Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Doughnut from Machus

Today's my dad's birthday.

I don't think birthdays count when you're dead. I mean, at the end of this month it will be J.S. Bach's 334th birthday, which is vaguely interesting, but doesn't mean much. That information places him in a historical context, but unless he was still around to celebrate, he isn't really turning 334. He's just gone.

This is the fourth birthday of my dad's where it doesn't count.

Except it still kind of does.

I feel like I don't need markers on the calendar to remind me of my dad. I think of my dad all the time. It still hurts that he's gone more than I would have imagined. But then he still haunts places like Facebook where on days like today an algorithm clicks into gear and tells me to wish him a happy day. I hate that algorithm, and we need to untangle my dad's memory from it somehow.

So thinking specifically about my dad on his birthday a couple of things come to mind.

The first is that we shared a birthday month, but not an astrological sign. I'm a Pisces, and he was an Aries. Not that I think those things mean anything at all, but my dad every once in a while would offer to read us our horoscopes from the paper when he came across them. My mom's inevitably said she would be receiving more responsibility, so she was not a fan. The running joke when my dad read our horoscopes was claiming never to remember which sign I was. I honestly could never tell if it was a joke, or if he really didn't remember.

The second thing is the doughnuts from Machus. In his years running the gallery he acquired a sort of fan club of people who didn't necessarily bring in much business, but who liked to hang around and talk to my dad. My dad was smart and funny and wacky in subtle ways. I understand why certain people just wanted to be in the gallery with him. I did, too. There was one man in particular named Dr Stemple (who died several years ago) who used to bring my dad a doughnut from Machus on this day every year. They were dense, and covered with thick chocolate. My dad loved them, and used to say it made up for the number of hours Dr Stemple distracted him from work he was supposed to be doing.

I'm too busy to run out today and find the equivalent of a Machus doughnut. Weirdly, the closest thing might be those waxy chocolate covered doughnuts from Entenmann's, which my dad liked just as much as the expensive doughnuts.

I miss my dad. I wish he were around so we could celebrate today. I'd get him whatever doughnut he wanted.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thoughts on 50

50 is a weird birthday. It's got me thinking about other birthdays, since I have such a big collection of them now.

I remember clearly turning six. Mostly because I had a red and white checkered record player in my room, and among the kid-friendly records that I could play on it was a recording of Peter and the Wolf, and I believe it was the flip side of that one that included some sort of conversational sounding bit with a man asking, "Are you six? I'm six." Which looking back was absurd because that would have been a six year old with serious hormone problems. Anyway, I remember being very excited to put on my record, and when he asked if I was six I could finally answer, "Yes!" (It was anti-climactic as you might imagine, but you take your satisfactions where you can when you are six.)

14 was pretty good. My golden birthday! 14 on the 14th. There was an official Rubik's Cube solving race happening in town on my actual birthday, and I took 6th place and won a t-shirt. (It read "Cubists do it faster" which was not a particularly appropriate prize for a kids' contest, but I grew up in inappropriate times I guess.)

16 I had outlandishly deluded hopes of a car, but I got my own set of keys with a yellow clippy key chain, which was a pretty nice present that I didn't know how to appreciate properly at the time.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Phones Are Coming

We ordered smartphones for our daughters this week.

One of them has reached a point where it's impacting her social life because the native language of her friends is now texting and she is out of the loop in being able to coordinate with them outside of school if she wants to.

The other one doesn't actually want one still, but she'll be 18 this year, and we need to get her moving toward adult accessories like a driver's license (which she is dragging her feet on) and a credit card, and the phone fits in with that. Besides, she has had one too many incidents recently where she was supposed to meet us somewhere and botched it, and being able to call her would have been useful.

So we got to 15 and 17 in terms of no cell phones, which in this day and age is fairly unheard of. I still don't plan to get one as long as I can borrow my husband's spare Army phone when I need to. The 12 year old I don't foresee needing one until high school and then we'll see if it's really necessary.

I'm thinking we may be the only parents around handing our teenage daughter a phone with the express purpose of hoping she will text friends on it. It has relatively nothing to do with emergencies or communicating with us in my mind. I just don't want her out of step with her peers if having a cell phone could make high school in any way more bearable as she plods through it on her way toward art school.

While deciding what phones to get, we had an interesting discussion in our kitchen about how they physically feel. I think part of my aversion to cell phones and touch screens in general is I can feel a vague zap under my fingertips when using them. I really don't like it. Turns out my girls experience that same sensation when using touch screens and they don't like it either. My son and my husband feel no such electrical tingling in their fingers when they use them. I wonder what that's about. (It reminds me a little of how back in the days of TVs with cathode ray tubes I could hear one if it was on, even if the volume was off. I hated that sound.)

At some point I will need a cell phone myself, since giving my daughters a way to call me if there is nothing to connect with is silly. I'm hoping to hold out for another year, but it's hard to know. Since apparently in a week or so the majority of people in our house will have cell phones for the first time, and that could change things regardless of what I would prefer.

In any case, this will be an interesting transition. I'm glad my kids have developed skills apart from cell phones over such a long time. I hope they don't get sucked in so far that they become phone zombies like the ones we see all around us everywhere we go. They say they want to actively avoid that, and I believe them. So we'll see.