Facebook reminded me of the post below from two years ago, and it brought the requisite smile (it’s one of my favorite scribbles).
Sept. 13, 2015
A RANDOM ACT OF MAGIC — Was kinda’ a rough school/work week for my daughter and me. So we made plans after we finished our Friday to go for tea in the morning at our favorite place down the road.
Got up to a beautifully gray, autumn-crisp, drizzly, no-hurry Saturday (the BEST kind). She changed her mind about eating breakfast at home (so we could leave earlier) and was dressed and ready by 8:45. She had her Harry Potter shirt on, and after seeing me grab my Star Trek tee off the floor, informed me that that just would not do. She walked over to my closet and handed me my Potter shirt, the one she bought for me a few months back.
I’ve learned not to argue with any woman bent on dressing me.
Me: I need a hat.
She: Yes. Yes you do.
Earlier in the week the teenager decided to appropriate the purple hand chair from the game room to his pending-manhood cave. The purple fingers had served as the downstairs hat rack. Fumbling, I couldn’t find where he’d parked the displaced hats.
Not wanting to keep my girl waiting, I was forced to leave the house with my ‘fro unkempt.
I’ve also learned not to keep the lady waiting.
Me: Got the book?
Halfway there …
Me: Didn’t bring the cups?
She: (nonchalantly): Not this time.
The full ritual consists of her bringing the truly awesome set of Alice in Wonderland tea cups and saucers that her former baby sitter gave us in the spring, into which we pour the hot tea the young baristas serve us.
As an aside, I always wanted to be the guy who brought his own pool cue into the bar.
I turn as many heads, though, being the Dad who brings his own teacups into the coffee shop.
There were a couple people in line when we got there, giving us ample time to peruse the case displaying the rows of fresh cookies and muffins.
Iced green tea for Em. Toasted bagel. She laid claim to their last two pumpkin cookies (one each to bring back for her mom and brother. She’s the family’s thoughtful one.). Small coffee for me, and a breakfast sandwich that they panini press with love.
She asked me to read while she sipped and snacked.
We’re just past halfway into the fourth book in the H.P. series (The Goblet of Fire). A good number of the pages have been joyously read aloud Saturday mornings (and perhaps more than a few with our ever-improving British accents) at the tea shop’s tall table. It’s a common enough occurrence that when I recently popped into the shop solo, Emily, one of the regular baristas, asked me where the “little muggle” was.
As far as the book goes, the 44-year-old and 10-year-old unanimously agree it’s the best entry so far.
It’s the one where the main characters start to notice that they are boys and girls, and Rowling does a really nice job of re-creating the first awakenings of all those awkward and exhilarating moments (for which I unapologetically remain a complete sucker).
Em and I are so into it that when Hermione appears at the ball for the Tri-Wizard tournament, revealing the date that she had so suspense-fully kept a secret from Ron and Harry, I turn from the book to say the name directly to Em. “No way!” she says. And we gossip for a good minute before returning to the pages.
We finish the chapter and Em decides it’s time for us to sample the pumpkin gelato. We share a taste off the tiny plastic white spoon and Em decrees that, while good, it can’t hold a candle to the salted caramel.
I’ve learned not to get in the way of the lady when it comes to sweet things.
We resume reading, and are so sucked back in to the story that we barely notice Emily (the barista) leaving the counter and crossing in front of us to climb on top of the shelf behind the more comfy recliners in the back of the shop to adjust the sound system.
I’ve been at the shop in the past where the satellite radio craps out and the girl or woman at the counter has to literally scale the wall to adjust the receiver, which is a good 12-14 feet of the ground. Just adds to the local shop’s character as far as I’m concerned.
It’s a regular enough occurrence that Em and I didn’t think twice about it.
Until a couple pages later, when Emma looks up from her pages, her eyes wide as our ceremonial saucers. She turns to me with just the biggest grin on her face.
“Listen!” pointing into the air.
“You know what that is?”
I’m my typical two steps behind her.
“That’s the music that they play at the beginning of every Harry Potter movie!”
Sure enough, my ears register the epic score.
We about fell off our broomsticks.
I’m not sure I can conceive of a more thoughtful gesture than Emily climbing the wall to add to what I had been convinced was an already perfect ritual.
I walked up to the counter, and exchanged knuckle touches with our new favorite barista.
Emma was still over the moon. “How did you do that?”
Emily: “It’s a playlist on Pandora. I went with Chamber of Secrets. A little more upbeat than the Deathly Hollows.”
To have a waiter or waitress know your order when you walk in is one thing. To have one curate a soundtrack for you?
Returning to our chairs, the music made the next couple chapters pass by in cinematic fashion. We lost ourselves in the pages.
In a word, it was magical.
One of those moments that I knew on the spot that I will never forget.
Just to be safe, though, I napkin-sketched it for posterity.
It’ll make for a pretty decent bookmark.
But I didn’t need the reminder, because two years hence, the hasty Pen-Sketch spell I cast that day that transformed a napkin into our bookmark is holding strong.
Each and every time we’ve cracked open the sacred text since, we’ve been reminded of ‘Emily’s Righteous Move’ marking our place. As an aside my daughter and I are proudly pursuing the Guinness World Record for the slowest progression ever through the Harry Potter series. We are presently savoring our way through the final installment, The Deathly Hallows. Knowing the end is approaching, we are treating it (in advance) like a victory lap. We read aloud to each other mostly in small doses these days. A few pages here. A chapter there. On rare occasions, she’ll beg for a stretch beyond a chapter when we catch a groove. She doesn’t have to twist my arm.
I’ve grown to love scarcity. Finite amounts. Beginnings and endings. As a counterweight to my deep desire for things I love to last forever, I’m learning to look forward to things, to appreciate things in the moment, to enjoy them as long as possible, and to kindle and cherish their memories.
There is only beauty because of death, the poet wrote.
Knowing the clock is (always) ticking intensifies and focuses our emotions, ensuring we invest them preciously, intentionally.
That’s why I love the seasons. Even though I lament their passing from one into another.
So, on the occasion of my birthday, I find myself thinking about bookmarks.
I love the work of a bookmark … marking the place where you left off … so you’ll know where to pick up and move forward.
But I’ve also been known to use a bookmark to mark a place I know I’ll want to return to. I recently violently edited my bookshelf downstairs, during which I came across the various journals I’ve kept from different points in my life. Looking back, I see those journals as bookmarks … places where I’ve left off along the journey.
So, it is in that spirit that I hereby bookmark 47 … with 47 things that I find myself in love with on Sept. 17, 2017, in no particular order.
- The little nook in the back yard where we never find enough time to build a fire and just listen to the night and what the world has to say to us.
- Making Karry laugh spontaneously.
- The friends I’ve had since elementary and middle school that I don’t see often enough, but, when I do, instantly close the gap of the years and distance between us. The folks who love you both because of, and in spite of, where you came from.
- Speaking of, I found myself (out of nowhere) yesterday, thinking of one of the best mix tapes a friend ever gave me, and downloaded the tunes to a playlist that I made the official soundtrack of my weekend.
- My oldest sister Kim, who just called and sang Happy Birthday to me, like my Mom and Dad used to. We both could hear Dad’s harmony in her rendition.
- Sending and receiving hand-written cards or notes in the mail (hint).
- A Poorboy without tomato with a side of fries washed down with a Pabst draft at Potter’s.
- Meloni’s bleu cheese dressing drenching a salad with unapologetic beets and anchovies while Sinatra and Dean croon in a crackle overhead.
- Drover’s fried-to-perfection hot wings enjoyed at one of their outdoor picnic tables in the cool sundown cricket-crisp of late summer.
- Two with everything at Shorty’s, and a large shared large fry with gravy while sitting at the table in the back where the floor slants under the dripping air conditioner.
- Falling under the spell of Emma’s killer British accent when we read at the coffee shop or before bed.
- Holding hands with Karry down the driveway after we put the garbage cans out on Thursday nights.
- The poetry rendered in calligraphy by my friend Jim Little.
- When I stumble across a word whose meaning I don’t know, and, out of respect for Dr. Bower, my old college professor, I write it down in the margin or a journal and look up its meaning.
- When my neighbor up the street, Mr. Engel greets me with a wave, an encouragement, or an appropriately snarky comment when he sees me huffing my way around the block.
- Knowing I can ask Karry anything and that she will shoot straight, regardless of whether it’s what I want to hear.
- Being my son’s passenger in the old Subaru. Without headphones on his ears or a screen in front of his face, it’s about the only place where we just talk. And it’s awesome. I will miss the heck out of this when he gets his license.
- Any time and every moment I get to spend with my brother.
- The motley crew of sweet souls I’ve met over coffee and our love for good writing at the coffee shop.
- Friends and co-workers who inspire me towards my better self.
- The exhale of eating weekday dinner at the dining room table with the family.
- The view from my seat at the dining room table of one of my framed favorite photographs, which sits over Karry’s left shoulder when we’re having dinner. It’s a photo I took years ago of the windowsill of Karry’s mom’s dining room, where Mam used to place a new Hot Wheels car for Peter every time he’d visit. Once he finished the top of the steps, he’d run over to the window expectantly to see what she had left for him. The picture captures a blast of sunshine pouring through the window. It symbolizes everything I want to remember about Betty’s house.
- When a member of the family seizes a moment to quote one of my Mom’s old sayings. Like when we’re enjoying a meal and one of the kids describes it as “luscious.” Or, when someone explains a mistake they made by saying, “I thought ….” which triggers, in response, my favorite all-time saying of my Mom’s. “You know what ‘thought’ did? ‘Thought’ shit his pants.”
- Listening to Pirates games on the radio outside, regardless of the score, for the sheer pleasure of listening to Bob Walk or Steve Blass (Greg Brown, too).
- Saturday mornings.
- Drives out to Amity or along old Route 40.
- The back-and-forth conversations I have with our cat Victor, who I am confident is thinking to himself during the exchanges: “He thinks I’m really communicating with him right now, when in fact, I’m plotting your ultimate conquest, and really the only thing left to decide is whether there will be room for you in the new world order as a servant or not.”
- How cute Karry is when she brushes her teeth, and how much it pisses her off when I remind her of this.
- Reading what my daughter writes.
- Listening to the Pittsburgh Symphony on WQED-FM Sunday nights as a balm to the prospects of Monday.
- The t-shirts hanging in my closet that are older than my kids.
- The humbling and appreciated proactive phone calls and letters from each of my three sisters, who make time in their busy lives to let me know they are thinking of me.
- Waking up in the middle of the night thinking it’s 5:30 when it’s only really 3.
- Sitting in the driveway with the car running, or driving an extra lap around the block, so the song can finish.
- When Karry puts on a color that is her color and it just stops me in my tracks.
- The empty journals that I’ve collected over the years patiently waiting for me on the bookshelf.
- My son doing better and going farther than I did.
- The Podcast portion of my current commuting-survival-guide, featuring The Moth, This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Rolling Stone Now and Revisionist History.
- Hard guitars paired with a sloshy hi-hat. Currently in love with “Monster” by Soraia from their soon-to-be-released album.
- Walks around the block with my daughter when she wants to tell me about a book she’s reading or just finished. She gushes. I listen. Sometimes when she’s really fired up, we take an extra lap.
- When Karry and I divide and conquer a Sunday and go to bed exhausted, but ready to face the next week.
- My Vitamix blender.
- All the songs that make me think of my Dad.
- Pie. (Karry got me an Apple one for my birthday). I love pie.
- Dating different books until I find one that keeps me looking forward to our next date. Currently in a relationship with The Great American Novel by Phillip Roth. His wielding of the vocabulary and ear for dialogue is delicious and absolutely unfair.
- The fearless and undaunted among us who remind that This too shall pass.
- Whenever folks remind me how awesome it is when you reserve a kind thought in the day for someone else.