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It will be a hectic Sweet Sixteenth for my Renaissance Girl. We're in the throes of a heat wave and the triple digit temps have bumped her two hours of cross country practice from after school to early evening. Unfortunately, that won't change the homework allotment, she'll just start later. I'll sit with her at the desk while she works. I can't help her with chemistry, but I can sip a little wine and keep her company. For whatever that might be worth.
The girl can run a 5.5 minute mile and she's carrying a 4.5 GPA in college level advanced placement courses. She's funny, good with a camera, a .357, and she can wakeboard. She'll get her license on Thursday and that will be the last morning I drive her to school.
Navigating the snoring bodies on my office floor made it a little tricky getting to my desk this morning. But, I made it. Twice. Without kicking any of the early birthday celebrants in the head, or spilling coffee on their cherubic little upturned faces.
I was in my early forties when me and Mrs TWC decided to add some ankle biters to our small herd of curtain climbers. BTW, the internet is filled with advice on how to keep kitties from climbing the curtains, most of which is of no help. In a word: blinds or shutters. OK, that's two words and I digress.
When Jake was born, I peered down the road to this day and wondered how it would feel. I imagined his high school graduation. I pictured his friend's parents thinking it was cool that grandpa came to the ceremony but wondering where his dad was. Course they'd be too polite to mention it. I often thought about teaching the manly arts to a boy young enough to be a grandchild. Would he see me as an old man? Or just the Old Man?
Truth is that this day, like the rest of life, doesn't feel anything but normal. It just is. The parents don't know or care how old dad is. I'm just dad. And the Old Man. The Boy learned to shoot baskets, rifles, and revolvers. He can plant flowers and make mulch. He drives well and can change the oil. He can handle the boat at the gas dock and get it on the trailer. He also learned how to wash a car, but you'd not necessarily know he had acquired that particular skill. Jacob also learned some things that dad didn't teach him. Fishing, fine woodworking, welding, rock skipping, and mad skills in the virtual world of gaming.
Jacob's senior project was this poker table
The surprise turns out to be how damn fast this day came. BK (Before Kids) life is rather fluid and the markers are spread out. But children really are relentless little ticking time clocks. Their constant evolution and change reminds you of every turn of your own odometer. The nature of raising children is incessant change. One minute you can't imagine changing another diaper and then, well, they're starting Kindergarten. My friend Anne summed it up well: the days are long but the years are short.
Today is Dad's birthday. Though he was born just a few months before Black Tuesday in 1929 he wears his age well. He's thin, healthy, lucid, and still splits his own firewood. It just takes him a while to get it done.
TWC and Dad at Big Bear Lake, camping in a surplus Army tent circa 1953
Like most of us who've been around the block a few times, he's seen some stunning changes. He grew up in St Paul where milk was still delivered door to door by horse drawn dairy wagons. Buck Rogers was a childhood fantasy, but Dad would live to see the reality of the moon landing. Ultimately the world left mechanical behind for digital, radio for cable and internet, and natural fabrics for synthetics and back to natural again. It was number please, rotary dial mechanical phones, private lines, extensions in other rooms, push button technology, and then cellular phones. And, of all the technological innovation of the last eighty years, he is most amazed by cell phones.
If someone would have told me fifty years ago that people would walk around the grocery store talking on a phone I would have told them they were out of their mind.
As the Summer of Love faded into the warm clear days that mark Southern California in October, the stork assigned to the Fullerton run showed up at St Jude Hospital a little early. In his bundle of swaddled cotton were a couple of teeny preemie twin girls. Nobody had thought up ultrasound yet and consequently Mrs TWC wasn't expected and gave them all a bit of a startle.
She's my pride and joy.....
The plan was to get out of town yesterday evening. Enjoy a little soak in the hot tub, and then segue into a sumptious repast at Morgan's in the Desert, followed by a leisurely morning breakfast in the garden with Eggs Benedict at Twenty6.
In Hannibal fashion (Smith not Lector), everything was going according to plan until work reared its ugly head (hers not mine). Big sigh.
On the up side, I was a Boy Scout and I was an awesome patrol food guy. While the other kids were eating cold ceral with chunky milk, our patrol tortured them with the aroma of bacon frying in the morning. Other than that, though, I was the worst Boy Scout ever. I was in it for the camping trips, but somehow, the Be Prepared stuff stuck. Which is why I was compelled to pick me up a couple of lovely New York Strip Steaks to stash. Just in case. They'll do nicely with the bottle of 2004 Silverado Cabernet I just opened.
Don't exactly recall how fifteen years have slipped away since The House Blond slipped into this world. Long days. Short years. From Polly Pockets to a graphing calculator in.....I'm tempted to say......the blink of a young girl's eye.
She's a sophomore and manages an academic load that would put a lot of college kids in the dirt. She runs cross country and can scoot three miles in a bit less time than it takes her old man to walk one.
Tubac Arizona, Fourth of July 2012
Dusk at the Red Sand Beach, Hana Hawaii, July 2003
Sunset at Annapolis Harbor, Thanksgiving Day, 2011
Katie shares her birthday with Mexico, my cousin's wife, and B. B. King. And, as it turns out, September 16 is the most likely day of the year to join the parade.
Just a few weeks ago, Numero Uno Son plopped into our world. He was born blue, so there wasn't no bonding taking place on his Ma's tummy. Like litmus paper dipped in a beaker of vinegar, he turned pink on the cold stainless steel O2 table across the delivery room. Today, he's seventeen and next week he starts his senior year in HS.
His interests lie in the manly arts: Wood. Steel. Fishing. Firearms. Boating. Competitive video games. And his GPA warrants the AAA discount.
His hand-made Metallica table earned him 94 points, a couple of blue ribbons, and a division winning trophy in the county-wide competition this past spring.
As I write this, my office, which lies between Jake's bedroom and The House Blond's bedroom, is littered with sleeping bodies, empty Pepsi cans, and computer equipment. Nobody is snoring, so the occasional shout-out from somebody's phone gives me a startle. DROID(!) Nobody stirs.
Jake's birthday party ends up a three day extravaganza of gaming, BBQ, and tom foolery. By day's end there should be some seventeen kids here at the Casa and I'm Fat Clemenza, cooking spaghetti for twenty guys who went to the mattresses.
BRINGING JAKE HOME
Like a dork, I bought this child seat designed for an obese ten year
old. Keep in mind that Californicate is way ahead of the Nanny Curve, so
even back then the hospital had been pressed into service by the social
polezei and the child welfare department. Their job? Walk the baby out
the glass doors and carefully strap him into the awaiting child safety
seat. After that little Candy Striper saw the size of the car seat and
finished with her brain hemorrhage (stern lecture followed) there was a
group conference to determine if we would be allowed to depart with our
Shut up you idiots (on the inside). I50 million of us rode home
from the hospital in the front seat with our mother's arms wrapped
around us. Before that babies were born at home under less than ideal
conditions (boil some water and bring me some clean linens, Harriet).
TWC's favorite aunt and uncle with his favorite son. 1997.
Before we were rudely interrupted by work on this gorgeous, sunny fall morning, we had A PLAN to celebrate Mrs TWC's birthday. The plan was to drop the kids off at their respective high schools and then zip out to Palm Springs in the Hamster Car for a leisurely breakfast at Twenty6, on the veranda at the La Quinta Resort (Lah Keen-tah). Did I mention how awesome the food is? Yes, I've had the eggs benedict before.
This is more or less the view from the breakfast table on the aforementioned veranda.....
I suppose I should say that the La Quinta Resort is in La Quinta, not Palm Springs, but when I say Palm Springs, it conjures up mostly what I want to get across. And, the truth is that, the La Quinta Resort predates the City of the same name by some fifty years. And it isn't connected to the hotel chain, neither.
In the early 1920s San Francisco businessman Walter H. Morgan was drawn to a place in the California desert that dwellers in these lands had long referred to as the Land of Eternal Sun. In his mind’s eye, he envisioned a tranquil retreat that captured the essence of quiet hacienda-style living. Purchasing 1,400 acres from the native Cahuilla Indians, he enlisted the renowned architect Gordon Kaufman, along with scores of artisan craftsmen to make his dream a reality. From more than 100,000 hand-formed adobe bricks and 60,000 locally fired roof tiles, a small grouping of quaint casitas and a cozy dining room sprung up. And Morgan called it La Quinta.
Love my baby like the finest wine.......Happy Birthday, Darlin'.
The House Blond is off to Disneyland to spend her birthday at the Happiest Place on Earth with a coupla friends. Before Mrs TWC whisked her off in the Hamster Car, I whipped out an order of from-scratch Frog Toast, which happens to be one of her faves.
Katie shares her birthday with Mexico (no, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day), Lauren Snell, legendary bluesman (come on, you can’t say bluesperson, it sounds idiotic) B. B. King, and jazz great Charlie Byrd. And, as it turns out, September 16 is the most likely day of the year to come into the world. Christmas Day? Least likely (go figure).
As a fourteen year old freshman I think it's the right time to tell her that Aunt Laura is right, boys are from hell. Good thing she's running cross country this year. Maybe keep her one step ahead of the boys from hell.
Piloting the Boat on Lake Powell Near Dangling Rope Marina (July 2012)
Fourteen years ago last night, Mrs TWC quietly dragged me out of bed because she CLAIMED she was having a baby. She hadn't even packed THE BAG. We hastily threw (literally) some stuff together and careened down the hill to the hospital some 30 miles distant. Despite driving like a madman there was no police escort, because there's never a cop around when you need one.
Miraculously, as the clock approached zero-dark-thirty, my Renaissance Girl abruptly plopped into this world. The doctor handed me something sharp that you can't bring in your carry on bag. I hacked (again, literally) her umbilical cord off with a scalpel.....Dr Byrne gave me some crap about being a wuss, but it is surprising how tough that thing really is.
Later in the day The Boy would ask.....if it's Katie's birthday.....where's her birthday hat at?
The Wine Commonsewer
Tip of the glass to Lauren Snell for the NYT birthday list
What sticks in my mind most, besides my son being born blue, was the oppressive July heat in the summer of 1996.
At zero-dark-thirty the RN's marveled at the rapid progression of Mrs TWC's first delivery. Your first child? Murmurs and knowing glances. At mid-morning the baby was to arrive momentarily. By noon the anesthesiologist shuffled in and spent the next couple of hours handicapping the second half of the season with the OB/GYN, Dr Byrne, who is likely related to Jacob's mother. The significance of Doc Ether was entirely lost on moi. Nobody knew the cord was wrapped tight around his neck and it was an eternity before Jacob plopped into our world and the nurse plugged him into the oxygen. I watched him turn pink, feet to face. I think.
That was sixteen years ago and I'm not entirely clear on how that works since it was just a couple of weeks ago that he started junior high school and next week he starts his junior year of high school.
We celebrated at home with T-bones and marinated spicy shrimp.
You think money can't buy happiness? There was a fifty in that card.
The godfather of school choice was born a century ago today, which is why Mrs TWC is having a leisurely breakfast on Waikiki Beach this morning. Nope, we didn't get to tag along. No way to scrounge up the cash for spendy airline tickets after the fuel bill came in from the Lake Powell outing last week ($5.48 per gallon at Dangling Rope Marina).
Later tonight, the missus will be speaking at a Grassroot Institute dinner in honor of Milton Friedman. As many long-time readers know, Mrs TWC is one of the leading school choice advocates in the country.
TWC isn't especially overwhelmed by celebrity status. You might say that having my picture snapped with a rock star or politician isn't on my bucket list. Yet, it was kind of intriguing to actually meet Milton Friedman in person. No, I didn't spend much time in deep, philosophical conversation with the man. I mean, what, exactly, do you say to this dimunitive guy in the Aloha shirt? Good Job, Man(?) I guess I could have mentioned how much I enjoyed his book, Free to Choose.
Milton with our friends Shikha and Arthur (May 2006)