Monday, December 18, 2006
Friday was better ... muchly so for the Group/Division/Department party we had at one of the co-worker's residences. I brought 2 cases of beer as a libation supplement and was lauded and toasted for my foresight. The liquid tongue loosener was exceedingly effective for extracting opinions about internal politics and other general information. Much to my amusement, I found that I was not the only fellow in the area who tries to heat a home with a wood burning stove and spends too much time around splitting, sanding and moving logs about. I was invited later on in the evening to go play pool at yet another co-workers home and could not resist. On the way, I found that nearly every home in the region is thickly shellacked with decorations and lights. It is an anti-display of what my immediate neighborhood looks like. Not a light to be found for quite some distance. When I was talking to some of the folks at the second by invite only party, I got a few interesting observations regarding that. It came up that I lived in a particular Township and nearly every time it was noted that there are very few lights in my neighborhood. When asked how they knew that, I was told that my area is primarily a Jewish enclave. Well now. I knew that I had a good mix, but I suppose I was too deep in the mix to make out the forest from the trees. Now, I did not put up lights this year for multiple reasons, but I guess I'll have to do it next year. Just to dispel the idea that I live in some homogeneous ethnic block. Honestly though, there are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians AND Jews in the area. Most are either non-practicing or not very overt in our faiths. That makes most of us a fairly easy group to settle into.
Saturday, we get up and drive to Princeton in the Family Tank v2.0 for a train trip to NYC. I drank enough to float a boat the previous evening so the first step of this journey was a rough one. Of course, using the local NE Corridor train was a must. When we reached the Princeton Junction Train Station, I was witness to a particularly disturbing event. It is well established what my predilections about children and parenting behaviors are. Given that bias, and a well cemented one at that, you must believe me when I say that I try to be as open minded and slow to judge. This event caused me to fail. At the same time the Roaming Haupertonain Family arrived, a husky woman and her 5-6 year old wisp of a little girl rushed up to the parking ticket kiosk and commenced trying to insert dollar bills. We found that the other kiosk was unresponsive as was hers. Instead of cursing loudly and acting erratically, we went to the main ticket counter. On the way, this same woman burst past us with the child in tow, wailing. It was like watching a semi truck blast down the road with a torn bit of plastic sheeting whipping in the turbulence of its wake. We eventually get to the same location just as she throws her child to an outdoor bench, still sobbing, and commands her to stay put as she runs back the way we just came. At that point, I'm flabbergasted. I lead Jake and Alexis to the same bench as the Mrs, who has not seen this display, proceeds into the station to buy train tickets and a parking permit. A train had just departed north when we got there and another was to arrive in 10 minutes. I try to calm down the girl and ask her if she is ok and why she is crying. The apparently banged her shin on the way and just needed a little consolation. I ask Jake and Alexis to say hi and introduce themselves. As children do, they yammer a bit and become trusted friends. She starts to calm down and Jake strokes her arm in his typical display of unparalleled empathetic acumen. As the calm before the storm, the Mother reappears flushed and gasping for air. She glances about agitatedly before latching onto her offspring and yanking her off into the mass of waiting travelers. I lead my two indoors to a safer location and think about what I have witnessed. What has this child learned? She learned that in order to save 10-15 minutes (we got on the next local train), she was left to the milling crowds at a time when all she needed was her mother's attention. I'm hoping that there was something incredibly dire that required this brazen act. I spent a bit of time gazing at a barren tree outside that was suddenly the roost of a flock of starlings that descended in a large dark mass. Like a dark cloak enveloping the branches laid bare of protection by the harsh cold of winter. Although I don't like to toot my own horn, it was rather fortuitous for the child and harried woman that a man of my nature was present. And not, as could be the case, and person with more sinister motivations.
The rest of the NYC trip went well. Jake enjoyed the train trip up more than if he were granted a seat on the space shuttle. Much more entertaining to see the landscape race by than a dull tapestry of stars, dont you know. We had DimSum with the GrandMother(Paw-Paw) and GreatGrandMother(Pa-Pa) and then let the two terrors tear apart the apartment. Like descending locust, we departed as quickly as we arrived and made our way back to the Manor with the PreacherBrotherInLaw along for the ride. The train ride back was absurdly crowded and I was forced to stand the whole way back. A man sitting next to me saw Jake and, probably because he had his own child along, surrendered his seat so that the Jovial Jokester could sit. I met a lot of fine people that evening on the way home. People with children who cared about other children. Jake got to play with 3 other boys all the way back and the parents engaged me with entertaining conversation for the next hour or so. To cap off the evening, I took everyone to our favorite Japanese Restaurant and we got to enjoy the hibachi show. Jake was thrilled with the pyrotechnic and Alexis was amazed that Daddy could catch in his mouth a bit of shrimp launched like an acrobatic appetizer over the grill. Very happy, full and exhausted children.
Sunday is as Sunday should be. I took the kids to Sunday school and I was busy as ever with the various duties. Locking and unlocking doors. Bathroom escorts. Paper shuffling, scissors, glue, popsicle sticks. The usual. The unusual is that some of the parents obviously know me from their children's tales and I was the recipient of gifts for Christmas. Quite heartwarming really. Even a card would have thrilled me, but THREE. Personal growth sneaks up on you sometimes and what you believe to be ordinary life comes back to you as extraordinary when pointed out by others. It makes me happy, and sad. I really do wish what I am doing was mundane and expected. Even among the steadfast faithful, there are traits that are hard to quash though. I'd tell you a tale of how one part of the parking lot is like a giant ring with 30 parkings spots in the middle closed off, but you probably know where I'm going with that. People were forced to park in the fire lane outside the school and I find the situation to be a bit unacceptable. Me and my judgmental ways.
The rest of Sunday was spent cooking, chopping wood, restocking the wood brackets, keeping the fire lit and scooping up endless tracts of the fall hound hummus harvest. I did have to take the PreacherBIL back to the train station to head back to NYC, but not an entirely unpleasant task. He was exhausted from fending off the Tyrants and I enjoyed his tales of woe. Jake introduced him to the 'snuggle-shove' move he invented specifically for visitors. Mercy be upon your soul if you try to take a nap on the sofa in the Manor. Jake will find you, bet between you and the sofa-back, and put you on the floor within minutes. You just cannot find a stone-cold heart cruel enough to wake him after he steals your warm spot.[+/-] show/hide the rest of this post
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