Zen and the Art of Harry Potter

The Death Eaters came to Seattle last week. Ice and snow walled us in our home for close to week. That’s what sent us to the basement to watch ALL the Harry Potter films out on dvd – one through six. Jake is also mostly through re-reading the entire series. When he is done we will celebrate and go see number seven in the theater.

When you hear a twelve-year-old read passages aloud from the books or when you watch the films back to back, you realize Albus Dumbledore is a cross between Allen Ginsberg and Alan Watts. It’s just that he has a flowing white beard and stringy Ted Nugent hair.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends” says Dumbledore in Sorcercer’s Stone. In the film Prisoner of Azkaban, Albus drops this one on Harry: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” My favorite by far is “It is our choices, Harry that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

The dream of snow days provided us with some magnificent timing. Lily and Jake spent the week soaking up these words and so much more. As a family we discussed the genius of J.K. Rowling. The woman is brilliant on how she packages her sweet child peddled wisdom. The books provide a key to a kid’s heart and forces them to take the light of a story and shine it into their own life.

In first grade Jake was invited to a Harry Potter themed birthday party. He had not read one of the books yet. He missed the party when he came down with a fever so Lisa read him Sorcerer’s Stone. He promptly devoured the remaining books. Jake has read the entire series twice. Just like Daniel Radcliffe, my son has made so many radical changes. He has gone from a tot to a tween in an instant – just like Daniel Radcliffe transformed in front of our eyes on the covers of Entertainment Weekly.

Jake spent the two years being terrorized by several Draco Malfoys. Believe me, he knows the fear and resentment Harry Potter feels toward Draco and his Wild Bunch. “Dad, why do people act the way they do?” Jake asked me after reading the third book. I didn’t come up with an easy answer right away.

There is a terrific Zen saying “Death and Time inspires one to act now as time is passing by and life is a precious opportunity to awaken”. There is nothing like giant spiders and enormous snakes to bring kids straight up to the reality of death. Lily, at ten, can’t watch spiders without running out of the room. Jake became her compass, having freshly read each book. He would tee-up the scenes, pause the film and insure her safe passage out the room. I don’t know where Jake’s heart is but I know his love is everywhere. I am convinced that Harry Potter has been one of his guides.

The Misery of Joy

We were simply told – No Children. There is absolutely no way for you to have a family without major fertility procedures or adopting. When you hear those words a different sort of grieving consumes you. We both had full lives in our twenties. Now in our thirties, just married, we wanted to start a family and have our own baby. A mixture of our genes, a child package that would allow us to reflect and say “he or she has your eyes” or “you look just like your mother.” At the time, we thought maybe these sweet graces might not be ours to enjoy.

At every turn, images of Gerber babies on soap boxes seem to spring to life. As if on cue, cheerful ads of frolicking families appeared on our television wedged in between major sporting events, awards ceremonies and our favorite sitcoms. This constant disruption elevates your sense that you are one of the “Barren Ones.” Madison Avenue must not want to bother marketing to that segment of the population. From our vantage point it felt like America was filled with Fertile Franks and Womb-Ready Wandas.

It took time, money, patience and eventually we found the help and we successfully got pregnant. When Lisa and I found out our baby was healthy and viable it was like the NASA Moon landing celebrations; nothing could eclipse our joy.

Lisa wanted to know immediately the sex of our baby. I wanted the surprise. She won. We went to Brad’s Swing Side Café in Fremont to find out the news. “Boy” was on the card from our Doctor. Brad sang out the news and the entire restaurant erupted into applause.

Lisa was deliberate and diligent with her health. We met an entire prepackaged community through pre-natal yoga and a neighborhood PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) organization. The best thing we did during this time was Happy Baby acupuncture. It was extra insurance. Anyway, we figured it couldn’t hurt.

The seemingly twelve blissful months of Lisa’s pregnancy was an enchanted time in our lives, stuffed with sweet moments of hope and constant fear of what we might lose. As the due date got closer we debated about names and décor. Our conversations were filled with dozens of hours of debate and prognostication on what kind of man our boy was going to be. We decided on a name, Jacob Wyatt. Jacob for Lisa’s brave grandfather that helped found a Kibbutz in 1920 and “W” in Wyatt for my beautiful Mom that I lost when I was only twenty-five.

After being two weeks “late” Jacob Wyatt Rehfeldt sprang from a C-Section at 11 solid pounds.  Well, 10 lbs., 15 ½ ounces to be exact but we figured no one would begrudge us that last ½ ounce. Four months later, Thanksgiving landed on my birthday. I held my piglet in his blanket, while I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I waited for Snoopy to show. I missed that building size float drifting down Broadway. I was too transfixed by Jacob’s sweet face.

The large bread loaf of a baby is now taller than Lisa. Tomorrow, Jake and I will sit waiting for Snoopy to show and I will miss that float again because I will be staring at my twelve-year-old son’s face, thinking how thankful I am to have him in my life.

Wanted: Lost Clothes

Jake loses everything. It is fun to watch him leave a room. He will walk out the house without a jacket in the middle of an artic freeze. At school while every other student is packing their homework into army size rucksacks Jake will trot out of the classroom with a smile on his face and have no clue that he has just left every obligation for tomorrow’s school work twenty feet behind him. My absolute favorite occurs when we are making good time on our way home, we’ve just crisscrossed Seattle after having a pleasant evening at a friend’s house, and I will hear “Hey Dad… Dad? I think I left my (personal item) back at _____’s house.”

At home, the daily canvas starts like a missing person APB. The looming school bell threatens to sound in t-minus two minutes. Jake’s call for his missing item (shoe, sock, jack, hoodie, etc.) starts just as we are out the front door. Frantically we typically enlist Lily, then rapid calls to our friends and lastly our neighbors. The missing item search broadens to the entire neighborhood, then the local Police precinct even the Coast Guard. The entire time my son has a look of –“What*?”– on his face, as if this manhunt has nothing to do with him.

Teacher Tim had Jake down in pre-school. At our first teacher / parent conference Tim explained, “Well, Jake is in his head most of the time.” We asked for clarification. “I wouldn’t say he is in his body as much as his head.” Sweet man, I wish I could see him now to tell him nothing has changed.

If Jake could stop that soundtrack in his head we might have a fighting a chance at holding on to his wardrobe. When music is playing Jake is like a moth to a white-hot flame. There is an endless loop playing in that twelve year olds head. His thoroughbred ears perk up and he focuses directly on every sound. We’ve lost him. His mental mapping is on. He is a human Shazam app searching for the origin of a lyric or beat he is hearing.

I first witnessed Jake’s mental distraction when he was five. Standing in line at Starbucks the background music seemed familiar. “Daddy… is the Lucinda Williams?” No Jake, I don’t believe it is. About this moment I turned to Cashier waiting to take my order. Her mouth was wide open. “Oh yes it is, it is Lucinda, how did he do that?” Recently, Jake asked Lisa out of the blue “Mom does John Mullin sing that song ‘Rock-a-bye’?” Lisa stunned by the non sequitur: Almost honey, John Mullin is Lily’s soccer coach I think you mean Shawn Mullins.”

I would have had it made if “Name That Tune” were still on the air. Just like a backstage parent of those one of those twerpy violin prodigies I would take Jake out of school. Have him focus on his gift. Screw the lost clothes, in a matter of days Jake would take down dozens of game show participants in melody roulette. I am certain Jake would nail the melody showdown and guess the Mystery Tune on the final show. I am certain of it. I would turn to Tom Kennedy and say “Tom, the kid can’t remember his homework or his iPod but he just won $100,000 Naming that damn Tune!”

A Father is allow to dream.