on a horse made of crystal he patrols the land

My cousin, who turns 6 on Friday, is really into presidents.  They did a unit  for President’s Day, and he was inspired and now keeps a poster of all the presidents above his bed.  Although he can only sort of read their names, he knows every single one by their portrait – he even has nicknames for some of them (“Maddy” – the name of their late cat – for James Madison, for example.  This shared name is what makes James Madison his favorite).  In fact, he can name any of the following details about multiple presidents:

  • full name
  • number in the list of presidents in chronological order
  • birthday
  • pets
  • whether or not he was “fascinated,” by which he means “assassinated” (accompanied by gun gesture pointing at own head)

Howard says that in high school, he knew an exchange student who was “fascinated” by civil war generals, but aside from maybe that kid and my 17-year-old cousin who had to memorize all the presidents for U.S. History last year, I don’t actually know anyone who knows more about the presidents than my almost-6-year-old cousin.  Which means that this year, for his birthday, he is getting president stuff from EVERYONE.

From his parents:

Lego white house

Lego White House.

From Howard:

President Adams' Alligator and Other White House Pets

Not old enough for Mo Rocca's expose. Maybe next year.

From me:

Obama paper dolls

They also have JFK and Lincoln. No Madison, though. JFK looks PRETTY RAD, as do the multiple paper doll books dedicated to Jackie alone. Michelle Obama has a bunch by herself too, obviously.

While I generally enjoy birthday parties (what’s not to love?  Cake?  LOVE that), I am just unprecedentedly excited for his birthday dinner on Friday night.  I mean, it’s so cool!  This little kid, really into presidents, encouraged by his family and getting all this stuff he’ll probably love!  What I kind of want to do is get him to work with me on an adventure story where the presidents are characters, and they have to solve a mystery or fight a monster.  Is he too young for this?

Probably.  Maybe this then:

Abe Lincoln riding a bear

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no horses were actually evacuated

Note: I should have posted about this on Friday instead of what I did post, but I have a thing about chronology. Like tricking boys into marrying the eldest daughter first.

I woke up on Friday to news of an earthquake and maybe nuclear disaster in Japan and tsunamis in Hawaii and California. Actually, since we don’t have time to check any news outlets on the way out in the morning, Howard turned around and told me about it on the train. I tried calling my grandparents to see if they had heard anything about my uncle, who lives in an evacuation zone on Honolulu, and texted my mom and family friend who has horses in Pacifica.

In the hours between knowing about these disasters and learning that everyone was okay, I felt an actual physical pain in not knowing. I paced back and forth between the computer, where I was watching Al Jazeera’s coverage of Japan + Hawaii, and the bathroom where I mostly blew my nose and washed my hands. Also, I tweeted a lot; in my panic, I think I maybe thought I could serve as an information source. I do know I felt very strongly that by thinking publicly about the people I was worried about, I could somehow make them be okay, and I felt very angry at things that showed up in my feed that weren’t about disaster, or were at least slightly lighthearted; they felt dangerously self-indulgent to me, like wasting a finite amount of good luck when my family needed it.

Later, my grandmother called to say Uncle Paulie had called and everyone, dog included, were with friends on high ground, had I heard from my mom? I had, via the following text exchange:

Me: Hey – just checking in on the natural disaster situation. Wanted to make sure everything/everyone is ok. Love you!
Mom: Everything’s fine. What natural disaster?

Stopped worrying about the horses immediately.

So everyone is ok, and I’m back to listening to the This American Life archives and tweeting about myself. But there’s still a kind of solemnity hanging around; I saw a rainbow on Friday afternoon and felt like it was a sign that everything was ok, but then listened to a japanophile flip out on the train and felt terrible about my own self-indulgence.