Kids Are Everything

Here’s a question for you: What do you do with your inherent anxiety and sense of dread after you’ve retired and life calms to the point where you have no dread, no anxiety – you’ve sort of outlived those silly and useless emotions?

Are they still in there, buried in the trunk of the tree, like an axe? Because, frankly, not feeling them much anymore, a year since I left the little paper I worked at for 30 long years.

I was never overtly anxious. I would just still hear my parents’ voices when I slacked a little. They weren’t big on lectures and scolding. They set good examples. They rarely sat still.

To this day, I can barely sit still. It’s a Puritan/Calvinist/Cub kind of fan trait. Not quite a curse, not quite a perk.

My son Smartacus was scolding me the other day – now he’s the one looking out for me. He was scolding me because I can’t sit around doing nothing as well as he can. Hey, I’m learning! He has an edge – he’s a teenager. But he’s hardly inert.

When I was his age, I hung out with the kind of people who go to horse shows. I wore Izod shirts and Top-Siders. I was very happy.

As I got a little older, I went broke, then more broke. We ate a lot of pasta. We bought a lot of “pre-owned” cars.

Sure, you can make decent money in journalism, unless you’re me, or marry a princess – both those things dogged us financially.

Money was almost always my first worry in the morning, which is a crappy way to start the day. But join the club. The only people who tell you money doesn’t matter are those with tons of it. Trust me, it matters. Till food is free, or I move back in with my parents, money matters.

Now, the lovely and patient older daughter is talking about moving to New York, where houses are more affordable. I really can’t argue otherwise. California seems to repel working people, and the middle-class more than ever.

This has been building for 40 years.

“Get out now,” I want to tell her. “Run! Go to a place where public policy might, once in a while, be made with you in mind.”

I don’t mean always. Just once in a while.

I’m a big California booster. The healing powers of the sun alone make it worthwhile, and what movie stars we have! The common folk are even better — calmer and more decent, with hearty good-morning hellos.

Such bitchin’ beaches too.

But why would a young couple pay a million bucks for an overcooked starter home in the Valley, when strangers with blue tarps and cardboard boxes might be moving in on your thistled lawn?

In the lush suburbs of New York, hardly a bargain, a million bucks still buys something. And my new grandbaby, Catty Cakes, would have her other grandpa to look after her. And glorious autumns where she’d kick through leaves while she trick-or-treats. On Christmas Eve, it snows.

Love that she would have all that, even as it breaks my heart she might move.

Now, after a year of carefree living, I have something very real to worry about.

Yep, Catty Cakes might be leaving. Hey, didn’t she just get here?

Change sucks, unless you’re some aging Pollyanna, which I just happen to be. I see each day as half full, not half empty, and am grateful to have what I have.

There’ll be other LA-based grandkids, I’m sure. For years, I thought Smartacus was my grandkid, based on the age difference alone. He was my mid-life crisis. Some guys get sports cars. I got Smartacus, a gritty second baseman with a bubble-gum arm.

I win!

“Kids are everything,” my dad used to say.

“Thanks, Dad,”

“I wasn’t talking about you specifically,” he explained.


“Just kids as a concept,” he said.

“Still, thanks Dad,” I said.

Life is rich, isn’t it? I think how much my late dad, a good man who adored children other than his own, would swoon over this new doe-eyed granddaughter. I can see the twinkle in his eyes, the same glint he had when he held the lovely and patient older daughter for the very first time almost 40 years ago.

By the way, here’s what I figured out the other day: Catty Cakes is the first daughter of Posh’s first daughter. Posh was also a first daughter, and her mother (Charlotte) was also the first daughter. Props to her, my late mother-in-law Charlotte, for starting this daisy chain of baby girls with gingerbread hair.

Life has symmetry, life has joy. Life has a lot of very good firsts. And a fair bit of hurt.

Put a quarter in the slot. Ride the carousel. Put another quarter in. Ride again.

Round and round we go till you’re a little queasy, and a little high, and you can’t figure out life’s unexpected twists, or where exactly to jump off.

Then, go ahead: Ride it again.

Thanks to all those who got silly with me Wednesday night at Avignone’s, my little escape hatch in Montrose. As is typical of these things, a bunch of strangers got together and left as friends. I hope you’ll put that watering hole on your go-to list. We need friendly neighborhood hangouts like that. Stay tuned for more summer get-togethers in the near future. Meanwhile, have a safe and semi-sane holiday weekend. Keep your fluids up. Hugs.

15 thoughts on “Kids Are Everything

  1. Oh no. I hope they don’t take Catty Cakes to the other coast just when you were getting warmed up to spoil her big time. But they do have planes that can shuttle you there. Perhaps one winter with the kind of weather climate change has brought us will send them fleeing back. I will send up a prayer that it works out beautifully for you and your wonderful family. Love those first daughters!

  2. Chris—-I empathize with the potential loss of your first grandchild. Of my five grandsons (who are currently with me and my wife at a La Jolla rental), two of them live in Baltimore where their dad is a partner in a prominent law firm. We get to see them maybe three times a year. Considering that my motto is “Grandchildren are the dessert of life,” that isn’t nearly enough. I hope your future is brighter than mine when it comes to seeing your granddaughter.

  3. Remember
    Resting before your tired is not being lazy !
    After 6 years in uncle sams canoe club and 31 as a firefighter it took me about a hour to get used to retirement !

  4. Chris, your Midwest values are showing. Your just
    going thru life like the rest of us “ Head up, shoulders back, forward.”

    Kathy’s son, Chris & daughter in law Caroline, just gave she & Jim their first grandchild, Luca James, 9# 6oz. We are all over the moon!

    Sallies daughter is in New York, loves it, guess you
    have to be young for that kind of life.

    Have a lovely 4th with family & friends. 🚣‍♀️

  5. Hi Chris,

    My son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren recently moved to Idaho. They had lived two blocks from us here. My wife and I were so heartbroken when we first heard their plans to move. But we’ve visited them twice up there and they’ve come here twice since the move. Easing the pain a little. Not totally, but a little. Not really a comfort right now, but the pain does ease. Especially if you know they’re making a good choice by moving to greener pastures.

    So sorry to miss the celebration at Avignon’s, a great choice for the first Gin and Tonic Society bash. Looking forward to the next one.

  6. As a native New Yorker (upstate), I can assure you that the only thing better is that housing prices are MUCH lower. Otherwise, it snows 10 months out of the year, rainy or hot and humid the rest of the time. The Autumn leaves are lovely. And I left all of that to be in California with the grandkids ! I hope yours stay here with you ~ ~ ~

  7. Regarding retiring: It’s not the end of worry (but then I still have nightmares about not having a term paper done or losing my locker key – things that never actually happened to me).

    Regarding moving: I’ve been all over. All states have problems, they just have them in worse weather. It sounds like there is a familial draw to NY, which is why most people who live in bad weather stay. Can’t do much about that.

  8. A year after I retired our son moved to Japan to teach in University, he said it was only for one year. Seventeen years later he is still in Japan, married with our only grandson, twelve years old. Up until the pandemic they were coming here twice a year fingers crossed they can come during the Holidays this year. ThaNkful for Zoom.

  9. Around our dinner table last night my 29yr old son brought three California transplant friends, two from the east coast. They remarked how much they loved not having to check the weather each day here in Los Angeles. So easy to get used to! While we don’t get a “vote” in where our kids land, we can only hope they choose to be nearby.

  10. They could move to the Midwest, where homes are more reasonable, it still snows on Christmas Eve, & they’d be in the middle of both grandpas! See, there is actually an answer to everything! I love the chain of 1st daughters!

  11. Tell them about Port Hueneme (or Oceanside) – very affordable housing, walking distance to the beach and only an hour away. But yeah, I get it, cheaper housing and the in-laws turn to be close by. I’m a Jersey girl been here 50 years, came out for college and realized “no winter” I’m here to stay!”, but I go back twice a year. In January it snowed 14 inches in two days, I was over it at 6.
    I briefly considered selling our house and moving to Montrose, but after 44 years in Culver City, it didn’t pencil out. I’ll have to settle for Kismet at Chez Jay’s. See you soon my friend.

  12. In motion is opportunity, though the glint in the blur is often damn hard to see. If the move occurs, go at any and all times, giving favor to Fall, when the edge place affords tilts a little to the East. I left California for several rewarding jobs and academic euphoria, spending the 80’s and 90’s in Virginia. I roamed the eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to The Keys, hiked the mountains, ran the beaches, prowled the cities, but returned to SoCal near the turn of the century, releasing a long sigh that has never abated. When a place is right, there is a resonance that stays, humming in the mind. It is simply louder, more symphonic, more synchronous. when you are “there”. Perhaps that hum lives in your daughter, will become more magnetic with time, and will sing her back here. Familiarity and the ego demand acceptance and even validation of choice, and delight is portable, but that hum…
    You will be fine. The answer, again, is in motion, and as you have revealed, you are motion’s frenetic adept. I note that this Summer is about motion, yet you have become more reflective, richer, deeper, philosophical , dare I say slower, in your ruminations, as we cruise through the ever warmer waters of the season. How fine it is to boat along, trailing one’s hand in Addonizio’s “Canonical Water”—with you—in this summer of mid-Covid passion and thermal frisson. It feels like a lightning bug must feel, trailing fire in a bottle…

  13. Don’t let them leave! Originally from NY, love being from there and took great offense when people said, “ Great place to visit but wouldn’t want to live here!” Moved out to California and even with all the craziness, wouldn’t move back. Housing isn’t less expensive in NY, only if you buy Upstate. (If you’re from Manhattan or any of the five boroughs, you don’t consider Upstate really New York.) All kidding aside, try to keep your Catty Cakes here with you a little longer. You need your daughter and precious grandbaby girl.They are your salvation. Happy 4th of July to everyone!🇺🇸💥🇺🇸

  14. Yikes oh no! Gulp. My thoughts echo others here…they can’t go! But i suppose it does make sense homeownership-wise. I’ve lived many places (Miami (Univ of Miami) Indiana (Purdue) Wrigleyville in my younger days (moved all over as my friends and I were always searching for the best apt…had lots of fun on Cornelia!) My St. Louis (ex) mother-in-law had a 3 month rule when my girls were young: she could not go longer than 3 months without seeing them! Did this for years! And you sure are a big California booster. Surprised someone from office of tourism hasn’t tapped you for this yet. Maybe Rapunzel moving back in will ease the void a little? Have fun at the backyard gin bash. I’ll be hosting my daughter’s grad party that day! Cheers!

  15. Well, Chris, welcome to the boat so many of us are in! I moved back to Orange County after my hasband died and my third grandchild, Levi, was born. I figured now I would have a grandkid I could see all the time and be close with. Four months later they moved to Santa Cruz!

    Now, that son and his family are moving to Florida in three weeks for Levi’s mother’s job! Levi just turned 6 a week ago. I am just sick about it. Plus, my youngest son (of three) moved to Florida six weeks ago. They will live close so that is good news. But it is all hard to take in. I have no plans to move there and will not be flying back 4 or 5 times a year. So. . . a lot of ZOOM or some such!

    We will survive! Just now how we planned. I am sorry to hear you are losing Cattie Cakes from your proximity. She sure is a cutie 🥰

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