Family, Home, Parenting

Director’s Cut


He blocks the dryer, wild eyes and a grin.  I duck, pump, shoot.  His wet boxer shorts whip past his ear and splat against the back wall of the drum.

“Oh man!” He turns and yanks a shirt from the washer tub, untwisting its rope of an arm from a pillowcase.  He cuts in front of me and pivots.  Past my block, he fakes then scores.  “Yes!” Fist in the air.

My next attempt lands on top next to the jug of laundry soap.  He’s giggling so hard he can’t catch his breath.  The next, a pair of slippery athletic shorts, opens like wings and spills out over my boy’s quaking shoulder.

Before tonight, this stacking washer was a battleground, unnamed and unconsecrated. The burnt reel shows only wreckage, no victor rising from among the fallen.

This is the first take in which we emerge still standing, allies even in the making of our family.

This scene is no place for earlier static.  It cuts away the film of me squatting on the bedroom floor, slamming Playmobile figures into a paper bag while I roar about wanting some order in this place.  It snips out the frames where I stand fuming at the trash chute dangling a bag of floam into its fetid mouth while my son howls at me in the corridor.

This is the story of us weaving through the kitchen together.  We talk about math and acrobats and growing avocados in our container garden.  He scrambles eggs while I steam the broccoli.  The dog dances around us waiting for what falls.

Spliced to it is the sequence in which I return from Noodle’s evening constitutional to find my boy out of the tub.  With no reminders, he’s brushed his teeth as well as his hair.  His discarded clothes are up off the floor, his towel hung to dry.  He’s tucked himself in under the blue fleece blanket in bed.  As I come in to read the next chapter of Dragon Rider, his smile toes the margin of “beaming.”

From all our scattered reels, this one brief collection of frames tells tonight’s story.  I trim a single cinematic still and hold it up to the light: against the backdrop of a laundry closet, my boy bounds upward, arms pinwheeling as his shrieks follow the arc of a damp shirt soaring past his golden face.

Image: “Film Reel 8,” Vivian Chang

1 thought on “Director’s Cut”

  1. We rented a room from an English violinist
    and shared the kitchen that filled the second floor.
    We had until the lessons downstairs were finished
    to cook and eat our dinner before

    he started his. Married now
    and beginning to show, I took the train
    to London every day and joined the crowd
    perched on folding camp-stools at the Tate.

    Returning one evening, I saw my husband
    wreathed in steam above the kitchen stove
    while a young girl raised her violin
    and released a flock of sparrows in the parlor below.

    I paused on the front walk, breathless with greed.
    Food, music, children—all within reach.

    “11 Park Vista” by Sue Ellen Thompson

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