lines that once lived between my days here before Paul and my days here after Paul have all blurred, and it feels like we've grown up more here together than we have apart. 

We are reveling in all the things we love about the USA, but I'd sweat it out on dirty streets and eat dosas all day long if it meant I'd be close to him. 

I'm know unequivocally, the kids would agree. 

Last night Peter looked at my dad after dinner and smiled, he waited for a long minute, staring at him and said, 

"When I smile at my dad's eyes, they smile back to me." 

I don't at all think my dad, who has been bravely playing the very important male influence in their days for the past two weeks, failed to smile back at him, but instead Peter voiced the very bonds that I've never quite heard anyone put into words, that little father-son twinkling magic that he discovered was missing. When they aren't quite themselves here I can only speculate that it is him they are missing, but thanks to little bits of text Peter speaks aloud from the magical plays within his mind, truth and beauty are spoken that I could never imagine. 

A few magical moments from the last three months that returned with my latest film lab order this week.
 Contax 645 // Kodak Portra 400 // The FIND Lab


For some reason, after having two kids, I expected the novelty to wear off. This is, I realize now, ridiculous. I am talking about Clementine, of course. I should have known better.

I thought, in watching two babies grow up, I had seen and heard everything there was for babies to say and do. Elise kept a list of Sam-isms and Pete-isms. Sam called water 'mlex' for some reason. Pete still adds to his list daily. Not in words, per say, but in the the fascinating phrases he uses to describe the world as he perceives it.

But there was never really a list of Clementine-isms that I'm aware of. That is mostly because she has always been extremely articulate. When I told a childless colleague at work that Clementine had recently turned two, he asked me, "Does she talk?"

I stared him.

Does she talk? Are you kidding me?

She's either already auditioning for her place on The Talk or going to be a trial lawyer. Of the three of them, she is already most likely to be on debate club or sit for the bar.

And the fact that she has always been so articulate doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't have a few of her own -isms. My favorite is 'eekid' which is the words "Eeek!" and 'naked' combined, because when she runs around naked, my first reaction is to cry, "Eeeek!"

Clementine is also fond of emphasizing her statements with the word 'actually'. For example, "Mom said we could watch one more show...actually."

I'm not sure if she gets this from me, Elise, or Sam who has picked up my use of the phrase 'as well'. I was never good at leaving it at 'too'.

Watching the dynamics between the three of them is insanely interesting, and I am sure it will become even more so as the grow together. Sam could not be, at the same time, more alike and unlike Peter, and to watch them both interact with Clementine on both their best and worst days offers but a glimpse of what this triumvirate is capable of achieving.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Puppy Purse

I was at work the other morning and received the following email from Elise which immediately warmed my heart and made me smile. They had all gone to Wolf Lodge in Idaho for dinner and I was anxious to hear that they had made it home safely. I hope Elise doesn't mind me sharing: 

"We made it home. Dinner was fantastic as usual. Boys split a kids steak the size of the one I get and ate the WHOLE thing. In minutes. Tried their tomato basil soup, and both said it was good. Everyone had EXCELLENT behavior as requested and other tables that looked wary of our placement near them commented on how well behaved the kids were. Clem shared my steak with me and ate it all in seconds, too. 

Clem in next to me in bed snoozing. I wish you were here, it was hard to enjoy dinner when you are really the one that loves it there. 

Pete cried for you tonight. He was either tired or not tired or it was too hot or cold or something. He and Sam got a hold of one of my dad's model train magazines and have been obsessing about how to earn $400 to buy one. They've been asking me what kind of chores they can do and planning on selling their thomas the train set to earn money. It is both adorable and exhausting. Lulu got a new puppy dog purse tonight on our shopping trip. My mom found it for her and i couldn't say no for $10. She is carrying it around like a little lady cross body."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014