I was in a book club this summer with my grandpa. He picked Moby Dick. I didn’t have a say in it but hey, this was cool. As an English major, I am long overdue for Ahab’s white whale obsession.
Grandpa wrote his name in it.
Underlined poignancy, made notes here and there.
Then he forgot about it. Put it on a shelf and went to a war and had a pile of kids and farmed up food. Moby Dick moved over the years to other shelves in different rooms to a box of books in a brimming closet, leapfrogging decades and cities till I dug it out.
All summer I consumed dense pages, wondering if like me he read passages aloud to feel the shape of words flow out his mouth. I liked it for the most part—the waves and wind and weird literary devices—though it did get long.
Be honest—how much whale physiology and sea creature taxonomy and byzantine descriptions of a whaling ship’s rigging did you skim or skip completely? Your notes got scarce then, and I don’t blame a bit.
I wish there were more of them, turning each page hoping he would be there to hint what he was thinking. To tell me something about himself or the world—what he figured out of it.
I went to his funeral in the womb.
Would’ve liked to book club Goodnight Moon.
This will have to do.
I looked for proper dinosaurs to give my niece for her second birthday, but all I could find are battery-operated blinkenlight mech-warrior monstrosities, with guns. And goggles. And a price tag worthy of weekly groceries.
So instead I opted for crayon sets, endless Hello Kitty stickers, a plush Super Mario doll (she didn’t have any boy dolls, I wince at gendered play, though just as much to introduce a hero to play the part of hero, happily passive-aggressive ever after, but I suppose she’ll figure it out, she’s got good family, boy dolls can be foils and fools but fun and friends too I don’t need saving, but that don’t mean I don’t like you plus he’s a plumber, and pipes break) and the sweetest glitter leopard shirt ever.
Then I saw them at an antique fair—the ferocious rubber dinosaurs of my memories and dreams. Despite the plethora of gifts already purchased, I couldn’t resist. I’m not supposed to, I’m an aunt, this is my job. Spoil her with presents, preserve her with love, prepare her for this mad, mad world.
I boiled them for safety and love.
A couple years ago, my dad bought some land up lake country so he can be the Minnesotan that he acts like. This summer, he builds. We step through the deep growth to stake out a space, determining which trees will go.
It’s daunting, these decisions. Siding, windows, counters, paint, flooring, fixtures, trim. It’s all gotta fit together, look good and not cost a million dollars. There’ll be a garden, and a shop, and a dock. He already rides a bright orange tractor. A woodlot from the cleared land will fuel a stove.
The trees trip and slap us and throw worms.
Giftmas was extra magical this year. I launched my first tree, found last summer curbside-sad while on an alley jog through East Isles.
Rob liked his Lucha Libre mask.
Joe was skeptical of his gift,
but pleasantly surprised!
Mom scandalized yuletide by gifting Greg a reindeer part.
But she made up for it with the punching nun: