- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
The summer simmered along at normal pace, trunks and rash guard only. By delayed flights, a maroon rental car and buses we are transported to Maine for a wedding, Sam is starting to feel what a real winter is in Iowa, the rest of the boys are navigating new schools, and Simon and Theo’s birthdays have come and gone. Halloween and Thanksgiving are checked off the calender and I’m zipping up my full wet suit on a foggy cold morning in Santa Monica.
Summer gives way to fall and as winter approaches I’m reminded of all the pieces we’ve left behind, been trampled by or whisked away by each season. I’m reminded of our friends’ dog Django who could not draw the distinction between a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an extension cord (he loved eating both) but passed away in his masters arms after playing catch with a tennis ball. If only we could all be so lucky.
Vegetables from the summer garden are long since pulled up by their roots. Bordered by raised wooden beds, invisible rogue seeds are blown free to seek shelter in familiar soils.
Theo and I are at 6th grade orientation at his new middle school. Next stop is P.E. in the Lisa Kruder gym. I step gingerly on the wood floor with my worn leather boots. Street shoes we used to call them when I was in school. The kids are herded into the middle of the floor by a teacher with a microphone strapped to her head. Coach Sean is sort of androgynous looking and her amplified voice is full was’ up- yo’ dude confidence which the kids love. They are asked to pick a partner to start playing a mass version of Rock, Paper, Scissors in a cooperative way- you play the best of 3 and the winner then faces one of the other winners. The person who didn’t win (the loser) is supposed to cheer for the person that just beat them and so on and so forth. The kids pick their partners quickly and begin to play. Theo, who doesn’t know a soul, gets paired up with a special needs girl who instead of playing the game just keep on running and throwing herself into a blue pad on the wall of the gym with a big smile on her face. Theo wins his heat by default and quickly joins the ranks of the winners and starts another round. There’s a wild controlled vibe seeping through the gym fueled by cooperative energy and hip hop music.
Coach Sean is talking to the kids explaining the nuances of what it is to be a winner. There’s a slight delay in what she’s saying because of the acoustics and her words don’t quite sync up with her lips. I think to myself- when did I learn how to play Rock, Paper, Scissor. Why does paper beat rock? My mind begins to wander back to my gym class at St. Peter and Paul’s or St. Anthony’s. I think of some of the mysteries of my childhood. The confusion of the words soul, palm, my index finger, my ring finger, how to throw a curveball or how to pop a wheelie.
We used to run into the gym with our street shoes on our feet and throw our sneakers high up on the bleachers. Then we would find them and put them on wherever they landed and line up back on the wooden floor. One day though, we ran into the gym and I threw my sneakers up into the bleachers and something happened. At the top of the bleachers were metal pained windows. I don’t know how it happened but one of my shoes sailed off course hit and broke a window. The rest is a bit sketchy, but all’s I do remember was sitting in a nuns’ offices in a hard wooden chair my feet not touching the ground- the sneaker that broke the window was sitting on a shelf that pulled out from her desk as evidence.
Later, sitting in the cafeteria with Theo eating a hot dog, tater tots and drinking a blue slurpee I ask Theo if the Rock, Paper, Scissor game was fun. He said it was kind of silly. I told him it looked kind of silly too. I’m just about to ask him why he thinks paper beats rock but decide to just let it be.
Theo, Ollie, and I snuck out to Bay St. for an afternoon glass off. Conditions were foggy, cold and closing out. Ollie is pictured with his new 5′-8″ Guy Okazaki board he received for his 9th birthday. It was one of those days when even the cold beach showers feel warm compared to the ocean and trying to get your wetsuit off with fingers that feel like frozen french fries is almost impossible.
Every year on this, the shortest night of the year, we have a wintry dinner with our friends the Kubani’s and walk our meal off with our annual stroll down to Ocean Avenue to see the Santa Monica tradition of â€œThe Christmas Storyâ€. A tradition since 1953, it consists of chain linked fenced tableaus of biblical scenes highlighting the birth of the Baby Jesus. Each tableau, sponsored by a local church is comprised of old mannequins from Hensheyâ€™s Department Store(defunct since 1993) dressed in cheap fake beards, Topsider loafers, and caftans from old Hensheyâ€™s stock telling â€œThe Christmas Story.â€
This year we learned that each precious chunk of chain link parkland was awarded on a lottery basis and that the atheists somehow acquired 9 out of 12 pieces of this sacred ground. Word is around Santa Monica is the atheists did some ballot stuffing.
It’s not that we ever walked away from the nativity scenes with an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, after all these are mannequins dressed up in 1970′s clothing, but this year the 1″x 3″ posts with signs driven into the ground with quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Robert Ingersoll and strangely enough from a Kundalini yoga source left us with an empty confused almost ripped off feeling.
After visiting the Baby Jesus we stop in at the Miramar Fairmont Hotel to see a large train track set up around the city of Santa Monica constructed entirely of candy. But this year there’s no trains and no city made of candy. The woman behind the front desk says, “Oh, we haven’t had the trains set up in a couple of years.” Another source blames budget cuts. Â No baby Jesus, no angels and no trains. Atheists and Liars!
Back home our faith is restored with the traditional lighting of the flaming Christmas pudding by Catriona. Instead of brandy to ignite the dessert, this year she used tequila, which was might sound out of character, but gave off a beautiful everlasting flame that warmed thisÂ pagan heart.