Monday, June 29, 2009

Pianosaurus

A few weeks ago my teenage daughter and I were riding down the road when I asked, "If you could get three things, or people, or relationships that you have lost, back into your life, which ones would they be?"
It's not really a typical thing for me to wax so philosophical while driving with Christine in the car. Normally, she is prattling on about the events from the previous night at "firehouse", or her plans for an upcoming visit to one of the attractions listed in the "Weird PA" book. Sometimes we talk music or play a "Name That Tune" sort of game, naming the artists instead; most of the time, I just "veg". I may drop tiny hints that she is jobless and her plans often require admission or chauffeur services, but outside of that I simply enjoy her company and avoid lectures about unmade beds or any friends I find questionable. The fact that she is homeschooled affords me all sorts of opportunities to be "Serious Mom" without having to do it while driving defensively on the interstate. But somehow, on this day something prompted my question, delivering with it the caveat "Keep it light; make it fun and insightful." Being the good sport she can be, she played along.
My son is no longer at home with us and we all miss him terribly, so as I suspected, he was #1 on her list. The dog we lost over a year ago was #2 -- no bombshell there. It was the third item that took me completely by surprise -- her Pianosaurus. Pianosaurus was a toy piano shaped like, of all things, a dinosaur. Don't get the connection -- prehistoric, plastic, extinct, musical? Neither do I, but it was adorable, inexpensive, and it really worked; unlike the dinosaur, it stood the test of time. When we finally gave it away to Goodwill, I think one of the stickers was starting to peel -- other than that we forfeited a perfectly good Pianosaurus. But it was time. In fact, I believe I actually said that to her as we stacked it on top of the kid-sized shopping cart with the cardboard groceries that had not fared so well as Pianosaurus. She agreed. She had gone from the curly-haired, toddling little maestro to a sticker-collecting, karate-kicking seven-year-old. It was time.
Funny, when I asked the question, a toy piano could not have been further from my mind. The past five years or so have been fraught with change and loss. Her dad and I divorced, I remarried, her brother left home, her pop-pop died suddenly and her nana, who lives within a block of us, for all intents and purposes ended her relationship with us. Our home, though beautiful, is a far cry from the house in which she grew up; rules and routines changed as she gained three younger siblings and I gained a partner with whom I could raise a family. For a while, I believe, she felt as if she'd lost her own mother. My attention was no longer solely at her disposal; I was exhausted by eleven years of unhappiness, and I was determined to find my own sense of individuality. The frumpy, sleep-deprived woman who designed each day around the whims of her children, and fostered an unhealthy but ardent need to be everything to them, was gone; Christine had experienced the pangs of yet another loss.
Time, counseling and prayer have begun a healing. Slowly maintaining consistency, being respectful of one another's "space", and loving each other have helped us all deal with the losses we've experienced and the changes we've endured. But what of the Pianosaurus?
I realized we all have a Pianosaurus. The thing that reminds us most of a happy, simple, safe time in our lives where we had never felt the sorrow of death, the pain of rejection, the frustration of growing up or the menace of growing old. Some of us collect classic cars or commemorative plates to fondly remind us of a "simpler time". We call old friends or siblings, listen to old albums or revisit our alma maters. Cemeteries are all about remembering, grieving, and renewing. Pianosaurus is a security blanket, a place we all go to immerse ourselves in things as they were -- not because what we have now is not good, not because where we are now is not lovely, but because we cherish the past if we are ever to embrace the future and all it brings. We need to thumb through the photo album of our mind and visit, if only for a little while, a moment in which we were blissfully happy, safe and secure at the Drive-In, stretched out on the backseat of our parents' LTD, wrapped in crisp, clean PJ's and listening to the crackling box hanging from the window. When our visit is over we realize we have touched, once again, the things that made us believe we could be whatever we wanted to be; we have renewed our faith in the world and it's reassurances that troubles and fears are merely part of the "Circle of Life". Pianosaurus helps us step into tomorrow by reminding us we are loved, by restoring a bit of innocence within us, and by assisting us in forgetting, however briefly, the things that compelled us to "grow up" in the first place.
As odd as her request may have seemed at first, my daughter led me to realize that from time to time I, too, want my Pianosaurus.

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