6:00 AM, AUSTIN. My nine-year-old vegetarian daughter just phoned from New York to inform me that matzo ball soup is made with chicken broth. She has just learned this fact, and wanted me to know so I wouldn’t accidentally eat food made from animals while I’m away. I thanked her and assured her that matzo ball soup is not a thing in Texas.
Dog Day Morning
THE DOGS leave today.
While my ex has been away this month, I’ve watched her two small dogs. And so have my two cats—especially the black alpha. Add an active eight year old girl to that menagerie and you have 34 busy but blissful days.
That time ends now.
This morning my daughter and the dogs shuffle off to her mother’s apartment, where her grandparents will take loving care of them all.
I mark the occasion by packing my bag for Boston and clearing away a last wet wee wee pad.
Funny the things you can get sentimental over.
FOR TWO YEARS, our daughter was bullied in school. The school didn’t notice and our daughter didn’t complain so we didn’t know. Finally a mom saw and told us. After that, things happened quickly. One result is that we changed schools.
During those first two years, our daughter shut down emotionally and psychologically from the moment the bell rang in the morning until school let out at night. Maybe this shutting down was a reaction to the bullying. Maybe there were other causes. What’s certain is that she didn’t learn. She didn’t learn the kindergarten stuff. She didn’t learn the first grade stuff.
The old school noticed the learning problems and provided support programs that helped, but did not close the gap. The school warned us our daughter would probably flunk kindergarten, but in the end they passed her along to first grade. The first grade teacher worried, but in the end passed her on to second grade.
Now she is in a school where they pay attention, in second grade, lacking skills her peers learned in kindergarten.
Catching her up takes hours of extra homework a week. It takes patience and cunning as we work to cool a fear and dislike of learning that’s been baked into her soul for two years. Some days I want to cry. But for her sake I smile.
Ava’s first comic strip
Bucktooth character: “I wonder what is in this box. It is cute.”
Other character: “That is a brick.”
Bucktooth character: “Oops, I’ve been trying to open it all day.”
LISTENING to Coltrane. Taking a break after assembling American Girl doll bunk beds. The tuxedo cat has appropriated Ava’s American Girl doll tent as his personal summer house. Ava is making up a song about wishing on a star. End of summer. Happy.
Here is a story my daughter wrote in school today. I’ve corrected the charming first-grade spelling.
I was going to school with my Dad. I did morning meeting lunch recess and I went to Miss Vickie’s. We made stories. I wrote about Toys-R-Us. It was the end of the day. My dad picked me up from school. I played with my cats and with my Smurfs. I watched a movie. My Dad made me dinner. I rang my neighbor’s doorbell. I asked for a play date but I couldn’t ’cause she was taking a bath. So I watched the Simpsons. My Dad read me a story. I kept on wanting my water. I tried to sleep but I could not. One of my cats bit my hair. So my Dad put him in the kitchen. But I still couldn’t sleep. I got scared but my Dad held me tight. So I wasn’t. I looked at the ceiling. My Dad was snoring so I went to sleep.
MY 6-year-old connected her iPad Smurfs game to my Facebook account, and now she’s sending “I Smurf You” cards to my Facebook contacts.
Blood and Bone
MY EX-WIFE is one of my heroes. Six years ago today, during 33 hours of labor in a stiflingly hot room, she brought forth our daughter. When my body rebels in the gym, I think of her courage and push out another rep. When a lift or stretch hurts, I remember what she did and breathe through the pain. From her and those long moments, I learned mind over matter. From witnessing and helping during those 33 hours, I learned that life is blood and bone, and that we can achieve anything if we push hard enough.
Thank you, Carrie, for that lesson and for this girl. Happy sixth birthday, dearest Ava. And, by wonderful coincidence and similar courage and marvels, joyous first day on earth, Nash Thomas Hoy. Fill your lungs and holler, boy!