Yesterday, when the Jawa and I returned home from Torah changing class, we found waiting for us five large boxes. Three were encased in extra-large bubble wrap. The other two, eerily, were not. All five were sitting on the front porch, completely disrupting Sandra Bullock's recent attempt at creating a sidewalk cafe feel for our porch.
When we bought the house, nine years ago next month, the porch was hidden behind a set of foreboding metal grates. To get to the porch, you first had to unlock the grates. Upon seeing them, we quickly agreed: the metal grates needed to go. They looked awful and worse, said things about the neighborhood that had been largely untrue for over a decade. So nine years ago, we unscrewed the bolts that held the grates in, then stashed them (there were more on two downstairs windows) in the weird sideways crawl space that someone who obviously was not a contractor put in while finished our basement/first floor.
According to the newspaper we found stuffed into the ceiling once when a pipe broke, the basement was finished in 1988. The completed level added a studio apartment to the home, which we dismantled upon moving in. The only thing that remains from the basement's dark past, in fact, is this bizarre, three foot-wide corridor that runs halfway down one side of the house. Here we put the grates, and there they stay.
Last year, perhaps frustrated by our financial inability to evolve the basement past rec-room status, Sandra Bullock decided she was going to re-invent the front porch. Despite the lack of a design team, she developed a vision. The front porch would become a pleasant place to sit for awhile. There would be a bench, and perhaps some art.
I didn't buy into the project, which means I didn't help at all in its realization. My only contribution is a pair of shoes, stuffed under the bench with everyone else's "dog walking" shoes. The shoes, plus the five giant boxes, made Sandra Bullock's proposed sidewalk cafe look more like a loading dock.
The Jawa, fresh off what turned out to be a ten-minute session with Cantor Roslyn Barak, reacted as any 12 year-old would: "Lets open them!" he shrieked.
It makes me sad to not be 12 anymore. Even if I hadn't already known how low the probability of the boxes holding anything of interest to me (or the Jawa)was, I still would have done exactly what I did -- drag the boxes inside and leave them there. Not interested.
Which made the Jawa's curiosity both refreshing and sad. Refreshing because it's always a kick in the butt to watch a 12-year-old wrack his brain trying to figure out what's in the box. To him, it could have been anything. Five boxes just showed up on the porch!
Sad because I knew that ultimately, what was in the boxes would disappoint him. There was a 99% chance it had something to do with the Bar Mitzvah. The chance of it being a Bar Mitzvah detail that neither of us had thought of or would find interesting was almost as high.
I talked him out of opening the boxes. We dragged them inside, where he stacked them in a semi-pyramid, and waited.
He wasn't done yet. Somehow, he'd found the shipping order. He pored over it. Somewhere on that single sheet of paper were the answers to all of his questions. "Where's it from?" he wondered aloud. "Somewhere in California." I was seeing the dying embers of childhood's love of treasure hunts right there at the kitchen table. So what if it turned out to be glass vases? Right now, it was a mystery.
"Industry, California," he said, pausing for effect. In a dozen hours, I would be reminding him that his mother's "It's okay to swear if it's part of the lyrics to a song" edict is not valid when the song is by Jay-Z and the audience includes the six and nine year-old members of our carpool.
"It's vases," he finally said, flatly. "Twenty-four vases."
"Yeah, I figured that," I said. "There for the centerpieces. For the Bar Mitzvah."
"They cost a dollar each," he said. Wouldn't it be great if they really cost a dollar each? Almost as great would be to be twelve and think that vases costing a dollar each really can arrive in the mail and not be found in the darkest corners of weird variety stores in the Mission.
"No, they don't." I said. "Check again."
"Yeah. They cost $24 each."
"What?" Quick math: that's about $500 worth of vases. Is this in the design team budget?
No. The vases cost about half of that. When Sandra Bullock arrived home, we were instructed to move the boxes downstairs. We put them on the bed in the "guest alcove," where they joined other various Bar Mitzvah-related oleo.
Tonight, after dinner, Sandra Bullock stopped for a moment and announced, "There's no turning back now."
"I should hope not, after almost eighteen years of marriage," I thought. But instead of saying that, I said, "What do you mean?"
"We've got the vases now."
So what, there was a chance there would be no Bar Mitzvah until we got the vases? We've put down a deposit on the room and the catering, have attended dozens of Bar Mitzvah classes and just recently arrived at a consensus decision regarding the oneg/Kiddush lunch, but it was all hanging by a thread until those vases arrived.
"No, that's not what I mean," said a vaguely disgusted Bullock, perhaps recalling her teenage dreams of marital bliss, which I've been told included a farmhouse and several acres of land and can only assume completely lacked any mention of the small piles of "New Yorker" magazines which tend to add up after a few months.
"I mean that now we're set for the centerpieces. It's Godzilla all the way." Two sides of each rectangular glass vase will be covered with a reproduction of an original Godzilla movie poster (in Japanese). As if there were ever any question.