Mr. Halfstory has keen organization skills and yet, when I came home from physical therapy to get ready for The Son’s high school graduation, he was napping and The Son was just starting a new game on MLB The Show 2014. It was 4:10pm. Graduate arrival: 5:00pm. Shower status: bone dry. Now, I’m an easy date – no makeup required and I had visualized my outfit, which comprised of whatever was unwrinkled and made me look 40 (my new target age). Halfstory had promised to clean the house for the assortment of relatives showing up post-graduation and had made good on most of it. By this I mean he had, a) cleaned out the storage room, and b) flipped on a game and wiped down all surfaces with counter spray. The storage room stuff was on the driveway, a la Sanford & Son. When I clean I start with the bathrooms, because, upon arriving, every guest will examine the soap dish and towel situation and immediately pass judgement. My mother taught me this important lesson. Then I tackle the ongoing laundry crisis, which involves moving the pile(s) from the couch to our bed so we can pretend to fold it while watching tv. Or else I just stuff everything into the closet and hope to find clean undergarments. When summer arrives I get a better handle on things and the kids help out more consistently. Or, to be truthful, they respond to my multiple requests before I throw all the technology into the cactus garden.
This morning we were home! The girls were not playing in Stockton or Salinas; they were instead sleeping off two depressing softball losses from the day before. The Son was buried and asleep under cheese stick wrappers and sweatshirts, coins scattered over his floor from the jeans piled up, fireman-style. Halfstory was face down on his pillow while I searched in the laundry “system” for something clean and my size. “Thieves,” he mumbled from the bed. “They’re thieves. They take our clothes, our money, sometimes our dignity, and my food.”
If you find something clean to wear and have a moment to read a summer book, try The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s the Three Bears version of a good book: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Fikry owns a bookstore on an island catering to summer visitors and a small local population. His life is rewritten when, one day, he comes across a toddler abandoned in his store. At times airy and breezy, the book also handles complicated family relationships seamlessly, although, in my experience, families don’t sort things out as nimbly and amicably as Zevin does here. But I don’t want that from a summer book. I want to believe all the weirdness and perhaps-that-person-should-be-on-medication issues in a family can be summed up with hearty and honest conversations. That said, the characters are wonderfully fallible and likable. The earnest little girl reminded me of The Son, the original baby curmudgeon, now 18, who wears a plaid robe over his cereal bowl every morning and who often takes time to change out of his sports watch to the dress watch we gave him for graduation.
Kaui Hart Hemmings has a new book out, but I dipped into The Descendants, because my brother John (Keoni!) lived in Hawaii for years and said it was good. Years ago when we lived together he taught me the word “sycophant.” I can’t remember why but because we lived together in a tiny studio and we were both single for overlapping years, we ended up having some dumb, nonsensical adventures that only we continue to find amusing. Growing up he always drank all the milk and would bribe me to go get him deviled ham in the can. (Are they still wrapped in paper? Why?) One morning I got up early and refilled the empty milk carton with water. I watched him pour water all over his Frosted Flakes and then I had to run very fast.
I am always fascinated by women who can write from the male point of view (and vice versa). It is incredibly sticky to do that; I’ve tried. Hemmings does this very well. Her protagonist, Matt King, has a wife in a coma, a cantankerous and post-rehab 18-year-old daughter and a precocious 10-year-old daughter as well. They live in Hawaii on royal – inherited – land. The family is messy and unpredictable, the dialogue is spot-on and Matt goes through all of this with a slouchy, shell-shocked attitude that sharpens as he gets to know his children. Parents will appreciate Matt’s dad efforts. Non-parents will trip on how Hawaii plays its own role in his choices. Check it out.