Sippican Cottage

If We Are Mark’d To Die, We Are Enow To Do Our Country Loss; And If To Live, The Fewer Men, The Greater Share Of Honour

(Thanks to reader and commenter BJM for slipping the video into my comments the other day)

Way to go, kid.

And mom and dad, too. There’s the rub.  I see the hand of mom and dad in that video, and the cold, dead hands of legions of moms and dads that came before them. Teachers, too; although sometimes they’re the same people. Some teachers still try under trying circumstances.

I was sick until this morning, and abed. That’s rare. We do not send our children to the petri dish they call a school here in town, and are spared a lot of such things. But I laid there like a casualty and got my information about things in the house second-hand. I heard all sorts of things.

I was unable to make a fire, but they got made all the same, as I have a family and we do things together all the time. I could do what my wife does, and she managed to tend the furnace. The kids help out.

I got all my information like a submariner would. Shut up, away from everyone, but still hearing the sounds of familiar things. My wife would bring me ginger ale and crackers and updates. Life, boiled down to short messages, can be wonderful.

The kids were on tenterhooks because their mom told them I was ill. Kids raised properly are attuned to disruptions in routines. Kids raised in unsalubrious surroundings are inured to most everything. Everything’s in an uproar all the time so they don’t notice, or care.

My wife was teaching the little feller. There was some discussion about his older brother, who will finish high-school level homeschooling this year. He had questions about what that meant. “Your brother wants to be a musician when he is a man,” my wife said to him; “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a musician, too,” he said, though I wonder about that. He’s sort of a wunderkind in a small area of musicianship — he can do simple things almost effortlessly. But he has not shown the dogged determination that his older brother has shown at learning music. He is very young and might change his mind, and be one of those people I used to hate: people that could play music better than you could, but never had to try at it.

He wasn’t done. “I want to be a husband. I want to be a father.”

That is an astonishing thing to hear. Why should it be astonishing to hear a nine-year-old wants to grow up and be a husband and father? It shouldn’t be, but it is. If he’d uttered that in a public school, I imagine he’d be in a re-education camp by nightfall. And on the flip side, I don’t think the term “wife and mother” can be uttered in public school without a SWAT team of egalitarians being called.

My children don’t want to be musicians because they dream of drug abuse and licentiousness and a vision of being carried around on a litter chair by flunkeys. My older son was old enough to have come to my music shows and seen the real work it was. He still wanted to do it, because work doesn’t scare him. They both want to be productive citizens, useful to other productive citizens. They want to be husbands and fathers, with everything that means.

It is everything  we’ve wanted for them. When the little one shows flashes of genius, I dread it. You do not want to be wonderful in this world, son. Wonderful is a big millstone in the swimming pool of life. I wanted to be normal my whole life, and during my lifetime on earth, being “normal” has gotten so strange that your mother and I are living on the edge of civilization hanging on by our fingernails.

Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living. — Mark Twain

I want you to at least have a chance at being normal, if you want it. There are so few people committed to being useful, salubrious, and carrying on their traditions, and then having or supporting families that will rhyme down the centuries, that you’ll be wonderful enough if you manage it.

The Intertunnel is like my submarine, too. I get pinged, literally and figuratively, all the time. I feel the water temperature by putting my hand on the hull. Leslie from out west is kind enough to read, and comment, and buy furniture, and send the boys some shekels for their music videos. She is one of the many people I call my Interfriends: People I don’t know, and most likely will never meet, but they’re my friends. They know about me and mine, and I know something about them and theirs. If everyone that corresponds with me here were my actual instead of virtual neighbors, I’d live in the most interesting and pleasant town on earth. Leslie sent me a picture of her now grown, formerly homeschooled daughter’s work. She makes cakes. But saying she makes cakes is like saying Da Vinci was a housepainter. So I get to say something I’ve been dying to say since I was a little kid watching TV in the sixties: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have a really big shoe.

My little son especially thought this was the bee’s knees. “It’s a shoe with a big upheel!” He makes up more, and better words than Chaucer.

Leslie’s daughter is grown up, and I’d tell you she’s beautiful but I’m an old man and not supposed to notice such things, so I won’t mention it; and her parents tried, and obviously succeeded in producing a fully actualized person, ready and willing to be a good and productive (and inventive) citizen, and maybe someday produce her version of the same thing all over again.

We are a merry band here at the Cottage, busy being normal. We know we’re not alone, because we hear the thrumming on our bulkheads. We know you’re out there. There are plenty of people still trying to be decent citizens, and produce some more, by hook or by crook. We need a secret handshake or something.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers –and sisters.

Day: March 28, 2013

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