Little lights

As I was walking Xan home from school yesterday, I told him that later that evening we’d be baking a cake for Zephyra’s birthday.
“We will? Can I help?”
“Of course. I’ll need both you and Tempest’s help. We just need to decide what kind of cake to bake her.”
“Aw yeah, that’ll be great!” he exclaimed. A moment passed and something seemed to occur to him, “Wait. No. Screw the ingredients! Screw the baking! Let’s go to the bakery and buy delicious, delicious cake there instead! You can’t go wrong with delicious bakery cake for birthdays!”

Can’t argue with that logic.

Sometimes the things that come out of his mouth are so hilariously insane that I legitimately feel guilty for laughing so hard, because he can’t possibly realize how hilarious it is. He regularly makes up these totally bizarre jokes nowadays, usually as we’re walking to or from school. Like the one he told me this afternoon, “Why did the poodle cross the road?”
“Because it wanted to be a…” dramatic pause, as he literally – I shit you not – literally shifts his shades down his nose so he can peek over them as he delivers the punchline, “–cock-a-poodle-doo!”
Or he talks to me about the absolutely insane plans and stories that he usually hatches with his best friend Isabelle, who is a year younger than him. They are inseparable. This week’s plan is to dig to China in the school sandbox, except they ran into this problem while mapping it out: the core of the Earth is too hard to dig through, and possibly made of diamonds. He knows, from playing Minecraft, that nothing is harder than diamonds. So today he sat me down and let me in on their updated plan to dig up to the molten layer above the core, take a sharp turn to the right, come out at Argentina, then travel to the right approximately 10’000 miles and start digging again.
“This,” he explained, “Would ensure we’d go around the core and avoid that whole super hard magnetism stuff entirely. It’s too much of a hassle and we don’t exactly have years to do this.”
He also assured me that if he waited long enough, science would invent machines to do everything for him, and in the event of mechanized travel through the core of the Earth he would be sure to bring me back diamonds to “Decorate the house with”.
I told him that people don’t decorate their homes with diamonds.
“Well, what do they do with them then?”
“They usually wear them, like jewelry.”
“Well that’s stupid.”

I took him to the eye doctor today; he’s the last person in the family to get an appointment with the specialist. Glaucoma runs in my family very heavily, and everyone except my dad and Marika wear glasses so we’ve made a point of having the kids checked. Tempest has very mild astigmatism, but not enough to require a prescription, and the following year it actually improved so we’re not worried. Xan is apparently the odd one out with mild far-sightedness. Literally everyone else is near-sighted, including my mom and my brother, so this was a surprise. This may or may not be related to his migraines, so we got a prescription for glasses but the doctor said not to be too bent out of shape about it since they’re not that strong. It’s more of a, “only if it helps and you don’t have to pay for it” thing rather than a, “This needs to happen” thing.
Xan talked the whole way home about how sophisticated he’d look while reading Garfield comics in bed at night.
I think Xan may be the only six year old I’ve ever heard of who is legitimately not upset at the idea that he may be wearing glasses.

We went with Xan’s suggestion of the bakery cake and got a little cheesecake from the local place up the street that everyone thoroughly enjoyed, even Zephyra up until she realized it left sticky residue on her hands (she can’t stand sticky hands). We sang her happy birthday, albeit a day late, and reflected on the fact that she’s a big lanky loud toddler now and not a tiny baby.
Just before the cake we’d gone out to the park, where she ran from thing to thing like a speeding bullet, screaming “SWWIIIIIIIIINNNNG” and “WHEEEEEEE” at the top of her lungs as she hit each plaything. She ran up the play structure to the slide, grabbed the bar, swung like a little monkey into the tube slide and landed on her butt going 50 miles an hour and screaming in joy all the way. After shooting out the bottom of the tube she’d hit the ground running all the way to the swing, landing with her chest against the rubber and screaming, “WHEE!” as she flew into the air, back and forth a few times, and flung herself backwards and onto the next thing. This continued for a good 30 minutes without cease. It was rather awesome to behold. I mean even the few other parents who were at the park at that hour (6pm) were impressed.
“Must be working off the nap,” one mother commented. “Does she still nap?”
“If we’re lucky.”
“She’ll sleep tonight.”
Even Tempest stopped to watch her for a moment, awe-struck at her ability to rocket around the playground at top speed. Xan chased her for a bit, but quickly tired out, and instead focused his energy on tormenting Tempest and her little pack of schoolgirls who were hiding in the girls washroom, screaming about gross boys and needing “privacy” and all the things big sisters do to torment their little brothers.

The court date for the landlord thing is tomorrow, and takes place by telephone conference call. Is this normal? I’ve never heard of such a thing. I thought we’d both be appearing in some sterile room with a be-robed and impatient arbitrator, Judge Judy style. I am completely unprepared to be on the phone with some random guy who could be sitting behind a computer full of porn in his boxer shorts for all I know.
I mean, I’m sure there are rules for this kind of thing. But still. That’s really weird.

If he’s had time to see all the evidence packages, I’m completely confident that we’ll win this without issue given that landlady’s evidence was really lacking. Like, surprisingly lacking… I really thought she’d have it more together than that. If not, then I’m not nearly as confident because it’s just a game of he-said-she-said and we’ll just sound like two toddlers trying to tattle on each other for crap that doesn’t even matter. I’m a little worried about landlady’s passive threat of, “They may throw it all out because we were both late” because that would mean her eviction stands, and while we’re probably leaving anyway (who wants to stay with that kind of person making your life miserable!?) I plan on fighting tooth and nail for the damage deposit back. We put in our statement and evidence package that we’re willing to part with up to $100 to patch a small hole in the ancient grotty carpet and just general crap from living here 6 years. We’d only be willing to give her more if she can absolutely prove that it’s required to repair something we directly did through neglect and/or abuse and are actually responsible for paying for, but I’m not just going on the word of her buddy that we owe her a thousand dollars to fund the renovation she’s been itching to do so she can raise the rent for the next tenants.
Seriously, we’re not assholes about this: if we legitimately damaged shit, we’ll pay for it. Because that’s what you do. But I’m not giving up all our money just because she said dance.

I mean she even has in there, “numerous calls for a plumber or small repairs”.
I ask this with all seriousness because if the answer is no, this is the first time in my entire life I’m hearing it: isn’t that exactly what a landlord is for? If you have issues with the house that you cannot solve on your own, like blocked pipes that don’t respond to standard methods of unblocking, or repairs or broken dishwashers and fridges or whatnot, aren’t you supposed to call your landlord so they can either help sort it, or call someone to help sort it for you? … How can that legitimately be grounds for eviction?

I’m torn on whether or not I want to write her a letter. A nice letter, not a passive aggressive or mean one or anything (I don’t want that on my karma), just asking that if there was ever a problem… why weren’t we ever talked to about it? We’d understand and be sympathetic if there were ever issues, and we were always willing to discuss things. This is our home. I literally had a child in the living room. We’ve lived here 6 years and would have been happy to stay for 6 more. She’s in and out of the unit many times a year doing small stuff or having conversations with us and has never once mentioned a goddamn thing, so I kind of want to say… what the hell, man? Can’t you just speak up? I’m working on the assumption that these are legit issues, which I’m pretty sure they aren’t, but if we’re going with that… just talk about it. Seriously. It’s actually written into the rules about having tenants: you need to communicate to them any problems you’re having (or neighbours are having) before randomly evicting them.
At the same time I don’t want to stir the pot or anything, particularly once we’re finished with the court business and find someplace else to go. I just want to leave it behind me and move on… But I really also want to communicate how unfortunate it was that she didn’t just try to have a conversation with us at any freaking point about any freaking thing if she actually, legitimately had issues all this time that she was bottling up for years and years. I mean seriously how hard is it to pick up the phone and say, “The last time I was there I realized it needs some paint touch up on the doorjambs. If I drop off a can do you guys think you can handle it? If not let’s work it out”.

I’d like to think this is how normal people operate, but you know, life throws you curveballs.

I’ll end this on a positive note, and tell a story about an encounter that has really made my life.

About two weeks ago a slight, gray-haired, middle-aged gentleman came to our door late in the evening. This was just prior to our bedtime rush, and we were running late, so initially I didn’t even notice him. When I answered the door he looked anxious and timid.
“I’ve lost my cat. I haven’t seen him in days,” he explained. “I’m just wondering if maybe you haven’t seen him?”
“What’s he look like?”
“He’s all black.”
“No, no I haven’t… I’ll ask my kids, they often play in the yard during the day and see lots of neighbourhood cats.”
I poked my head in and asked the kids about any black cats they’d seen recently, but unfortunately they hadn’t noted one either. The man didn’t look very positive; he’d been looking for his cat for the better part of a week and didn’t have much hope left that he would get him back.
“Is it okay if I look in your backyard?”
“Of course. We have a shed back there, but it’s very old and not too safe to jump around in so be very careful if you check in it.”
“Oh no I won’t go inside, I’ll just call him. I’ll be able to hear him if he’s in there.”
He thanked me and disappeared into the back. I went back to tidying up and started getting the night time routine ready to go, when I heard another knock at the door a few moments later. The man was there again, this time standing a bit taller.
“I-I thought I heard a meow coming from your garage,” he said. He wrung his hands. “You don’t have any cats do you? I think there’s a cat in there!”
“We do have a cat. Three, actually… and they’re frequently in the garage.” I felt bad as I said it. I could see that last bit of hope just drain right out of him. It was really awful. “But, I’ll go in there and check anyway.”
“Okay, I’ll go around the back.”
I shut the door and made my way into the garage and poked around. I didn’t see, or hear, any cats. He was up against our back door trying to see inside (our light doesn’t work well, as it’s a finicky old florescent).
I looked at him through the window and shook my head. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t see or hear anything.”
“That’s okay. Thanks for looking.” He looked absolutely crestfallen, but also somewhat unsurprised. He thanked me again, and turned to walk away. I ascended the steps to go back into the main part of the house, but just before I opened the door I heard a tiny mewling noise. It was very faint, and very quiet; you could easily miss it. It didn’t sound like any of our cats. You get to know your cats cries, like a mom knows the sound of her baby over someone else’s, and this definitely wasn’t a familiar meow.
“Wait!” I yelled. He was instantly back in the window. “I hear a cat! It’s not one of ours!”
This man – oh my god this poor man – as soon as the words left my mouth his face was pressed up against the glass, hands to the sides trying desperately to see inside. He was shaking from nerves and excitement, trying not to scream. “Do you see it? Is there a cat?! IS HE BLACK!? IS IT A BLACK CAT?! Oh god, is it him?”

I heard the little mewl again, coming from this hole that leads to a crawlspace under the house. The hole is really small and Chloe has gotten her fat, stupid self stuck in there more than once, requiring me to wrench her free while she screamed in protest. I’m not sure if this space has any exits to the outside, or if it’s blocked off, but I’ve been told by landlady that our neighbours have the same little cut out section and have had a mouse problem as a result (they do not own cats, which is apparently why we have never experienced this problem) so I suppose it has to have some small open access to the yard.
I leaned down next to the hole and quietly clicked my tongue, called, kissed, and did anything else I could think to do to attract a cat. I heard another mewl, this time closer. “Come here, kitty. Come on!” I cajoled. I couldn’t see the cat from where I was standing, but could hear it coming closer. It’s cry sounded very quiet and sickly. Whatever cat this was, it had been there a while.
The gentleman was still pressed up against the glass, jumping from one foot to another. “Oh my god is it black? Is it a black cat? Oh god.”
Finally a little face poked out – an all-black face. I reached out to stroke it and the cat nervously leaned into my hand. A paw inched out next, followed by a shoulder. The cat was pretty big, though rail-thin from what I assume was near-starvation, so I had to reach in and gently pull him out to free him. He was covered in burrs, dirt and cobwebs, and shook in my arms; black as night without a single white hair on him, and clearly relieved to see a human.
“He’s black! He’s a black cat!” I yelled out. I held him up to the window.
The man’s face turned away a moment, overwhelmed, before he spoke. “Oh god it’s him! It’s him!”
I tried the door but remembered we’d removed the old knob. “I can’t get the door open, it’s stuck! Come around to the front!” I said. The man disappeared before I even had time to finish saying it. I held onto the cat tightly and made my through the house as carefully as I could, so not to startle him. As I entered the living room I announced it to the kids so they wouldn’t come running. Tempest and Xan turned around immediately and very slowly made their way toward me, reaching out to give the cat a tender stroke as I brought him to the front door. The poor cat was so weakened, or perhaps so relieved, that he didn’t even try to leave my arms even in the space of somewhere very strange and overwhelming. His eyes were wide and he shook slightly.

In his overwhelming excitement, the gentleman entered my house without knocking – but I didn’t mind at all – and he approached me slowly with his arms outstretched. The look on his face… oh man, I will never forget it as long as I live: it was like heaven and earth had opened up just for him.
“Oh Oscar. Oh Oscar!” he cried. His voice cracked as I handed the cat to him, and it seemed to me that Oscar was also reaching out for his owner. The man hugged him tightly, kissed him, and openly wept. “This is my best friend. He’s my best friend. Oh god, oh Oscar. I thought he was gone. My best friend. I’m so happy. I’m so happy! I’m going to give you so many treats. So much meat! Oh god I’m so happy.”
He turned and shook my hand, thanked me over and over, and then disappeared out the door, dancing and spinning in the rain as he made his way down the street holding his beloved cat.
All three kids were pressed up against the window watching them leave – admittedly I was too – all of us smiling, some of us tearing up as we watched him go.

What a rare and gorgeous experience it is to reunite someone with their lost pet, and see such pure joy and love and relief. I was very literally crying with him for the next half hour, it was such a beautiful thing to behold.

Links of the Day:
Earth Engine time lapse – A truly awesome look at how cities and landscapes have changed over the decades, courtesy of Landsat satellite images taking yearly photos of the planet’s surface from 1984 to the present. Some are totally amazing, like seeing the growth of Las Vegas over the years, and others are just plain depressing like the deforestation of the Amazon. (Hat tip to Ginger)
27 stunning works of art you won’t believe aren’t photographs – Seriously. Look at this shit. This is why the rest of us are terrible artists. There is only so much talent in the world and these people soaked it all up like the beautiful, unfair sponges they are.
Wire wrapped dragon ear cuffs – Not even kidding. These are gorgeous and fantastic. They showed up in a link from [ this treasury ] that my friend posted, because she was also featured in it for [ her amazing wire wrapped jewelry ].
Linguistic maps of America – Khar-mel or CAR-ah-mell?



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