Wednesday, April 1 2020

communion bread, cigars, backyard agility, and x-men

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy April. It's always exciting to roll into a new month, isn't it? And even better if it means we can leave a month like March of 2020 in the past. I'm not going to lie to you, reader. As far as the world is concerned, March was a crummy addition to the even crummier collection of 2020. I think this April, it might be time to lower our expectations for what 2020 might hold. I'll be happy if we just make it out alive without any new political fiascos or natural disasters.

To Marissa and I, April is the final full month of pregnancy. "This will be the last gauntlet month," I said to her trying to lift her spirits. "Just one more month of this, we'll have the baby, and you'll be able to come home and crack open a beer." Marissa smiled as I continued painting a word picture.

"And remember how little we left the house when we first had Rodney? We took him to Denny's for the first time like a month later. For the pandemic, that will be a blessing I think. It will be like stepping into a time machine."

Sip. I had a productive morning yesterday, jumping into tickets and triaging questions in our team's channel. After a morning meeting and a few hours of work, the morning flew by. Before long, I wandered downstairs for lunch. Marissa and Rodney were lazing around on the couch watching a movie.

"Trolls?" I asked, setting my coffee mug on the window sil, leaning up against the railing.

"Yeah," said Marissa from beneath a pile of dogs and blankets. "We wanted to have a throwback movie morning."

I stood watching for a minute, fondly remembering a time where Trolls was playing so often in our house, I despised it.

Rodney followed me into the kitchen. He was ready to cook something, but to his great disappointment, our time in the kitchen ended when I grabbed the tupperware of leftover pasta out of the fridge. "I don't want it," complained Rodney tugging on my shirt. "I want.... um... peanut butter and jelly."

"Not today, dude," I said, carefully pulling the hot bowl of pasta out of the microwave. "Just eat pasta today, doesn't it smell so lekker?"

Marissa joined us in the dining room as I was shoveling the last few bites of pasta into my mouth. The meat and cheese hit my system like a tranquilizer dart, and my eyes grew heavy. Glancing at the clock, I saw it was barely 12:30. I lit up with an idea.

"If I slept on the couch, would you make sure I'm up by 1?" I asked Marissa.

"Sure!" said Marissa. "I just took a nap, the couch is all warmed up for ya." I slinked away into the living room and nodded off, waking up to Rodney running in front of the TV, snapping his plastic mechanical claw around my head. My phone read 12:59 PM - perfect.

I finished out the rest of the workday, taking a short break at 3 to move the bread dough to a pan. The plan was to make sandwiches out of the ciabatta I started last night. But taking the dough out, that plan started to prove fragile. The new wheat flour I bought was not looking good. The dough had barely risen after a whole night in the bowl. Turning it out onto the plastic, it resembled - not a beautiful fluffy sponge - but a dried piece of nutritious, molten tree bark.

"I'm not sure about this bread," I said aloud, moving it to a oiled pan. "Might be ordering pizza tonight - just be ready for anything."

I joined Marissa on the couch while the bread baked in the oven. The smell of burning wheat started to leak out of the kitchen. At last, the oven timer rang, and I took out the loaf to inspect it.

"How did it turn out?" called Marissa.

"Eh...," I said. "Edible. But not amazing." I ripped off a piece and strolled into the living room, offering Marissa a sample. "It tastes like... communion bread," laughed Marissa. "Should I order a pizza?"

"It's just barely bad enough to justify ordering a pizza - let it rip," I said, still chewing a mouthful of wheat bread.

"Dada, I PLAY outside?" Rodney asked, tugging on my shirt. I chuckled, looking out the window, seeing the dreary cloudy day. I cracked open the door, and immediately felt a sharp, cold breeze.

"It's really cold outside, dude, are you sure?" I asked.

"Yeah I LOVE it," exclaimed Rodney. "I get my SHOES on." Rodney fished his tennis shoes out of the shoe bin and dropped to the floor. He tied the straps, then fastened his bike helmet on his head.

"OK dude, have fun," I said, getting the door for him. Rodney took off down the porch steps and ran into the yard. After watching him for a few minutes, I got a little jealous and decided to join him, taking with me a cigar and a bottle of water. I plopped down in a dirty lawn chair next to his sandbox.

"Dada come PLAY with me," said Rodney, clambering around in his sandbox. With a cigar in hand, I carefully scaled the plastic ladder and joined him in his plastic jungle gym. Rodney was emptying buckets of sand from his sandbox inside, piling it onto the little plastic table.

"Ah, so that's what you've been working on in here," I laughed.

The back door flung open, and the dogs ran out, followed by Marissa. "I was watching you guys play and I had F.O.M.O.", she said. Marissa opened the gate and grabbed two agility jumps from the shed. "Bars to 8!" yelled Rodney, jumping on the opportunity to set up the jumps for her.

I finished my cigar in a chair, watching Marissa do short drills with Ollie and Ziggy. It was fun watching the dogs practice agility again. Marissa took a moment to stand off to the side, studying the yard. "Do you think Rodney would mind if I pushed his playground all the way to the fence? I think I could fit a tunnel in here?"

"Yeah," I said, puffing. "He's just been filling that thing with sand from his sandbox, I don't think he'll care."

Our pizza arrived, and we headed into the house to wash up. We ate pizza on the couch, letting X-men: Evolution continue to play on the TV.

"Look at Rodney," I said quietly. "He's so in his element right now." Rodney inched forward with his legs crossed, contently watching X-men and balancing a long, thin slice of pizza in his hand.

"This is a good show," said Marissa. "I actually catch myself watching sometimes. Who is that?" Marissa pointed at the screen.

"Oh that's Jean Grey," I said. "You know how she can move things with her mind? When I was little, in the comic books she was always just straining with her eyes closed, touching her head. I didn't know she was telekinetic. I just called her 'the lady that cries and has headaches'."

Marissa laughed. "I think Rodney is going to look back on this quarantine as the best time of his life," she said. "He's got everything he needs right now in this moment."

In a weird way, Rodney has been an inspiration. I'm sure he's noticed things are different during the quarantine. He used to go places, he loved chatting with strangers at the grocery store, and he was on a first name basis with everyone at the dog agility place. He's had to make small sacrifices. But from what I can tell, he doesn't dwell on the things he's missing out on. As long as there's pizza to eat, X-men cartoons to watch, and books to color, he makes way for his own happiness. And it didn't matter it was a dreary, cloudy day and the harsh wind was nipping at his face and fingers. He still got us to play outside.

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Happy Wednesday, and here's to a new month.