I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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Category: Isabel Scheherazade Continues Her Stories

#Mamas. Death. Elective Mutes. Hollow-eyed twins. The traumas just keep piling up. Good thing I’ve got a wide bench with this blended family of mine. (“Chapter” 39)

Arturo’s Mama died. That’s why he muted himself, Mimi. 

It’s after the soccer scrum and a supper of sautéed scallops and sandwiches. (And lots of s’s) The sunroom (one more s) is in hubbub: the twins maneuver front loaders, graders, pavers, and an excavator under the nook;  Pop demonstrates to Zia how to use the sharpening steel (it’s a metal rod?) to hone a knife blade; he mutters, a dull knife is an accident waiting to happen; Mimi, Oliver and I hunker down in the breakfast nook to discuss Arturo.

But, the words “Arturo’s Mom died”  turns the hubbub volume to OFF. There was a complete absence of noise like the one that descended right after I knocked the Lladro statue onto the tiled kitchen floor. The twins poke their heads out from under the benches and peer at me with hollow eyes.

Last year, adds Oliver. Cancer.

Mimi says, That is very sad.

Oliver keeps going. The teacher told us that he hasn’t cried or asked for his mother. He just stopped talking.

Tell me what actually happened during your buddy session.

Nothing happened, says Oliver. He makes a zero with his fingers. Nada.

Here’s how it went. I flip to an empty page in my notebook and sketch a desk.  We sit on either side of Arturo.. I lick the tip of my pencil and draw two stick figures on little chairs: Tall Oliver. Short me. Arturo’s underneath. I pencil in a tiny boy crouching on the floor, kneeling, with his head on the seat of his empty chair. Refusing to come out.

Pop, Zia, Mimi, Oliver, and the twins ponder my picture.

Suddenly another detail comes into focus, like a car in a rear view mirror following so closely you can make out the people inside. I erase and re-draw and smudge so that Arturo’s stick hands cup the back of his ears.

Why, Mimi leans in, He’s trying to hear you better.

Oliver sniffs.  I thought he was covering his ears!

Me too. I added hash marks and shading to the sketch. I didn’t realize what he was doing until I started sketching. The sketching made me see what we missed. 

Well, says Pop.  If he listens, then he’ll think. He leans down to pull the twins out from under the bench. If he thinks, at some point he’s just going to have to let his thoughts out. 

Right!  Oliver shrugs his book bag onto his shoulders. Right, Sam and Clyde? 

But the twins stand mute, their eyes round as saucers. More Mamas. More dying. Traumatized all over again?

Hey, little guys…Oliver slips his pack off and grabs their hands. How about one more wild and crazy Win-Dance-Repeat? The three of them binge-watch You-Tubes of the Red Sox outfielders’ post-game routines when they win. Immediately the twins and Oliver bow to each other, fist bump, kneel and roll pretend video cameras, shuffle forward three steps, kick right legs, stick out their left hips, then FREEZE and…do it all over again.

They are cutecutecute. Even Oliver.  So while he  dances a bit of happy back into the twins’ eyes,  I pull picture books out of my book bag.  Mother, Mother, I Need Another,  Where’s My Mommy, and Llama Needs a Mama. 

Mimi, one more thing? I whisper so Clyde and Sam don’t hear.  We checked these out to read to Arturo. But when his teacher saw them, she said “no books with mamas.”

I disagree, says Mimi. I think stories with mothers in them will get him to talk. She speaks softly too.

Or cry, I say.

Cupping HIS ear, Oliver looks over the twins’ heads, tuning in to Mimi.  He narrows his eyes and raises his chin.  He had disagreed with the teacher too.

Cry? Mimi looks at me. But that’s not so bad, is it?

 Isabel Scheherazade (who hasn’t cried since Mom and Dad died, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.)

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg

#36. I learn Oliver’s theory for why Mom and Dad emerge regularly in the Way-Back seat of my memory. (BTW: This blog is for all ages, um, maybe not 5-year olds.)

Oliver reads my blog.

Just so you know, Mimi and Pop read it too. I’m not TOTALLY unsupervised.

Caveat.*  I might decide to delay posting my write-up about an “incident” until it’s all over and done with, so to speak; that is, until it’s “public knowledge.” After making this statement, if I were Sherlock Holmes, I’d tap the side of my nose meaning we all know what I mean, wink wink. It’s our little secret. 

My “when to publish it” protocol is akin to a Mom “incident” back when she was an undergrad. She wanted to explore the personal side of Elvis Presley at Graceland Mansion, maybe even see Lisa Marie, his daughter. It was part of her thesis topic. So, with her roommates, she drove the yellow Volkswagen Bug (it was still functioning as our second car when it got wrecked by the murderer) non-stop from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine to Memphis, Tennessee, where they got the first tour, didn’t see Lisa Marie, but did get to sit in the Jungle Room and shuffle through the green shag carpets. They drove back, also non-stop, munching granola bars and swilling coke and coffee. And gushing and giggling about Elvis and his police badge collection. (I guess you need to be there to appreciate this.) Later that year, she told her Dad. That’s what I mean by “delaying.”

Now back to the “Oliver reading my blog” paragraph:  Oliver is a focuser. He concentrates and studies and researches until he gets a complete “read” on ideas. He’s like the laser beam on the new bar-code scanner at our library. (Sam, Clyde and I love it; Pop and Mimi are terrified of it.)  Here’s an example of the usefulness of his lazer-focus.

I’ll set the scene:  We’re working at opposite ends of Sir Isaac. Oliver is combing thistle from his tail and I’m patting lineament onto a sore spot where his bridle rubbed him the wrong way.

Isabel, I’ve been thinking about when you found the feather and sensed that your Dad was trying to tell you something.

(Not sure I should have shared that with him.)  What about it?

Don’t think you’re losing it when this happens.

Losing it? What are you talking about Oliver? He’s hit a sore spot with the words “losing it.” I might need some of Sir Isaac’s lineament, this comment bridles me so much.  (I adore constructing puns. Adore it. I can distract myself this way even in the midst of being sore and bridled.)

Oliver drops another thistle into his leather apron pocket and looks along Sir Isaac’s flank at me. continuing connection with the deceased loved ones is normal. (Honestly, can you believe it? He actually talks like this.) The connection gives solace.

Solace? I kiss Sir Isaac’s nose and check the underside of the new bridle for roughness.

Comfort. So when your Dad gets you to reread that quote about the tower and another time pushes you to hop into Four Square? He’s maintaining a connection to you, giving support from afar. Or maybe he’s not so far. I dunno. 

And that’s something your Wikipedia experts say is not losing it?  I’m skeptical, but listening. I have no mental files on this; no prior knowledge that would help me get a grasp; no schemata, as Mr. Grim likes to say.

Absolutely! Oliver nods sagely, or in a manner he thinks is sage.  You can move forward. You can get on with your new life. But you don’t need to let go of your Mom and Dad. It’s great that they’re sitting in the Way-Back seat of your memory waiting for you to tune in to them. Maybe it’s like you’re tuning a radio, twisting the dial back and forth.  And, PRESTO! Suddenly you get “Hugh and Miriam”instead of the local weather on WAMC. 

I ponder this while he mostly hums Long Monday, the John Prine song that inspired the way-back seat imagery.

I’m grateful to Oliver for his explanation. And, I’m sure Mimi and Pop will talk with me about it, once I “post” this entry and they read it. That’s okay. It might spread some solace on our sore hearts. Like lineament.

Isabel Scheherazade

*I love the word caveat! It comes from the Latin word for “let a person beware.” Oliver and I found out about it by way of researching the preliminary hearing challenge. Oliver wonders if we could file a “Caveat Petition.”  Caveat Petitions are precautionary measures a person can take if she thinks some case related to her is going to be filed in court. Oliver thinks it might be one way for me to insert myself into the Preliminary Hearing and alter the murderer’s pleas.

But you don’t actually know if petitioning is what I should do, Oliver? I ask him.

He shakes his head no. Sounds promising though.

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg

 

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#35. Emotional anguish is anguishing; then a memory from the Way-Back seat helps me deal with a Front-Seat, classroom challenge. Magic again?

Mr Grim asks me to help Joe who somehow didn’t learn long division-with-remainders way back when you’re supposed to. He’s been home-schooled up until this year and, although he can do the “mad minute” drill-and-practice basic division facts sheets in less than a minute, long division is a quagmire for him. This is a problem (pun intended!!) because Joe is going to need it in order to understand our pre-algebra topics such as integer arithmetic, simplifying expressions, and solving equations.

What happens next occurred the morning after Pop told me we were not going to the Preliminary Hearing. I was in turmoil, so much so at first I didn’t think I could push this turmoil aside to focus on Joe.

Suddenly Mom shows up in the Way-Back seat of my memory, or whatever this magic thing is that happens to me now. And I get a crystalline recollection of how she taught me long division:

My teacher’s introductory long-division-with-remainders-lesson was as clear as mud. The whiteboard was a mash-up of arrows and tiny numbers and cross-outs. Her “magic” erase marker ran low on ink early on, causing the digits to get fainter and fainter. And the squeaking! It was deafening. I admit that this squeaky marker distracted me from the lesson. Is the squeakiness from static friction being broken and reestablished as she scribbles more and more feverishly?  I wondered.  Maybe the solvent in the marker tip isn’t working or mixing with the ink so it doesn’t lubricate it enough? Also distracting me was the teacher’s constant calling to us over her shoulder that this was our grand “journey into long division with remainders!” To make matters worse—this is hard to believe because I’m relatively short for my class now—I was the tallest girl in my class that year. (I hope I haven’t had my last growth spurt; you only have 4 in a lifetime.)  My tallness kept me in the back row behind a hefty boy. I couldn’t see very well.

When I get home that day I tell Mom Long division with remainders! I don’t get it!!

No problem, Isabel. She pats the couch cushion next to her and says, Come, sit. I’ll show you a trick. 

She flips to an empty page in her notebook, licks the tip of her pencil, and writes “Dad. Makes. Scrumptious. Brownies.” Remember this sentence she tells me, while underlining the first letter of each word. These first letters will remind you what to do in what order. D for Divide. M for Multiply. S for subtract, and B for bring down. (It’s called a mnemonic.) Watch.

Dromedaries are the main mode of transportation in the desert. (Mom loved exotic places.) They get very thirsty. She pauses to sketch a little pool of water surrounded by Dromedaries and palm trees.  At the oasis, this one-humped animal drinks twenty-six gallons of water in ten minutes, how many gallons can it drink in one minute? This is important for a Dromedary’s driver to know, just in case he needs to jump on his steed after only a minute of drinking.  She points to the words.  Dad. Makes. Scrumptious. Brownies. Divide. Multiply. Subtract. Bring down. She jots the numbers after each word. Answer?  2.6 gallons.

She writes out another problem. She hands me the pencil. Here. You do it. And she sits back and watches me, nodding. 

I write D.M.S.B  on the top of the page, lick my pencil tip, and use it to journey into long division with remainders.

I shake my head to get me out of this Way-Back seat memory into the Front-Seat of my classroom and Joe.

Ahem. Joe. I know a trick that’ll help you. It’s called a mnemonic. I pat the chair next to me. Come sit. He moves over, I begin.

I lick the tip of my pencil and write “Dad Makes Scrumptious Brownies.”  Remember this sentence, Joe.

While I underline D M S and B, Mom’s words flow into my head as if through  invisible Bose Open Earbuds (The MSNBC ad says you can talk with your friends or hear traffic while at the same time listening to music if you use them. Dad used to watch a little Morning Joe before school. This is how I know some current culture.)

These first letters remind you what to do in what order. D for Divide. M for Multiply. S for subtract, and B for bring down. Watch.

Dromedaries are the main mode of transportation in the desert.  They get very thirsty. I pause to sketch a little pool of water surrounded by some one-humped desert creatures and palm trees. At the oasis…

I become Mom. The same script, word for word. Even my voice dips deeper like hers used to when she was being ultra-patient.

My student looks back and forth between me and the paper, putting two and two together, if you know what I mean. Mr. Grim is listening from where he’s perched, helping another student nearby.  So, let’s do another one together, okay? 

A caravan of six Dromedaries  is carrying 348 pounds of exotic rice to Egypt. (I do six stick-figure Dromedaries with bags draped in front of their one hump. As I sketch, to keep it informal, I tell Joe Dromedaries are the Arabian, short-haired camels that withstand the heat better than their two-humped cousins, the Bactrian camels.) The rice has been divided equally. Each animal carries the same amount of rice. What size is each  load? I tilt the paper towards him.

Joe licks his pencil tip, gets a grip, and writes out 348 divided by 6.  He whispers Dad and divides 34 into 6; makes and multiplies 5 times 6;  scrumptious and subtracts 30 from 36; brownies and brings down the 8. He stares at the 48 and says Dad Makes Scrumptious Brownies, and starts the process again. I watch and nod. He writes 58 and looks up, grinning.

We do a few more. Joe’s launched. He thanks me. Mr. Grim thanks me.  And I thank Mom.

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#33. Mimi and Pop’s Answer to My Question. (Don’t read this if you want to stay calm.)

Isabel. Pop points to the nook bench. Sit down. Now.

I cave.  Okay.

And Pop begins.

He uses his deep, serious lawyer voice. I never saw him during one of his trials (he took early retirement when we came to live here), but I picture him as an Atticus type, as in Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? That Atticus? (After my school reading group did the book, Pop took me to see the Broadway play last winter.)

He places his hands palm down on the table and smoothes the surface as if flattening invisible documents.  I want to explain what a preliminary hearing is, Isabel.

I give a whatever shrug*. 

Oliver has already described it to me, The preliminary hearing is when the judge listens to the police tell what the guy is accused of doing. While we curried Sir Isaac the other day, he explained how he’d gone to the library and read all the articles about the murder. He looked up preliminary hearings on Google and Wikipedia. He even watched old Court TV shows. Of course he has extensive personal experience from the emancipation court hearings.

But come to find out, Oliver doesn’t know the half of it. I sit straighter and lean forward when Pop says,  During the preliminary hearing the person accused of a crime pleads guilty or not guilty. It’s called “entering a plea.”

A plea, Pop? It sounds like “please,” so I make some guesses. Like he’s going to beg? My voice wears a sharp edge. Like he’ll say, “Please. Please. Don’t put me in jail and throw away the key just because I murdered two people.”

Pop raises his eyebrow. He hasn’t heard me talk tough before. Well, it’s new to me, too, but I’m glad.  It gives me courage,

No, it’s not like that, Isabel. Pop says. It’s when the judge tells him what he’s been charged with, and the man has the opportunity to say whether he’s guilty or not guilty.

Hit me with a brick, why don’t you; I’m that stunned. Like there’s a question? This guy is GUILTY. I grab Pop’s hands and shake them. Mom and Dad are dead, Pop. Or did you forget? 

As soon as I say this, I wish I could hit the delete key.

Isabel Scheherazade, tough-girl in training

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*PS  This shrugging business? Mom and Dad didn’t like it. They said shrugging is a form of non-verbal violence that doesn’t contribute to the conversation in a positive way. (They talked like that. I miss it. Well, I miss it now.) Mimi and Pop haven’t said anything to me about my shrugging. Yet. We’re still too new with each other.

#28. The sadness table gets set up in an unexpected place: outside Clyde’s Kindergarten room.

When Dad took me to swim lessons at the YMCA, the first week I was fine. But the next week I hold onto the parking meter and bawl my eyes out. I didn’t know that Going-For-Swim-Lessons was something that happened over and over!  Clyde is confused in the same way too.

Well, Clyde, says Pop. You see, it’s like this. You have to go to school EVERY day.

Clyde’s face falls like a popped balloon. He whimpers; but, what he says next breaks my heart. I want Mommy! I want Mommy!

I’m finding out that my family’s sadness meal is a long one. And the table gets set up in unexpected places. I’m pretty sure we kids have never actually said “I want Mommy” out loud since she was murdered.

It gets real quiet in the hallway.

Just then Sam bursts out of the other Kindergarten room with his teacher, Miss Honey.  (I’m not kidding. Her name is Miss HONEY, just like the teacher in Matilda, the teacher we all loved and wanted, the protection from Miss Trunchbull’s Chokey!) I squint my eyes as they approach. There’s something familiar about the way they look racing up to us, hand in hand. I can’t put my finger on it, though.

Sam lets go of Miss Honey and takes Clyde’s hand. They turn to face the rest of us with that we-twins-against-the-world stance. Clyde already seems braver with Sam next to him.

Good. Well, then. Pop stands up and takes charge. Here’s what we need to do. The principal looks like she’s going to say something, but Pop–this guy is so cool, he could calm a barracuda that hasn’t eaten in a week–he just keeps talking. Clyde and Sam need to be in the same room. 

When Mimi and Pop registered us, the principal said that it would be “inadvisable” to have the twins in the same classroom. “Twins need to learn to be on their own,” she lectured, like we were school kids. Well, I AM a school kid, but Pop and Mimi? I mean, really. They’re old!

Pop clears his throat. He’s got an Abraham Lincoln look about him anyway, but right now he’s awesome, more like the Lincoln Memorial. I’m sorry. I should have insisted on this earlier. Someday Sam and Clyde can be in different classrooms.  Right now, however, right now? They need each other.

And that was it.  Miss Honey takes Sam and Clyde by the hand, and they head back to her room.

And, sigh! I head back to mine.

-Isabel Scheherazade

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#27. Wherein I begin the sad tale of little Clyde. ( He’s the twin whose cowlick swirls to the right. Sam and Clyde are mirror image twins.) Pity party hereby ends.

No! No! 

As soon as I recognize Clyde’s caterwaul coming from down the Lower Levels hall,  I’m out of my desk and through the door.  It’s my brother, I yell over my shoulder to the teacher. He needs me.

Get away! Get away! Clyde has plastered himself against the wall outside his kindergarten room.  He swings his arms at a scrum of grown-ups trying to grab him.

He’s like one of Zia’s calves surrounded by the coyotes. (I round the corner into the kindergarten area.) And I’m like Sir Isaac the guard mule. (I was enjoying this excuse to escape my class.) To the rescue!  (I  skid to a stop.)

His teacher, the principal with her big shoulder-pad suit, and the school secretary have him cornered.  I spy Pop’s head going by the outside courtyard window. The school must have called home, so I’m guessing the eruption started inside the room and then spread to the outside.

Like lava.

Pop and I reach Clyde at about the same time. When he sees us, he crumbles like a muffin.

What’s up, buddy?  I give him a hug, and he clutches me like a koala bear.

Hey, boyo, what’s cooking? Pop kneels so his face is close to Clyde’s. He’s the only one of the grown-ups that knows it’s important to be at Clyde’s eye level. Clyde tries to burrow into Pop’s quilted vest.

But wait, it gets worse.

You said I needed to go to school, Pop. Clyde gulps–he has the I’ve-been-crying-for-a-while rash and hiccups. So, I WENT. Yesterday!!

–Uh oh, I’ve got to stop writing and help Mimi. She’s just called up the stairs that she doesn’t have enough eggs for the french toast she’s making for our supper. So I need to run up the hill to Zia’s barn and rummage the nests!! (THIS is a different type of chore, don’t you think?)   I’ll get back to the story as soon as possible.)

Isabel Scheherazade

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg(This is me sketched by my friend Ryan)

# 24 I like the idea of being a spinner of plates and stories. Here’s a Way Back story about how I got to be a plate spinner; I’m still working on the story-spinning.

Running away ISN’T in my game-plan (right now at least); but, if I did run away, I’d join the circus. I could be a plate spinner. (The Ring Master would announce me this way: Isabel Scheherazade, Spinner of Plates and Stories.)

I can spin two plates on two poles; Dad and I were working on adding one more—three poles, three plates. I stopped breaking plates once I understood how the physics of  how to keep the plate twirling, and…um…also when I switched to brightly colored, glow-in-the-dark plastic spinning plates.

Here’s how it works: Plate spinning, according to Dad, relies on the gyroscopic effect. To help me understand gyroscopic, Dad and I lie on the floor and watch a toy top. It spins from the side, Isabel. When the energy’s on the right side, the top’s heavier on that side and tries to fall over. But! It doesn’t because the weight moves to the left side and tries to make it fall that way. 

I watch so hard my eyes almost crack. I say to Dad,  And that keeps it upright?

Until the friction between the top and the wood floor slows the spin–see, it’s wobbling left to right now?

The top fell over, but I got up and spun my first plate!

Dad was a good explainer.

I tell Pop how Dad’s description of the gyroscopic effect helped me.  We’re watching Clyde and Sam get their tops spinning. Pop tells me he’ll try to follow Dad’s example and explain things.

You could start with explanations about HEARINGS, Pop, I almost say. But don’t.

Since Dad’s murder, I haven’t practiced plate-spinning—I’d need to practice if I ran away to the circus—but I like using the plate-spinning metaphor whenever I’m feeling burdened with chores, which I’m not really.  For sure I’d never consider emancipating myself. Poor Oliver.

 Isabel Scheherazade

isabelcrossleg2

(sketches by my friend Ryan)

# 22 WorkWorkWork: I’m babysitting the twins and weeding Mimi’s garden AGAIN. And seething about the TV in the closet. Seriously, Isabel? That’s what I’m really fuming about?

Metaphor alert! I’m spinning three plates right now.

Mimi  asks me to keep track of Sam and Clyde while they play in the sandbox. (Each twin counts for  two plates.) AND, while I keep an eye on the twins I have to weed Mimi’s garden. Again.  In particular, Mimi said to  find the weeds I missed yesterday. So. Lots of plates.

Oliver walks down the hill from the barn. Want a hand?

I know he thinks this as a chance to talk Preliminary Hearings, but I’m too steamed to plot and scheme. I yank weeds and blurt out, We don’t even have TV anymore.

Hmmmmm? Oliver murmurs and re-plants a weed I’ve just yanked.

I give him my one eyebrow-raised look.

Wow. How do you do that, Isabel? Then he picks up one of my “weeds.”  Isabel, this is a baby Boston lettuce. It’s a late season crop Mimi started in between the pole beans. He points to a plant that I haven’t yanked. This here, though? This IS a weed. Curly dock weed. See, jointed stems?

I sniff and we work together for a minute, replanting the lettuces. Yikes, I think to myself,  yesterday I must have pulled out a bunch of lettuces. 

Suddenly we’re attacked. The twins crowd into the row with us. We do too have TV!  We do too have TV!

Oliver looks at me for clarification, but, before I can explain the twins do it for me.

They race back to the sandbox, calling over their shoulders, It’s in the closet! It’s in the closet!! Come build roads! Come build roads!

Oliver guffaws—yes “gawfgawfgawf” like some big happy Scotsman—and goes over to the sandbox to play with Sam and Clyde.

Plate-spinning, but I’m not steamed anymore.

Maybe during birding, Oliver can come back to explain what  he knows about Preliminary Hearings. (I’m not sure a big happy Scotsman will know anything about revenge though.)

Isabel Scheherazade, story-spinner

isabelwithlegupwriting.jpg

(sketches by my friend Ryan)

#18. What do you get when you mix socks, underwear, chores, great books, and television? You get one item from this list removed to a closet. Really. The closet.


Socks and underwear, Pop? I bristle like a porcupine. Girls don’t need help with socks and underwear.

Not you, Isabel. Sam and Clyde. You know how they are. 

The guys bounce like Tigger. They think they’re being complimented.

How about “chores?”  I do stuff. 

Tons. You’re a huge help. Pop pats my hand. But I think we can get the boys emptying baskets and setting the table.

I tap the next item. Read aloud? 

We want to read aloud every day after supper. To do it right we’ll need a stack of  good books, so when we finish one, we won’t have a gap before we start another. 

I love the read aloud plan.

Mom and Dad believed in the power of read alouds to tie a family together. Here’s how it worked:  We’d have one book that all of us would lie around and listen to. Dad was reading the “Frances Tucket” series. I’d missed it when it first came out and loved it. We’d gotten to the 4th book. I know the boys didn’t get it completely, but they liked being part of the MomDadIsabel group; it stretched their listening attention span. They’d cuddle up and settle in ‘til the reader said That’s it for now or they fell asleep.  I KNOW they didn’t understand all the plot twists in Toad for Tuesday, but they loved Wharton and George; they cried when they thought George was going to be eaten by the fox. On my own I read other books too. And Mom and Dad also read simpler books to Clyde and Sam when I wasn’t around. If Pop and Mimi read aloud, that will make me happier.

And this supper table one?

No more eat and run. We want us to have discussions. 

We sit and talk already.

Well, we need to PLAN to sit and talk. Right now we jump up because a game or show’s on television. Pop circles the word TELEVISION. We need to cut down. He scribbles tiny numbers in the notebook margin.

We mostly watch Sesame Street, ball games, The Great British Baking Show, ball games, The Electric Company, ball games, Rachel Maddow,  ball games, Carmen Sandiego, ball games, Wild Kratts, ball games.

Which shows?  I ask. I’m hoping it isn’t Little House on the Prairie. Crazily enough, I grew up without knowing this series. With Pop and Mimi, we’re binge-watching all the seasons. (Mom would have disapproved; but all five of us love it.) Also I’m addicted to Earth to Ned: Picture a four-armed alien hosting a talk show with human guests, postponing his invasion of Earth. Think puppets, silliness, irony, attitude—good for adults and kids. (Of course, Mom and Dad never had us watch TV, but I don’t think Pop and Mimi know this and I didn’t think I needed to tell.)

Well, we can’t cut Wild Kratts but still watch the Red Sox. Mimi is shelling peas and has a mulling brow on her.

Cut the Sox? I was just getting into them, too.

In fact, Pop leans forward like he is gearing up for a big hill on his bike. Let’s get rid of it. He sits back, relaxed. Games tempt me, but not if the TV’s gone. He looks at the numbers. I’ve added it upIf we eliminate that hour a day during the week and the games on weekends, we’d gain 10 to 15 hours. 

So, that’s what we did. The TV went in the front hall closet. Anytime I open the door to get my jacket, I can see it behind the vacuum cleaner.

Signing off, or should I say, sighing off–

ISABEL SCHEHERAZADE

Isabelcurlyheadfrombackonchair

 

#19 Adventures in hollowed out trees, beside spider webs with words in them, inside a secret wardrobe, and down by the river with a Trumpter Swan. One of Pop’s rules is a sure-fire winner.

(Way-Back-Seat Story) Once, I traveled with Dad and a swan to hunt down a trumpet. He (this swan born without a voice) needed a real trumpet so he could win over the love of his life. (The Trumpet and the Swan)  Before that adventure, Dad and I make friends with this kid named Sam who lived all alone on the side of a mountain with a weasel and falcon in a hollowed-out tree. (I really like this Sam, but now that I don’t have my old, regular family, I’m bewildered as to why he ran away from a perfectly good family just because it was crowded in their apartment!) (My Side of the Mountain)

(Front-Seat Story) Now, with Pop, we’ve wandered through the door of a closet (called a wardrobe) and emerged in  a place called Narnia. (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) Before Narnia, we witnessed a spider save a pig by writing words in her web. (Charlotte’s Web)

Get what I’m talking about here? The rule about doing lots of read-alouds? It’s is a sure-fire winner.

For hours and hours I lie on my stomach on the rug or grass, or I curl up on the couch or chaise lounges. The twins too, but usually they’ve got their Lightning McQueens with them. In the beginning, they move their trucks around, but gradually they’re hypnotized by Pop’s voice and the story. Cool.

Pop readsreadsreads. We decided to get into the listening-to-great-books habit by doing it all day for a few days in a row. We DO take short breaks to hike the woods around Bull Pond and swim in Rock Brook right under Pop’s bridge and go to the playground for some adventure-swinging, but the rest of the day we listen.

And I’m not sad while I’m listening. Except at the end when Charlotte dies. I keep swallowing the lump in my throat. The twins cry.  Mimi weeps. Pop blows his noise and tells us a story about the author, E. B. White. A recorded-books company asked him to be the reader for their Charlotte’s Web audio book. But even he had to read that last part three times before he could do it without crying. Mainly though, about not being continually sad? Who could be sad with friends like Wilbur the Pig and Charlotte.

ISABEL

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