Before that, though, Cassidy was doing my homework for me, again. (in real life) The wonderful thing is that although I still leave things until the night before, I now get paid for my efforts. Also, sometimes I do things the morning they’re due, just like in college, but those papers usually led to high grades. Like my paper about September 11th after interviewing a man (a friend) who saw, heard and forever internalized the impact of bodies hitting pavement. And don’t get me started talking about my 12 page paper about Walt Disney’s life and legacy. I wrote it an hour before it was due and got an A+. These days, my writing is often a lot less intense and sometimes less inspired, although sometimes much more of everything. I don’t get grades anymore but I get paychecks. Sometimes they seem too high for what I do, and sometimes they seem too low.
Anyway, Cassidy was helping me with my assignment, only he was in pain and he was grumpy. Eventually I took over for my own project and finished it wonderfully, but not before putting both kids to bed. It used to be easier, but now there are monkey shenanigans, stories, and the right order of blankets to be placed. My stories are often ridiculous – like passing gas stories or pranks I pulled – and sometimes they’re about 4th grade teachers and what my father was like when I knew him.
Sometimes the stories are unsaid – like when I sank down last night into one of her giant, pillow animal things and she said, “You can stay as long as you need..” And then she put her “Grandma Bella” blanket on me. Grandma Bella was my father’s mother and she passed away when I was in college. She had knit a blanket for the first grandchild, or at least the first grandchild within my own family. Grandma Bella never got to meet Scarlet Bella, but I think they’d get on just right – everything clicked into place – not unlike the robot Cassidy was making for me, until I took over and made it my own.
When Scarlet put that blanket on me, I sank down into a wave of grief – for all that has been and all that won’t be – but gosh, what WILL be. I sank down and I had the dream again – like a million different versions of a story in my mind.
I dreamed I went to Bowcraft again.
Bowcraft is just one of those Jersey things. Maybe even more isolated than that. Maybe just one of those central Jersey things. Bowcraft is an amusement park in Scotch Plains, NJ. It’s not huge like Great Adventure. It’s not really tiny either. Actually, it’s sort of just right. It’s where I got over my ferris wheel fear so well that it turned into a ferris wheel obsession. I started low – stuck at the top with a view of a Chinese restaurant and an ugly highway. Since then I’ve learned to love ferris wheels that give you a stuck-at-the-top view of the ocean. Or mountains. I’ll never forget my first, though.
My paternal grandparents took us to Bowcraft a lot when we were kids. We lost them within a year of each other over 15 years ago. Sometimes, often, I’ll find myself dreaming and thinking about them. I’ll send my sister a text about a dream or memory I had of them and she’ll reply with something like, “Yes. I had an intense dream about Grandma last night too.”
You know how it is when you go places as a kid before you have a concept of geography, space and time. My other grandparents lived in the Fort Lauderdale area for six months of the year. One day we went to Orlando instead and I called it “the other Florida.” You don’t think about the factors that got you to where you are. You got there. You’re there. Places are feelings and atmospheres and memories. Sometimes it’s like the man behind the curtain to find out where and what they actually are. Sometimes I’d prefer to think of them as floating memories with snippets that catch my breath in dreams.
Sight – The blurry sky above me as seen from the underwater depths of my grandparents’ community pool.
Sound – The alarm clock she had that used to play, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”
Smell – A musty den on a rainy day. Shalimar perfume. Blue bayberry-scented candles.
Taste – Rainbow sprinkles. Pepperoni-topped chef salads.
Touch – Cool sheets thrown laughingly over my head as I lay in a guest bed on a summer’s night.
Feel (which is maybe also touch) – My head thrown back with the wind in my hair on that very first ferris wheel.
These bedtime stories lead to the sweet dreams – sometimes hers, sometimes mine – and always in between. This is what sticks. What you tell them, where you take them, how you greet them, how you treat them, how you treat their father too.