The Lodge Part One; Getting There

Amongst the clearest and most treasured memories of my youth are the handful of roadtrips that I took with my dad, just the two of us. One that sticks out for me as particularly enjoyable was a trip to Pennsylvania where I needed to be on campus early for basketball camp check in the next day.

The day started at the Morgan Manning house for the 4th of July town picnic and fair. Its the kind of tradition I had no idea I’d come to love about the town of Brockport, NY where I grew up.

After hot dogs (Zweigel’s, the only proper hot dog)  and my little brother doing the cakewalk and the barbershop quartet of high school teachers we went home, loaded the minivan and got on the road.

On this trip we were in the right mood. We were just relaxed and comfortable and conversation flowed and we talked about life and family, everything and nothing. I don’t remember the details and they weren’t important. We were relaxed, comfortable and alone. It was nice.

It was in fact the counter to my normal level of anxiety. Once when I was 5 or so I was in the bathroom while he was shaving. There were at least 8 of us, often more. As George Bluth said, watch out for hop-ons, you’re gonna have hop-ons.  Anyway, with two bathrooms overcrowding was not at all unusual so for me to be peeing while he shaved was not unusual. After a moment of observation he looked over at me, face half covered in thick white foam and half smoothly shaven and said. ‘Are you breathing.’ I wasn’t. He said, ‘it’s okay. Breathe.’ So I did. I’ve always been self-conscious, still am.

We stayed in a hotel that night near the camp. It remains the one and only night I’ve ever eaten at an Arthur Treacher’s. I imagine this was true for him as well. Then we went to a movie. The only thing that lined up with our schedule that was agreeable to both of us was ‘Soapdish’.

For a couple of hours we howled with laughter. A reserved 40-something dad and his jock 15 year old son cracking up at the antics of a cast of eccentrics populating the set of a daytime soap opera. It was downright hysterical, silly and perfect. It was one of the best days of my childhood. It shouldn’t surprise me that the most meaningful and metaphorical journey of my life was a road trip with my dad in a minivan across the state when I was 20.

Side note about my dad; He’s funny. Very funny. It’s a dry sense of humor, not needy, rarely reaching out, but often reactive and precise. I can be manic in my need to get in a funny line at every opportunity, even inventing the opportunities, or sticking a laugh line in as a non sequitur just to get the attention. It comes from a funnier place for my dad. He’s okay letting tons of good enough but not perfect pitches fly past, and then boom, HYSTERICAL. I’ve tried to learn from this, and to some degree I’ve calmed down. He’s such a good editor and knows when funny is funniest. My papa was that way as well.

Fast forward to what can either be referred to as my first Junior year at college or my second sophomore year. I prefer the former, but whatever your druthers.

I, remarkably, was in a night class. I say remarkably because my academic history is littered with classes that I never intended to attend and rarely did. But this was a 3 hour, 1 credit class and I showed up. It was part of a series of single credit, single night classes that were offered in the Human Services curriculum. I’d kind of backed and failed my way into the major, but it was in line with my personal ethics of being helpful to those less fortunate so I went with it. These single night credits were taught by community based professionals in a particular field of service. This night happened to be the Executive Director of the Chemung County ARC. He was a nice if distracted guy who gave us a good history of the movement, the state of the field and the needs going forward. It was interesting and I wanted to get involved.

In the course of the evening Jodi, a less then friendly and somewhat overconfident young woman by my estimation (which was informed by little if any evidence, but firmly believed. Ah… youth) spoke of her experience the previous summer at a camp for adults with developmental disabilities.

It was a camp run by AHRC of NYC, the chapter that was the progenitor of the entire Arc movement. I decided to approach her at the break. Turned out that being male, a decent fellow and willing made me qualified for a position there! Besides, Jodi would be there and I’d at least know one face. Might even get to see another side of her. So the dye was cast and my life turned at that moment and in many ways has never turned back.

After a week or so home from school I was off to the Catskills with my dad. It was a 6 hour drive, one that I’d make several more times over the years. The ride was long and disorienting. I’d never noticed the glorious mountains that buttress and soar over the New York State Thruway as you make your way east across the state. They existed there without my notice for the many trips I’d taken across the state over the years. But when we got off and went onto the local roads it took only a few miles until we realized we were heading to a place neither of us had known existed.

Other than some summer vacations when my dad was a kid even he had never really experienced the vast mountainous region of New York that stretched from the area city-dwellers called upstate and the northerners thought of as downstate all the way up to the top of the world up at the Canadian border. It was the spine of the state and we lived in the panhandle out west.

My dad is from the New York Metropolitan area, so this vast middle, encompassing the Catskill Mts. and the Adirondacks had managed to be avoided. The long looping curves of the valley roads gave way in an instant to roads that seemed to have majestically green, steep,  natural walls. It was like the mountains and there fauna were cradling the pavement that now wove a twisting and turning road that revealed which travelers were local as they bore down on the vast amount of out-of-towners there to feed the economy and reconvene with nature.

Finally, out of the hairpin at the Kaaterskill Falls trail head the roads started to stretch back to long and looping as we arrived in the higher valley.

Tannnersville is a small, humble and charming mountain town that would become my nearest ‘civilaization’ for the years ahead. The directions took us right through and up the mountain that hovered over it, all the way to the picturesque stone church at its peak and back down the other side. We took a right at the General Store/Post Office onto a beautiful, meandering river of a small country road that ended at Colgate Lake.

Rather, it didn’t end it turned to dirt and we continued through a tunnel carved through the forest, looking at each other partly worried and partly as Doc Brown looked at Marty at the end of Back to the future… Where we’re going we don’t need roads!

I can’t honestly tell you what conversations were had on this journey save one. I remember saying it and my dad has remembered it too. I told him that I had no idea what to expect. I told him that I was a little nervous but that I was thinking of it as 90 days and I can endure anything for 90 days. I’ve heard my dad proudly retell of hearing me saying that and he always follows it up by pointing out that after he left me that day he knew a change was coming for me. He was right.

I could most certainly endure what lay ahead. I had no idea that it was the start of a journey with as much learning and growing and failing and succeeding as I could stand bottled up in 5 two week sessions of sleep deprived sleep-away camp that would change my worldview, broaden my understanding of humanity, enhance my ability, grow my confidence, open my eyes to a world that was rich and vibrant and dynamic and revolutionary and introduce me to an instant community of friends and acquaintances who would create and sustain magic on a daily basis, all with the aim of righting a societal wrong and providing people with the opportunity to have the time of their lives. It would keep my otherwise antsy and unsteady and frankly dangerous life of excess in check as I discovered that when you are fully engaged in a thing, 20 hours a day is not enough. It was enough to get the work done, at least usually, just not enough of the experience.

I was enjoying all of it, the joy and the pain, the wins and the losses, the new experiences and the vulnerability I was discovering in myself and the world and I didn’t want it to ever end.

We’d drink and sing and dance and swear and smoke and hookup and breakup. During the day we’d bring people that would never have the chance otherwise to the top of the mountain, whatever that meant for them. If we couldn’t we’d not hesitate in getting to work building them their mountain, to spec, because we were delighted to be given the opportunity. We fought and created cliques, then we broke them and cross pollinated.  We created a utopian society their and we thought we were the first ones to do it. I’m still convinced we were the best who ever did.

But on that car ride, a ride that was both familiar and different it turned out that dad was dropping me off at the end of a dirt road in a beautifully landscaped world that was designed to make the world a better place. It certainly did that for me. It was the home that would take it’s place next to the big blue/gray house on Clark St. It became my spiritual and literal home. When I’d leave I’d yearn to be back. When I was there, even in the cold, dark, lonely and depressing winters, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I loved her even more then. Even when it was emptied of all the people that made it what it was. It was even more beautiful to me as it sat stoically dark waiting patiently to be enlivened once again. After the departures, after the work, after our irreversibly changed lives, after the love and the struggle and the ultimate experience, the  walls were my companions for months on end and I loved them as I had learned their potential.

I loved everything about that place and I still do. The Lodge was where I was able to make mistakes and miracles and to witness transformations, including my own. Where I learned to push myself and accept who I was. It was the greatest experience of my life to that point and would inform all the other wonders that were to come.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

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Charlie insisted that Grandma, Koba (Grandpa), Daddy and Mommy all sit at attention at the picnic table. We were seated so we were facing him as he prowled the stage that was the landing at the top of the steps leading to the beautiful red Rockwellian shed that he thought of as Buddy the Cat’s house. He welcomed us to the show and proceeded to command our attention by acting out a story about how he lost his doggie. About how that doggie ran away and grew up to be a kitty cat, and how charlie found him by calling his name around both corners of the little house/shed/set. He informed us that his name was ‘Tree Pikwalk’ and that we all had to call for him if he were to be found. And low and behold, after we all gave it a shout, good old Tree Pikwalk, the dog that grew up to be a cat, returned home. We were then instructed by Charlie to clap for his story. When we did it was as if he were at Carnegie Hall and he’d just won the admiration of an initially doubting audience.

We were then instructed to stop. He was now the MC and he welcomed everyone to the show. Clap your hands everybody. Introducing, DADDY! He waved me up and left the stage for me to put on a ‘show’. I of course proceeded to do what the director instructed and told a story. Knowing his preferences I made it a story of childhood pets. In this case I told the origin story of our family pet, Mama Kitty, who was a housemate for almost all of my youth and how her passing at 18, an incredibly long life for a cat, lead to the occasionally odd moment when people came to our house and saw an etched stone slate that simply said, ‘Mama, 1980-1998’. It was a success and with all the generosity of a true fan my presenter and host started the applause and made sure that everyone joined him. It was grand.

I’m envious of his confidence and his constant creativity and in awe of his energy. Thanks to him and his little brother, Teddy, I’m able to somewhat approximate their joie de vivre, The two of them can knock me out  physically, but the result of their presence in my life has left me with a verve and joy that I never knew before they arrived.

These attributes, confidence, creativity, energy and joy will be informed by an increasing knowledge and understanding of the feelings and needs of others around them as well as the painful realization that people will sometimes be mean even though they aren’t necessarily mean people. Hell, at some point even they will be mean and not understand why. These are all things to be expected and are key points in one’s journey to aware, conscious and thoughtful adulthood. To be able to feel confident enough to consciously put on a ‘show’ and present enough to attend to the shows of others you love because we are all human and need love and attention. To be unafraid to be wholly and truly yourself despite your fears that it will cause others to judge you. To not be afraid to be judged by those people because you are the things you are and it is okay to be them. To be so entirely comfortable in your own skin that you are able to connect with the world around you and the souls you are fortunate enough to be near in a way that shares with them your fragility and essence. These are the things I see in my son’s that I hope will survive, somehow, the onslaught that is heading their way as they head out into the world without any armor. These attributes that will hold the key to happiness when they emerge on the other side of the chasm separating childhood from adulthood. We are in the bubble now and I treasure my time here, knowing already that it is fleeting.

I just hope that I remember, when it looks its ugliest and I’m compelled to react to the behaviors I know are not reflective of the boys they were, that they are neither predictive of the men they will be. That in order for them to get through the upheaval of adolescence and early adulthood they have to travel roads that are inevitably and imperatively roads I can’t go down with them. I hope I remember that they will carry with them, despite any and all indications to the contrary, their sweet nature, their fragile and vulnerable skin and their need for love and attention. I hope they are able to hear me as I call for them while they are lost, like Tree Pikwalk who grew up to be a cat. I hope I hope I hope.

I hope beyond hope that my little dogs grow up, turn into cats and can put on a show for me of a kind I now put on for my parents, relishing in their approval and attention and no longer bashful about how important and meaningful it all is to me.

We Weren’t Ready Either

There is the light of day and the haze of interrupted sleep. These are two distinct worlds and insofar as we are able to, we keep them separate. Fights that happen in ‘the haze’ should never see the light of day. They are to be dutifully ignored, in perpetuity if possible. If an event were to occur in ‘the haze’ at a later point that closely resembled the initial argument in both substance and tone, then, and only then, can the altercation be referenced. Once past, even if the altercation has escalated, it should fall back into the category of things which must not be named. These are the rules and they are organic and they are good. These incidences are like dreams in that they should only rarely be shared outside of a therapists office and should be done so with great trepidation.

We had such an altercation last night. In complying with the rules I shall not speak to the details of the disagreement other than to say that in expressing my dissenting opinion I can see now that I presented as a lunatic. The vast majority of the overnight happenings are tended to by one parent so the other can sleep, but in this case the concern of the sleeper overwhelmed their exhaustion and a suggestion needed to be made. At the risk of disclosing too much, as I know a certain woman related to me by marriage who may wish to continue to observe the ‘gag order’ in regard to referencing said altercation, I’ll state that in this case I was the night tender and she was the concerned and restless parent. Which I say only so I can tell you that when she interrupted me to suggest that we wake our son and give him a nebulizer treatment in order to allow him to stop coughing and to rest easier I went ballistic. This was not in my plans. I had already fed the baby and taken the toddler to the potty. It was past 2AM and I had decided that I’d wait out the cough. With a beer. And a book. A nebulizer treatment does NOT fit into this equation. Yep. I’m a bit of a jackass. My frustration bordered on the maniacal. Which is to say that it was on the wrong side of said border and had a full head of steam heading to the heartland of lunacy.

A mere hour later my wife lay soundly asleep and had been so for upwards of 45 minutes. I still could not unclench my jaw. The ability to navigate these wide emotional swings and return to a normal enough place to fall asleep, even with the assistance of accrued exhaustion is unbelievable to me. I’ve grown to understand that this is an innate difference. For her part she can’t for the life of her understand why I don’t go right to sleep the second I’m allowed to. But the fact of the matter is I literally can’t. I’m using ‘literally’ literally. If I were to attempt to transition between emotions at the rate at which she can and does I’d be in a hospital bed, likely catatonic, before lunch. Women reading this may read an exaggeration to express emphasis in this statement. It’s absolutely true. I’d break. Seriously.

I’m a LUNATIC when it comes to control of the overnight environment when it’s ‘my turn’. Just irrational in the extreme. And the reality of this is that this isn’t going to change. Can’t really. Which brings me to my point. Perfect is inherently and inevitably imperfect.

When we were fretting about whether or not to have kids the conversations were focused on our shortcomings, both personally and collectively. The financial issues and the emotional issues. The idea of a change so profound seemed impossible to navigate while retaining that which made us work together. But the truth is that the change was simultaneously of a scale that was so large as to have been incomprehensible prior to it occurring and of a nature so profound that it brought with it capacities and endurance that were heretofore unknown to either of us and which allowed us to grow in a way that has made all of the prior conversation irrelevant.

In some way every butterfly parent that has been through the transformation knows something caterpillar couples couldn’t at the time. Prior to our having been transformed their assurances and warnings were meaningless, even if many of them turned out to be more true than we could ever have imagined. So now that I’m emerging fully transformed I would like to amend the standard language of the butterflies thusly…

Rather than the somewhat dismissive statement that butterflies repeat ad nauseum to caterpillars that goes ‘If you wait til your ready to have kids, you’ll never have kids’, I think I would have been more disposed to seeing some hopefulness in a message that goes like this…

Let me cut to the chase, you’re not perfect. I’m not, you’re not, no one is. So stop thinking that merely being human and imperfect is enough of a reason to not have kids if you want them. And if you’re fearing that you’re not ready, you’re ready. That level of concern will in fact put you a step ahead. And besides all your shortcomings, you’re amazingly intricate, complex and talented people who will find a capacity for love you never knew before and it’s beautiful and destructive all at once. And the things that drive you crazy about your partner now will do so even more later. But the variations between your abilities will make you cover all the bases you need to so the kids can rise up because of your exceptional ability and in spite of your inevitable flaws. And don’t worry, your kids will reveal their own flaws, and many of them will mirror yours and that’s okay, cause you know what? They’re human too and they’re NOT perfect, which is something you must keep in mind, as your heart will never believe it. Perfect people do not exist, they are lying to you, and sometimes to themselves, and they should be looked at with empathy as they are in for terrible difficulties. In fact if this unicorn of perfection exists in some cul-de-sac in some suburb know that they are the ones truly missing out on the vast array of life as they are not fully experiencing what it means to be alive. Don’t fret that you are falling short of something so bland as perfect, rather delight in your struggles and move forward knowing that the sooner you accept your human nature the sooner you can get to seeing the beauty in life. Struggle onward and seek to see clearly and withhold criticism as long as you can. The more you can accept of imperfections the richer your experience will be. Oh yeah, and don’t be dick to your wife when she asks you to do something you should do. Its not nice.

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Housewarming

Mid-westerners are a fairly docile lot intent more on steadying a boat than on rocking it. They are a quiet and polite. Their pride is in their work and the ability to get on and get along. The men edge toward stoic. The women are rarely showy.

It’s home, it’s in my bones and it lives in me to this day.

State lines defined us as New York and New York is a northeastern state. That said, we had more in common with Ohio and Indiana then we did with Manhattan. By a long shot. The land and the affect of it’s inhabitants is typically flat with mild undulations that can only be noticed at distance. We were on the far reaches of the Great Lakes/Rust Belt side of the Midwest, as opposed to the expansive Heartland/Great Plains end.

This unrattled and underwhelmed temperament is exemplified by the the fire chief who rung our doorbell at 3 in the morning on a late summer night in 1979. No one answered after a reasonable wait time, so he patiently rung it again. When my older brother Mike, all of 8 years old, was the first to get the door it was without alarm or particular urgency that he asked him if his parents were home. I assume that he refrained from asking if he were the man of the house. But it strikes me that the formality crossed his mind. We like formality.

Whatever pleasantries were exchanged were accompanied by surging, roaring, 60 foot flames that were emanating from the abandoned 100 year old barn that was burning in our yard. So Mike did his duty and woke up Mom and Dad to let them know there was a fireman at the door and that the prayer house was on fire.

The prayer house.

It’s a lovely idea and one that I’ve taken the journey from embarrassed mockery to envious admiration of in the years since. In this world of stock conformity, where eccentricity was a thing to keep secret, my mother was going to have a prayer house.

This is not a thing, a prayer house. Prayer is for the church and for the dinner table and perhaps quiet moments of appreciation or desperation. But we were not only going to have one, it was going to be in a big ass barn in our front yard. This was all of a giant embarrassing piece that was accompanied by a father who subscribed to Islands magazine from the snow belt, wore Hawaiian shirts and cowboy hats and a mom that would lie in the grass on the front yard on beautiful sunny mornings, just enjoying the weather, right where anyone could see her. My father would join her and they would lay next to each other holding hands.

In hindsight its the most beautiful thing in the world to see your parents do. But I didn’t view it that way when I was young. There was a valuable lesson in this that took me too long to fully learn.

So here we were, a family of five kids (Leo wasn’t born until 5 years later) and a couple of parents in their 30’s newly moved into a house designed by my father that had and would take up all our spare resources for many years prior and many years to come, awoken in the night to see it all being threatened by soaring flames.

There was not a great deal of shouting or anything, at least not as far as I can remember. We were all moved to the car so we could back out of the driveway and move out of harms way. In a remarkable coincidence that is so fantastic as to be unbelievable, this occurred on the night of our “housewarming” party.

To now my description of the evening is based on the few and dwindling stories that we told about this night, remembered and retold by a person that was five or six years old when it all went down. If I’ve been accurate in any details of the night, that is largely coincidental as I’m quite certain I’ve maintained the story in my head by fleshing out the bones with a certain amount of myth and whimsy.

My father did in fact design our home, which he did in a weekend prior to the builder starting when he was told that the blueprints would cost something like $20,000.

My father was and is an industrial designer and he knew what he wanted so he taught himself how to design a house and create workable blueprints in a weekend. All from home, where I was the 3rd of five. This at a time when we were decades away from a functioning internet. Al Gore was beta-testing I imagine.

My father is not merely talented, he is a wizard and a sorcerer capable of feats that are not possible to mere mortals. He’s also taller than your dad. So there.

There are 3 particular memories that are mine, which is not to say they are accurate, but rather that they emerge wholly from my memory. They are weaker memories than they were 30 years ago, but before they leave me for good allow me to share them with you in chronological order.

From the family station wagon we could feel and see the giant flaming structure directly to our left as we backed down the driveway. It was rather breathtaking, and to a boy of my age it was positively amazing. I was in the back seat of the car, not the far back that looked out the rear window when you sat down, but the middle bench seat behind my father who was driving.

We backed out of the driveway until we were aligned with the fire and we halted to let one of the many companies assembled move a vehicle from our path so we could be evacuated. We sat quietly. I really do marvel at and question my memory, because in my minds eye it was a quiet car. Maybe we were stunned, or perhaps tired, but this was a time for panic most certainly. Surely somebody would be in a state? But I truly don’t remember that being an issue.

What I do remember was getting out of the driveway and my father pulling into the parking lot/basketball court across the street from our house and turning the car around so we could watch. He like I was mesmerized by the whole thing. Behind us was the park that we would look upon from our front porch for the next 35 years. It closed at dusk so it was a vast stretch of pitch-black in night time, but in the light of the flames you could see all the way to the canal, which bordered the park to the south, our street being its northernmost edge.

I suppose we were stunned but we sat there silent for a minute watching as the flames continued to roar. The loss of the building had to be emotional as my mother had already named it the prayer house, but my father was transfixed. And after a minute or so it occurred to my mother that this was what we were doing. We were sitting here watching the darn thing burn and watching the firemen struggle to contain the flames. Watching what looked to me like very bad firemen from the surrounding towns that appeared to think the fire was at our neighbors houses and not ours. I would later learn that the crews from our town (Brockport) were fighting the fire and the other crews were soaking the roofs of all our neighbors to ensure that the fire didn’t leap to other homes.

He intended to sit here until the next logical step was made evident. To this end my mother helped make the next logical step clearer to my father. Slowly I saw her turning so that her face was in perfect profile and with just an ounce of annoyance in her voice and demeanor, and I mean with just a tiny bit of knowing bewilderment she looked at my dad, the way my wife has looked at me and the way women have looked at men for all of history, and said very clearly, ‘What are you doing?’

My mother is a religious person and was a parent of small children to boot, so the standard coda to this comment from a wife to a husband clearly unaware of the others around him, ‘you horse’s ass.’ was left to be implied. I believe my father replied forthrightly and said something to the effect of ‘Just watching.’

However it was communicated at that point, it was apparently made clear that we should shove off to seek some shelter for the duration of the night.

I don’t know whether it’s a male trait or more specifically a family trait, but like my father I imagine I would have done the same thing once we were in the car. That said, we have a difficult time getting the kids into the car for daycare without voices being raised, so I can’t imagine how they did all this without expressing or causing panic in me.

My next memory is of being at our neighbors house in the middle of the night. They were the neighbors on the corner and they were a family we were more friendly with than friends with. They were lovely, they were just at a different stage.

There youngest was in middle school, at least, possibly in high school already and my parents were swimming in little kids and babies. But this was the Midwest and neighbors were there to help in a crisis with a pot of coffee and some warm blankets for the kids to sleep in.

As you might imagine we didn’t sleep too much, if at all. By now we had a sense of what was happening and how big this was. Plus we had a whole new house to take in.

I had two older brothers that I loved and feared and they knew Anne, the youngest girl in the neighbor family so it was easy for them to talk to her. But for me I just remember standing there, in my underwear, all night. Surely this isn’t what happened, but the moment of realization was a startling one for me. I knew I was supposed to wear pants in front of people. Being in your underwear in front of people was for little kids not for me. I remember thinking this. And for what may have been the first time I felt shame and embarrassment. Like seriously.

Is that shame, really, or is it just embarrassment. This is not rhetorical, there is a definitive answer. It’s just simple embarrassment for god’s sake. What the hell. Was I preternaturally self pitying and melodramatic! Was I meant to be a fifteen year old goth girl all along! Apparently so.

My final memory is of mom and dad plopping us down in the playroom to watch early morning kids television. This was over thirty years ago so it had to be Saturday morning.

Saturday mornings were the only time that TV’s were programmed for kids. That and say, 3-5pm, M-F. We sat and watched our favorite cartoons, the smurfs and super-friends and the whole Hanna-Barbara lineup while munching on cereal that they prepared for us. It felt good. I was back in pants of a sort and we were back in front of the TV and safe and happy and the fire was not going to take our house.

All of it is a warm memory. One that contained all the resolution of a finished story. It was a memory only a child could make. I remember bringing my bowl into the kitchen, or more likely I left my bowl right where it was, on the floor waiting to be broken or at least tripped over, and was only going to scan the fridge for more food during a commercial. While I was in there I could see my parents through the window, heads trained at the ground, purposeful, searching the burnt out rubble on a grey morning. Searching for what, I have no idea.

And that’s it. That’s the memory I have of that event. One that highlights some definitely inaccurate information.

In fact allow me to list for you the parts of the story that are accurate. We had a barn. It was scheduled to be set up as a prayer house. It burned down. If it wasn’t the exact night of our housewarming, it was very close to it. We left our house. We went to our neighbors.

The rest is just what I’ve filled in. Some of it may reflect accuracy, much of it surely doesn’t. It’s almost totally subjective and about something that happened 35 years ago, to a six year old.

Another piece of potentially inaccurate information… I’m pretty sure it was arson and that the fire was set by (and this is the part that could be fabricated from whole cloth) a pyrophiliac who watched and whatever else, from the park across the street. This is precisely the type of detail that is 100% believable, but also so scandalous that it would make sense that we were left to surmise it from stolen info spread amongst the kids that would never be addressed. It has taken on a permanence that even evidence of it being false would hardly keep me from telling the story that way, even to myself.

So there it is. The story of a housewarming gone terribly awry, ruined by a pyrophiliac with a sense of irony. Genuine, definition irony. Like all stories, its one that has a perspective. Like any oral history, its one that would vary from person to person, with some facts tying it together.

Stories live and breath and evolve over time. I love that about stories. In the end this story has no terrible outcomes. The prayer house still came to be but it was in the backyard and built to order. Everyone was safe and there was nothing of too much value that was lost. But it is instructive to me that you never know the tails your tales will grow.

If I’m the one telling the story its a story that is of a small boy comforted by his parents, embarrassed by his bedtime attire and returned to a changed but same place that he would call home for the next 30 years.

Which is insane, really. Because in the midst of that tale, the much greater story is of the couple of thirty somethings who had a 100 foot, 5 alarm fire in there front yard, almost immediately after moving in, set by a person with some serious issues while they and there 5 kids were sleeping. It could have ended in tragedy but for the heroic efforts of many brave men who left their own stories and their own families sleeping to save ours.

My parents, supported by our community, protected us from everything, even fear, and provided a sense of security to us all. I hope I never have to find out if I’m able to live up to their standard. I wonder how I would do.