Monday, October 6, 2014

where I, in a sleep deprived state, recount random experiences with children, language, and then just get really fucking weird

I was up at 4 a.m.

My daughter was frustrated the night before. She'd procrastinated doing her English homework and eventually 11 p.m. happened, and then self reproach, guilt and extreme fatigue and she set her alarm for 4 a.m. so she could get the work done before school.

I offered to get up with her in order to lend her moral support, also to make tea and toast and keep her on task, otherwise the heroic effort of waking before dawn would have been a wasted one.

So, I was up at 4 a.m. Bleary because I hadn't gone to bed until 1 because I procrastinate even more than my daughter and going to bed was my Sophomore Honors English homework.

I fed the cats and the dog, gave the dog his medicine, let the dog out. I unloaded the dishwasher and then loaded the previous night's dishes (again, procrastination, why didn't I do the dinner dishes last night and spare myself the depressing sight; last night's congealed ketchup and milk rings in the glasses). I brewed myself a cup of coffee in the french press, I heated the milk for my coffee, I made the daughter toast and tea I took the dry towels out of the dyer and put the wet load of jeans in the dryer. I folded the towels just so because I'm making peace with my finicky self and I need the towels folded just so.

Then I remembered the dog and let the poor old fella in. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky and the daughter sat hunched in her seat, her tea growing cold, the butter on her toast a cold film.

And she just sat there.

So I offered to give her a hand and she told me the assignment and I felt like her Sophomore Honors English might actually be New Math. It was that comprehensible to me. And me a person who loves words. But the problem is that I have a problem with the official names for parts of speech. It proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to learning another language and it was a source of embarrassment as well, since I actually worked for a short time as a copy editor. I don't know what a dangling participle is, I am hard pressed to give you a definition of a preposition. I know all about nouns and verbs, adverbs and adjectives, also I am a fan of the gerund. I love gerunding. But don't ask me about past imperfect or subjunctive or whatever the fuck because I don't fucking get it.

Daughter's assignment involved reading a sentence from a known author and then writing a sentence conforming to the structure of the famous writer's sentence.

Daughter said things like, Subject, prepositional phrase, blah blah blah blah....

And I said, WAIT. What are you doing? Is this how writing is taught? Because, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think there are authors reading over their work saying, Oh, you know what this passage needs? A prepositional phrase!

But anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this because quite frankly I've been in a 4 a.m. fog all day long.

Language is a beautiful thing. Getting up at 4 o'clock puts a fuzzy smear on everything. There is no way my 15 year old self could have done the work my daughter is doing and I'm happy for my daughter, she's so much smarter than I am, but I am also kind of mystified, because while it seems she's learning about the components of language she's not really getting the idea what language can do. I understand that dissecting something and breaking it down to its elemental bits has it's own kind of beauty, but the way living things move through space is infinitely more beautiful than a creature dead and stuffed taxidermy style, approachable, unchanging except for the wear and tear on the ears and mange like issues along the spine and tail from improper storage...also, glass eyes.

Oh my God.

17 hours awake and counting on three hours of sleep and this is what has become of me.

I read my daughter my favorite Jack Kerouac haiku.
When I finished, I nearly shouted,  How beautiful is that!?
My 15 year old daughter looked at me like she was looking at a rare odd thing.
So I started dancing around the kitchen like a rare odd thing in an effort to retroactively earn her disdain, and I sang,
How beautiful is that?!
Her silence fell like a rock.
And I said, nature! rain, the soles of his shoes were made clean by the rain! How beautiful is that?!
I said,
dancing still,
Redemption! The shoes are clean! Made clean by the rain!
My daughter sat straight and  still on her chair and said, perhaps you are over analyzing the poem?
and as if summoned by angels, my young son silently appeared before us, arms raised fists clenched like a soldier of God, ready to punch his heretic big sister into accepting the redemption offered in a scant handful of syllables,
the image of a man walking in the rain and the soles of  his shoes were made clean by the rain.
the man and the shoes, they are long long gone,
but the rain
the rain still washes things clean.

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