#51. Letter to the Judge First Draft: Beverly Cleary said kids haven’t changed much; they still want a father and a mother in the very same house. I have neither.
Dear Honorable Judge Welch,
Ramona, Beezus, Ralph the Mouse, and Henry Huggins were my friends when I was a kid. Now they’re stacked with other Beverly Cleary books we’re reading to Sam and Clyde. I loved this author. One time she talked at my old school. During the question time, someone asked her if kids had changed since she started writing for them. She said, “I don’t think their inner feelings have changed. They still want a mother and a father in the very same house.” I agree, but, thanks to one man, my twin brothers and I have neither.
I use my dead Dad’s jog-to-work backpack as my school backpack. Unlike Dad, the backpack is in good shape except for the fraying fabric laces that my grandfather (“Pop”) replaced with no-tie, reflective, elastic-lock laces. (Sam and Clyde—our 5-year old twins—have new rainbow Lock Laces for their sneakers. We’ve decided to hit the pause button on teaching them how to tie; they’re stressed enough for now.) As I watched Pop lace up the backpack and sneakers I remembered that Dad also used Lock Laces to keep the twins out of the cabinets—to keep them from getting into poisons and such. I don’t know if my grandparents’ cupboards need to be protected from Sam and Clyde, but it’s been a steep learning curve for Pop and Mimi (our grandmother); I’m not sure they’d think of Lock-lacing the cabinets. I maybe should do a safety check on my own. They are trying as hard as they can to have our backs, but it’s all happened so fast.
I used to watch Dad load his backpack each school morning. He kept his thermos and lumpy objects away from the part that would lie against his spine and for that spot he used a backbone-comfort pouch that he packed with his lesson plans. He stored heavy books in the very bottom. For instance, even though he didn’t like using anthologies for his Lit classes, occasionally he assigned a story from one and carried it back and forth. PB&Js, apple, and keys he slipped in the zipper pouches on the waist straps. He tucked his mittens, hat, and scarf in the side mesh pockets.
Monday through Friday he’d shrug it on, adjusting the straps just tight enough: snug, but not so tight that it restricted his arms. Then he hugged and kissed us kids and Mom and jogged to his high school.
Monday through Friday I follow the same routine: pack it, slip it on, and do the tighten-adjust manuvers.
I love to wear it because I can feel his presence, like he’s watching my back, as they (I) say.
I hate to wear it because it reminds me that he’s dead.
He and my Mom are dead because one guy ran a red light; my parents were extinguished by a murdering killer. Well, I guess that’s a tautology, or some such, as Dad would say. But I wrote it that way on purpose, for emphasis.
Please impose the toughest sentence you can think of on Mr. A. Spinoza Carlotto. I know in our country we do not do beheadings and I know Mom and Dad were against the death penalty, but I wish the worst for him, that’s for sure.