Archive for December, 2012

Adaptababy: A Modern Tale


Well, dear Lio, the year is drawing to an end. It’s the last repetitive digit of our lifetime, and we have just returned home from a short trip to NYC. (When a label you sent teen-aged demos to invites you to play a show in the Big City, dear Lio, you go.)

Your father worked a double on a grueling & rainy Tuesday, and the next day we had our earliest practice of all time. It was freezing and we were drinking coffee; you ate oatmeal. We kept you awake with Baby Signing Time and housed the dog and loaded up our keyboards (4) and amps (2) and guitars (2) and cords (1 billion) and pedals (4) and kick drum pedals (3) and drums (6) and cymbals (2) and everything all those things stand on or require. Then we waited for your loving nanny, Wajiha, in the driveway, the snub nose of the van pointed toward the road.

When Wajiha arrived she first held the slight lifted head of a newborn dear. Somewhat quickly, after a brief episode of making ourselves at home in this van with overstuffed lounge seats (making leg room, storing things, and making you giggle), she became almost instantaneously comfortable; and then she did not stop talking for three days. She told us all about her life in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the U.S., about her family and their traditions and customs; about her uncles and aunts and their wives and husbands and the not really having a country to claim, moving to America, struggling, but forming a community, and living and growing and moving and learning and Chai tea and boyfriends.

The first night we spent in Upper Black Eddy, PA, a stone’s throw across the Delaware River in New Jersey where I was born. It is the town I lived in for the first nine years of my life. Having traveled near and far since then, I still consider it very much to be where I am from. We stayed with your Aunt Patty, who is not really your aunt, but a lifelong – both mine and yours – family friend. It was your second trip there, to this childhood haven of nostalgia; for not a single thing I can tell has changed in twenty years. We drove past the old apple orchard, the post office, the general store, the Frenchtown bridge, and the high water line post etched with the marks of major floods of recent years. The town is always exactly how I left it, year after year. All the sandbars are still the same. The factory is the same. The little town and the cliffs and ridges and cave dwellings and the homes and the feel and the attitude are still the same. Bushes are in the same places; little gatherings of bamboo sticks. It’s unreal and infinitely reassuring. That night, you heard us talking at the dining room table. You felt it your duty to entertain us, giggling and hopping about and singing in your little footed pajamas. We ended up letting you run around the house at 1 AM (a definite first) to spend some of your energy so that you could continue to sleep through the night (which you then did.)

We breathed childhood air. The next day, we drove a couple hours into the city.

NYC was rousing & wonderful. We played music and met dear friends and carried our equipment up awesomely narrow, long staircases while you slept in a Brooklyn apartment in winter w./ the windows open, for the fourth-floor boiler-room heat (which your Uncle John – who is not really your uncle – doesn’t pay for) is too hot to leave the windows closed.

And so, everything is relative to you.

On the second night, after our next show in the city, we arrived home late again, at 3 or 4. And just as we had stopped chattering and had begun to fall asleep, you woke up. When you awoke, your Auntie brought you in to us. We set your bed up by our bed. You started to think this close proximity was hilarious & laughed with charm and would not lay down. Your father said, very sternly (which he does not do very often), “Lio, lay down.” You went from dancing to completely prostrated in about 0.0002 seconds, in an unbelievable twist, half jump, half fall, totally propelled but also delirious & perfect. Your first pratfall?

It was all your father and I could do not to laugh out loud. We turned to each other and as silently as possible busted up into each other’s collarbones while not making eye contact with you, and also seeking sleep.

We played two shows & you stayed home (for home is wherever we are staying.) We combed rainy Brooklyn streets looking for hot food. You threw authentic New York pizza on the floor & refused to eat. You made friends with everyone who walked through the door, getting people to smile and stare at you for minutes at a time, and holding their looks with your own intense gaze. In you, they see something; may-be it is themselves, may-be it is their own child, their future child, their nephew, their friend.

I, your mother, sang “Song for Katey Sleeveless” to the very person who wrote it for the first time; your father sang “The Joys of Getting Older” with an Omaha crew of backup vocals in a giant Brooklyn open-space apartment. Singing louder each time, the noise built until we realized we’d been singing this song for years – and would be singing it for many more.

We didn’t want to leave. We left our hearts on the other side of the Holland tunnel. On the way home we stayed with your Great-Aunt, then met your Great-Grandmother and other relatives for a wonderful breakfast before stepping back out into the rain to return to North Carolina. After a stint of driving by your father, I knocked out five and a half hours listening to the Future Islands Pandora station while you slept soundly, and your darling Jiha answered my religious and cultural questions.

Since we’ve returned, the van emits a pleasant, if not slightly stale, scent of a strong Indian spice. Having toured prominently throughout my adult life, I know this could be for a number of reasons.

Now we’re watching Heima and setting up our recording space in the living room, ready to work on our album again and stare at a rainy sky and remember.