The best part of my day is just before Jason goes to bed. It happens after I've given him his bath, brushed his teeth, and put on his pajamas, but before Juliette reads him a story, we both sing him a song, and we put him to bed. Built into our night-time routine is a little moment that Jason and I call Hug Time. It's about what you'd expect--he gives me a hug.
I don't remember exactly when we started Hug Time, but I do remember why. A bit after he turned two, Jason stopped wanting me to hug and kiss him. The first time he pushed me away I was reminded of the stories my mom tells of my own toddlerhood, how right around that same age I also stopped wanting to be held. She would try to pick me up and I would stiffen my body so she couldn't hold on to me, and slide away to freedom. The pain I felt when I thought Jason might be doing the same thing was more than I expected--I came up with Hug Time as a compromise. He might not want random affection from me, but if I made it part of his routine, something he knew to expect and count on, then he'd be OK with it.
And it worked. Hug Time is now an integral part of Jason's bedtime. It's to the point now where if I do things in the wrong order--asking him to pick out a book right after brushing his teeth, for example--he'll spread his hands and insist, "But Daddy, you forgot Hug Time!" I think Hug Time may even be responsible for his general turnaround on the subject of physical affection--well, maybe that and the fact of his sister's birth.
I look forward to Hug Time all day, and once it comes, I try to make it last as long as I can. I focus on the sensation of his skinny arms around my neck, the weight of his head on my shoulder, the smell of shampoo in his hair. I stretch the hug to five, ten, fifteen seconds, doing everything I can to impress the moment into my memory, because I know that some day there will be no more Hug Times. Eventually he'll move out, and even before that he'll outgrow such things. After all, how many teenagers stand around embracing their fathers for half a minute? How many adults? The hugs I give my own parents these days tend to be fairly perfunctory--a quick squeeze and a couple of pats on the back.
It's hard for me to imagine ever not wanting my kids to hug me the way Jason does now; it's easy to imagine my heart breaking when they stop. I've been thinking a lot lately about how my own parents must have felt, how they feel now, and I think I ought to hug them more. But except for Juliette and my kids, I've always been profoundly uncomfortable with physical affection. Often I wish I were different from how I am--in a lot of ways--but it's hard to make some changes. And I suppose however they feel about it, my parents must be used to the nature of our relationships--or maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better.
It's one of the tragedies of parenthood, I think, that we focus so much of our effort and desires on getting our kids to grow up, only to have them do so. I look forward so much to not having to deal with tantrums, diapers, boogers, picky eating, and so on. But it all comes at such a high price. I'm sure I'll be able to deal with it when it happens. For now, I'm looking forward to Hug Time, as long as it lasts.
My aunts threw a party for my dad's birthday this weekend. This is what he looked like in 1952. I see a bit of my daughter in that smile.
When I was a kid, 60 seemed impossibly old. It still sounds older to my ears than what I see when I look at my dad. I'm glad I got to be with him for his birthday.
Go For Broke
Stay Out Here
A friend of mine started an interesting project recently, a sort of multimedia horror dime novel for the web--he calls the format "digital pulp." The project is called Turnskin, and through a series of blog posts, video diaries, "found" footage, tweets, and Facebook posts it follows the story of a young LA woman after a strange encounter she has with what she describes as a "serpent creature."
Thus far there are about 20 or so entries at the blog site, and there's enough going on (and hinted at) that I'm interested to read more. I can see a strong connection to the modern New Weird movement, and to the older weird fiction pulps that were its precursors. I get the impression that there will be some sort of Gaiman-esque secret world revealed in forthcoming installments, and I'm looking forward to finding out more.
The prospect of using the web as a medium for narrative is something that a lot of people have explored over the past decade or so, to varying degrees of success. I think that the ones that tend to work well are ones where the author is familiar with web culture and how the medium is consumed and interpreted by its audience, and can execute on that knowledge. In some ways, you can see the idea of a blog-based story as the modern take on the epistolary novel, and that comparison works in a lot of ways. But at the root, blogs are consumed and understood by their readers in a very different way from letters, and that difference in tone has to be taken into account for a web-based story to work well.
I have to admit, I wasn't convinced at first that Turnskin was going to work well. There's a certain "writerliness" to the blog posts that struck me as inauthentic. But what I failed to take into account was the way that the different platforms that the project encompasses all work together. My "aha" moment came when I popped open the protagonist's Twitter feed. Right there at the top of the page--just like every other Twitter feed--is the description that the girl chose for herself: "I am an artist, writer, daydreamer and reluctant barista." Reading that, it clicked for me: this is exactly how the sort of person who would use expensive adjectives in her personal blog would describe herself. And, man, I know that person.
In that light, I really have to give my friend credit for a well-thought-out, layered, deep characterization. Kudos, dude. Kudos.