School is in session. So I’ve been adjusting to getting up at the crack of dawn, or 7:00 a.m., to get my first-grader ready for school. I turn on Adventure Time for her, proceed to ready a frozen waffle for her breakfast, and make her measly lunch, since she eats like a bird. This is my routine. Throw in driving her 6 minutes to her school, and walking to her classroom in my pajamas (nobody notices…they just look like exercise clothes, sans upper support), and my morning is done.
And she still holds my hand, which makes the mom part of me glow like a jack-o-lantern.
She does other things, too, fulfilling things, things that give me a feeling very much like that of being in love: I’m just in awe and overwhelmed with love at every little thing she does. Like when she hears my favorite 80’s song and asks if I can put it on her iPod. Or how she skips/runs down the soccer field to dribble the ball toward the goal. Or when she makes up an imaginary world around her swingset called “Ninokooni.”
But this isn’t a blog about how awesome my daughter is, even though she is a large percentage of my daily structure. She’s my dirt and cement, my husband is the water that binds it, and my days are a bunch of unwieldy beams that I’m constantly trying to assemble into a fulfilling every day life. It’s a balancing act: the domestic me and the pirate me, and goddamn if the domestic me tends to win out, as it should, the majority of the time. (Yes, I’m still exploring the same subject of balance as found in my 2011 book of poems, The Distance Between. It’s a lifelong subject.)
I was driving around the other day, listening to Fugazi, and I thought of how obvious it was that my pirate pal–my best one–Todd Cirillo, is no longer in my same zip code, or state for that matter. He’s my one true pirate connection in this life. That’s why I ditched it all this summer—briefly, for 5 days—to hop on a plane and land on his Cajun soil to have adventures with him in New Orleans. It sure did wonders for this poet pirate’s soul. How could it not? ALL my favorite things were present: happy people, fantastic music, to-die-for food, beautiful, artful streets—all to be enjoyed with a beer in hand. All for my indulgence. And damn if I didn’t indulge.
And there were surprises, too. Todd is always full of surprises. He took me on an airboat where I screamed my head off, both of us laughing with our big headphones on, and I fell in love with a beautiful gator with long eyelashes, who I henceforth call my spirit animal. (I better not hear one more turkey vulture wisecrack, mom!)
My, those headphones are as big as our smiles!
Todd took me to the best bar ever on his birthday, a piano bar called Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, with the only light being that of candles. It was like it was MY birthday, I loved it so much. And I can’t even explain the magic of Mike, the piano guy, playing the very song Todd and I planned on requesting, “Wagon Wheel”, right as we bellied up to the piano.
And drunk on everything, endless Coronas and music and laughter, I took off alone from the nameless bar where we ended up at end of the night, and found my way back to my room through the Maps app on my iPhone, and landed in my bed at 4:10 a.m. without a blink.
Or how at 9:30 at night, Todd and stood in a line down the sidewalk to get into Felix’s Oyster Bar–a total dive of a restaurant, until we sat down and the plates of chargrilled oysters and crawfish etouffee were handed to us. Until we took a bite, and just laughed because it was the best both of us have ever tasted.
Or how we walked around on a Sunday afternoon exploring and finding treasures on the street in the Marigny. And how we walked by a small bar and decided to go in for a Bloody Mary because there was a guy inside singing the best Neil Young in a gravelly voice. And how the group of teens stood on the street corner at dusk, blowing their trumpets and trombones while people danced in the street, and the one happy drunk guy, who kept losing his shoe as he danced and had a hell of a time trying to put it back on, got arrested right then and there. For what? Dancing happily? Losing a goddamn shoe? We danced on.
We danced on into the endless magic-filled night that is New Orleans. Of course there was a full moon over the Mississippi on my last night, just as the one and only true steamboat came passing through, all lit up like a constellation.
Magic spontaneity. Unforgettable moments. Those days in New Orleans, the pirate me was a star that the whole word revolved around. Even the farther and farther I get from it, it may even shrink down into a fiery dot, but it’s still a star that won’t stop shining.
That’s what I realized driving around the other day. Todd might not be nearby anymore to encourage the pirate me to come out and play, but the pirate is there inside me, ready at the quick to partake in any indulgent adventure. It is obvious that this is why a wife and mom like me, and a free-spirited explorer like Todd, have come together as BFFs. We at once recognized that star that blazes each of our souls.
In Todd’s honor, or just because my inner pirate can’t be suppressed for long, I snuck into my favorite college musician’s show last week after a poetry reading. It did take spurring, though, from strangers, despite my excuse of it being a “school night” (the mom in me). But I didn’t have anything to lose—except who I am now, and only for 45 minutes. Once I was in, it was only me in the moment; I didn’t know a single soul around me. It made the pirate in me hold up my beer a little higher as I sang out and jumped around to the music. I hardly recognized myself, until later, in my soft bed, the whole house quiet with sleep. I came together then, all in one content person, the balance perfect on the scales. I slept like a baby under the blanket of stars.