Wednesday, September 9 2020

social security, making letters, and dirty sauce



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. How are you doing on this woensdag morning? Does today’s banner image alarm you? Ziggy is sitting in my lap while I’m rubbing behind her ears, and according to her, having her face skin pulled tight just makes the whole thing feel a lot cozier. I understand seeing her big white eyes bulge out of her head between can be jarring, but this is a pretty common scene in our house.

This picture was taken yesterday when we were on speaking terms. This morning, our relationship has hit some rough waters. Ollie is getting put under this morning for a teeth cleaning, and I was instructed to withhold their morning breakfast - both dogs, out of solidarity. It was heart breaking, but if I admit also pretty amusing watching Ollie and Ziggy pass through the stages of grief in the few minutes it took me to finish brewing coffee, using only their forlorn side glances to protest.

How do you communicate that to a pet? How do you assure them that this morning is just a special circumstance? Perhaps Ziggy thought that this was the new normal, and this convenient arrangement of cozy face skin pulling and free food was about to change course. I’m sure she silently resolved to herself I guess I’ll have to kill something later - a squirrel, a bird, or even that succulent ping-pong ball that rolled under the couch last night.

How are you feeling today? Just the short walk across the driveway convinced me to spend all day inside. Between the rain, the cool wet air, and the mellow overcast skies, today is just disgustingly cozy.

I started looking at the ten day forecast when planning meals. Seeing a long stretch of rainy fall weather, I had the foresight to pick roasted squash soup for tonight. I think that was a good move.

Sip. We had a good day yesterday. The long holiday weekend gave me the charge I needed to have a relentlessly productive morning. I caught up on work email, reviewed some code, and with some spare time in between, I even got around to shoring up some of my legal documents. I added the card “order a replacement social security card” to this week’s project board, thinking it was going to be bogged down with a long and tedious process. But I forgot that the department of social security switched to paperless a few years ago, and the bare bones, no frills website is just my speed.

While digging my login info out of my password manager, I gave myself a laugh. It turns out that the username in which you sign into the website does not have to be your legal name. I ran with this privilege, and chose the username RICHARD STALLMAN. God willing, I hope I live long enough to be the old man waiting in a long line of people shouting “RICHARD STALLMAN!” at the confused government worker about forty years from now.

While working, I felt a sharp poke from a tiny index finger. I removed my headphones to find Rodney standing beside my desk holding a piece of paper behind my back.

“Dada….” he said quietly, trying to build anticipation. “Guess what I have.”

“Show me,” I said smiling. Rodney revealed two sheets of paper on which he precisely penned the letter A.

“This one is uppercase, and this one is lowercase,” he explained.

Marissa started teaching Rodney his letters yesterday on his first official day of unofficial occasional schoolish work at home. Rodney would later show me more practice runs of his very first letter.

“Ah, is he still starting the A’s from the bottom?” asked Marissa. “It said in the lesson plan that they need to start from the top.”

“Really?” I asked. I drew my own A in the air with a finger tip. “I think I start from the bottom too.”

Suddenly I felt regret for giving Marissa so much crap the other night about how she writes her letters.

“Are you really supposed to do a lowercase a like this?” she asked, showing me her phone. “I just draw a ovalish circle, then a line. This way seems dumb to me.”

“No offense,” I laughed haughtily, “but you also write your 8’s wrongly. We should stick to the book here.”

“What’s wrong with how I make my 8’s?” she retorted.

“You are one of those two circles people,” I snapped back. “It’s supposed to be a continuous figure 8. If you make your eights that way, they just look weird when you write fast and you forget to make them touch.”

The next day, I had to eat my words, and my passing judgment for how my wife makes her letters. Who am I to scorn the people who draw 8’s with two circles? I start my capital A’s from the bottom line. How truly revolting.

I don’t want to grow up to be someone who compulsively grieves new ways of doing things, but It didn’t take much for me to but up against my judgmental impulses. We’re not even close to dealing with long division, counting money, and English grammar. The conflict between how I was taught and how my son will probably be taught is already starting on the letter A.

After my work day, I escorted Rodney to the table for another unofficial lesson.

“No dada,” he protested. “I already did school with Momma.”

“You do two schools,” I said. “Momma does letters with you, and on Tuesdays we’re going to do science stuff. Do you know what science is?”

Rodney put his hand to his chin, pondering the question. For a second, I thought he was going to return from the recesses of his silly little brain with a nugget of wisdom.

“It’s kinda like… dirty sauce.”

“Dirty sauce? - no, science is when you look at how things act and try to figure out how they work.” I set a pitcher of water on the table next to a cup of sugar. “Check this out, dude - what’s going to happen when I dump the sugar in?”

“It’s gonna…” his voice trailed off in thought. “Make dirty sauce.”

I don’t know what dirty sauce means, and I was afraid to ask. Together at the table, we fiddled with salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and other kitchen reagents until I felt Rodney appreciated the concept of dissolving things - as much as a four year old could.

“OK, let’s review,” I began. “What did we do here?”

“We made DIRTY SAUCE,” replied Rodney. I wiped my face with my hands and laughed.

“We can skip the review. Did you have fun?”

Rodney nodded and smiled. I guess that was the goal all along.

Thanks for stopping by today - have a great day, everyone.