Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Children's Hour

Children grow up. Who knew? And as we are about to send yet another son off to college, I am missing these days ...

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
That is known as the Children's Hour.

This is the first stanza of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) called "The Children's Hour". It's a tender poem about Longfellow's three daughters who visit him in his study at the end of the day. When I was in the sixth grade I had to memorize all ten stanzas, which is probably why it popped into my head the other day. You see, we have a "children's hour", too, and it goes like this:

Between the dark and the daylight
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes mayhem in the day's occupations
That is known as the Pre-Dinner Hour.

You know, that period in the late afternoon when everything seems to happen at once. One son is complaining about having to read "The Island of the Blue Dolphins". The other son is humming while doing his math homework. I'm on the phone because THE WHOLE WORLD seems to call during this time. My toddler, oh! my goodness! He wants to do school work, too, and a coloring book alone just won't suffice. He wants a science book, and his own spiral notebook, and an erasable pen because, you see, he thinks he's in 7th grade. He's also recently given up his naps and anything can set him off at any given moment.

No, our "children's hour" is a little different from Longfellow's, but the sentiment is still the same. In a couple seconds of peace I observe my oldest son stop humming as he concentrates on a problem, my three-year-old draw a smiley face in his "science notebook", and my middle son bent over his book, finger twirling his cowlick and his legs swinging. There is the comforting aroma of minestrone bubbling on the stove, and the autumn daylight is just "beginning to lower".

I stand there and take it all in. Quietly I whisper the next to the last stanza of Longfellow's poem, which says it all.

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

File:Longfellow children's hour.jpg
Portrait of the three daughters of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The original still hangs in the dining room of Longfellow's home in Cambridge, MA. The image was used during the children's lifetimes to illustrate the poem "The Children's Hour," which refers to "grave Alice" (top), "laughing Allegra" (right), and "Edith with golden hair" (left).

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Disney

Disney World is the magic of being a child again, and that kind of magic is a gift at any age.

There is magic in that ride on the monorail as it whisks you on a journey to imagination and adventure. There is magic in that first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle, in the whimsical landscaping where a bush is never just a bush, and in the oom-pah music and swirling lights of the nighttime parade. There is magic in a toddler’s eyes when he meets his first Disney character, in the smiles of people coming off Space Mountain, and in silly Mickey Mouse hats and Goofy t-shirts.

There is magic in that tired but good feeling at the end of the day.

And then there is this: I have visited the Magic Kingdom as a little girl, as a college student on spring break, as a young bride and, in recent years, as a mother. With each visit I’ve changed in big ways and in little ways … but you haven’t, and there is magic in that, too.

The lamp post on the corner of Main Street, the one that I leaned against while eating my first Itzakadoozie? It's still there. The Venetian gondola at the beginning of It's a Small World? Still there. The Hall of Presidents? Tom Sawyer Island? Liberty Tavern? Those, too, are still there.

The sameness of it all is truly magical.

We live in a world that changes at a breathless pace, so the fact that you are constant through the years is comforting. I like that you are the same now as when I first visited the park at age twelve. I like it that my sons have experienced exactly what I experienced, and that one day they will share this same experience with their children.

So most of all I thank you for the magic of constancy, for with it we are reminded how we  fundamentally stay the same no matter how much we may change.

And sometime soon I look forward to seeing you again under that lamp post on Main Street … I know you'll be there.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Writer? Engineer? It all comes down to the fuzzy slippers.

This morning I was going through my emails when I noticed that Amazon had sent me a list of recommended reading. Number one on the list was How to Make a Living as a Writer.

Huh. I cannot even begin to tell you how serendipitous that was.

Just this week Mr. Taxman (aka my husband) was happily doing our taxes (yes, he actually likes filling out tax forms) when he made an interesting discovery. It seems that our eldest son, who had an engineering internship over the summer and another one over the Christmas holidays, actually made more money in 2014 than I did as a writer.

On one hand we were laughing and saying, "Yay, Nicho!" -- especially my husband who expects our sons to contribute financially to their college education; on the other hand (and I'm not going to lie)  I was like ... dang. I love writing, but for all the heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears I pour into it sometimes there's not a lot to show for it.

But hey, at least I get to work in my pajamas ... fuzzy slippers and all.

And that's something engineers never get to do.