Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dazed in a maze

I'm officially a week alone in this 'ol house. Michelle and the boys are, by all accounts, having a grand time with grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt, as well as a visit from another aunt, an uncle and a cute button of a cousin. So far, they've been to visit great-grandmother's house, a century farmhouse with a big barn full of larger-than-life farm equipment like tractors and combines that fairly blew Nathaniel's mind. Tonight, he informed the tractor was so big that he had to climb stairs to get into the driver's seat.

How cool is that for a 3-year-old?

I can't describe how happy I am that he, his brother Isaiah, and of course mommy Michelle are enjoying themselves so thoroughly, and that all those family folks are enjoying them being there. I also can't describe how utterly lonely it is to patter around an empty house. So far, caveman Richard has foraged well for grub; I've cooked hamburgers, tacos with a chicken, bean, green chilies and onion mixture that I cooked in a skillet, eggs and bacon, salads and cereal. And fruit – apples, grapes and bananas. I have yet to go out for a nighttime meal. Not bad, huh? (Cue the applause – and the back patting). So, while I've survived just fine, thank you very much, it's been little more than that. Damn, I'm bored. It doesn't help that college basketball hasn't started.

Michelle did leave with me some tasks (I think she called them fun things to do), and so far I'm on schedule to get them all done. I refinished a dresser for Isaiah, mowed the lawn, stored the window A/C units and other chores. I've even kept the house fairly clean. In fact, the dishwasher is running as we speak. (pat, pat on my back) And to top it all off, I didn't watch a single play of professional football on Sunday. I actually had too much to do. I'm not kidding.

I also have not frequented any watering holes. Even on Saturday night, which would have been the time to do it, I failed to journey to a bar and soak in some local color (and college football). I might have, except I was stuck in a corn maze, of all things.

I went to the corn maze with a church youth group that I help lead. We arrived just as the sun was setting and hopped on a hay ride, which ferried us to the maze. Two boys chose me as their chaperone and into the maze we went. I was ill-prepared for the adventure. I brought no flashlight and was wearing a light jacket, even though fall had definitely arrived in New England. All went well at first; I let the boys pick the paths, each alternately saying, "I like this one" and away we went. After a while, I took note of the setting sun and smugly set my internal compass based on a tree line to the north, a cell phone tower to the west and a clearing to the east. "No problem," I thought to myself. "I know from what direction we entered the maze, and I know what direction we need to get out, and I know what direction we'll be heading at all times. Piece of cake."

Satisfied, I continued to let the boys lead the way, choosing paths on a whim. We stopped and read the signs, full of all sorts of corn facts. We stopped at the hole punch stations and dutifully punched our cards, the goal being to get all four punches and be entered in a raffle. It was a lovely, crisp fall evening, the boys were joyously gallivanting around, and I was happy. A nice way to spend a Saturday night, after all.

We snaked our way northward in the maze and then headed west, which I had surmised we needed to go before turning south and then south by southwest to exit. And then things got more complicated. We saw a sign and headed down a path. Within a few minutes, we arrived back at the same sign. "Aw, we went in a circle," one of the boys said. So, we tried another path. After some twists and turns, there we were again, at the sign. I scratched my head. "OK," I said, "Let's go this way," and off we went. Some more twists and turns, and again, that sign. We tried another path, and, again, the same result. Another path. Same sign. Another path. Sign. No matter what direction we took, we could not escape that sign. Dumbfounded, I just stared at the sign, looking at the paths and trying to figure out if there was any path we hadn't took. The joy had been erased from the boys' faces, replaced by exasperation. "Where should we go, Mr. Lewis?" they asked, expecting me to magically extricate ourselves. But I had no clue. I was stumped, annoyed and mildly pissed. "How hard can this be?" I thought.

I took stock of our place in the maze, the direction we ultimately needed to go to exit and set off on a southwest path. After much meandering, I'll be darned if we didn't end up again at that bloody sign. The boys started whimpering a little. I was flushed with embarrassment and more than a little pissed. Then, I saw an older man loitering nearby, and I asked him how we get out. An employee, he looked at me and said, "You're in the cow's mouth." I just looked at him, mouth agape. "What'd he just say? I'm in the cow's mouth?" He looked at me and said matter of factly, "You need to circle around the mouth to get out."

It was then that I realized that I had a map in my pocket. The map, if you can call it that, is a sketch of the maze. On it is written, "Do not rely on this map. It does not accurately represent the maze." I took the instructions at face value. Now, I realized that I should have been consulting it all along, at least to get a clue where we might be. I found the mouth, guessed at where we were relative to said mouth, and off we went.

Back to the sign. Again.

We ran into that sign at least twice more before, miraculously, the cow spit us out like a sour cud. Consulting the map, we needed to get into the steer's left eyeball, find the eyelash that leads us out of the cow's head and then negotiate through some flowery-type arrangements to get out. Somewhere after we extracted ourselves from the eyeball, we got lost again. The night hung heavy in the air. The boys were trudging along at this point, no longer bothering to take the lead in picking the paths and complaining that their legs hurt. I wasn't feeling much better. I also began feeling twinges of dread that I may not be able to get us out at all. It was during this phase that I started hearing faint shouts of "Mr. Lewis!" Mr. Lewis, hold up your light!" My dread deepened; not only were we lost, but we were so lost, lagging so long behind the other groups, that they were worried, too. My heart began to race. Worse, we were now running into clots of people who were hopelessly lost as well. They wore an awful look of resignation. One guy seriously studied his map and declared he knew exactly where we were, and where we needed to go. Needless to say, we followed this leader. After a few false turns, his shoulder slumped a little. A false prophet. We left him as he raised himself back up and declared he now had figured it out.

We took some more false turns. We returned to a bench after several mini expeditions. We sat down on the bench, defeated. Finally, we got up and soldiered onward. Somehow, we stumbled on a path that looked new. It was deserted. Could this be it? We heard the desperate voices of those other groups, zombies searching for the exit. We moved forward; after maybe 20 yards, we came to a sign.

"Congratulations!" it said. We didn't bother to read on. We sprinted the hell out of there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Isaiah turns 1

It's official, folks. Isaiah, our darling little red-headed boy, is one year old today. Happy birthday, little guy!

In some ways, it's hard to imagine he's one year old. It seems like he's been in our lives for so much longer than that, and thus should be older. Same way with Nathaniel, actually, now on the cusp of three. It seems like he's been around far longer, so much so that it's hard to imagine how life was before he arrived. Still, I can't believe he's almost three already. Where has the time gone?

Back to Isaiah. Our little man is progressing nicely, thank you very much. He is getting quite comfortable with standing upright, and even has been able to balance himself without support for a couple of beats. He's quite close to becoming truly bipedal! His fascination with balls remains strong; in fact, Isaiah is quite adept at bouncing a ball to you, and when you bounce it back, he will invariably corral it. Hate to say it, but he is far more coordinated than Nathaniel was at that age, and I dare say he'd give his older brother a run for his money now. He's got a great tuft of light red hair now. Most of it is centered on the top of his head, so that it looks like he's wearing a red pelt, or has gotten a toupee. The sides and especially the back are still pretty wispy. Unlike Nathaniel, I think he will keep the reddish hair for a while, much like his mommy has.

Things are a little weird, because I had to wish Isaiah happy birthday from afar. Michelle and the boys are in Iowa, visiting an aunt, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, another aunt and an uncle. Awesome. I'm staying at home, and, boy, is it weird to come back to an empty house. I'm so used to being greeted with shrieks, smells (of dinner) and sass (in a good way, mostly) when I walk in the door that the silence that accompanies my return is that much more pronounced. Downright eerie.

And boring. I swear I never thought I'd use that word when greeted with the prospect of time at home alone. Liberation, yes. But boredom? Are you kidding me? Yet, like so many things, expectations can vastly outstrip reality. You might have thought I'd go bar-hopping or something. But really that doesn't hold much appeal anymore. If anything, it'd make me feel even more lonely, miss my family even more.

Don't get me wrong: There is one upside: I will sleep in on Saturday morning. I can't wait for that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Booty-shakin' music

Two quick stories here.

The first has to do with the odd, impromptu performances we give for our children. You know, those times when you just ham it up for no reason, much to your children's delight – or horror.

One such time occurred a couple of evenings ago. We were just finishing dinner, and the boys were a little anxious, stuck in that void between the excitement of the beginning of dinner and the joy of post-dinner playing. For some reason, the KC & the Sunshine band song, "Shake your Booty" popped into my head, and I just went with it. I popped up and began waggling my skinny can.

Nathaniel watched me with a bemused look on his face. Then he said, "Daddy, that's so disgusting!"

I didn't know he knew that word. And I sure didn't know he knew how to put it in the proper context.

The second story also revolves around music. Michelle has practically begged me not to share this story, but I can't help it, even if it is to my embarrassment.

Every day, the bus I ride goes down the main street of a quaint little town lined with Mom n' Pop stores, like an apothecary, a pancake joint, a shoe store and a coffee shop. Also on this main street is a dusty store selling used music. It's called In Your Ear, which is appropriate enough, as it pertains to music and also to some crusty New England-style greetings. I've ling been intrigued by this place, but never had the energy, or perhaps the gumption, to interrupt my ride and check it out.

Well, one day I did. It was as dusty on the inside as on the outside. And it was cluttered. On one wall was a collection of CDs, some new, most used, in admirable order. I browsed through these. At the back of the store, stuffed in no apparent order, was a batch of cassette tapes. Let me repeat that: cassette tapes. Remember them? That thin, brown ribbon that if you played a tape long enough, would twist or break? Or squeak because it had become so frayed? Yes, this shop had a whole mess of 'em.

Seeing boxes of cassette tapes made me very, very happy. That's because this old throwback still drives a car with nothing more than a cassette player. So, I browsed, gleefully, through those boxes. And what treasures I found: AC/DC Live, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and some John Lee Hooker. OK, I got some CDs as well; I mean, I'm not that behind the times. Until I (gleefully) tell you my purchases: Rush "Moving Pictures," Jimi Hendrix "Axis, Bold as Love" and Nirvana "Live in NY."

Total for all that classic music: $50.

Now, that's priceless.