Ways to spend a winter’s day: Watch the Weather Channel. Walk the wolf. Curse the coffee that tastes like cigarettes (bought it on sale).
It’s a tricky time, February. All that forced romance. If anything shouldn’t be forced, it’s your heart. It’s a rusty bolt. A stubborn bulb. Twist too hard and it shatters in your hands.
I love how you get me.
I love your pain, it’s so competitive.
I love how emotionally unavailable you are.
I love you like I’m a strange backyard and you’re running from the
cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.
That’s that Kim Addonizio, a very gifted poet. In writing classes, I always read this poem, for its sly, playful, relatable insights. It’s heavy and light all at once. It’s a balloon tied to a brick.
I’m speaking to a high school class next week. I will read the Addonizio poem. I will also read them Edward Field’s brilliant allegory about early pilots, where he talks about planes going into tailspins.
Spinning round, headed for a target of earth,
the whine of death in the wing struts,
instinct made you try to pull out of it that way, by force,
and for years aviators spiraled down and crashed.
Who could have dreamed that the solution
to this dreaded aeronautical problem
was so simple?
Every student flier learns this nowadays:
you move the joystick in the direction of the spin,
and like a miracle the plane stops turning
and you are in control again.
Field explained that the trick is to go with the turning – give in — and that way come out of your tailspin. In short, everything’s a kind of dance.
February has a lot of tailspins. Football is finished. Valentine’s approaches. Ewwww, this wine tastes like socks (bought it on sale).
I love you as long as you love me back.
I love you in spite of the restraining order.
I love you from the coma you put me in.
I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone, except for this one
(from “Forms of Love” by Kim Addonizio)
The other day, I got up early to admire the teak in the sunrise. I can tell within the first two steps whether my bum knee will bother me that day and how far I’ll be able to walk the wolf, the one with the Paul Newman eyes.
This wolf is difficult to live with but easy to love. Lately, I’ve been teaching her some of Newman’s lines from “Hud.”
This country is run on epidemics, where you been? Price fixing, crooked TV shows, inflated expense accounts…
White Fang loves it when I speak aloud. The human voice is like a violin to her. This home, once such a bouncy house of noise and confusion, is now disturbingly quiet.
So I talk to White Fang. I read her the grocery list – berries, butter, Burma-Shave — and she will sit attentively, closing her eyes slightly, as if hearing the Beatles for the very first time.
On cold mornings, White Fang plops herself atop my chest and steals my breath till I walk her. Seems all my life I’ve been surrounded by headstrong women like her.
Now there’s this Catty Cakes person, the daughter of my daughter. I sense the emergence of yet another headstrong young person. Her eyes have quips in them. They are rounder than eyes have ever been. Big as wagon wheels.
You know, you think you know love – all its volumes, all its various syrups — and then you meet your new grandchild, and in her face are a thousand memories of when you raised her mom and bounced her on your knee, trying to fix her hair before pre-school.
Talk about your hopeless romantics — a dad fixing a daughter’s hair, with fingers still gummy from breakfast.
Meanwhile, these young mothers today…
So impressive — verbal, determined, yet just like young mothers have always been, searching under tables for the missing pacifier, trying not to lose the tiny pair of socks, hoping to keep their husbands interested but mostly concentrating on this new soul who looks at them like no one has ever looked at them before.
That’s romance, right there, impossible and reassuring all at the same time.
A child’s love is the most precious love. It comes with no terms. It doesn’t need to be lawyered. No kid ever requested a pre-nup.
I sit with the two of them in the park on a beachy LA afternoon, on my bum knee, reading Catty Cakes a new book.
“Today I Will Fly” it’s called (paid full price).
Spoiler alert: In the end, someone flies, even though the cynical elephant insists that pigs can’t fly.
“You will never fly,” the elephant warns.
Obviously, the elephant is dealing with a lot of the same internal struggles we all face, issues of self-worth. By lowering the expectations of others, he reduces his own sense of impending doom and disappointment.
But the pig gets help from a friendly pelican, and then Gerald – that’s the elephant – says that now he wants to fly too.
At least that’s what I got out of it. There was a lot going on in the park that day — kites and bikes and beautiful dogs just everywhere.
“Look at that one over there,” I told my granddaughter.
I didn’t mention tailspins to Catty Cakes. Too soon for that. I didn’t tell her that I love her more – and differently — than I’ve ever loved anyone before. She mighta sensed that; she mighta not.
“Come on, Cakes,” I said, belly down on the blanket next to her.
Last call for Super Bowl recipes. I have some cream cheese poppers that will blow your head off, and wings that’ll let pigs fly. Please send suggestions to Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Go Rams! Go White Fang!