The traffic was such one night last week that the Parent Imperfect decided to kill a little time in Jamaica Plain while waiting for Connie to finish her dance class. This seemed like a better idea than driving back to Roslindale, hanging around the the homestead for about 20 minutes and then rushing back through the traffic for the pick up. I do want to start counting how many times I pass Forest Hills in a day, in anticipation of the Big Frig that is coming soon to a theater very near us.
My instinct at such moments would always be to show up at someone’s house for an unannounced visit, but I haven’t lived in El Salvador for almost twenty years. The number two option would be to go to the Sedgewick Branch Library for a few minutes, but on this night of closed libraries I went to the odd little store called Boomerang’s. This is a wild little thrift shop that must certainly raise a great deal of $$$ for the Aids Action Committee of Massachusetts. Most people go there for used clothing or furniture, but I always find my way to one of the area’s best collections of dusty used books.
I can always find some strange and surprising book to look at for a few minutes, and much too often I end up buying the book and adding it to the collection of dusty used books that threatens to take over our home. This allows me to deal with the sad fact that I so seldom have time to read any of them.
On this night, I sat down in my favorite beat-up seat next to General Non-Fiction and started perusing. I pawed several before my eyes settled on a thin black spine with letters in white and light green reading, “Rad Dad.” This is a book of short essays, collected from a “zine” of the same name and a blog called Daddy Dialectic. Both seem to have tailed off recently, so it’s good that the book exists to capture the experience in some way. For decades, my eyes would have flashed over such a title without giving it a second thought, but on this Wednesday, I took it from the shelf. Published in 2011 by PM Press, this was one of those used books that was in absolutely mint condition: I don’t think anyone had ever opened it before. As I always do, I looked at the front cover and then flipped to the back one.
There I found two blurbs from people I haven’t really heard of. One said:
With a diverse, smart and political collection of contributors, Rad Dad will be an instant classic among the new generation of parents whose parenting intersects with their politics.
Hmmmm… Whose parenting doesn’t intersect with their politics? Am I part of this new generation? An instant classic?
Questions aside, I found my way to an essay called “A Kid-Friendly Wild Rumpus,” by one of the editors of the collection (and the editor of the “zine”), Tomas Moniz. Like many of the authors here, Moniz, is a guy from California who is significantly younger than this parent. His essay takes us back to the moment when his commitment to his partner and their newborn led him not to join a buddy of his who was off to the protests of Redwood Summer in northern Cali. This was the moment when the realization hit him that being a real father and life partner was going to mean real changes in his free-wheeling activist lifestyle.
Sixteen years into flailing in the face of such challenges, I stayed with Moniz’s fine prose.
…But during those first few years, I secretly dreamed of the chance to once again be “able” to participate like a “true” revolutionary The mythology of the revolutionary created a chasm between what I was “doing” and what was “important.” Someday, I consoled myself, I could return to the fray, just as soon as I got the kids to bed.
Lose the quotation marks, Don Tomas!
Moniz’s son is now nineteen, and Dad is apparently at peace with a very different contribution to changing the world than the one he had envisioned for himself, back in the day (I can’t help but wonder what the son would say). Rather than a group of people ready and able to spend a summer in the redwoods, his peer group has become the people in his child-care cooperative, or those who can laugh with him about just how hard it is to raise children with alternative values in a society that so prizes conformity. His own focus has become trying to push an idea of social change work that can be truly multi-generational…hence the “kid-friendly wild rumpus.”
Having made his point, Moniz ends with the following reflection on how he hopes to look back on parenthood as a way of life:
..And when I’m old, I want to embellish stories of my swarthy figure, like the Chicano bandits of old, only instead of the reins of a horse, I am cupping the palm of my child’s hand.
And maybe a bottle of tequila.
When the young woman came to tell me that, if I didn’t leave the store, she was going to lock me in, I stumbled to the counter and bought the book. I don’t know about the tequila, or the instant classic, but this odd little book has the attention of one shameless embellisher.
- Beware the Wild Rumpus!! (frontstreetteens.wordpress.com)
- Let the Wild Rumpus Start! (instructables.com)
- Boston parents struggle to get children to school in wake of bus drivers’ surprise strike (boston.com)
- Becoming Minimalist: Rethinking owning too much stuff… (aussiebutterfly.com)
- Hello, I am a Thrift Store Junkie! (thewonkywalker.com)
- Local grocery chain looking at opening a store in Jamaica Plain’s Jackson Square (bizjournals.com)