Monday, September 26, 2011

The Reason I'm Not a Poet

Here’s a little something silly that just kind of slipped out this morning as I sat at my usual table in front of the Cuban CafĂ©, listening to the traffic roll by on US 290.

I like my bike,
and my bike likes me.
It’s a silver kind of color
and fast as can be.

AKA a “bicycle,”
It really hugs the road.
Cool as an icicle,
it carries my full load.

I ride it here
And I ride it there.
The ladies see me coming
and they fancy-up their hair.

On my bike I’m
Superman, a steroid masterpiece.
I’ll take you for a ride some time
and give you inner-peace.

And so this rhyme
is over now.  I know that makes you sad.
I’m gonna put my helmet on,
and ride off, Super-bad.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Good Walk, Unspoiled

Golf is a good walk spoiled.
-- Mark Twain

It is the first morning of autumn, on the calendar anyway, which doesn’t mean much in the extreme scheme of weather we “enjoy” here in Central Texas. But there is, thankfully, a slight north breeze that brings a promise of cooling temperatures, and encourages me to put the leash on Ally and bring her out on the Shadowglen golf course, which shut down about a month ago, when the management realized they could no longer afford to water the greens and fairways in the drought.

I have taken Ally there on a couple of other occasions, with the idea of taking off her leash and watching her run a bit. She did so, but the heat was so extreme both times, that she made a bee-line for the creek, dunked herself in, then came back, practically guiding her snout into her harness, then taking breaks every so often on the way home in order to lie down and pant in the shade of a tree.

This morning, thanks to the cool north breeze, when I let her off the leash she bolts, making it to the end of the fairway with remarkable speed. I pick up a stick and wave it in the air, causing her to return to me just as swiftly. She takes a few sorties like this one, and then dutifully reports back to me. I put her on the leash, and she sets her nose to the ground, taking in the myriad scents, every muscle in her lithe body on the alert.

I, in the meantime, take in the sights and sounds of the abandoned golf course. I’m struck by its expansiveness, and am startled when an owl flies from one treetop to the next. Its wing span is astounding and makes me think of pterodactyls. Ally looks up briefly from her sniffing before getting back to whatever scent trail she has been following.

At one point we get up to the top of a hill that reminds me of the hills my brother and I used to sled down at the Knollwood golf course across Knollwood Road from our street. We catch sight of the clubhouse. I realize then we’ve been walking in the wrong direction all this time, and that we’re about one hundred yards from where my children go to school. (I should have been tipped off sooner, as the sound of the Manor High School marching band, practicing for Friday night’s game against Elgin, their rivals, has been getting louder in my ears as we go.)

I decide that rather than face accusations of trespassing, the better idea would be to turn around and figure out our way back home. The golf course opens back up before us, and I find visual landmarks that guide me back to where we’re supposed to be headed. In the end, my dog and I probably walked a good two miles that morning, and it was a hike I’ll remember for some time, I think -- the sights, sounds and sensations being the kind that implant themselves in that part of the soul that is melancholy, and searches for the ever-elusive “perfect moment,” as Spalding Grey called it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Something Beyond Recall

“Miss Lucy?” I ask Jackson, who immediately positions himself facing me, claps his hands together, as we intone the first word, drawing it out, “Miss. . . . .”, until we’re ready for the first right-hand-to-right-hand clap. It’s one of the simplest patty-cake games there is – right-to-right, left-to-left, both-to-both, and I’m amazed at how effortlessly the absurd lyrics come back to me as I chant:

Miss Lucy had a steamboat,

The steamboat had a bell.

Miss Lucy went to heaven,

And the steamboat went to –

Hello operator,

Give me number nine.

And if you disconnect me,

I will kick you in the –

Behind the refrigerator,

There was a piece of glass.

Miss Lucy sat upon it,

And she broke her little –

Ask me no more questions,

Tell me no more lies.

The boys are in the bathroom,

Pulling down their –

Flies are in the meadow,

The bees are in the park.

The boys and girls are kissing in the --

D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, dark, dark, dark.

This activity is something beyond recall or memorization. It is a chant so ingrained in my consciousness that it nearly feels involuntary, like breathing, or pumping blood through my veins. The words, or the narrative they form, telling of childhood naughtiness and “bad words” almost spoken still give me a giggle, and Diego is now old enough to get the double entendres.

Jackson, on the other hand, is still at the age when the fun is in the clapping with Daddy. Pretty soon he’ll get that glint in his eyes when he thinks, “Hey, wait a minute. I think I know what this thing is about.

For me it’s yet another bit of time travel, back to long summer days filled with activity, including sitting with my younger brother, clapping hands, faster and faster, telling the silly story of Miss Lucy and laughing until we gave ourselves the hiccups.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Realization About "Predilection" Gets My Dad Off The Hook

“Predilection” is defined by Encarta as “a special liking or preference for something.”  When I was a child, my father took a lot of heat for appearing to “prefer” my brother.  I can remember overhearing my Oma chiding her son in her accented English, “Hanno, you must be careful to treat your two sons viss ze same level of care and attention.”
Hearing my grandmother say these words set my thinking on a path that really never diverted until this morning.  I didn’t want to buy in to her image of me as the neglected weakling who wasn’t asked to join in the games of catch, the frames of bowling or the sets of tennis, so I played it off, outwardly anyway. 
The dynamic is yet another one that I see playing itself out with my own boys and myself.  (DNA continues to amaze me on a daily basis.)  My younger son is already showing signs of being a gifted athlete at age 6; like his Uncle Mike he has outstanding coordination and balance.  Like me, he has speed and strength.  Diego is quite athletic too, though he is built differently than his brother.  (I often think of the number 10 when I see them standing side by side, and their Aunt Sylvia has referred to them as Laurel and Hardy.)
What brought me to this understanding about predilections this morning was a simple exchange with Diego.  We were both up early, and I was considering whether or not it would be a good idea to leave him alone while I took my morning bike ride.  Jeanette and Jackson were asleep in my bed, and I was probably more concerned about him waking them up than anything else.  Then it came to me:  There was no reason not to ask him to join me on my ride. 
Diego was playing one of his Wii games by that point, and I interrupted him, asking, “Hey Diego, how would you like to go on a bike ride with me?”
In a very pleasant voice, with no shade of any anger or ill feeling of any kind, he answered, simply, “No thank you, Daddy,” and returned to trying to help Pac Man defeat a giant teddy bear robot.  
I immediately imagined what Jackson’s reaction would have been to the same question.  “Yay! Can I ride the big bike? Do I have to wear a helmet? Will you buy me a donut when we get to the store?” 
It’s the same question, asked to two different young people – two people who have different predilections.  Jackson, like my younger brother, is drawn to action (“Action Jackson,” yes), sports, motion and the like.  Diego is not a complete bookworm; he too is drawn by cool action, but his predilection is to stay inside and play video games, watch a good movie, or read. 
I guess the important thing is to make sure I take the interest in both boys and their activities, no matter how different they may be.  I think that may have been the part that Oma misunderstood about my father.  Yes, he did spend a great deal of time on the tennis court with my brother, and catching his curve ball in the back yard.  But he also never missed the chance to read something new that I wrote, and his criticism was always kind and constructive.  In the end, I think he even became a fan, if I can be so bold. 
So Oma, thanks.  I appreciate you looking out for me the way you did, but I was happy in pursuing my own predilections that had nothing to do with what Hanno and Mike were doing back then.  And Dad, don’t worry.  You’re off the hook. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Father's Fear of Bullying

There was a couple speaking on the morning news today about their fifteen-year-old son who was bullied to the point of suicide. It's a terrifying thought, and I fear for my own children in their lives away from me. I'm not naive; I know I cannot protect them from all the pain and suffering that will befall them in the course of their lives. I can only try my best to watch for the signs of anguish my boys may or may not wear on their faces, or suggest with their body language, in the event they are being mistreated. They have to be convinced in their own hearts that they are worthy of respect and that no one has the right to abuse them in any way.

I'm less concerned about Jackson. Something tells me his out-sized personality and athletic ability will keep the wolves away from his door. If anything, his fascination with professional wrestling gives me cause for concern, and I worry he will try to put his hands on other kids, in the name of "fun."

Diego is such a kind, gentle soul and my fear is that his is the type of personality that other children target. He's already been the victim of an alleged bullying incident, in which he was coerced to do something that put him at the brunt of a cruel, if ridiculous, joke. J. and I took the opportunity to treat it as a "teachable moment," and my hope is that he will not allow himself to be a "victim," in any form, ever again.

If, however, some other child or children decide to attack him, I want him always to be able to come to me and tell me, so that his feelings don't bottle up and tear at his soul, the way they obviously do for so many children who make the ultimate decision to escape. This must never happen, because if it did, I can't imagine a scenario in which I'd be able to recover from it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When I'm 94

Someday one or both of my sons may keep a journal, like the one I write in every morning, capturing their thoughts and memories. I’d be surprised if pen and paper have anything to do with it.

If not, they’ll at least have conversations with each other, the way Mike and I do.

47-Year-Old Diego: Hey, do you remember how Dad used to take us to play tennis at Manor High School when we were little?

45-Year-Old Jackson: Yeah and we had to run after the balls we hit over the fence.

D: Remember how Mom used to blast the music?

J: And we’d all dance like crazy. What songs did we dance to?

D: “Whip my Hair” by Willow Smith.

J: “Live Your Life”

D: Jay Z. That New York song.

J: Who sang “Live Your Life?”

D: Rihanna.

J: Remember that time Dad took us to run Ally on the golf course?

D: Oh man, it was so hot that day. Poor Ally.

J: Ally? Poor us!

D: Ally. Our first dog. What a great dog.

J: The best. Remember how much she loved Mom?

D: Mom used to stand her up and dance salsa with her, remember that?

J: Man, I’ll never forget that. I think Dad was jealous that Ally loved Mom so much.

D: Why do you say that?

J: I think Dad wanted to be the Alpha Dog.

Hotel Living

Hotel living is a double-edged sword. In a way, it's wonderful and provides a monthly respite from the non-stop action of my life. There are no little boys or dogs trailing so closely after me that I trip over them if I'm not careful. Once you become a family man (or woman) you give up any claim to privacy, to time alone, to being a "solitary" individual -- if you're worth anything as a parent, that is.

So that's the good part -- the quiet that is so rare, so hard to come by in my present life. It's the piece I have to remind myself to enjoy and embrace, especially when that other edge of the sword starts tickling my neck.

I'm referring to the loneliness that creeps so readily in when I'm staying in a hotel room. It probably doesn't help that I stay in rooms that are essentially identical to one another, adding a surreal dimension to the experience. I remember when David Keith's character in An Officer and a Gentleman killed himself. In a hotel room.

Okay, Dan, chill out. Get some sleep. You'll be home tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Birthday Message to My Oldest Friend

Daniel and Michael Fuchs, July, 1968, Greenburgh, New York

I often refer to Miki Kasai as my oldest friend, and this is true in the most conventional sense, but there is someone who came into my life a good three years before Miki did, and that was my brother Michael.  He’s one of the people I mention the most in this blog, because so many of my best memories involve him.  He used to accuse me of being sentimental (only not in those words), and in a sense I’m sure he’s right, despite what I’d like to think of myself, so I will do my best to avoid smarmy emotion for its own sake as I celebrate Michael James Fuchs, on the 46th anniversary of his birth. 
The photo above is one of my favorites, and I’m so glad I scanned it.  It shows the two of us on a summer day – probably at someone’s birthday party, judging from the get-ups our mother dressed us up in – and we have stopped to pose for this picture.  My mother took the time to write on the back of it, and I think it’s important to share her words here:
"If you look at this long enough, they look very diabolical. I could write a caption, but you wouldn't approve. So I'll let you write one yourself."
I’m not quite sure what my caption would be, but the pose really defines our childhood – a series of inside jokes, laughing jags and knock-down-drag-out conflicts that seemed never to end.  No one else knew what made me laugh the way my brother did, and that’s still true today. 
With age has come distance, and like our father and his own older brother, Mike and I live in separate cities and our children see each other rarely.  We talk about wanting this to change, and I hope we can figure out a way to make this happen. 
I think part of the reason why Mike comes up so often is the nature of my blog.  Although it pretends to be a hodgepodge of “navel-gazing,” the overwhelming common thread is the notion of “past as prologue.”  Watching my two boys laugh and duke it out on a daily basis brings my own childhood rushing back, and I think back to days like the one pictured here, where two little boys, approximately the same age my sons are now, sit and plot their next move. 
Happy birthday, Mike, and thanks for all the laughs and for your undying faith in me.  You do our parents proud every day, and I’m sure they’re smiling down on you and your family from wherever they are now.  At the risk of falling into that sentimentalism of which you’ve accused me, I’ll just take one more moment to tell you I love you, and I wish only good things for you. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From the Archives: In Memoriam "Falling Shoes"

I don't often think about 9/11. It's not that I've blocked it out, or anything as dramatic as that. It's been nearly ten years, and in the spirit of survival and not giving in, I have moved on. It's my strong belief that the collective souls of those thousands of innocents whose lives were so recklessly taken on that day would not wish us to dwell on the devastation, but, rather they'd want us to forge ahead and continue on, and in the process, we avenge their deaths by living our lives.

Occasionally, however, I do remember. I remember the way my student, Sean Lawrence, came into my classroom on the third floor of Satellite Academy on West 30th Street and said in a curious monotone, "I'm not sure, but I think I just saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center." He had caught a glimpse of that first impact, just as he was crossing Sixth Avenue, heading to school.

I recall the silence of a New York City with no cars driving past, and no planes flying overhead. It was eerie, and we, the inhabitants making our way to our homes that day, walked past each other like shadows, strangely making eye contact (not our usual way), as if to wordlessly reassure one another.

I remember the way we all shifted to the north-facing windows of the F-train, as we emerged in Brooklyn, and seeing, for the first time, the giant plume of smoke that would linger and stink for days. A teenage boy saying, "Oh my God, it's true. It's really true."

Weeks later, as we healed, I was in a bar with some friends, who introduced me to a woman I'd never met. "I was there," she said. I didn't have to ask her where. Or when. I just knew by the look in her eyes.

"There's one thing I'll never forget," she said. "The shoes."


"They just kept falling. Shoes. Women's shoes, men's boots, children's sneakers. They were raining down from the burning building."

She told me she'd heard from a scientist friend that the physics behind the falling shoes was similar to when a pedestrian is hit by a speeding car and one sees a pair of shoes standing in the exact spot where the victim once stood. Imagine that impact, times a hundred. Times a thousand.

The woman passed this image on to me, and although I'm thankful for not having been there that day, it's this second-hand image that occasionally wakes me up at night, as I consider what it must have been like to have been in those shoes on that sunny fall morning nearly ten years ago. There are other, more violent images I've seen associated with 9/11; the footage of people choosing to jump from 100 stories, rather than be burned to death, a photograph taken by my brother-in-law, one of the first responders, of something that had once been a human being -- but it's these falling shoes that I'll never forget and that will forever remind me of horrific tragedy and a loss that changed our world forever.

Friday, September 9, 2011

As 9-11 Draws Nearer, I Withdraw

Sunday will mark the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, and I feel a sense of dread every time I think of it.  Me – several degrees removed from the suffering of the true victims.  I didn’t lose anyone, didn’t have to dig through the charred and flattened remains that no longer resembled anything recognizably human.  Imagine how those folks are feeling.  I see the photo of the smoking towers come up on the MSN homepage when I log in, and it just makes me want to log out again.  While everyone else shouts “Remember!,” I find myself wanting to forget, and it makes me feel almost as if I am blaspheming, unpatriotic. 
That day just brings back such odd and painful memories – the eerie silence in Herald Square, the teenage boy who, when our subway car emerged from the tunnel in Brooklyn, and we all shifted to the north side of the train to see the smoke cloud that had replaced the World Trade Center, said, “Oh my God, it’s really true.  It really happened. 
I also think of the woman who asked me on my way to work that morning, in heavily accented English (she was either Middle Eastern or East Indian) the best way to get to the Trade Center once she got off the train.  It was difficult to determine her age, but I do remember thinking she was attractive.  I instructed her that when the train got to Park Place (where I would have gotten off, had our school not moved to midtown two years earlier), she needed to be in the front car.  She thanked me as she left, making her way forward through the cars.  I watched her until I could no longer see her.
I find myself wondering about that woman from time to time, and especially now, as this dark milestone comes closer.  I try to imagine what that morning was like for her.  Perhaps she was a tourist, following her guidebook, written in Arabic or Urdu, which advised her to get to the observation deck early, in order to avoid the long lines.  I have no idea how early the observation deck opened; my hope is that it wasn’t yet, and that she was standing in the lobby waiting when the first plane hit the building, rocking its foundations.  Were that the case she’d surely have been one of the first ones out to safety.
I pray she wasn’t one of those people that Univision showed jumping one hundred floors in order to avoid burning fuel.  They aired this footage until someone from the FCC instructed them to stop.  Apparently some images are too horrific and heartbreaking, even for the news.
It’s an anniversary I’d just as soon forget – not because I intend any disrespect to the memories of the fallen or their families, but because of all the pain it brings back up.  I imagine I can’t be the only one who feels this way, can I?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Truth About Hundi

In a recent phone conversation with my brother Mike, he asked me about Ally, our new puppy.

“How are things with the pooch?” as he put it.  We then had a good dog discussion about what mix of breeds she is, how large she’s expected to grow and the like.

“I like a dog with a little size,” I said.  “Not a big fan of the small breeds.”

“Me neither,” he agreed.  “I don’t like a dog you have to worry about stepping or sitting on.”

Neither of us mentioned any names, but our conversation brings a certain dog into my mind, at least.  (I won’t presume to anything about my younger brother.)  He was the third, and final, dog I knew my father to own – a toy poodle by the name of “Hundi.”

Hundi is short for the Yiddish word Hundele, already a diminutive of Hund, related to the English word “hound.”  I remember thinking that if they were to add one more diminutive suffix, their dog would disappear altogether.

Now that so many years have passed, I can speak the truth about little Hundi.  (My siblings and I were always polite about her when we visited.)  He was three pounds of nervous, angry energy – a trembling lap-dog that no one wanted in their lap.  I’m not sure if something happened to Hundi to make him so ill-tempered and fearful, but I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  

Judy and Hanno, please don’t take this the wrong way – I intend no disrespect to you or your memory – but I love my big dog Ally, and I love that she could have eaten your little Hundi in one delicious bite. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Autumn Days of Boyhood

A hayride on an Autumn night
Well we was 15 if I remember right
We were far apart at the start of the ride
but somehow we ended up side by side
We hit a bump and she grabbed my arm
The night was as cold as her lips were warm
I shivered as her hand held mine
And then I kissed her one more time

And Jane if I had known--
I might have stopped kissing right then
It's just as well we don't know
when things will never be that good again

                                -- Greg Brown, If I Had Known
This morning the temperature has dipped down into the 50’s, and I LOVE it.  It brings to mind one of the aspects of being in the northeast that I miss the most – seasons.  It’s not that there aren’t any here, but the changes are more gradual and less striking.  The chill that’s in the air brings me back to the autumn days of my boyhood.  The school year was new and nightfall began sneaking up more quickly on us as we played on our street.  New clothes, bought at the Sears in White Plains, came out.  The new line-up of TV shows, airing on the few channels we got back then in the days before cable, started airing.
When I got older and surrounded myself with a good group of friends, we sometimes drove up to Outhouse Orchards on Hardscrabble Road in North Salem, New York.  We did a little apple picking, but mostly we laughed and had fun.
Halloween also comes up in memory.  The odd-smelling plastic masks that were held uncomfortably by a thin elastic band – looking back, I’m sure those masks could not have been good for us.  And the matching costumes were made of a thin layer of synthetic which felt imminently flammable as we walked past jack-o-lanterns lit with real burning candles, in order to grab handfuls of loots and pennies for our orange Unicef boxes.  We collected enough candy to last months; now that I’m a father, I understand why it never did.
I remember touch football games that often devolved into tackle with no pads or helmets, during which I proudly defied my friends to bring me down.  I was a surprisingly good football player for someone whose parents forbade him to play.  Writing this now, I realize I do harbor a dash of resentment at having been denied the opportunity to explore my talents in that sport.  I might have learned some real, military-style discipline.  I might have gotten fit.  I might have excelled. 
Not to mention all those cheerleaders and majorettes who reserved themselves for the boys wearing maroon and white . . .
And now my mother’s voice creeps in:  You might have also been spared broken bones, concussions,  steroids, chronic pain, and dependency on medication…

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembrances of Canines Past

I had a funny memory while walking Ally last night.  I was imagining what it would be like to take her with us on a family vacation, the way we took Bo to the beach with us on a couple of occasions.
One vacation – to the Water Island section of Fire Island gave rise to a couple of good Bo stories.
The house we rented was in an amazing spot, nestled between the bay and the ocean, in the midst of rolling dunes.  We could see the little pink cottage where my parents shacked up early on in their courtship, and that my mother immortalized in a really beautiful water color painting.  For the two of them, I’m sure it was something of a romantic nostalgia trip.  For my brother and me, it was a summer of unforgettable, as well as an opportunity to do some epic complaining, which we were very good at doing.  
Our complaints had to do mostly with the lack of creature comforts to which we’d become accustomed – TV, McDonald’s, and chain supermarkets.  The rustic little general store, which I’m sure filled our parents with the warm fuzzies, didn’t cut it for Mike and me.  At one point, in an impressive display of smart-ass, we even spelled out “SEND MORE FOOD” in sea glass and shells on the beach, presumably for passing planes who might rescue us. 
The story I recalled involved the ocean side, which, to my dismay, was a nude beach.  Like much of Fire Island, it was predominantly male, so Mike, my dad and I eventually got into the spirit and took it all off. 
My mother was mortified and chose to stay dressed, her head in a scarf, as it usually was to protect her damaged ears from the elements, and big Jackie O sunglasses.  She looked like a celebrity trying to go incognito.
To avoid all the nakedness, my mother decided to walk the dog down the beach, keeping her eyes down as best she could.
Unfortunately for her, however, Bo was a barker, and there was something about all those dangling willies that just set him off.  He began barking wildly (and quite specifically) at the junk he saw passing by.
It made quite an image, this Greta Garbo-esque woman, fully clothed and trying to be apologetic while without making eye contact, all the while tugging at the leash of her dog, who was barking and snapping at the peters passing by.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Confessions of a Momma's Boy

I was 15 when we moved to Grosse Pointe, Michigan.  It was about as different a place from where I grew up in Lower Westchester County, New York as you could dream up.  Where my schools were diverse racially, ethnically and socio-economically, I now found myself at Grosse Pointe South High School, where the demographics were, shall we say, “uncomplicated.”  Lots of well to do white children. 
The change was jarring for me in its unfamiliarity.  I was excited by the prospect of being in a new place where no one knew me and I could essentially re-make my identity.  And I did eventually get out there, make friends, have fun and get into trouble, as is the custom of people of that age group.
In the beginning, though, I was overwhelmed.  I remember walking down the hall of the high school, wearing an outfit that was all the rage in New York at the time – tight white pants, L’il Abner boots, and a velour shirt, tight on the biceps, and open at the neck. 
This was not what the boys at Grosse Pointe South wore.  They were the quintessential prepsters and wore alligator shirts, knit sweaters and cords.  For footwear it was docksiders or duck shoes. 
As if I wasn’t already mortified enough by how badly I stood out, one of the alpha preps, Andre Augier, called out to me down the hall, “Hey! Are those your sister’s pants you’re wearing?”  As one might imagine, there are few things you can say that will wound a 15 year old boy more than these words.  They stung as badly as if I’d been slapped across the face. 
I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t change my personal style; what I realized, and what Andre and his ilk realized, is that the girls kind of liked my New York style.  It echoed the idols of the time, like Travolta and Stallone.  I felt a little sense of celebrity as I walked the halls, and learned eventually to embrace my uniqueness, which, where I came from, had been a decided sameness. 
Rather than seek out a social life, when we first arrived in Michigan, I would ride my bike directly home from school and sit down with my mother to watch re-runs of M*A*S*H*.  Even though I had the distinct sense that I was too old for it, I would put my head on her lap, and she absently ran her fingers through my hair, which had always served to make me feel safe and cared for.  We would do what we loved to do most – laugh together.  (Watching horror movies came in a close second.)
I won’t be surprised when Jackson and/or Diego come running home from 10th grade, just to lay their head on Jeanette's lap and let her fingers run soothingly through their hair.