My folks come for dinner to see Finn and Phoebe before they leave for college and as Theo and O. prep for new school year. Washing machine flood in basement as Dave puts the steaks on; fire alarm goes off as steaks smoke. Dogs run outside and sit on neighbor's lawn, as if following the safety plan. People eat, shouting between the fire alarms. I drop a knife that stabs the floor next to my foot. It was that kind of meal.
Later, after everything calms down, Dave calls us all downstairs. "Are we in trouble?" "Are you going to make us look at the moon?" He has us all sit down and play "What's my problem?" -- a game he's just invented. Basically everyone gets 3 minutes to air their issues.
O. (8 years old) says, "I think you shouldn't just have to say your problems. You can be like, 'Socks these days. Am I right?'" We agree. We go around, each timed, and then discuss.
We laugh. We choke up. It's been a strange and wonderful summer -- the kind of tough summer you wouldn't trade.
The next day is the last before Finn leaves. I give him a haircut in the side yard, an old ritual, but it's later when I confess to him I haven't cried yet but I could. He's at the foot of the stairs. I'm at the top. The 8 year old is asking for soda in between. He says that he could dig at it and cry but doesn't feel like it. I say I don't want to either. He continues packing. The 8 year old is still hoping for soda. I wave her up the stairs and whisper that I'm sad about Finn leaving but my voice cracks and I start to cry. She stares at me, wide-eyed. Seeing a parent break down a little is surprising. Then she says in a very quiet voice, "Can I have some soda now?"
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY has a fantastic review of HARRIET WOLF in the current issue. I hear that in print I'm on the same page as Franzen and got a higher grade, but I could care less about Franzen, on the planet and on the page. Hoping to get a copy in hand today. Here's a bit:
"Family secrets make for ripe hunting grounds for novelists. In this evocative book, those secrets hide mystery after mystery, like a set of Russian nesting dolls... No spoilers, but we’ll say this: Baggott knows how and when to reveal answers for the ultimate emotional punch."