Greetings from Tomorrow

 

My little brother Skyped me tonight from his new Droid. It’s the only way we can talk for free, because he lives in Japan. Friday evening for me; for him, it was noon on Saturday.

He is the same brother that rode in the antique stroller (see Passengers in Zone 4…), and whom I brought for show-and-tell in the first grade and introduced as Freddy when, in fact, his name is David (see Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus). I do not think this incident has any connection to the fact that he has lived six thousand miles away for almost twenty years. That has more to do with the fact that although he is kind of blond and furry, when he speaks Japanese on the phone, Japanese people don’t know he’s not Japanese.

He works as a patent translator. He does not live near Fukushima.

When he was in the first or second grade, my brother was planning, when he grew up, to build a house next door to my parents’ house. He was also going to open a doughnut shop and have a parking place reserved just for her. I think my mother still secretly holds out hope that he will move back to the States  and live in a treehouse in my parents’ backyard.

This was at about the same time that Mom was saying The Other Day every night at David’s bedtime.  At its inception, The Other Day was a brief, benign exercise in explaining what would happen tomorrow: “We’ll get up in the morning, go to school, come home and have a snack, play outside, eat dinner, and get ready for bed!” Mom recited. Over the weeks and months and year plus, however, it became a daily endurance event in memorization, on my mother’s part, and delay, on my brother’s.”We’ll  get out of bed, brush our teeth…”

“You forgot ‘open our eyes!'”

Sigh. Deep breath. “We’ll open our eyes, get out of bed, brush our teeth…”

“You forgot ‘pull up the shade!'”

We’ll pull up the shade…”

“No, start from the beginning!”

“We’ll open our eyes, get out of bed, pull up the shade….”

You get the idea. Cute for the first three minutes. Hell ever after. The Other Day, at its pinnacle, sometimes took over half an hour to recite, the Guru Gita of bedtime rituals. At some point–I believe when it became a source of hilarity for Lil’ Bro rather than a source of comfort–my mother finally forced The Other Day into retirement, but David did not go gently into that goodnight.

It has been a longstanding family joke that he moved to Japan–across the International Date Line–so that he would actually be living in The Other Day.

Two months ago during the family reunion in Hawaii, David and his wife and daughters rented the condo four doors down from Mom and The Guru (see Building the Future, One Accident at a Time), and he made several pre-dawn runs across the island to the Krispy Kreme store.

Have you gotten–maybe in a form no one could have predicted–what you wanted?

* donut pic from http://www.kingunderground.com

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Easy Answers for Today

It feels like at this point, almost three weeks in, I should be posting a recipe or a YouTube video of me making Quick and Tasty Fajitas or rugelach. Everyone’s a chef these days. But my only recent original food prep event involved frozen Costco cherries impaled on bendy straws, so unless instant mini popsicles are on your menu, don’t  tune in here for your next dinner party idea. Especially since Cherries On A Straw is labor-intensive, as you have to replace each cherry the moment it disappears into a smile. Gratifying, but not relaxing. And after, you might have to swab the bare bellies of your guests with warm wet cloths. Which could be a good thing. It’s none of my business.

I’m losing my battle again with sleep. Gbot didn’t nap today while Mbot was at preschool. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve come to depend on that ninety minutes of silence, when I can relax my vigilence, when I don’t have to give any orders or answer any questions.

Overheard from the backseat:

Gbot: “Itsy bitsy pidah wen up da wah-uh spout. Down come wain, wassed pidah ow…”

Mbot: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the water spout…”

Pause.

Mbot: “Why, Mama? Why did he climb up the water spout?”

Me: “Because that’s just how the world works, Mbot. Spiders like to climb up water spouts.”

I liked my work as a magazine writer because I was always learning something, about rock climbing or glass blowing or fancy bathrooms or yurts. I find it all fascinating. Even the bathrooms (Did you know it’s not such a big project to install radiant heat in yours?). I like questions. I like answers. But today I didn’t have any better answers.

My work with the Midgets forces me to confront my ignorance. Daily, I am asked a vast quantity of questions, but they are unanswerable. Fifty koans a day. Maybe that’s another reason I started this blog. To make me feel like I know something.

Why did the Itsy Bitsy Spider climb up the water spout?

* cake pic at http://www.familyfun.go.com

Anatomy of a Life

After turning around for ninety seconds to load the toaster this morning, I found both Midgets on the patio naked as freshly shelled peas. Gbot was pole-dancing on the uprights on the sandbox and Mbot was holding the magnifying glass to his own pito. Pito: Spanish, our family word for outdoor plumbing. I once made the mistake of using it to refer to Husbot’s. Don’t do it. Apparently the term is only to be used in reference to very small fixtures. I am off-topic, but not too far off, since my topic is anatomy.

Specifically, this: in spite of Mbot’s anatomical investigations, I am skeptical that a fascination in the Human Body in general is what makes him powerless to resist Your Body Battles a Stomachache (see yesterday’s post, Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus).

I threw out a few theories yesterday about his love for the book, and I’ll tell you why I’m so hung up on it: because of my mother. (The mother who dreamed about boarding a plane while doing the Charleston, see Passengers in Zone Four…). When I told my mother about the stomach book, she said, “He’s just like you! Do you remember The Human Body book?

The Human Body book.

Of course I remembered. It was a book that changed my life.

I discovered it by accident in the Auke Bay School library when I was eight. Its real title was The Body, and it was part of a series of very large books by Time’s Life Science Library. The cover was an alluring undersea green, with an alluring, eerily lit photo of a sculpture of a torso. And inside: words and pictures describing things to capture the imagination. Polypeptide. Vitreous humor. Duodenum.

There was one wonderful page, page 73, that was my favorite. It read: “When a man stands, his entire weight is carried by the bones of his legs down to his feet. But when he sits, the weight is carried on the two arches of bone (opposite) extending below the flaring wings of the pelvis….”

That page, especially, transfixed me. I returned to it again and again. And I knew I was in love with the Human Body. I concluded that I was going to be a doctor when I grew up.

Based solely on that book, my friend Shannon Klowunder, whose mother was a nurse, and I formed The Human Body Club. We memorized the text on page 73. We made flashcards and quizzed each other out on the playground while the other kids swung on the monkey bars: Subclavian vein. Superior vena cava.

I was also in The Bionic Man Club, with another friend, Christina Forchemer (Goals: 10 pushups every day, run across the playground without stopping). But I sensed deep down that The Bionic Man Club didn’t have a future. The Human Body Club was different. My obsession with The Body, which I renewed again and again–and in the following years, with other such books, including Isaac Asimov‘s The Human Body–was part of a larger goal. I came to define myself by it: I was a future surgeon. I felt fortunate and relieved to have my future all figured out.

I chose a college for its pre-med program. I took bio and chem. I took English and art history, too, and that’s when I ran into trouble. Because found I loved them. For the first time since the third grade, I discovered there were other paths. For the first time since I was eight, I was unsure about my future. I majored in art history with an English minor. I didn’t fulfill my science course pre-reqs. After graduating, I worked as an editor and ad copywriter. I enjoyed it, but I struggled financially. I feared I had failed myself by not continuing on to med school.

One afternoon when I was thirty, I was wandering around Georgetown and stumbled on a used book store in a narrow brick rowhouse rising from the cobblestones of P Street. It was called The Lantern, and it’s still there, a marvelous place–old ladies, old books, old, creaking stairs. On a whim, I decided to look for that old friend, The Body.

There it was, on a shelf at floor-level. The entire series, in fact, but I pulled out just the one. Now I recognized the sculpture on the front as a Rodin bronze. I sat in the afternoon light by the tall narrow windows and flipped to the page that had first fired my imagination, the page that had set me on my path over twenty years before.

I was astonished by what I saw.

The spread was beautiful. On the left, a full-page photograph of a pelvis and lumbar vertebrae shot in black and white against a black ground. On the right, a 3/4-page photo, again in black and white, of a spare architectural structure identified in the caption only as “Model of Space Frame,” whose supporting elements echo those of the pelvis. Below it, the text that Shannon and I had memorized was broken into brief lines and centered, like a poem. That’s what gave it away. Sitting there in the old bookstore, now as a student of art history, as a professed writer, I saw that all those years ago, I had misidentified my passion. It was not anatomy I had fallen in love with, but with the art and language of it. Alveoli, phalanges. All those beautiful words. Rodin. Those beautiful images.

Alan E. Nourse, villi-describer extraordinaire. Photo from Wikipedia

The author, Alan E. Nourse, was a poet (actually a novelist, columnist, and MD–he did it all) with a wit. Subtitle on white blood cells: “A Rally of Wrigglers.” On lungs: “Two Studies in Pink.” On poisons: “Finality in a Capsule.” He paints the villi, which I described unimaginatively as “fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine” as “a vast, velvety filter.” In 1975, The Body was probably the first great nonfiction book that had crossed my path.

And so I am curious about what, exactly, draws Mbot to fall asleep every night with the stomach book. The answer may not be obvious at all. I hope it doesn’t take him until he’s thirty to figure it out. It’s okay if, like my mother said, he’s like me. But only up to a point.

John and Bill Reiff at Twinsdays, 1991 (www.robinsontwins.org) copyright Charles Robinson 2011

Is there a book—or a bookstore—that changed your life?

Nourse, Alan E. and the editors of Life, The Body, Life Science Library, Time Inc., New York, 1964.

Sculpture, Rodin, Auguste. . c. 1900. Musée Rodin, Paris.

Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus

I made it through Mbot’s first show-and-tell three weeks ago, but only barely, and
now I was faced with a second. He had wanted to bring a fiberglass cast. Another kid had brought a cast, cut off his wrist after an accident we have not (yet) had. He had wanted to bring shells. Another kid had brought a bagful of shells, sending one home with each child. In the shell department, we had only one tiny limpet. It was not a large one. He wanted to bring seeds. The kid yesterday had brought seeds. Pressure and panic were mounting.

Then I had a brainstorm. We would make a robot out of stuff in the kitchen! Recycle Robot was constructed of Handiwrap tubes, a granola bar box, an egg carton, mini-bubble wrap (the wings, duh), pipecleaners, and a few inches of duct tape. “We” was constructed of “me” more than “he.” I was particularly proud of Recycle Robot’s articulated elbows. Forgive me for overachieving, but I am new to the show-and-tell scene. The last time I did show-and-tell I was in the first grade and I brought in my little brother, who I introduced as Freddy. Freddy is not his name.

Recycle Robot was as big a hit as Freddy had been forty years ago. But the next day I realized, as a proud little boy and his wise mother paraded into class with a flashlight–that there are simpler solutions.

Yet I dreaded the next show-and-tell.

As the day drew near, we discussed it. Mbot wanted to bring Buzz Lightyear, the one with all the buttons, the one the Toy Fairy had not picked up (You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy), but Mrs. Pursell does not allow toys. He wanted to bring Tesserwell. Mrs. Pursell does not allow cats. He wanted to bring poop. I am sure that Mrs. Pursell does not allow poop.

The day came at us as though shot from a cannon, and that morning, we were still empty-handed.

“How about the magnifying glass?” I asked with false cheer. I’d already suggested it, days before, to a profound lack of enthusiasm. But I’d just found it again behind his little brother’s crib. I’d gone hunting for it that morning because Mbot had wanted to examine the dried cat puke on the bathroom floor more closely, and who am I to stand in the way of scientific investigation? “Just don’t touch it,” I’d advised. The weedy, yellow puddle had appeared during the night; it wasn’t hurting anyone, it wasn’t going anywhere. Unlike breakfast and Griffin’s diaper and the cat’s insulin shot, it could wait. It might as well pay its way.

And it did. As Mbot rushed into the bathroom armed with the magnifying glass,  I thought about the object of his fascination. And then it hit me. “How about the stomach book?” I asked. “For show-and-tell?”

Mbot looked up from the kitty bile long enough to exclaim, “Yeah, Mom!”

The stomach book.

The stomach book has been a part of our lives for over a year, since my then two-year-old had pulled it off the library shelf–coincidentally, soon after he’d had (and shared with us) the toilet bowl blues. He insisted on reading it every night and also several times a day. Since then, I had renewed it, returned it (an act accompanied by tears from the backseat), and checked it out again. And again, and again. The real title of this fab classic is Your Body Battles a Stomachache (by Vicki Cobb, Andrew Harris, and Dennis Kunkel). It is a book dedicated to describing in detail the mechanics of throwing up.

The stars of the show: intestinal villi, magnified 16,000 times. http://www.allposters.com

Inside it, we meet, up close and anthropomorphized, the major players in puking. The muscle cells, who look like superheroes. “Who’re those guys again, with the fancy heads?” asked Mbot. Those are the brain cells, with pointy axon noggins and dendrite limbs. There are also goblet cells (attractive for their ability to produce mucous), and villi (singular, villus), the fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine to absorb nutrients. The
shapeless and benevolent villi call to mind efficient, well-meaning, and, at
one point when one of them explodes, extremely distraught nuns. There is also an image of a tapeworm, magnified ninety times. I’m telling you, this book is terrific.

After school, Mrs. Pursell thanked a shyly proud Mbot for helping teach the class about villi.

What is it about the stomach book that he is powerless to resist? I don’t know. Maybe it’s simply the attraction of a character-driven saga, the good guys versus the bad guys, with the benefit of body fluids and a giant tapeworm. Or that it all happens to him. (Except the tapeworm (yet)). It is far more interesting to him than Recycle Robot, no matter how bendy he is at the elbow.

The day after show-and-tell, Mbot removed Recycle Robot’s arm and inserted several small plastic toys through the shoulder socket into the granola box body. They were unrecoverable, because Recycle Robot cannot throw up. I performed surgery, amateurishly. Recycle Robot did not survive. But the stomach book lives on.

What would you bring to show-and-tell?

The Girl Pocket

Fisher-Price Trio helicopter. The Trio: better than Legos for the three-and-under set. And with rounded edges, easier on the girls.

A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was getting ready for bed a few nights ago, the eyeball in this picture fell out of my bra. For those of you familiar with Fall Apart Chubby, you already know that I consider my best, most convenient pockets to be the two in which my breasts also happen to reside. If men can carry a Man Purse, why can’t women have Girl Pockets?

A miniature Batman figure fell out alongside the eyeball. The night before, it was a paperclip and a twist tie. Talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex (You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy). This happens every night, except the detritus doesn’t usually stare back at me like, “It’s not my fault women don’t have pockets.”

Of course that is not entirely true: women do have pockets. And we could use them. But stuffing chest pockets is unfashionable (witness the Pocket Protector); using hip pockets is uncomfortable; and using back pockets is unthinkable if not impossible.

But the bra? Now there’s a pocket—two, actually—in which only a few of us feel like we’re carrying enough. And, thanks to the forgiving physiology of the bra’s chief inhabitants, it seems like there’s always room for more. For years, even before giving birth, I found it a convenient repository for many of life’s necessities: credit cards. Driver’s licenses. Boarding passes. Lipstick. And now: milk bottles (for short periods, between car and house, for example). Diving sticks (or anything that you don’t want to forget to bring with you as you whiz around the house late to swimming lessons). Car keys.

The bra is not recommended for everything. A few examples spring to mind: sewing pins. Nail clippers. Half a cracker. Cell phones. (You sweat. They die.)

I am, admittedly, a slow learner. I attended a women’s college twenty years ago and didn’t become a feminist until I became a mother. I am not going to rant about the need in the western world for pregnant lady parking spaces and drive-through grocery stores, but is a pocket really too much to ask?

Aside from the cargo pant, whose pockets were never meant to carry cargo, not really, or athletic pants with a zip pocket big enough for a tampon and a ten dollar bill, women’s fashion is devoid of useful pockets. There is no sexy mommy equivalent of the safari vest. It’s not anyone’s fault; we can’t blame Dolce and Gabbana. It’s just a matter of evolutionary biology. A sexy woman is one who can snap her fingers and get what she wants. She doesn’t have to actually lug it around on her person. A woman with bulging pockets sends out one of several messages: 1. I am homeless. 2. I am desperate. Neither of these things signals a good target for childbearing. Thus: the human male has no biological imperative to find her sexy.

The Girl Pocket is my secret weapon. Now that I am the mother of two toddlers, though, the secret’s out, and not just at bedtime. At the grocery counter yesterday I looked down to find my keys dangling out the neck of my t-shirt. It’s a shiny, jingly clump, so maybe other shoppers just thought it was a brooch. Lady Gaga would go there.

The road to a world where useable pockets are socially acceptable for women is a steep and uphill grade. When I flew alone with Mbot, when he was first learning to crawl (read: he did not want to fly, or be held, or sit), I wore a thin, black wool cycling jersey. It looked  normal from the front, and even lint-free, thanks to Husbot’s lint roller, but those behind me witnessed three kangaroo pockets bulging across the back. Perfect for two milk bottles, a wallet, some tissues, and two binkies (a fresh one and the one that had met the floor, in separate pockets, of course). Look ma, no hands!

“You look funny,” said my brother-in-law as we came through security.

“Smart,” I said. “I know you meant to say, ‘smart.’”

“No,” he said. “You look funny.”

But the eyeball in my bra says otherwise.

Where do you keep your stuff??

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This

I’m blogging at the wrong end of the day.

My experiment in morning meditation has turned into an exercise in staying awake after bedtime. And Mommy wants off the treadmill.

Overheard from the backseat:

Gbot: “Want… more… ice cream bar.”

Mbot: “No, G! It’ll make ya fat. Then you’ll have to stay up all night on da treadmill to make ya puff down.”

Pause

Mbot: “Mom? Do treadmills make ya puff down?”

Yeah, they do, Mbot, darling. Mama’s puffing down her ambitions tonight.

Sleep well.

Treadmills: Good or bad?

Waiter, There’s a Butterfly in My Cocoon

I have been disturbed for several days by the sneaking suspicion that Eric Carle didn’t know what he was talking about. Eric Carle is the legend who created The Very Hungry Caterpillar, about the binge-eating Lepidoptera who finally, bloated and exhausted and probably with very low self-esteem, built a cocoon and emerged a beautiful butterfly.

Children find this book and about fifty of Mr. Carle’s other collage-illustrated books inexplicably fascinating. Witnessing the Midgets’ delight in them has given me a greater appreciation them, but I admit, my faith faltered while reading another book the Midgets adore, Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers About All Kinds of Animals  (Random House, 1976. In the name of finally clearing out her attic, my mother sent me about a hundred pounds of children’s books, circa 1965-75, when Mbot was born. Some claim that I bore children for the sole purpose of getting these books.)

Moths come out of a cocoon, Charlie Brown informs us. Butterflies come out of a chrysalis.

Well, I thought, what about Eric Carle’s butterfly? It came out of a cocoon. It seems reasonable to believe that Charlie Brown is right: moth is to cocoon as butterfly is to chrysalis. So has Eric Carle been wrong all these years?

Tonight I finally got around to checking. Obviously I wasn’t the first Doubting Mom to inquire. Because on his website, www.eric-carle.com, Mr. Carle addresses the issue directly.

“Here’s the scientific explanation” he writes. “…There is a rare genus called Parnassian, that pupates in a cocoon. These butterflies live in the Pacific Northwest, in Siberia, and as far away as North Korea and Japan….And here’s my unscientific explanation: ….when I was a small boy, my father would say, ‘Eric, come out of your cocoon.’ He meant I should open up and be receptive to the world around me. For me, it would not sound right to say, ‘Come out of your chrysalis.’ And so poetry won over science!”

I was so thrilled to read this. Charlie Brown’s inaccuracy doesn’t seem so bad. I never really thought he was the last word on All Kinds of Animals, anyway. On the other hand, If Eric Carle had gotten a simple term wrong, it would be as if Michelangelo had carved The David holding a water pistol instead of a slingshot.

There are roads of thought in all directions I could go down from here: the authority we want from our authors, the cocoons we all dwell in, the magic that occurs at the convergence of poetry and science. But one of the frustrations and the beauties of a daily blog is that it exists at the convergence of living and writing, and in my cocoon, that point is no bigger than a raisin.

Why was I so thrilled Eric Carle was bailed out by a bug in Siberia? We all need things to believe in. Even if one of them is a rare two-dimensional insect that eats salami.

When’s the last time you were relieved to discover you were wrong?

*caterpillar image from http://www.nopests.com

You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy

David de Rothschild, eco-adventurer and heir to banking fortune, has not shown up.

The toy fairy came to our house for the very first time this week. Her arrival has been threatened before, but she had never alighted on our doorstep. I invoke her name when I have asked several times for the floor to be cleared of dinosaurs, books, trains, stuffies, colanders, whisks, and everything else that collects on the living room and kitchen floors until I feel like I am living in the Pacific Trash Vortex except David de Rothschild is not going to come save me in a boat made of plastic bottles.

It’s the toy fairy’s job. To save me. But not in a bottle boat. She flies.

The toy fairy collects toys from the floors of children who do not care enough to put them away properly and redistributes them to children who will. This is the part that seems to motivate Mbot. Not that his Buzz Lightyear with the karate kick button will be taken away into the nebulous ether, but that it will be given to another little boy. This is something concrete, that he can imagine, and predates by thirteen or so years the heartbreak that will inevitably be caused by a girl who dumps him for another guy.

There are, of course, endless questions: Is the toy fairy little? (Yes.) Is she strong? (Yes.) Can she find toys hidden under sofa cushions? (Yes.) And she’s got connections. She’s on close terms, for example, with Santa Claus.

This week, the perfect storm of hormones and hurry and selective deafness and dawdling occurred, and I finally gathered up a small bag of Legos and blocks that would never be missed, and dropped it outside the front door for our winged visitor. It was a dreadful moment. I hated it. The toy fairy had always been imaginary. Hovering just beyond the rooftops, the bells on her wings not yet audible. Now, she was here: a creature invoked out of my own power was biting me on my clever Mommy ass.

“When I’m a big boy, I’ll shoot that toy fairy!” cried Mbot.

“You can’t shoot her,” I replied. “And besides, she’d tell Santa.”

But at that moment, I wanted to shoot her, too.

Have you been so clever, lately,  that it hurt?

*picture of David de Rothschild from http://www.tedxsv.org

Eye-Found-It!

This is a picture of three children enjoying Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye-Found-It! Game instead of watching TV. The game includes ten miniature fake magnifying glasses, nothing more than a hoop on a 3/4″ handle, that toddlers love to hold up to their eyes and squint through. It makes them laugh and laugh. This picture does not show anyone sticking the little magnifying glass in their ear to see how far it goes.

We have played this game several times (“played” used in the loosest of terms) instead of watching TV. Now, I realize the instructions specify the game is for ages three and up. But I have been fortunate that up until several hours ago, my children have shown no interest in discovering how far they can shove objects of any size into any of their orifices. Several hours ago, Gbot discovered how far he could put a miniature fake magnifying glass into his ear, and the answer was: far enough to draw blood (a little) and cause howling (a lot).

I dialed our trusty pediatrician and listened to calming words about eardrops and scratches that heal quickly and with no consequences. The howling had been replaced by periodic sniffling. I bundled the Midgets into the car for a drive to the pharmacy window. By this time, Gbot was giggling about the impromptu evening spin and playing footsie with Mbot across the gap in the back seat. An hour later he would be sleeping peacefully.

I was not smiling. I was thinking about how fragile we all are, how time can break underfoot like ice on a pond.

Tomorrow night we will watch TV.

What’s the last thing you discovered the hard way?

* picture of children playing Eye-Found-It instead of watching TV from http://www.examiner.com

Building the Future, One Accident at a Time

1940s wool knit swimming trunks with adjustable herringbone pattern belt. (www.kaboodle.com)

If necessity is the mother of invention, then who’s the father?

I’m taking a stab here, but I’m guessing it’s the accident. Food scientists postulate that the first cheese was made by a thirsty traveler 10,000 years ago when he used a cow stomach for a thermos and walked to the next town. He arrived, not with milk, but with ricotta. And of course there’s Christopher Columbus, who was looking for India. And then, there is the Swim Jammie. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We were speaking of fathers. Mine calls himself The Guru. As he is a 72-year old white male born in Fort Lee, New Jersey, whose only forays to foreign lands involve a fishing rod and knee-deep water the temperature of freshly peed-in pants, one might assume that when he uses this moniker, he is making fun of himself.

Close observation has led me to conclude that, while he knows this should be the case, it is not actually so.

The Guru considers himself an unassailable expert on fashion, food, child-rearing, how the world should be, and New England racing schooners of the early twentieth century. He is right about the last one. I also hear that, before retirement, he did a mean aortic graft.

About the first few things, though, other family members would undoubtedly be more willing to embrace his Guru-osity if evidence existed that he knew the difference between gray and green, if he didn’t avoid all dishes containing onions, garlic, or cheese, if he had done actual child-rearing, and if he didn’t depend on my mother to interact with the world on his behalf. No one knows exactly when or where the term “The Guru” originated, in reference to my father, but we do know that, when family members use it other than The Guru himself, we are, without exception, making fun of him.

He takes this well because he knows we are wrong.

It should be stated that my family is fortunate in that we have no early onset Alzheimer’s in the bloodline. And so we all could—and did—laugh without underlying nervousness when, a few weeks ago while on vacation in Hawaii, The Guru got half way to the beach wearing his beach shirt, his flip-flops, and his pajama bottoms. He only noticed when my mother wanted to put a key in his pocket, and found there was only one pocket, and that it already had something in it. He took the elevator back up to the fifth floor to change. When my mother told me the story, she could barely speak between howls of mirth.

Upstairs, my sister greeted him at the door. She immediately saw the reason for his premature return. My father had trouble getting past her body, which, in her account, was lying fetal on the entryway floor in spasms of hilarity.

Now is the time to bring on the excuses: The pajama bottoms were shorts-like. Not so different from a pair of swim trunks. That’s as far as The Guru got with the excuses. There just weren’t any more.

anti-sag wool knit one-piece, 1930s(www.theretroknittingcompany.co.uk)

This week, to recreate the warm feelings of the moment, my sister is making him, for his birthday on Friday, a pair of Swim Jammies. A comfortable and fashionable multi-use garment that goes from bed to beach with the flair your old-fashioned swim trunks only wish they had. In our family mythology, we imagine there might be a future in them. Certain styles, perhaps something in a manly yet floral short-nap velour, may yet make it all the way through Happy Hour and back to bed again. After all, The Guru Knows.

We laugh, but just think….My mother marvels at how her mother would never have thought of going out in public wearing pants instead of a skirt. She marveled at her own daring self when she put on that leotard for the first time (see Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston). Perhaps, in spite of all the heckling he gets, The Guru might be on to something. My only reservation is that he might be too far ahead of his time. The world might not yet be ready for the Swim Jammie. Such a bold statement of leisure, adaptability, and confidence may not work in fashion for another decade or two. To make this one fly, we would have to send Jake Gyllenhaal free samples and hope he wears them in his next film.

1970s British men's swimwear (www.thedabbler.co.uk)

Perhaps it’s premature to reserve a week of production time at Ningbo Yinzhou Headway Stationery Co., Ltd., in Zhejiang, China, the home turf of Fall Apart Chubby (Post #2, 9/14/11), although apparel is slightly out of their specialty range of erasers and ball point pens anyway. But if a phone can show movies, pajamas might swim. And if Jake likes  ’em, phones might show movies of pajamas that swim.

Long live The Guru.

What’s your invention, accidental or non?