"What's your name?"
"What's my name?"
"What's Daddy's name?"
"Do you know your last name?"
"Can you say 'Sakasegawa'?"
"Good! Jason Sakasegawa!"
"Jason Sakagawa! Jason Sakagawa!"
"Your middle name is Michael. Can you say your whole name? Jason Michael Sakasegawa."
"Jason Michael Daddy!"
I wake up to the sound of Jason crying. It's still dark. I look over and the clock says it's a quarter past three in the morning--a bit more than an hour since I came to bed. Jason wakes up in the middle of the night somewhat frequently but usually goes back to sleep after a few seconds of rolling around. I'm just about to roll over and close my eyes again when his cries become more insistent, and he starts shouting "Poo poo! Poo poo!"
I stumble out of bed, down the hall to his room, finding him standing with his eyes closed. "Do you have a poo poo?" I ask.
"Yeah!" he moans, holding his arms out to me. "Up! Up!"
I change his diaper, noting that while it is wet, it is otherwise empty. "There was no poo poo," I inform him. "Are you ready to go back to bed?"
"No! Sit the chair!"
"You want to sit in the chair with me?"
I'm exhausted, but he doesn't ask for me often, so I humor him. I rock the chair gently and my legs complain of the effort. Jason's head rests on my shoulder and I can feel him breathing and snuggling into me as I pat his back. After a few minutes I stand up and put him back in his crib,
"Pat the back," he whines.
"OK, but just until I count to ten, and then we're all done and you have to go back to sleep." I count out the seconds as I pat his back, gently easing up so that I'm barely grazing him with my fingertips by the time I reach ten. "All done," I say. "I love you, good night." Jason whimpers a bit, but doesn't cry. I go back to bed, mumbling a thank you when Juliette tells me I'm a good dad.
It's just starting to get light when I wake up again, again to the sound of Jason crying. I glance at the clock and it's now five after six. My skin is cold from having left the window open all night; it was too hot even at 2 in the morning to close it. I gently, slowly slide the window shut, hoping that if I'm quiet enough, Jason might go back to sleep for a little while. It works. I go back to sleep.
I wake up again. It's quarter to seven now, and from down the hall I hear Jason's plaintive voice. "Jason get out the bed," he says, over and over. Juliette, groggy, wonders aloud (in a whisper) at how his language is progressing. Sentences are a new thing, maybe only a couple of weeks old now.
I heave myself out of bed and stumble to his room. He's standing again, and as soon as he sees me he cries "No, Daddy! See Mommy!"
I pick him up. "You can't see Mommy right now, sweetie, she's in the bathroom. Do you want to go in the living room?"
"No! See Mommy!"
"You can see her when she's done in the bathroom. Do you want some milk? Eat breakfast?"
"No! See Mommy again!"
I shush and bounce him a bit. After a few moments, we hear the toilet flush. Jason abruptly stops crying and leans back to look at me. "Mommy all done bathroom?" he asks.
"Yeah, all done." I carry him to our bedroom and set him down outside the bathroom door to wait for her to finish washing her hands.
A few minutes later, Juliette is getting some milk for Jason and it's my turn in the bathroom. I blearily study the wall in front of me. My eyelids feel like sandpaper and my tongue feels like a carpet. I feel like Danny Glover. I'm too old for this shit. I silently curse my mom for sending me the book that kept me up all night. Grow up, I chide myself, you were the one who decided you needed to unwind after spending two hours processing photos. I contemplate telling Juliette that I will go to spin class but actually take a nap in the parking lot, instead. No, no; be a man. I flush, wash my hands.
Rounding the corner, I'm about to tell Juliette that I will go to the gym but I'm going to skip spin class; I'll just do a short stint on the elliptical trainer or something. I mean it, too. Before I can open my mouth, she says "Look what your son did." I can hear the smile in her voice.
I look over, and Jason has taken a bunch of pieces of cantaloupe out of his bowl and arranged them in a line on the table. I pause, trying to figure it out, and Jason declares, "Choo choo!" Realization dawns.
"Did you make a train?" I ask.
"Yeah! Melon choo choo!"
My mind boggles a moment at this example of abstract thinking, then a smile spreads across my face. Jason giggles. It's a pretty good way to start the day.
Me: Come on, Jay! Time to put your shoes on.
Jason: No! (laughs, runs into the kitchen and starts spinning in circles)
Me: Come on, it's better to have shoes on if you're going to spin. (Jason's sock-clad foot slips on the tile.) See? Shoes on.
Cooper: (sees the shoes in my hand and runs into the kitchen, jumping in circles)
Juliette: (laughing) It's like the orcas from yesterday. I bet if Jason worked at SeaWorld he could get the orcas to spin after he did that.
Jason: Orcas, orcas! (stops spinning) See Shamu?
Me: Oh, brother...
Jason: See Shamu? That way! (points)
Me: Not right now, buddy. But you can see your friends at school. After you put your shoes on.
Jason: Yeah! (runs to the garage door)
Shortly thereafter Jason had his shoes on and we were in the car. The garbage truck drove by and picked up our can just as we were leaving.
Jason: What that?
Me: That was the garbage truck.
Jason: See garbage truck again?
Me: OK, let's follow it.
Jason: Garbage truck! Garbage truck, garbage truck, garbage truck! (We pass the truck as it stops at a neighbor's house.) All done, garbage truck!
Me: Yeah, all done. Bye bye, garbage truck.
Jason: Bye bye! (pause) See Shamu? That way!
Something for the Journey
I was walking through the cemetary during Saturday's group shoot when a bit of yellow caught my eye. I looked, and then looked again, then again, and then I was fighting back tears.
It's startlingly easy for me to imagine this boy's parents, and to imagine myself in their shoes. To know what it's like to hold an angel in my arms, and to realize that, yes, I would still be bringing him toys to play with, eleven years after he died.
Is it selfish of me to have taken this picture? Is it wrong? I've been wrestling with these questions for the past couple of days, and I don't really have an answer. All I know is that the moment was profoundly affecting for me, and I hope that by capturing it and sharing it I might be doing something good.
Yesterday was a rare day without any plans or chores to do, so to make the most of it we decided to head over to SeaWorld. Juliette has been trying to get me to go there or Legoland for months but I've been dragging my feet.
"Jason will love it!" she'd say.
"Yeah, but he loves the park, too, and that's free," I'd reply.
"They're still running 'buy one day, get the whole year free' deal!" she'd say.
"That's only a deal if we actually go back," I'd counter. "Why not wait until he's likely to remember it?"
That argument continued, off and on, for about a year, and I finally caved yesterday. I'm still not convinced that my points weren't good ones, but we did have a lot of fun.
To begin with, there's a gigantic, Sesame Street-themed playground there, complete with bouncy floors, fountains, and a huge net climb. Jason, of course, loved that. He also loved getting a chance to meet Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, and Cookie Monster, who have a dance show about every hour, followed by a photo op. At $13, the photos are kind of a rip, but Jason could hardly contain himself and we constantly had to remind him how to wait in line.
And then, of course, there are the animal shows. We saw the dolphin show first, and although Jason was a little intimidated by the loud music at first, he warmed up after a few minutes. And since no trip to SeaWorld would be complete without seeing the orcas, we went to the Shamu show in the afternoon.
"Jason," we asked, "do you want to see Shamu?"
"Yeah!" he shouted. "Yeah yeah! Shamu!" I have no idea where he would have heard of Shamu before, since this was our first trip to the park and he doesn't watch commercials. He did know, though, because he was shouting "Shamu!" and pointing as soon as the whales came out.
After the show, Jason passed out in his stroller while we walked around. Juliette and I used the opportunity to sit down and eat some funnel cake. He didn't sleep long--only about twenty or thirty minutes--and the first thing he did upon waking was look around and shout "Shamu? Shamu?" So I guess the experience left an impression.
It'll be a lot of fun once Jason gets older. The roller coaster caught his eye on the way in, and he was quite upset that he didn't get a chance to ride it. A lot of the things he wanted to do had height requirements of at least three feet, though since we sprang for the two-year passes (on sale for the price of a one-year pass), he may actually be tall enough before they expire. I'm looking forward to it.
Get a Move On!
Saturday morning I was in Oceanside at the Mission San Luis Rey for the SDDSLR monthly group shoot. Unfortunately, it was overcast the whole morning, which meant no wide or landscape shots. On the other hand, it was pretty good lighting for close-in work.
"I'm Gonna Go Lie Down On The Train Tracks"
Shortly before I took this picture, my friend James was laughing at me because I was lying on my belly in the dirt to try to get a good angle on another shot. I stood up, brushed myself off and said, "You think that's funny, just wait. I'm about to go lie down on the train tracks."
Juliette, aghast, cried "No you're not! You're going to get hit by a train!"
I pointed out that I'd be right by the train crossing, and the bells would give me plenty of warning, aside from which I'd be able to hear the train from a ways off. James said something like "Won't you feel dumb when this is like the one time out of a million that the arm doesn't come down? Well, not for very long, I guess." Which helped a lot. (Thanks, James.)
"I'm just going to take a few snaps. It'll only take a minute or two, and besides, a train just went by like ten minutes ago so there probably won't be another one for a while."
Juliette relented, and about a minute later I was down on my belly next to the crossing, trying to get a good angle on the shot. As I was lining up this one, I heard a little boy behind me ask "Daddy, why is that man lying on the train tracks?"
"I don't know," the dad responded, "but leave him alone."
So I guess I'm the weirdo that lies down on train tracks now.
Along with an old notebook and assorted random crap, my foray into the office closet also turned up a matched set of Cross pens that were given to me by a friend for being in his wedding. Juliette and I usually acquire pens the usual way, from hotel desk sets and in promotional brochures, so these Cross pens were a significant step up from the other writing implements we had lying around the house. Figuring that they were better used than sitting in a box collecting dust, I brought them out to the kitchen and put them in the pen cup that sits on our counter.
A few days later I was getting ready to write some thank-you notes to my grandmothers for the birthday money they sent me, and it occurred to me that it was as good an occasion as any to break out the good pen. And damn me if they weren't a lot nicer to write with than the cheapo ballpoints I usually use. pen was comfortable in my hand, with a nice, solid weight to it, and the ink flowed smoothly, neither puddling nor thinning despite having been sitting unused for nine years. (My goodness, has it really been nine years?)
Of course, the effect was kind of ruined by the chicken-scratch quality of my handwriting.
I practically never write anything by hand these days. Grocery lists, credit card receipts, Post-It reminders, and the occasional greeting card are about it. I suppose I do use paper and pen for calculations and schematic sketches at work, but that hardly counts in my mind. I do all of my longer writing with a keyboard, and these days even my notes are mostly done on my laptop or phone.
My thoughts tend to move pretty quickly, and the fact that I can type at 100 words per minute helps my words keep up with my brain. By contrast, using a pen feels like trying to run in a swimming pool, and often by the time I finish a sentence I've lost the beginning of the next one. I really don't think I'd be able to get anything done if I had to write it all out longhand.
Still, I can't help feeling like we've lost something by moving away from the analog world of handwritten letters. There's something undeniably special about getting a real letter in the mail, even if the only people that ever send me letters anymore are my grandmothers, and occasionally my father-in-law. There's a certain weight to it, some extra connection granted by being able to hold in my hands the same piece of paper that their hands touched.
My grandmother's script feels a little antiquated, I suppose, but it's also both elegant and familiar. I can't see it without seeing her. Seeing the loops and curves of her letters makes me think of her hands, her hair, the smell of her perfume, the feel of her dining table, where she probably sat while she wrote. I don't get that from an email.
My own handwriting is a jumbled and sloppy print. Letters lean this way and that, drifting away from the lines on the page until finally forced back on track, and the ink tends to drag between strokes. It's all over the place, which I guess isn't too far off the mark, considering the mind that produces it. I sometimes wonder if it would still look that way if I hadn't abandoned pens for computers. Most likely it would, and anyway, typing is simply too convenient for me to regret the change. I do wonder, though.
Will my son learn to write neatly? Will he look forward to handwritten notes from his grandparents? Will his children do the same for notes from me? I hope so. And, fortunately, Juliette's printing is much nicer and more legible than mine.