Pinky Promises, Cats in the Cradle etc.

I had picked up the 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear while idling in the fiction aisles of my local Border’s bookstore.  I read the back of it and thought it would be an interesting read for both me and my daughter.  I brought it home and handing it to her said we could read it together or take turns.   I told her I might read some pages while she was at school.  And that was our deal.  She started it last week and finished in about a week, reading some parts of it aloud to me.  I couldn’t keep my part of the bargain.  I couldn’t make the time, even in this current state of extreme leisure, to start reading the book.

Yesterday she sulked for hours because I hadn’t started reading the book.

“Start reading it now!”

“No baby, I have other things to do, I can’t right now.”

“What do you have to do?”

“Stuff.  Stuff on the computer.”

“What kind of stuff? Lexulous?”

“Well…that too, but I need to try and write something.”

“I don’t think you’re going to write anything tonight.  Just read the book.”

“No, not today, I’ll start tomorrow.”

I thought I had had the last word on the subject until I noticed that she was not talking to me anymore.  She was answering my random questions with monosyllables or shrugs.  I can’t say I am ever immune to the feelings Harry Chapin generated in Cats in the Cradle and so I finally had to hug her and offer up the solemnity of a pinky promise.  A promise that can never be broken, come what may.  I promised that I would wake up on Sunday and start my day with two chapters in the 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear.

So that’s how I started my day today, with the first two chapters of Walter Moers – 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.  I read it while imagining the parts of it that made her chuckle as she was reading.  The book wasn’t found in the kids’ section of the store.  It’s meant for an older audience and has some phrasing and some words that I am sure are not familiar to my nine year old.  But she raced right through it.  She loved it so much that she wants to see it made into a movie.

Captain Bluebear is a poor, lost, orphaned bear who grows from the size of a walnut to a gigantic bear and by his second life has acquired the invaluable skill of crying on demand.  He has elevated the act of crying to a performance in fine arts .  I could have gone on reading to see what other skills he acquires as his life progresses but I was dragged down by an insane fluttering of butterflies in my stomach.  I was paralyzed with anxiety, not into a state of immobility but into a state of meaningless mobility, I was pacing, worrying, picking things up, putting things aside, removing lint, straightening things that didn’t need straightening, all in an effort to calm myself down.

I felt like a lost soul.  I haven’t known what to do with myself for the last several weeks but I’ve tried doing some things.  I have made plans, I have cultivated detachment, sown the seeds of zero expectations and tried to welcome the blackness and bleakness of the cipher in which I find myself at present.  It has been a lot of work.  I have had to push my worries aside and deal with each problem as it presented itself.  But it was as if I suddenly didn’t want to be so brave anymore.  I wanted to howl like Captain Bluebear who always found a strange sense of calm and detachment after every emotional enactment.

Well, I quieted the butterflies in time.  I showed her my bookmark at the beginning of Chapter 3.  I had kept my promise.  Now it was time for the other standing promise that every Sunday I take her to brunch at the International House of Pancakes, where she never orders pancakes – always chicken fingers and fries.

Now we’re back home.  She’s doing her thing and I am doing my nothing.

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