December 17, 2007

Box Days

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
The monster was unusually present this weekend, albeit held at bay. Schuyler participated in a caroling party with other kids who use AAC technology, and while it was a fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking experience, it also involved a lot of other people whose stories aren't mine to tell. I'll simply say that it was yet another one of those experiences with other, more broken kids where I felt despair, while Schuyler just saw an opportunity for seasonally appropriate merriment. (At one point she decided to take over and conduct the performance.) One day, I'll learn to see this grand rough world like Schuyler does, rather than in my old sad bastard way.

I recently heard from a magazine editor who wanted to do something on Schuyler's Monster for the magazine's February issue. After he got a copy of the book, he suggested something different. Rather than a standard minireview of the book itself, he wanted to do a story about us and the book, but with a twist.

He wanted to interview Schuyler, on her device, via email or instant message.

I initially hesitated, although I'm not entirely sure why. I mean, I try to insulate Schuyler from all of the book spazzing and hype, but that's perhaps a little naive, considering that she is the title character of the book, her face splashed across the cover. For better or for worse (better, I feel pretty sure), Schuyler's along for the ride on this. Furthermore, I dig this magazine, which is both a little fancy and a little shit-disturbing at the same time, and I like the executive editor, whose writing I am familiar with from his days at a now-defunct Dallas weekly alternative paper. It was an interesting idea, one that simultaneously triggered my defensive dad reflex and my curiosity. After consulting Julie and Schuyler, curiosity won out.

In the end, we opted for an interview conducted over email, partly because I wanted to be able to take time with Schuyler to make sure she understood the questions, and partly because I wasn't entirely sure how to make the Big Box of Words work with an IM client. (Incidentally, it turns out that it is stupidly easy.) I won't go into the details of the interview itself, since that's obviously for someone else's publication, but I felt like it went pretty well. Schuyler was very careful and particular in her unusually long-winded responses, and the only help she needed from me was in spelling some words she couldn't find on her device.

There was a question about her dreams, and while I'm not 100% sure she entirely understood it, I was nevertheless interested to see what she'd have to say. Schuyler's dreams have always fascinated me, mostly because of all the parts of her life that we are occasionally privy to, her dreams remain the most unreachable. She has never shared them with us in any meaningful way; I can only think of one time before now, after she was troubled by a bad dream about monsters of some kind. But even then, she didn't seem frightened, only very sad, and she wouldn't share any details.

That's how it is with Schuyler. As she gets older, some doors open up to us, and we can see parts of her world that were closed off to us before. But she can slam them closed whenever she wants, and sometimes she makes that choice, particularly when she's pissed off. She stops using her device, throws her arms in frustration, and starts jabbering in a stream of Schuylerese that is two parts Martian and one part whine. Schuyler can be a pill when she chooses to be.

Even when she's happy, though, there are doors seemingly forever closed to us. Her dreams are her own, and so are her songs. She breaks into little melodies of her own creation, with lyrics that go forever untranslated. I'm learning not to ask her about her music, as that is the fastest way to make her stop singing. When Schuyler sings, you listen and you take the part that is meant for you, the sweet and untethered melodies that flit around like moths, never landing, always moving. The lyrics we just have to live without. They are hers alone.


Jen said...

Ooh, I'm so curious to know what publication it is. Will you reveal that at some point?

Robert Hudson said...

Oh yeah, it's not a huge secret. I'll have a few to link to, actually, all at about the same time.

Liz Ditz said...

On children sharing dreams with their parents:

all the parts of her life that we are occasionally privy to, her dreams remain the most unreachable.

Rob, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Schuyler is your only child.

I don't know that parents of even fully-verbal children get to hear more than occasional whispers of dreams.

I'll tell you two stories from my own children's lives.

Vignette #1
Oldest stepson (OS) was 11, and Darling Daughter (DD) was, oh, eight months or so. She woke up from a nap, whimpering, and oldest stepson went and got her up, and brought her to me in the living room, and we, all three, sat on the couch, DD still whimpering and clinging to me. I said, "I think she woke up from a bad dream." OS was comforting her, stroking her bare legs and feet. OS looked at me in astonishment, and said, "How could she be having a bad dream? She's never seen a scary movie!" I asked him if all his dreams were like movies, and he said no. I asked what his good dreams were like, and he changed the subject and wouldn't be drawn out.

Vignette #2
DD again, several years later. She was (and is) a highly verbal person. I don't actually remember when, just that it was the start of school, and before 2nd grade. She came wandering in, mazy, in her pajamas, to the kitchen, saying she had had a bad dream. I said, "well, you can sit on my lap and tell me about it." She just shook her head, and bumped about the kitchen for a few more moments, and then went back to her room and got dressed. Then it was time to drive to school (we lived in the country, then, no bus service), so after a bit I asked, "Is that bad dream still on your mind?" A long silence, and then, "Mommy, dreams are private."

A few times with each of the three kids, I've heard snippets of dreams that they thought were particularly funny...but not much else.

Unknown said...

it must be hard to feel shut out at times. to know her songs, to know her dreams--what a gift that would be, but even those of us who could share effortlessly with others, often choose to withold our own deepest dreams and silent songs. So it shall be no different with your beloved daughter, I suppose, though if my father were interested in my songs and my dreams in much the same way you are interested in Schulyer's, what a gift that would be, indeed.

You're a good dad, Rob.

Amy Lynn said...

As a lyricist, let me tell you, words are highly overrated. :)

sndmaven said...

As a long time reader of yours/musician, and a birthday mate of Schuyler, I am curious; does she only compose her own little songs? Or does she sing along with music she hears too?

happy birthday Schuyler, I remember the day you were born and I have never even met your parents.
Jennifer in DC

kris said...

Happy birthday, Miss Schuyler!

I look forward to all of these articles, but how awesome that one of them wanted to interview Schuyler! (And I'm fascinated that the BBoW can IM!)

Anonymous said...

My kid's still pre-verbal, but I'm pretty sure he has nightmares. He'll wake up crying in the middle of the night for no explicable reason, and after some comforting, will go back to sleep. I have no idea what a toddler would have a nightmare about. Apart from sudden loud noises and occasionally a close-up of Mister Noodle on Elmo's World (scares me, too), he doesn't seem that frightened of most things in the waking world. Two years old, and already he has secret demons.

Kinzie said...

That part about the singing was beautiful.