10 Apr 2012

Extremely loud and indelibly close

It has now been a little less than a month since I upped and left my Old Life, and re-joined the Fam. This is easily the longest I have spent with them since the Summer of Love & Detox, 2005, which was a recuperative stint post-rehab and probably doesn't count. In other words, this is the longest I have spent with my family without compulsion -or a padlock on my door- since I finished school in 2002. That was ten years ago, back when Facebook was still a gritty little chromosome in Satan's ballsack, cheering on Zuckerberg's synchronized swimmers from the stands.

I left home before my nephew and niece were born, and though we've always been in touch, we have never really spent more than a few hours together in the same room. Which is why I jumped at the chance to take responsibility for their conveyance from their home to that of my parents for their summer break. Summer-at- grandparents' is a family tradition, and plays motif to my favorite childhood memories. My cousins are all grown up and too busy now to spend an entire summer in front of TV or playing cricket under rubber trees like we used to, but growing up together -if every summer- helped create a bond that will only be nourished by age.

Many summers ago at Vagamon, Kerala with the gang

With my younger sibling soon expecting her first-born, I want to ensure these kids have something similar to look back on when they're fucked up and miserable in their late twenties. It helps. I diligently planned the twelve hour drive, penciling in educational, recreational, nutritional and excremental pit-stops. I loaded universal favorites on the MP3 player - surely, even Noughties kids would appreciate the possibly-racist but undeniably lovable durability of Sweet Home Alabama?  This was going to be our Memory; this was how they would remember their coolest uncle after his promising writing career was stopped short by alcoholism and too much hour-long nookie. Or got run over by a scooter while crossing the road from his security job at the mall.

Over the Easter weekend, I came to realize that my sister had talked me up over the years into an almost magical figure of superhero-like abilities to entertain kids. My nephew and niece had endured several hours of toilet-training, teeth-pulling, math classes and violin lessons to please their walking fun-fest of an uncle, and were -surprise!- rewarded with bicycles and skateboards and doll houses. Though they were a little disappointed that I arrived and left while they were asleep every time, they were no less thankful- and expectant of more super-fun times.

Now I'm no expert but children are not terribly reasonable creatures. I was therefore prepared to hit a few rough patches on the way, confident that we would prevail with a little compromise and understanding. What I hadn't steeled myself for was the weight of their expectations. You've never really let someone down till you let down an 8-year old. They're not very adult about this either - they don't swear and punch walls like ex- girlfriends or parents. They just accept it, albeit with a little initial reluctance. When they finally come to grips with the fact that Uncle Cool is in fact quite boring and doesn't really have that many interesting stories to tell, they just go: "oh, well." They shrug it off. They have no time or patience for disappointment.

It drives me mad. I first noticed it around a quarter of the way in. I had just confirmed to my nephew -for the third time- that Uncle Cool could neither fly our Toyota nor grow a crazy beard and populate it with bees like the freak from that program on some channel. Call me petty but this speech was met with such utter disbelief both the previous times that I was almost beginning to believe that I probably could do one of those things if I set my mind to it. I mean how hard can it be to fly a car? I waited for their pleas to try, their chants of "liar, liar!" Nothing. So I look at them in the rearview, and that's when it happens. The elder one-my niece- shrugs. It works like a slow-motion electric current. I watch her indifference move steadily from the tilt of her shoulder to the tip of my nephew's fingers in one steady flow. And suddenly, it's over. They're both staring out the window, content to gaze at cars and people rushing by as I drive them home.

I'm incensed. Not by how easily they give up the ghost of my legend, but how callously they deal with it's passing. They have just found out the truth about a man who got them through measles and exams and a junior karate championship. They have just found out that he may well have had nowt to do with them, that they may have scaled those peaks on their own. Where's the epiphany, the drama? What kind of robotic beings refute the allure of crushing disappointment, and choose instead to be strong and carry on? Cowards!

We drive in silence. My musical sensibilities have long since been decreed intolerable. I decide to never have children, constituted as they are of such fickle moral fibre. The kids know too that something is wrong. The mood is tense. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I see my nephew wipe a tear from his eye. It could have been a speck of dust, or those dastardly Doritos he's been munching on all day, but adults need their legends too and I'm sticking with mine. A tear it was. We gallop over a speedbump that escaped my attention, and he lets out a smelly, resounding fart. It's potent to the point of suffocation, and we lower the windows before we even laugh. The sounds and the sights and the wind and the sun all rush in, and we're all alright with the world again, extremely loud, and incredibly, indelibly close.  

               (My absolute favorite summer song. Here comes the sun, Abbey Road - The Beatles.) 


Workingdan said...

As a father of 2 kids, I can tell you that no matter how hard you try, you just can't keep them entertained. There are the moments when you feel like a failure. And just when you think you have failed them and they hate you, they turn around and give you a big fat hug and say "I love you!"

It's all ups and downs with kids, plain and simple! Dealing with kids can at times, be much more easier than spending time with most adults.

Sarge said...

Love that song...
Aren't you in the monsoon season now? I would think it would be raining like a twin cunted cow pissin on a flat rock. I am about
16 days from the move back with the family - same town, not same house - Sarge must have some peace and tranquity - solitude actually.
Kids are great - You go see them -
not them come and see you.
Pre-visit bloody mary's work very



meandmythinkingcap said...

So, you recently joined "i hate kids" club?
Enjoy your bachelor life and your life with your girlfriend or wife.
After a while you may need something small, cute and sweet to love you unconditionally.
I second what Dan said. There is no single formula on how to raise kids and always keep them happy and wellmannered and there may be times you feel that you are a failure and their pure smiles and fresh faces makes you forget all that.

Kids are godsend creatures or guinea pigs for your life experiment to correct your life ie whatever your parents did to you, you can do that or make sure you dont do that. And you will be given oppurtunity to see the result.

Enjoy your life if you are not a parent :)

Windsmoke. said...

Children inhabit a world of their own just like you did when you were the same age i know i've two of my own and keeping them entertained is a real challenge all the time :-).

Pink Gingham Girl said...

Loved this post, so beautifully written. The first thing I learned about my nieces is that they don't. forget. anything. "Can we go down to the pool?" "Maybe next time I come over." You cannot bullshit a child, they will remember. The realization made me want to be a more honest person.

Rohu said...

This was such a genuinely expressed piece of writing. I have this devastating tendency to skip through certain parts of prose. I didn't miss a single word here. A child world is made up of rainbows which are differently hued that ours if we have them at all. Their emotions were beautifully portrayed. Also the subtlety of the humor was delightful. :)

austere said...

This is beautiful.
made me think of the good old days and wonder if i were like that, I must have been, in a watered-down, small-town verion. Ah yes, that shrug.

icyhighs said...

Thanks for reaDIng, you guys.

Dan, I don't remember a mention of kids on your blog so this is a pleasant surprise.

Sarge - that song is an instant mood-upper. that, and bloody marys. good luck with the move.

MaMTC - Esp. liked this part: "Kids are godsend creatures or guinea pigs." Let's hope I don't screw them up too much when I get the chance.

Windsmoke - I find it's enough to just switch on Cartoon Network and stuff them with confectionery!

Pink Gingham- So true, those cretins never forget. Your lesson was to be more honest? You're a better person than I!

Rohu - thanks for reading, I'm flattered!

Austere - I think we were all probably like that. I do seem to remember my version of the shrug, which used to work with great effect on my Dad.

The Angry Lurker said...

But a fart will bring them back, a very true and entertaining tale!

Pauline said...

This was an exceptionally good read! I'm glad you found my site and left a note so that I could find yours!

Shrinky said...

Oh, I so love the way you write - I felt I was riding right there in the back seat, watching each scene play out. This is so engaging, mostly because I find myself nodding and wryly smiling at the raw truth in every line!

As a survivor of four kids (birthed in regualar yearly intervals), I often look back in disbelief at how we ever coped. (I don't remember much of the early years, my mind has blanked great chunks of it out - think I was probably sitting in the corner blowing bubbles for a good part of them).

Teenager's are a breeze, believe me!

Workingdan said...

@angry lurker- So true! Nothing breaks the tension like a fart!

Al Penwasser said...

Rubber trees? I bet they move like mofos in a windstorm, huh?

icyHighs said...

Lurker & Dan: Touche!

Pauline, I feel the same way :)

Shrinky: I can't wait for their teenage; I just know I'll be the coolest uncle ever.

Al: Yeah, my part of the country's one of the biggest rubber-producers in the world. Can only imagine windstorms, but I remember tonnes of episodes involving flinging the rubber extract at my cousins, or using it to stick stuff to someone's face.