Less than one week until our final SPIN of 2015, Fathers on December 11th!
Meanwhile, enjoy Maddy’s father theme-inspired personal essay.
As it stood, I had been unwittingly whisked away on an excruciatingly one-on-one adventure. Fully aware, by this point in time on an intimately chilly October afternoon, that a certain unnamed boy expected to sweep me off my feet, I did whatever I could to plant my feet deep into the October ground that would harden over my feet in the coming winter months, so that even digging me off of them became a laughable impossibility. His hand encroached upon my lower back as we leapt over a puddle into the street, accompanied by a flirtatious, dwarfed bravado. Upon landing, I fell into an evasive stride which put me just beyond his arm’s reach.
The Barnes and Noble facade emerged on our right, and with that same tacky bravado, reeking of bashful unfamiliarity and playful self-exposure, I flung the door open and followed him in, relishing in the opportunity to spend some of our afternoon together apart. While he browsed the Beatles section, I pretended something else caught my eye as I rounded the corner display of miniature Downton Abbey calendars and ducked into a row of shelves lined with colorful sketchbooks, notebooks, pencils, and other items of artistic utility. Immersed in the stationery, it occurred to me that I needed a new notebook.
My dad keeps all of his architectural sketchbooks in the bookcase which lines our foyer wall, each one hardbound, with loose pages peeking over their spines, degrees of faded leather chronicling his career. As captivated by the drawings as we were by television and tuna melts, my brother, sister and I browsed the pages while my dad explained the sketches to us, told stories about college— imagine staying up for an entire night to finish one project!— let us doodle in the empty pages, and encouraged us to draw in our own sketchbooks. Some of his journals were somewhat anatomical, almost organic in nature: thin, fleshlike sheets of tracing paper with capillary red-pencil etchings rested atop initial skeletal sketches. We dissected these drawings layer by layer, watching them flourish and wither and flourish again, each adjustment of the tracing paper reinstating the life-cycles of our dad’s designs.
“How come they look so 3-D?” was the question we asked most often. We mimicked his technique in our own sketchbooks on Sunday afternoons, sprawled out on our stomachs on the dining room floor while Mom did the taxes at the table. Every so often we’d get up and beg Dad to draw caricatures or cartoons on our pages for us to color in. I wrote my first comic about Jimmy, a bare-butted ne’er do-well, aptly titled, “Hey, Put Your Pants On!” in green crayon on one of those dining room floor afternoons.
The first time my Dad bought me a notebook with lines in it was the summer I went to Dublin to study James Joyce. The pages are soft, like cradles for resting words scrawled in a pretend-scholarly half-cursive hand. If the words are the imprints of bodies in a thin-leaf mattress then the concepts they denote are dreams, lingering above the space on the open page. And like my father’s sketchbooks, the structures of each page bleed onto one another, regenerating frameworks of thought, tattooing interconnected themes on tissue-like paper. The book itself is an ecosystem brimming with organic beings whose business, both primary and primal, is communal self-preservation. I like to press the frayed end of the bookmark sewn into the notebook’s spine between the thumb and forefinger of my free hand as I write. This full-circle connection, pen to page and frayed cord to the tips of my fingers feels like the transfer is complete: the transfer of words, of sustenance.
The notebooks on the shelves at Barnes and Noble were perfectly angular. Their covers were completely flat, in contrast to the rib-like curvature my Joycebook inhabited to accommodate the folded lecture packets and accompanying seminar literature stuffed between its pages. The pores in the leather cover of my old notebook had taken on a smoothed over, perspirative gloss from years of use, while the new notebook covers came in brilliantly matte colors— crimson, turquoise, amber, lavender, and an enticingly rich black.
“Nice.” The Boy’s voice popped into my hemisphere. “I’ve been looking for a new songwriting notebook. Do you mind?” He slid the turquoise notebook from my grip and turned it over in his hands.
“I don’t think I’m getting anything, but if you want to get something I’ll just wait over here,” I offered, and walked back toward the door.
“Cool,” he spoke from the side of his mouth, his head down, surveying the color selection on the second-to-last shelf. At the door, I leaned against the wall and stared at a photo of John Lennon wearing sunglasses, drawing up a new time diversion in my head, and (noting The Boy’s selection) resolving that the color of my new notebook could be anything but lavender.
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