Nickolepsy

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May 24, 2010
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Later, after the divorce, none of them could explain how that day had worked out so well.  Even in the middle of it, they were clear that their time as a family was coming to an end.  Somehow, they managed to put their anger aside and to use their British sense of propriety to make a day of it.

~

Father woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across his head.  Found his coat and grabbed his hat, dashed outside… and remembered it was Saturday.  He took off his shoes.

He took a walk.  The sun was shining down.  Burned his feet as they touched the ground.

He thought, “We should have a picnic,” and went back home to wake the family.

Mother was still asleep.  She had been out late once again with her art class girlfriend Yoko, drinking funny-smelling tea and giggling over obscure jokes.

~

It was easy to blame Yoko for pulling mother away from the family, but mother had felt dissatisfied for a long time.  After all, it was mother who had signed up for those art classes in the first place, telling father “I need Help!”  His friends had warned him not to let her do this.

“You’re gonna lose that girl,” his friend Linda told him.

“She said that living with me was bringing her down, that she would never be free while I was around,” father said.  I feel like I don’t even know her anymore.   The other night I found her…  Well, she…”  He looked down, dropped his cigarette stub on the floor and ground it dead with his shoe, then looked back at Linda.  “She came in through the bathroom window.  I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Mother and father had had a few good years, then their initial squabbles became bouts of fighting and hostility.  These became so frequent that one stretched into the next with, at best, a brief chill between.  For a long time, they kept up appearances.  People thought of them as the perfect family — even idolized them.  Wry mother, cute, silly father, their serious, hard-working son George, and Ringo, the family dog, who thumped his tail rhythmically against the floor whenever he was happy.

Their story was not unique.  Mother had always been manic-depressive.  She tended to drink.  She could be romantic and exciting one moment, caustic and brittle the next, then disappear, morose, to her bed for days.  Father was known to drink his share as well, but tended to be a bit compulsive and rigid.  He liked timeliness, he liked everyone to play their roles, and appearances were very important to him.  She brought the excitement he craved, and he the stability she longed for.

At first the fights were intense.  “Try to see it my way,” father would say.  “Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?”

Mother would attack him obliquely.  “I’m looking through you,” she would say, standing in front of father and staring past him as if she couldn’t see him.  “Where did you go?”  This drove him bonkers.  He was a concrete thinker.

“I’m right here, fixing the bloody hole where the rain gets in!” he would shout.

“Language, luv,” mother would say, looking stern and nodding towards George’s room.  “Don’t you be corrupting our beautiful boy now, with your anger.”

George grew more and more sullen with time.  Now nearing adulthood, he spent as much time out of the house with his Indian friend Maharishi as possible.  When he was home, he stayed in his room with his door shut, burning something that smelled like incense, and playing his funny guitar.

Ringo padded around the house, snuggling against whomever seemed down and thumping his tail.  The times when Mother, Father, and George were all in the same room and not fighting, he would look at them quizzically, head tilted, with his fuzzy chin perched on one or another of their laps.

He was not their first dog.  That had been Pete, whom Georgie had loved.  Pete tended to knock things over, and he often peed on the rug next to mother and father’s bed.  One night he did that when they were trying to be romantic, and that was the last straw.  They told George that Pete had gone back to be with his family, though in reality they had dropped him unceremoniously at the pound.  George seemed devastated, so that following weekend Ringo arrived.  Ringo never had accidents, and, though his thumping tail worried father, he never knocked anything over, either.  They all quickly grew to love him.

~

That last happy Saturday before the divorce was unseasonably warm.  Father was right.  It was perfect picnic weather.

He knelt by mother’s side of the bed with his face near hers, and called gently “Good morning!  Good morning!”  Mother opened one eye.  This was an ancient ritual from early in their courtship, and she smiled at the reference.  She reached out to muss his hair.

“Well, here come old flattop,” she said in a croaky voice.  They both smiled.  His hair was long enough to cover his eyes, but this had been one of her nicknames for father in their early days, when his hair was short.

Father reached over and opened the shade, saying “Here comes the sun,” to warn mother to cover her eyes.  “Little darling,” he said.  This was another old pet name of theirs.  He looked out at the bright landscape.  “It feels like years since it’s been here.  Let’s have a picnic.”

Mother smiled.  Despite the toxic level of anger and scorn she felt for father, she liked a good picnic.  And she and father always put together the best of picnics.  “I’ll wake George,” she said.

Father went to the kitchen, whistling, and pulled the old picnic basket down from on top of the fridge.  He rinsed off the plastic plates and cutlery, and smiled when he found Georgie’s old yellow toy submarine hidden in the folds of the picnic blanket.

Mother, after quickly stopping in the guest room to wake Yoko and press her to come along, carefully opened George’s bedroom door.  One time he had gotten so mad at his parents’ barging into his room unannounced that he left at 5AM with a friend who was a car mechanic and ran away for a few days.  Since then, mother was always nervous that he wouldn’t be there.

He was, though.  He was asleep on his bed.  Something… something in the way he moved made his mother think of the times long past when she would tuck him in at night facing one way, then, when she came to wake him in the morning, find him turned completely around.  She looked around the room, smelled the stale incense smell — what kind of incense made that smell?  It seemed familiar.  She shook her head and gently woke him.

“Picnic time, Georgie,” she called softly.

He groaned.  “Mo-THER,” he complained.  He hated being called “Georgie”.

“Sorry, luv.  George, come have a picnic with us.  You know how Ringo loves them, and it’s been ever so long.”

George opened his eyes.  They were bloodshot, as if he had gone to bed very late, indeed.  “I was with ‘rishi last night.”  Mother nodded.  “We were talking about the space between us all.  We were talking about the love we all could share.  With our love, we could save the world.”  He looked in his mother’s eyes.  “’If they only knew,'” ‘rishi said.  “I want you to know I love you two.  I just need you to let go sometimes.”

Mother put her finger to his lips.  “I know, dearie.  That’s nice.  I think we all feel the same way.  Let’s just have our picnic now.”  George smiled.  He nodded, and sat up.

Mother started to leave his room, when George called out.  He asked, “Can I bring a friend?”

Mother stopped and looked back at him.  “A friend?  Sure.  You know we like Maharishi.”

“No,” George said.  “I want to bring Billy.”

“Billy Preston?  Sure,” mother said.  “We like him too.”

~

Each of them, even Ringo, had their specific preferences for what to eat, and where to set up the blanket.  Somehow, that day, they each let go and let it be.  They ended up on a rooftop in the middle of town, and spread out the best meal they had made in many years.  They made enough to feed the hungry people who passed by.  Here were some of the best dishes they made that day:

Get Back

Dig A Pony

Two Of Us

Don’t Let Me Down

Let It Be

Happy fifty and third, Rosanne.  This one’s for you.


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