The other night I managed to coax the Steven for an evening walk down Market to the Ferry Building. It was lovely: pinky-gold bouncy light, the surprise of bright yellow antique street car, a clear deepening sky. And the holiday had hit and San Francisco can even make that shit look good.
"Teenage American Graffitii" was sounding pretty good so we ankled-over to the North End and after a good long wait, there it was: dinner. As we nibbled each garlic fry it be came evident that
the large European family who had squashed themselves in to tiny table overlooking the ice rink on the Embarcadero was entering into a bit of an arguement.
The Father could not have been older that I, yet he had five kids! And was still together with the Missus! And had managed to a vacation and snow hats for all his family! In temperate California! Amazing. Flag green crew sweater, angular and expensive Euro glasses, red socks and long shorts. He looked like Tintin might look if he lost every caper, got 40 pounds older and now had to work Mid-Management at a bank.
His oldest, a fourteen year old bespectaled girl in a pink hat was eating her dinner calmly as her father tried to face her down. She was the ordinary, garden variety fourteen year old adolescent volcano disguised a human. Nothing was hair-tossy, gooey sulks and " THIS call is very important" about her. She was the typical girl with her awkward, enormous family and no one was distracted by pocket-sized machines that go PING. Essentially it was your and my family vacation thirty-five years ago.
This blond haired-middle-aged German with a "coaches kids' soccer" physique, is talking very loudly into the disdainful face of his daughter. With complete unconcern between bites, she calmly snaps back an unknown comment that causes her Responsible Adult to start bouncing on his toes like a boxer. The Boxer that going to be a bad cable memory in the third round and is already wearing that headline in six minutes into Round 1.
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You want to grasp this doomed parent who is rebounding so hard his body is lifting off the ground. Calm him down from his current completely non-effective, non-creative rage. Get him a beer. Or a Valium.
And when the poor bloke* has taken five deep breaths in row and blotted his brow with the fresh handkerchief from his Danish Climbing Polartech vest and once he has another swig of this beer and wondered where his promotional beer mat has got to: hurt him.
Pat him on the shoulder. Call him Friend or Pal. Think "soothing, calming cadence". In this voice that has brought him back to himself from this Great Public Humiliation say "You will not win. Not ever."
Not me, not my Da. I hear Da's own pop considered the bottle earnestly when Marie hit high school. There must have been great-grand-uncles cursing that day sixteen years ago when he was just a little too happy/delirious to vacate the permises before losing his cleaning deposit entirely.
I often think Cloisters must been full of Second Children/Willfull/Possibly Possessed Daughters, making the only choice a creature barely valued for her gender could make for herself, if it wasn't made for her. You can imagine the habits and the heavy wet blanket picture of convents, but in 1500-1600 in the more luxurious warm parts of Italy, the Sisters has actual quality lives.
They had servants and guests, they wore whatever they liked, there was very little of the burning people fad from their Nan's time. Just imagine the freedom to not be part of a family who did not value you and now you can be a bit more of yourself in this controlled environment.
Composers, writers, the occasional artist: it must have been quiet a nice life until the New Bishop of Rome saw opportunity for another kind of enslavement.
And this guy? This paunchy man at the end of his rope? I know I'd never want to be a powerless, smart-ass of fourteen again and parenting was an allergy I consciously developed. Much like an irksome fondness for excellent gin.
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She's gonna be fine, I'd say. She's plenty smart and just confused enough so that the friends/allies she develops will be distracting enough to ward off the predatory and creepy. Whatever you remember about high school is a lie. It was much worse. Chances are not good that there has been anything improvements. I mean, school weapon searches? Really?
You can't talk with her now: she's working on maturing that brain which has a delivery date of nine days past her 24th birthday. We would have had it mature when it was convenient to you, back before toilet training and you learned to hate the silly word your wife taught Little Miss Leakage about what a lady would call her Fine China. But you were angry then too, yah? 'My father never had to do THIS!', "Because of the babies, wife can't/won't ___________. for me." Yeeeeeaaahh. Public Relations ran out of that reel screening and was seen to be fumbling for epi-pen. The current opinion is this: Things are different now. Sometimes it works and people are better.
That kid is enough like you to subconsciously soak enough of what you say for handy
future use. She's still listening, even if it's just the tone.
If you changed the diaper anyways, kept the weird comments about her best pal OF ANY NATURE to your bad self, treat her at least the dignity of your other kids then YES. Fear not. She be back very shortly. She also wants to know if you still have the pyrex from last week's brunch.
No? Well, this is it. She might come back. She may not. It's really her call. Don't expect the kicked dog to pretend it all never happened.
Get up to date with how people her age live now. Does she have what she need or is something off? Is the government saying support will run out just as she becomes a grandparent? The kind of doubts and problems you had at 20 haven't changed to this day. She'll be uncertain every day for the rest of her life. The big thing she worries about might be you.
We have the same kind of small tragic/comedy tellanovela going on. The sets are recycled and so are the storylines. The writers get stuck more often than you think.
People change and hopefully for the better. And that there platitude? That's for the both of you so here are two forks.
As the father stews and paces and the girl swoops up the smallest hooded kiddo and they munch the last luscious American bite in perfect companionable silence.
The other young kids enjoy their fries and share their burgers, completely unaware that Daddy has been drafted to fight the war he will not win. Not ever.
* Bloke: a word better than dude. Less derogatory than putz.