Short Story: A Children’s Nightmare

The children could have spent all day looking at that tombstone. It was the most foreboding piece of marble in the cemetery. But for the children, the size of that tombstone brought along pictures of giants and monsters. And the fact that it said “Better Dead Than Alive” under the name “Jake Hawkins,” couldn’t help but make them think that it was good he was dead. Did he terrorize a village with his footsteps? Did he steal maidens from their wedding days? Did he eat people? Whatever he did in life, there was a celebration in his death.

It might have been that problem that confused Lisa the most. For Lisa did understand death. She understood the concept at least. Her Grandmother still tells the story of Lisa when she was three and they were at the park across the street from Matt’s house. Lisa was playing on the swings and her Grandmother was talking with her Grandfather about who they knew buried in the other graveyard beyond the playground.

Now her Grandfather grew up in a strong religious background and from time to time he would try to convince people of that fact. Especially in his old age he seemed to go back to those studies as a form of support for the coming end. It also seemed to give possibility (when he truly allowed himself to believe) for a hope, feeling and moment of happiness for the people gone.

But her Grandmother was exactly the opposite of her Grandfather. She was an atheist of the strongest kind (actually she had an opinion about everything and every opinion of hers was strong). Her husband and she would spend days arguing about things like a game perfected over the decades of holding hands in their little time.

Well, on this day her Grandmother wanted to take Lisa and go over the hill and visit the tombstones to pay respect to their old friends. Her Grandfather did not like this idea because of two reasons:

  1. Lisa was just a three year old and he didn’t want to take responsibility for what that experience could do to her precious young psyche.
  2. The second (he said) their spirits have moved on so it would be only a waste of time. They were in heaven or wherever. Of course, there was probably a little of his own fear of death associated with that difficulty.

His wife grabbed this argument and sunk her teeth into it like a shark with raw meat. Her argument to number one was that the sooner Lisa is introduced to the problem the less difficult it would be for her as she grew older. It would help her maturity. She also said that she would “If given the opportunity teach her about sex.”

Now while she went on to argue against the “silliness” of number two the mention of the work “Sex,” awakened the Grandfather to a new understanding of reality. Little Lisa will grow up. Little Lisa will fall in love. She will have children. She will have a life and there is a good chance that he won’t be around to see her and the life she creates.  The concept took his breath away. He just never pictured everything going on without him and it was very stunning. Lisa’s children. Lisa’s children’s children. All that time and ages that will go on and on without him. Maybe even someday he will be forgotten? Lost in the eternity of time. And these little moments of perfection with his wife (playing their game) and Lisa laughing on her favorite swing will slip slide away into a growing void. Her beautiful child laughter. Disappearing until it’s gone….

He fought back a tear. If he allowed it to fall, he would never have heard the end of it from his wife. Over the last few years she has had a hard and harder time figuring out what is the game and what is the reality. Oh well, it made them happy; it made her happy. Continue reading

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The Pains and Conflicts in the Drop-Off

SchoolThis was a battle I walked away from.

To understand the gravity of this for me, you have to know a little about how my brain functions. Typically, I am not the kind of guy to lose an argument, surrender a point. I’m one of those who will hold on like a dog with a chew toy, and this is especially true if I know I am in the right.

And I definitely know I was in the right! So, so right.

Actually, to correct that, I should say left, since what we are talking about are car lanes.

To put it more bluntly, dropping my kid off at his school is a piece of hell. Let me repeat that, hell (devil, pointy ears and tails, flames, the whole bit).

I’m not talking about the emotional aspect of the separation, that was there for a bit (and always resides a little beneath the surface), but other less pleasant feelings than the accepted sadness in watching your kids grow up. No, I am talking about stress, frustration, and sometimes anger.

…And I know other parents feel that way towards me. Continue reading

The Penny in the Belly

Look for the penny!I was in the shower when this all went down.

There are two little kids in our family. My son is seven, my daughter is three. So it is fairly common for there to be a lot of noise in the house. Having shouts, arguments, and/or loud laughter (sometimes all at the same time) is the Southard norm. Actually, it has gotten to such a point that I get more nervous if things are quiet. That is truly when my parenting radar kicks in.

Silence terrifies me.

When I turned off the water and began drying off, my son was at the door, breathless. “She ate a penny.”

“Who did?” I asked confused.

The funny thing is that this penny wasn’t even ours. I can’t explain this but other kids always seem to be giving my kids stuff.

Last year, while my son was in kindergarten, he had a friend who was always giving him little things. He would come home each day with a new marble or little plastic army man. It got to such a point that I asked my son to tell his friend in no uncertain terms:  “Thank you, but please stop giving me things.”

It didn’t stop. Just a few days ago, another friend of his gave him 50 cents. My son was thrilled by this and happily asked if he now had enough to buy a Disney Infinity character (he is dying to get a Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy). The answer was of course no. Continue reading

The Tragedy of Bert

Our Tragic HeroFor the last six days I’ve been sick. I’ve had a fever that kept coming and going, a non-stop cough and I felt really weak. I slept away pretty much my entire weekend. Actually, my house has been the perfect storm for illnesses, with my son recovering from pneumonia and my daughter dealing with croup… but enough about them, let’s get back to me.

So while in one of my fever moments I started having a weird debate with myself.

Granted, this happens a lot but more so when a fever is included. And after one memorable (fever-induced) debate I have come to this conclusion.

Bert is the most tragic character in all of the Disney films.

Yes, I am talking about Bert, the lovable bloke from Mary Poppins. The one always up for an adventure and a song and dance. That Bert. And, yes, he is more tragic than Cinderella’s dad (who I still think was murdered by the step-mother) and all of the other lost parents in their cartoons (which is another good reason you don’t want your daughter to be a princess). Bert takes the cake and I carefully constructed this argument to prove my point.

This will not be a jolly holiday. Continue reading

Flashback Monday: “Disneyland’s Silent Gift” from ME STUFF

ResortThis is the eighth and final entry in my Flashback Monday series. I created the series to showcase some of the posts you will get if you pick up my new book Me Stuff, which contains 40 different quirky tales from this site! You can check out the other Flashback Mondays here, herehere, here, here. here, and here.

I always knew I wanted to end Flashback Monday with this entry. Some might roll their eyes seeing Disneyland in the title (or if you follow the site, not surprised I am writing about the park again), but there is a reason why it is here. Why? Well, I really love the writing in it because for me it captures a magical moment with my family and in my life, that even then I could tell was slipping away.

There is this time when you are staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel when you can have it all to yourself.

It’s quiet, with the faint hint of music playing in the hotel lobbies in the background. I first discovered it when I offered to grab my wife one early morning a coffee at the shop in the hotel. But the moment I exited the elevator (and the haunting overture from The Jungle Book was playing in the speakers), that I realized I had discovered something unique.

It was still dark outside and I was alone.

I walked along the pool, passed the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant (with its fireplace still ablaze). There is a smell to Disneyland that I have yet to put my finger on, but the blossoms around the hotel and the restaurant added to its intoxication.

It was so peaceful that I almost felt a tinge of regret when the coffee shop finally opened at 6 AM and I had to make my purchase and return to the room and the excited kids. Dawn was approaching, a new day of adventure. Holding sweaty palms, wondering about bathroom breaks, and taking a lot of pictures.

That pre-dawn walk became a little ritual for me during my stay, and I picked up a coffee for my wife every morning at the same time. She always said thank you, but she didn’t need to.

It was for both of us.Me Stuff, front cover

You can read the rest of the post here. Or, better yet, you can grab a copy of ME STUFF which contains 40 editorials like this one and it is super cheap-o.

The eBook version of the book is only $1.99 (here on Amazon) and in print for only $8.99 (here on Amazon).

Putting Away My Disneyland Stuff

25_forwebWhen you get home from a trip, sometimes you slowly, slowly empty your suitcases as if a part of you doesn’t want to admit that the trip is over. It’s a thankless task as you have to decide what to keep as a treasure, a memory, or what would be better left thrown away. This decision is especially difficult after a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, especially if it dares to have the name “Disneyland” printed someplace on it.

That is where I am right now, doing my best to get back to normal life. Just look at last week on the site! To prove everything is back I wrote two articles on the art of writing. Two!

(By the way the art of writing is something I worked hard at NOT thinking about when I was on the trip.)

So… now that I am home and the suitcases are empty, as a final little bit of goodbye to that time, I thought I would share the links to some of the articles I have written on Walt’s park below. After this I am going to take a break from the mouse and Fantasyland (even though normal life can sometimes feel so boring without rides and jungle cruises).  I hope you enjoy them.

Disneyland’s Silent Gift

ResortThere is this time when you are staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel when you can have it all to yourself.

It’s quiet, with the faint hint of music playing in the hotel lobbies in the background. I first discovered it when I offered to grab my wife one early morning a coffee at the shop in the hotel. But the moment I exited the elevator (and the haunting overture from The Jungle Book was playing in the speakers), that I realized I had discovered something unique.

It was still dark outside and I was alone.

I walked along the pool, passed the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant (with its fireplace still ablaze). There is a smell to Disneyland that I have yet to put my finger on, but the blossoms around the hotel and the restaurant added to its intoxication.

It was so peaceful that I almost felt a tinge of regret when the coffee shop finally opened at 6 AM and I had to make my purchase and return to the room and the excited kids. Dawn was approaching, a new day of adventure. Holding sweaty palms, wondering about bathroom breaks, and taking a lot of pictures.

That pre-dawn walk became a little ritual for me during my stay, and I picked up a coffee for my wife every morning at the same time. She always said thank you, but she didn’t need to.

It was for both of us. Continue reading

Learning to Share Disneyland

Walt at the ParkSo last night I had a dream where I met Paul McCartney at Disneyland.

I was standing in line at the Peter Pan ride with my family, and he was standing behind me with his family and some big bodyguards. I, of course, realized at once who this was, and when a pause happened in his conversation, I politely excused myself and said thanks. Thanks for everything since his music means so much to me.

Paul was very gracious in return and we lightly talked. He asked about me and I told him about my writing and how I listen to his music a lot when I create and how it is a soundtrack around our house. He seemed to really appreciate that, especially the idea of his music inspiring other artists. I even asked him if the rumor that The Beatles were approached to be in The Jungle Book was true (I don’t remember his reply, but in many ways that is only an urban legend at this point).

It was in this moment of the dream that my wife tapped me on the shoulder and asked who I was speaking to. I turned her around, and casually introduced her to Sir Paul.

…And then my wife fainted in a very dramatic fashion.

She even made a “whoosh!” noise as she collapsed, sounding almost like air escaping a tea kettle.

Now, my wife is not the kind of person to faint for any reason (I would faint before she would faint), and it was that realization that woke me up. So I didn’t get to talk to Sir Paul anymore, or even get on the ride.

All that standing in line for nothing. Continue reading

The Happy Bliss of Dentistry

The Happy ToothI have always had a thing about dentists.

It’s not a fear, more like a slight terror fueled by judgment and pain.  Let me break that down a little more.

Cavities hurt and I dislike pain so I naturally associate the pain with the person who works in the mouth. I know it is like blaming the mechanic for my car breaking down, but I do it.

The judgment? Well, sometimes I feel like dentists harshly evaluate me and how I am overseeing the management of my own mouth. Has anyone else noticed this? When they are telling you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, doesn’t a part of you feel like you are being lectured? Now, I can’t point to a specific moment when a finger was wagged in my direction or eyes were rolled, but I sense it. I know it is there. The hidden eye roll is always there.

Because of all of this, I had been very relaxed on my visits over much of my adult life. And sadly, over the last five years this has come back to bite me in the ass… or mouth… or something. I’m just trying to say I hate my teeth right now and there is biting and occasional pain involved with it.  The biting, I mean. Argh! Continue reading

Why The Littlest Angel is the worst holiday story… ever

The First Cover for the "classic"When The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell was published in 1946 it was a holiday phenomenon. This “classic” story has since been published numerous times (with many different illustrated versions); made into movies (cartoon, musical, and live action); and in the list of best-selling children stories of all time (!) it comes up in the top 20. 

Heck, even holiday crooner Bing Crosby sang a song based on the plot of it! 

I remember the first time I heard this story. It was at catechism. and the teacher read it to us as if she was bestowing a great holiday gift on us children. I can still see her smile. While the other kids casually sat near me with crossed legs, I remember really being bothered by the story. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but that reaction to the tale has never gone away for me. And that day, I raised my hand for I had some questions.

My hand is still up in the air.

The fact is, after thinking about it far too much, and being haunted by it like Marley’s ghost each year, I can’t escape my problems with this narrative. I have come to the opinion that this Christmas traditional yarn is… just awful. Horrendous. Possibly the worst holiday story. Oh, God, it is just bad.

Okay, it takes a lot for a story to be a worst holiday yarn than the appalling song “The Christmas Shoes” (which for those lucky not to know is the materialistic and disturbing ditty about an ignorant child who leaves his dying mother’s bedside to go shopping, assuming that the shoes he puts on her feet will go with her soul to heaven and there impress Jesus), but The Littlest Angel does it. It does it ten times over.

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie, snuggle in by the fireplace, and let me tell you why… Continue reading