Tuesday, October 6 2020

an evening walk, chili, and piano lessons

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday. I'm intentionally moving a little more slowly through the morning routine today. Pouring a second cup of coffee in my favorite mug, I took a extra fifteen minutes to stare off into space out the backyard window, check on my hard drive migration, send some emails, and surf around on the Internet. Today, I don't have any meetings until after lunch, and I'm relishing in the freedom.

After yesterday, I feel like I earned a quiet morning. Yesterday was busy. Meeting busy. Talking to people busy. Listening to people and writing down what they say busy. Perpetual zoom call busy. A bureaucratic gauntlet of a Monday. I barely had time to shovel some soup and mac and cheese into my mouth for lunch, let alone go for a walk to soak up the beautiful fall weather. The end of the work day descended without warning, and all of the sudden Marissa and I were discussing dinner and evening plans at my computer over a bowl of pistachios - her face misted with sweat from her afternoon jog around the block.

"We should go for a walk today," she said. "It's gorgeous out."

I grunted, my eyes rolling to glance at the clock in the corner of my monitor. "I was going to make chili tonight, and I have to make the cornbread too," I sighed. "Is it worth eating a little later?"

"What if I help?" asked Marissa, eagerly. "I'll do the cornbread."

I leaned forward to get up out of my chair. "Perfect - let's hit it."

After leashing up the dogs, helping Rodney track down his shoes, and throwing a blanket over Miles, we went for a long walk around the block. We bounced from sidewalk to sidewalk, cautiously crossing the street to keep our distance from other people with the same idea.

Rodney asked if he could hold Ollie's leash. After making it clear that it was a big responsibility, we agreed. Rodney wears responsibility well - it must be an older sibling thing. Ollie tested him, trying to stop to mark his territory on shrubs or sniff along the fence. Rodney grunted, pulling him along. "C'mon, big cheese," he scolded. "Let's go."

Back at home, I got to work dicing onions, garlic, celery, and ancho chillies, combining it all in a stock pot with our second bag of thawed barbecue pork. Marissa threw together the cornbread in a cast iron skillet. With her help, our walk only offset our punctual dinner by twenty minutes - we had to wait for everything to simmer anyway. We sat at the table and began to inhale pork chili with sour cream, corn bread, and good old Wisconsin cheddar.

2020 10 06 chili

"Dada, this is pretty, pretty spicy," said Rodney, looking at his spoon with a single bulging eye.

"You gotta eat it, dude," I mumbled between chewing, swallowing a mouthful. "Spicy food is good for your belly."

"Good for your belly?" he repeated.

"Sure," I nodded. "Good for your belly. Good for your brain too."

I don't have any science to back that up. Parenting intuition just tells me it's good to make kids eat spicy things sometimes, even if they're uncomfortable.

After dinner, I cleaned Rodney up and set out the electric piano for our music lesson. Up until yesterday, Rodney knew all but two notes in the C scale. He gingerly hit the keys with his index finger while I sang do-re-mi-fa-so-la..., my voice trailing off.

"Ready to learn the rest of it?" I asked. Rodney eagerly squirmed in his seat.

I continued on the seventh note. "Ti-do! See dude? This one is doh."

"Two doh's?" laughed Rodney.

"Sure, dude," I said. "This one up here is lil' doh. And this big boy down here is big doh."

I had Rodney turn around in his chair. I alternated between playing big doh and little doh, making him guess by ear. I threw in one middle C as a curveball. "That one is medium doh."

"Medium!" shouted Rodney. "Just like Rodney!"

Pushing my luck, I tried to explain what an octave was.

"So count the steps between big doh and little doh," I instructed. In unison, we counted the keys one at a time. "One, two, three, four, five, six... seven."

I scratched my head. "I think we did something wrong. Let's start over."

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight - there, that's more I like it," I laughed nervously. "Eight steps."

Rodney stared at me blankly.

"Eight steps is special. That's an octave. Can you say octave?" I asked.

"Octave," Rodney repeated.

"An octave is important because..." My explanation cut short, as I started to laugh. Explaining something to a four year old is the crucible of knowledge, and not all of my lessons make it out in tact. In truth, you don't really understand something until you can explain it to a four year old - until you can explain it to Rodney.

"Just remember that word, OK?" I laughed. "Someday, someone will explain to you why it's important."

After each piano lesson, we put on a very fancy piano recital for Mom. Rodney and I briefly reviewed the lesson plan, then we called Marissa into the living room.

"One second, sir, I need to find my ticket," she said, pretending to scour the living room. She grandiosely handed Rodney an imaginary piece of paper.

With poise, I gave Rodney a regaling introduction. "First, this young, talented pianist will demonstrate the entire do-re-mi scale forwards... AND backwards."

Rodney carefully pressed the keys, hitting every note from big doh to little doh. We clapped. Feeling like he was the center of attention, Rodney continued to feed off the energy, starting an electric drum track and mashing the keys wildly.

"This is the improvisational portion of the concert," I announced over the noise.

We have a lot of fun with piano lessons. Sometimes they get a little rowdy, but Rodney and I both look forward to them each week.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day today.