Television pales by comparison to our real life
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But this is a dad.
“We’re going in,” he says.
“No, Dad. Don't make me. Please, Dad."
I’m on the child’s side. No, I’m on the dad’s side. No, the child’s.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” the dad says, firmly.
What clarity! What leadership! And what strong arms! His kid is kicking and screaming but he's got him under his arm and he's taking him in.
The man opens the door to the theatre, and fearlessly leads the family forward.
The boy continues to resist, but the father powers over him, carrying him into the fray of surround sound and projected fantasy, like those dads from the fifties used to toss their children into the pool, allowing them to sink or swim.
I meanwhile, turn back to the flushing Flushed Away sign. Ker-shoo.
And when my son is well assured that the commercials are over and the coast is clear, we go back inside.
The truth is, life in our home really is exciting enough to make TV pale by comparison.
I live fifteen stories above the ground. Later that night when the fire alarm started ringing at midnight, forcing the elevators to stop operating, I wondered, “Should I awaken my sons and carry them down to the ground level, even though I’m 99 percent sure this is a(nother) false alarm?” Then they would know for sure how exciting life at home is.
Given the fact that I was in Manhattan on 9-11, and lived about fifteen blocks from the disaster site, I’m acutely aware that there are moments when the question of whether an alarm is real or not can have life and death consequences.
People who decided to get out of the towers, “just in case” did so with little information.
It was generally a gut feeling that caused people to ignore the voices being broadcast on the public announcement system, telling them to go back to work. That it was really okay.
That said, it’s hard to know sometimes when to heed the alarms.
My apartment was full of refugees from Cortes Island, where the power had been out for five days and was expected to stay off for another five days.
One of the refugees was a New Jersey native. We went into gallows humor mode as the alarm rang out ear-splittingly, on and on.
Another friend ran down the fifteen flights of stairs to see what was happening on ground level. A few people had come out, but most watched from their windows.
My apartment complex has two towers, the north tower and the south tower. My friend on the ground…was this really possible?…was also a New Yorker. She had moved to Cortes before 9-11, but when she called up she told me the firefighters had gone in to check out “the south tower.” The building supervisor was “last seen going into the north tower.”
“Isn’t it ironic?” she said. “North tower. South tower.”
“Say our tower and their tower," I requested.
She laughed. “Okay.”
My New Jersey/Cortes friend put on her gum boots. My New York/Cortes friend already had hers on.
I don’t mean to imply that people who live on Cortes wear only gum boots. They have other shoes, as well. But they both had gum boots at the ready and that is because they're from Cortes.
They are used to high winds and flood conditions, and by the way, as the alarms rang, the winds were building out on the ocean and the rain was blowing towards us, but now we were dealing with the possibility of fire and, who knew a hurricane was in the offing.
I went back to my sons’ room. The alarm was twenty times louder than the commercials at the movie theatres, at least to my ears, yet they both slept with peaceful expressions.
The dog was howling and barking a complaint, but the kids, even my four-year-old, were in deep repose. I was still debating whether to sling them both over my shoulder and carry them down the mountain of the fifteen flights of stairs.
“Everyone agrees it’s probably a false alarm, but maybe you should come down, just in case,” my Manhattan/Cortes friend said on her cell phone. I flexed my muscles and gritted my teeth. I thought of the dad in the theatre with his strong arms. If only I had those strong arms.
Just then, the alarm stopped ringing. I looked out the window and saw people going back into the building.