Greg Bardsley



They won’t let him be ‘him’

My poor son, Jack.

He says to me,  “No one is letting me be me.”

His eyes beg for sympathy, his lower lip eases out. He asks for a hug, and I open my arms with a heavy heart — my 8-year-old is hurting, and he needs me.

“What’s going on?”

“No one’s letting me be me.”

“Okay, but tell me more?”

“Like mom. … Tonight. … Not letting me …” Jack burries his face into my chest and mumbles, “pick my nose.”

“Jack. That was at the dinner table. You can’t pick your nose at the dinner table.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not having this conversation with you. If you need to pick your nose, go to the bathroom. Nose-picking at the dinner table will always get you in the dog house. Always. And it would be a disaster on a date.”

We hug a little more, and then I ask, “Who else is not letting you be you?”

He tells me about school. Apparently, some of the rules and procedures and curricula don’t jive with my expressive, language-oriented, naturalist son.

Math? Don’t even go there.

Penmanship? The banal work of simpletons who obviously don’t care about more important things, like how volcanos happen or how the White Oaks Elementary “bug club” might someday undermine the world’s insecticide companies.

He says, “I wish school had just two subjects: talking and reading.”

I nod in concession. That would be nice. I must admit.

And these are the things we say

“Honey,” she says, “I was sprawled out on the floor from exhaustion today, and I was looking at the ceiling, and I was thinking, we should’ve painted it a ligher shade.”

Later, I say sweetly, “I think it might be because of the fact I got two hours of sleep last night, but my vision is blurring and I can’t see colors. Would you mind showing me which piece of paper is yellow? Dylan needs a yellow piece of paper.”

“Oh, of course,” Nancy says, fighting off a smile.

Later, she says, “Honey, maybe it’s because I never fell back asleep aftrer taking care of Dylan’s wet bed at 1 a.m, but I’m losing my equilibrium whenever I walk. Do we have a cane around here?”

And so it goes.

Later, I say, lispy and slurred, “Honey, what’s my middle name again? I’m drawing a blank.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, it may have something to do with the fact I’ve haven’t slept in 36 hours, but I can’t remember my middle name.”

And so it goes.

“Honey, I was passed out on the floor today, and the boys were running around me and racing Hot Wheels over my legs, and when I came to I think I saw a plate of mac-n-cheese under the couch.  I think it’s from that movie night Jack had last month. Would you mind getting that?”

And so it goes.

Someday we’ll get more sleep. I hope it’s before the boys leave for college.

Sunday …

Sunday morning. Heavy lidded. Half asleep. The sound of little feet padding into the bedroom. Open an eye. Dylan’s light-brown hair, a few strands sticking out in various directions. He throws his three stuffed animals — Goggy, Trotty and Dragon — onto the bed and climbs up. I pull him toward me. The boys had been gone for the better part of a week. I open an eye again. His giant almond eyes are looking at me, happy. He snuggles closer. We hug, Goggy, Trotty and Dragon smushed between us. I doze in and out, open an eye now and then. Big almond eyes looking at me. Quiet contentment. I pull him closer, and he sighs, happy.

Open an eye. Blond hair sticking up everywhere. Jack. Crawling up the bed, to the other side. In a moment, I have both of my boys in my arms. Totally silent and calm. No fighting or feces-centric insults. Is this real? A cruel trick of the mind? We lay there for a good half an hour, completely silent.

Could it get any better? Yes, it could. “Mommy” could be here. …

Sunday evening at SJC. Southwest flight 3843 from Burbank. Dylan and Jack sitting eagerly. Jack has picked out purple tulips, Dylan deep-orange sun flowers. Dylan grasps his bouquet with both hands, holding it out, looking down the aisle, past the security point. Finally, they see Mommy and bolt toward her, people parting for them. I guide our little group hug to a nearby bench seat.

Sure, we had our first family fight within 20 minutes, but that’s beside the point. Bliss is like a sunset — a brief, sweet and beautiful moment, gone in a minute. Until the next time.

Minutiae Monday — “it’s gonna be a zoo”

Let us begin the minutiae …

My 6-year-old son likes to take his guitar and “serenade the neighborhood” with his original songs. It’s proven to be a great way to attract lots of adults and children, which of course is his primary objective. … Plots with Guns just released another really strong set of stories, including those from Chimichanga friends Bryon Quertermous, Patti Abbot and Todd Robison. Added bonus: the stories are accentuated by some great art and another really cool design. Cool shit. Real deal. … I have to admit it felt good to see my short story, “Funny Face,” included on a short list recently created by DOGZPLOT. … This weekend: three birthday parties, three park adventures, one wet bed, four sleep relocations, one tee-ball game and one lingering cold. … I’m happy to report that my employer Sun Microsystems was named one of the world’s most ethical companies. … My wife and kids are participating in a school field trip to the San Francisco Zoo tomorrow. It’s gonna be a zoo there.

The grandaddy of all loose teeth

My 6-year-old Jack has a loose tooth. It is the granddaddy of all loose teeth.

What happened was, the first of his two front teeth fell out. That was last weekend. Apparently, the new vacancy gave his other front loose tooth space to wander. And wander it has. In the past few days, the tooth has dropped down more, slid right at a 45-degree angle and eased out against his upper lip.

The result: When he smiles, Jack looks like a 97-year-old backwoods moonshiner.

His friends love it. His mother can barely look at it. His desk neighbor in first-grade squealed in shock, then announced that his mouth looks like it belongs to a jackolantern (perfect analogy!). He’s having quite a lot of fun with it and makes a variety of truly funny faces, including a goofy Mona Lisa smile in which the loose tooth is the only one you see.

Every time Jack loses a baby tooth, the Tooth Fairy reaches under his pillow in the middle of the night, leaves a coin and puts the tooth with the others — in a secure, far-out-of-reach container. Sometimes I pick up that container and jiggle the teeth, marveling at how tiny they are, and at how big my first baby boy has become. Looking at them, I can almost smell the baby powder, hear the “gaga’s” and feel the baby fat that is long gone.

Call me crazy, but I’ll be just a little sad to see this latest tooth go.

Love for thy raspberry

My 3-year-old Dylan loves to blow raspberries. He’s pretty good at it.

Usually it’s a slow and gentle raspberry — the tongue is fat and wet, the lower lip is stuck out, the chin is jutted out, the eyes are calm. When he blows one of these beauties, I feel like laughing because it’s hilarious to be with someone who uses the raspberry quite seriously.

If his brother Jack antagonizes him, Dylan blows him a raspberry.

If he can’t get a toy to work properly, he blows a raspberry at it.

If he earns a time-out during dinner, we send him to the nearby garage. He knows it’s useless to resist because that will only bring on worse consequences. So he saunters to the door, opens it, steps into the garage, looks at us one last time, and gives us a raspberry. Then he shuts the door, nice and gentle.

Now he’s realizing that his raspberries are making people laugh, so he’s blowing them like there’s no tomorrow. And he can fly into a raspberry frenzy at any time, any place.

Case in point ….

The other day I tell Nancy that I’ll take the boys to the grocery store. She looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“When was the last time you’ve spent thirty minutes in a grocery store with both boys?” she asks.


She’s still looking at me like I’m crazy, and she’s fighting off a smile. “You sure you wanna do that?

Thirty minutes later, at Lunardi’s, the boys are whizzing up and down the aisles, each with his own little “Customer In Training” shopping cart. It sounds like a dozen Roman chariots are approaching my backside, and my skin goes cold. I turn and whisper-yell for them to slow down. A yuppie holding an enormous latte gives us a long, blank stare. An elderly couple passes us, their eyes twinkling at the boys.

In the produce section I’m fingering through avocados when Dylan backs into his “training” cart, which in turn eases into a tower of vinegar bottles. The sound of clanking glass gets my attention, and Jack laughs and hollers, “Whoa.”

“Dylan,” I yell. “Freeze.”

I can feel people watching us. My skin goes cold again.

“Okay,” I whisper-yell. “That’s it. No more cart.”

“Fine,” Dylan says, and marches off toward the bananas, blowing a raspberry with every happy stomp, pumping his arms like he’s pulling on train whistles, encouraged by the howls of his older brother. A woman in a giant denim skirt looks down at him as he raspberry-stomps past her, his brows furrowed in mock earnest, and continues toward the apples and peaches.

I have a full cart of groceries. This cart of groceries has been hard-earned. I am not going to abandon this cart of groceries, I won’t leave this store in defeat. I grab the items out of Dylan’s cart, throw them into mine, corral the boys and high-tail it to the checkout area, whispering to myself, “We’re out of here.”

At home, Nancy fakes innocence. “How did it go?” she asks, heavy on the calm motherly tone.

We look over at Dylan as he raspberry-stomps through the kitchen. Only now he’s inserting fart noises between each raspberry. Jack is still laughing.

“Yeah … Well … It looks like it was a relaxing experience for you,” Nancy deadpans, and she squeezes my forearm. “I’m happy for you.”

I swear it: I’ll never so much as crack a grin at another one of Dylan’s raspberries.

Hotel Grandma

We should all be so lucky to check in at Hotel Grandma.

At Hotel Grandma, located in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco, you are treated like a prince the very moment you check in. You are greeted with open arms and a gushing smile. A fancy glass bowl of “chocolate balls,” as you’ve come to call them, awaits you. Your “transportation” to Hotel Grandma (Mom or Dad) is graciously sent back to San Carlos, and once they are gone, it’s just you and your host, Grandma, who will grant you nearly anything your heart desires.

You’ve decided you’d like to ride Muni trains through the city all day? Let’s go.

You’d like to walk Nickie the St. Bernard to the Marina Green? Let me just get his slobber towel.

You’d like to plant seeds in the lush city gardens at Hotel Grandma? Would you like a cookie in the garden?

Oh, a grilled cheese and a rich vanilla milkshake at Mel’s sound nice right now? Let me get the keys.

You’d like to enjoy my undivided attention as we hug in the front room for 90 minutes? Let me get the blanket.

You’d like to bake cookies all day? But of course. I have the butter right here.

You’d like to stay up late and watch insect documentaries? At what volume would you like the TV set at?

My sons Dylan, 3, and Jack, 6, love Hotel Grandma. Can you blame them? At Hotel Grandma, and at Hotel Grandma’s affiliate establishment, Hotel Jennifer (run by their aunt in Lower Pacific Heights), you are loved and cared for extra-special and taken to the far corners of this world-class city. You enjoy a close bond with a loved one, and it’s a gift you’ll likely carry with you the rest of your life. You are granted furlough from the tougher realities of your regular life in San Carlos and all its time-outs, household “jobs,” strict adherence to bedtime parameters, parent-sharing with an annoying brother, and (the horror) limited say in what is served for dinner.

Needless to say, checking out of Hotel Grandma (or Hotel Jennifer) and returning to San Carlos can level quite a shock to the system. A sense of injustice permeates your mind, and tirades seem to be the favored response. You sob and mope. You sigh loudly. When you are given a consequence for failing to do as you were told, you fold your arms and shout, “You are a bad … bad … bad Daddy,” and your lower lip pops out. You announce, “You guys are torturing me.” Sometimes it is all too much, and you are compelled to collapse into a mound of tears (a favorite tactic of Dylan’s).

The injustice.

To which your Daddy replies, “More content for your memoirs someday.”

As I write this, Dylan is checked in at Hotel Grandma. I know he is having a wonderful time and is enjoying my mother’s undivided attention — and what a gift that is in life. But I know that when he returns, there will be that adjustment period, just as there is for his older brother Jack. But the way Nancy and I see it, it’s the price we gladly pay for the boys to have such special people — a loving aunt, an adoring grandma — in their lives.

Do any of you parents out there have similar problems with your kids after they’ve returned from Grandma’s House?

Minutiae Monday

What was I thinking? Of course my minutiae posts are better suited for Mondays, not Wednesdays.

“Minutiae Monday” sounds so much better.

So here goes my minutiae as I see it at the end of a long weekend:

My son Dylan, 3, is so thrilled to wear clothes that weren’t previously worn by his 6-year-old brother, Jack. Two of his favorites are the recently purchased basketball outfits, “Hotshots 52” and “Superstar 39.” Whenever Jack pulls out a basketball, Dylan whips around and mumbles to himself as he runs to his bedroom, “I get my Hotshots 52.” … Few things match the energy of 9 first-grade boys gathering for two hours of birthday-party dodgeball and basketball (today) … I made my second batch of guacamole of the season tonight, and my wife said, “Too salty.” … It was physically painful to write my property-tax check tonight … By pure chance, I helped eight boys with their costumes for the musical, “Snow Biz,” at Jack’s school on Friday — pure mayhem. … I got all dandied up on Saturday for a fancy tea experience with my wife for her birthday, followed by something called a “sage and lemon pedicure” and foot massage (for her, not me) and a phenomenal Greek meal in Palo Alto. … Tonight my wife and I had a What-the-F-are-we-doing? attack regarding our soon-to-commence house add-on, family-move-out, Greg-and-Nancy-assume-more-fixed costs commitment. … I might be a jurist for a murder trial. … Facebook has sent several emails detailing very flattering rankings involving “Greg Bardsley” and an elite group of others. Then I realized those flattering rankings were for another Greg Bardsley, some FB friend of mine living New Zealand. … My mom would like me to come up to San Francisco to move a bunch of roses she just bought. … When the boys and I began to play air-guitar to classic Boston songs tonight, Nancy gave us her I’ll-see-you-guys-later look and slipped out of the kitchen. … The Sun Microsystems “March Madness” basketball tournament in Menlo Park is anyone’s to win. … I still have zero interest in owning a giant flat-panel TV. I. Just. Don’t. Care. … I’m planning to write an entirely different kind of novel this next time around. … God, I love my new MacBook.

Introducing, “Minutiae Wednesday”

On other days, I might use this space to tackle lofty topics like “Eat Pray Love” and the 2008 Greg Bardsley Guacamole Season. But on Wednesdays, I think I’ll dive into the minutiae of life. This is, after all, a blog.

Here’s the minutiae as I saw it last night around 11:30 …..

“I’m currently wearing dark-blue sweats with double white stripes on the side. … My wife says she’s determined to beat me in some kind of hit-count battle between our blogs. …. I’m wondering how this one family down the street can afford to spend so much money. … Last night I stayed up way too late writing … I had to give my oldest child several time-outs tonight, and forever take away two of his toys. … I called another man “a jerk” today … Yesterday, I received my first-ever payment for fiction. … Our dishwasher broke again, and it will be weeks before the replacement part arrives. … Tonight I ghostwrote a letter for my sister, who is demanding that the guy who committed a hit-and-run against her pay to have the back bumper of her VW Bug dipped in chrome. … I took the garbage out to the curb tonight. … I like Debra Messing’s hairline. … I love the way my wife laughs. … Both our boys fell asleep by 8:38 tonight (so nice!). … When driving, I am forced to wear the most insane pair of volleyball sunglasses. … We’ll have to move out within a month so our contractor can get started with our add-on project. … I got a story accepted for STORYGLOSSIA‘s noir edition. …Tonight, my wife and I got a real kick out of Brett Michael’s “Rock of Love” reality program (great editing). … I’ve been listening to “fast-paced spy music” the past 24 hours. … I’m thinking, This list could go on forever. … Cutting off the minutiae — for now.”

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