Welcome to the unfinished pile. The following is one of many essays I wrote for a working manuscript titled, My Mother the Mediocre Witch. The collection was originally aimed at my son, a random assortment of stories and lessons – something he might refer back to when speaking with his future therapist. Most of the essays are very short, just a brief glance at an unusual life. I’ve plugged away at this project for years with no clear idea of what to do with it. Periodically, I’ll share a bit of it here on my blog. –Tarrant
“Tain! Tain!” and the Simplicity of Joy
I’ve noticed that I have lapsed into giving you profound truths with each journal entry. This gives my musings a preachy, feel-good, warm and fuzzy feeling, the kind of self-absorbed drivel that I detest. This was not my initial intention when I set myself the task of penning my memories, so I should take a moment to apologize to both you and the reader. To elevate the sweetness for all of us, I decided today to rummage in the photo bin for inspiration.
Yes, you heard me correctly. I keep all my precious photos in a plastic storage bin. The baby pictures are mingled with school pictures, which rub up against the horse and automotive pictures, as well as pictures of family gatherings, client portraits, and artsy product photography such as chocolate and rope. You must remember that we were in the photo business for many years. The prints weren’t very important to us because we could reprint copies at will. The truly important stuff was the digital data. Those CD’s are, of course, crammed into another storage bin.
So, there I was sitting on the floor of the hallway with a plethora of images swimming about me when your father happened upon me. I flashed the photo I had chosen at your father and we share a smile.
You are approximately six months old and in your father’s lap behind the office desk at Fotoworks. Around each of your heads is a band of 35mm film. I assume it was something he had shot and developed for a client and no longer needed. We have a storage bin full of rolls of miscellaneous negatives, so your wearing a filmstrip headband or bracelet was not that uncommon. But on this day, your headband has one lone feather sticking out of the back. A nice touch from your father, I think. You are drooling profusely, bubbles cascading down your chin, and both of you are grinning from ear to ear while you try to smash your chubby fingers on the computer keyboard as your father half-heartedly tries to restrain you.
You loved computers from the very beginning. The first trick you learned was that pressing the reboot button on the computer’s tower could send your parents into a panic, and you into a fit of giggles. After we realized you weren’t going to tire of this game anytime soon, we raised the towers onto the desktops to keep them out of your limited reach.
While I’ve been musing, I realize that we thought nothing was wrong with taking you to the lab; a place full of sharp objects, corrosive chemicals, and fumes. Given my confessed shortcomings as a parent thus far, you can see why this is just now dawning on me. But I would not have remained sane for long without my half-days spent at the office. Not to mention, you were good for business. Your fan club rivaled that of your father’s parrot, Kooka, who also inhabited the front of the store.
Kooka came to live at the photo lab because she had begun to mimic the sounds that I made during sex. At first, your father and I thought it was funny, but she gave a repeat performance in the clear light of day and in front of company. Sounds like that are private and I did not want to encourage her panting and moanings, so she was relocated to the lab before the noises became apart of her usual routine. I will say no more on the matter. Just that I was lucky that she soon found the office phone more interesting than me.
The photo lab’s first home was an old gas station located near a train trestle. Every day the train came through town, blowing its horn. This sudden blast of noise scared you at first, but once you understood that it heralded the great metal beast’s daily arrival you were hooked. Shortly after you mastered the words “Mama” and “Dada”, you learned to utter the word “tain”; your best attempt at the word train. Like clockwork, the horn would blow and you would cry at the top of your lungs, “Tain, Tain!” To your delight, one of us would then snatch you up and dash out to the parking lot to watch the train roll slowly past.
Soon our customers caught on to your fascination. They didn’t seem to mind when on more than one occasion they were left to stand, waiting to pay or drop off their film. Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t have to whisk you out to see the trains. Your personality didn’t lend itself to angry tantrums. We were simply motivated by the sight of your joy, as it bloomed fresh each time on your face with the sounding of the train’s air horn. The disruption at work was infinitesimal compared to the reward to us; the gratification of feeling your entire body quiver in excitement while you marveled with a kind of thrilled fascination at the mundane boxcars as they lumbered and clanked down the tracks. As a parent, these are the memories that stay with you.
So, while I sat in the hall this morning, surrounded by old photos, it only took two words to bring a tender smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Similar to a well-rehearsed dance, or a punch line to a favorite joke, your father and I said them at the same time.
There is no point to this entry; at least none that I will endeavor to make. I will simply leave you with two words to ponder.
To explore more sides of my writing, check out Beyond the Books where I share some of my older Medium posts.