“Brand new state! Brand new state, gonna treat you great!” ~ Oklahoma state song by Rodgers & Hammerstein

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A resident of Oklahoma who recently married my British wife Talma Marsh-Harman in Iowa, I am elated about the news that U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

Talma and I are awaiting the federal government’s approval of our spousal visa application so we may live as wife and wife here in America, in Oklahoma, for now.

I recently moved to Oklahoma, where I attended the University of Tulsa decades ago and began my journalism career. My experiences living as an out Lesbian in OK then, and again since moving back from the East Coast a year ago to be near my parents, have underscored my belief that we must not, under any circumstances, settle for less than full equality, even in this, the Reddest state in the nation. We must speak out, speak up and walk proudly, hand in hand with our wives, our husbands, our lovers.

That’s what brought the ultra-conservative state of Oklahoma to the glorious victory we celebrate today.

You know what, Oklahoma? Today you are far more than OK. You are fabulous.

And while this is not the sort of history that Gov. Mary Fallin and other homophobic Oklahoma politicians wish to make, history it is.

Us 2

it occurs to me

it occurs to me

stuck here mid-sentence
stranded between invisible lines
on some haunted highway
lost in the middle of nothing
halfway between nowhere
and nowhere else

it occurs to me

i need a lighted keyboard
to tap-tap-tap
my way back home
illuminated highways
and byways
make for safer traveling
i’ve heard

it occurs to me

i don’t like the light
nor the lamp
nor the safe way
to anywhere
nor anything
just the glowing page
in an ink-black abyss
a creative cave
where i dwell alone
dark and silent

it occurs to me

this ghost town
where even my spirit
cannot be summoned
must hold something
must harbor secrets
whispered so softly
that i should stay
and listen
wander and wait
until the inky darkness
stains the page
forming that first
sentence
that first
sigh
that first
sign

it occurs to me

it’s okay
that nothing
occurs to me

wooden matchstick

©Marion Post Wolcott (American, 1910-1990) Unemployed Coal Miner’s Daughter Carrying Home Can of Kerosene; Company Housing, Pursglove, Scott’s Run, West Virginia

wooden matchstick

towheaded girl

walking down those tracks

chewing on a wooden matchstick

telling my troubles to the wind

i won’t shed a tear

not one, not today

i have grandma’s shiny dimes

jingling in my pocket

the biggest piece of her big heart

bright as the light on that train

roaring down these rattling tracks

you’re my misty cotton, she says

you’re my little girl

now go

go have fun

be back before your mother gets home

or we’ll both be in trouble

thanks, grandma

i love you

 

i count the dimes in my mind

two games of pool with my coal miner friends

one peppermint patty for grandma

matchstick

pool stick

exhale

 

candy or tobacco, the woman asks

as i burst through that wooden door

eying the penny candy

glancing at the cigarettes

and chewing tobacco

grinning

here to shoot some pool, i say

tapping a thin dime on that glass counter

one peppermint patty for grandma, please

i’ll get it on my way out

they are fresh from the mines

black faced and dusty

unfiltered cigarettes dangling from lips

i drag a chair toward the men

who wants to play today? I ask

grinning

i stand on that vinyl and iron chair

showing off my best shots

shots they taught me

this is a my refuge

my solace

my private hideaway

(only grandma knows)

you’re not allowed there alone, my mom says

every single time she goes into town

leaving me with her mother,

my hero, my guardian angel

i know, mom

i won’t

i grin and glance at grandma

she grins and looks away

our secret

 

towheaded girl

coal dust on my hands and cheeks

chewing on that matchstick

heart racing

racing to get home before my mom

i stop and lean down

the world is silent, still

railroad tracks rumbling

beneath my tiny feet

taking that matchstick from my mouth

i strike red-and-white sulfur

on black-brown iron rails

stare into that flame

smoke searing my nostrils

wood burning black

down to my fingertips

i blow out the flame

grinning

flicking that wooden matchstick

into the creek

 

i run full-speed to grandma’s house

leap onto that wrap-around porch

fly through that wooden screen door

it slaps behind me

grandma, I’m home!

guess what I got for you?

(she knows but asks)

what did you get me, misty cotton?

i crash into her

wrap my arms around her waist

and stay there for a while

i reach into my pocket

look!

my favorite! she says

i know grandma

i know

safe warm loved protected

not one tear

not today

 

* With eternal love for my guardian angel, my Grandma, who knew only love and  who spoiled me, kept my secrets and taught me the importance of kindness and the perils of anger unchecked:

“I won’t give up my room in Heaven.” ~ Grandma Bertie Roark

Country Roads by John Denver ©1971

for nathan and tyler

for nathan and tyler

this weekend warrior
loves your big sister
captures her heart
his first prisoner
this aimless man-child
his soft green eyes
beneath that furrowed brow
framed by that fierce haircut
those soft green eyes
the only clue
he allows to escape
telling us: her heart is safe
(he knows he can’t promise)

we struggle to share her
your big sister
my first surrogate child
your surrogate mother
like i am
you have so many mothers
one baby brother
one steadfast father
now this weekend warrior
what will be his place?
in your heart?
in hers?

i see you admire him
i watch you watch him
i hear his words fall
from your young lips
wounding me with worry
stinging me with sadness
that you, like me
are a child of war
marching alongside him
this weekend warrior
who will take your heart
her heart
into battle

wartime

you send him off
supportive and scared
worried and proud
lost and found
in the heart of a boy
instantly a man
this tenuous bond
is now strong as steel

we arm ourselves
on peaceful ground
to fight a war a world away
to fight to bring him back
alive and safe
unharmed and whole
this warrior, this man
this new member
of our odd family

my father came home to me
i tell myself
he will return to you
i hope and pray
but i know too much
to truly trust
i prepare myself
to comfort you
to comfort her
when only his body
comes home
ravaged by bullets and bigotry
draped in the american flag

relief and recovery

fully a man
two tours in iraq
i am humbled on my first visit
seeing his transformation
hardworking man
the finest role model
i could choose for you
the finest man
i could hope for her

we stand in the rain
watching you play football
this soldier and i
i am insignificant beside him
knowing he knows more
than i ever will
i read the headlines
black-on-newsprint body count
but he lived the real story
counted the bodies himself
in his unit
in other units
rattles off the number of dead
(the headlines lied)
those soft green eyes
staring off
toward the mideast

i watch him
his eyes hold those secrets
that my father’s eyes hold
his heart has grown
like my father’s heart grew
he says so little
about what those eyes
have truly seen
my father says less

i sent this soldier
my prized pc books
books others could not
even touch
my only way
a tiny sacrifice
for his infinite sacrifice
i had so few words
so i gave him hers
he read them all
passed them around
to other solider-boys
he thanks me again
standing in the rain
i want to cry

he is alive
he did come home to you
he did come home to her
and us

you call me to say hello
i hear his voice
in the background
saying hello to me
i want to hold him
he is talking to your big sister
the woman he loves
i hear her laugh
my heart weeps with joy
for you, for her
for nathan

how will america repay you?
how will I utter words
that will wind into your heart
so you will fully know
the depth of my love
and gratitude
for what you risked
for what you survived
for what you carry now?
the quiet burden
of a weekend warrior
sudden soldier
hero

 * footnote – Since this writing, Nathan came home from a third tour in Iraq, haunted and withdrawn, given only a phone number and a checklist of symptoms and behaviors for self-diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Nathan went to battle for us – for you, for me, for these United States – and  that, my fellow Americans, is how we thanked him. Last I heard, Nathan was in Afghanistan, fighting the enemy, and the enemy is us.

 

With love, gratitude and respect to that soft green-eyed boy, lost but not forgotten. I think of you smiling, reading a novel, the sun on your face, sand between the pages, escaping one more time. 

 

 

epiphany

epiphany
words drop out
of my careful collection
feelings fill spaces
playing poor substitutes
i tell myself

denial

punctuation, capitalization
syntax and rhythm
lost somewhere, somehow
stolen, i conclude
by sentimental saviors

clearing the clutter i cannot

realization

words are my weapons
my armor
enshrouding and soothing me
shielding me from so much pain
saving me from too much joy

confession

i ache for my lost words
the complex sentences
taking me full circle
allowing me to walk away
satisfied, sated

is it the sigh and exhale
i miss most?
or the simple act
of walking away?
i ask myself

shame

words drop out
the mufti-syllabic treasures
the most expensive, most expressive
of my prized collection
go first
frustration fractures my soul

fear

i am not all i can be
i am less
lost
lonely though not alone
i cannot be one sliver more
than i am this moment

misery

lost words wandering without me
who will be their guardian
while they are away?
while i am here?
being here
in this moment
is where i belong
is what terrifies me
is the first step
on a path i have chosen

acceptance

permission eludes me
dozens of times each day
permission simply to be
i give it, snatch it back
allow
disallow
over and over

struggle

words that once filled my war chest

are useless in this battle
will harm me
and others
if i rely on them
hide behind them
dance among them

acceptance

stripped and left bare
with substitute feelings
strangers i rarely allow in
i will thrive
not merely survive
memory serves up this sharp knowing
i have been here before

hope

i linger in the last losing
when words softly left
without notice
or apology
i recall the gifts
that lay ahead
growth, healing
learning to feel

trust

what are you feeling right now? she asked then
i replied
those are thoughts, she said
those are not feelings
i try again
those are thoughts
those are thoughts
thoughts, she said, not feelings

awakening

a list of feelings she jotted down
an open dictionary
pencil, eraser, paper

epiphany

~ by C. Mist Harman

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed: John Irving, the Memory Monster and Owen Meany

“Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t.
It simply files things away. It keeps things for you,
or hides things from you – and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory;
but it has you!”

John Irving writes that a fiction writer’s memory is an “especially imperfect provider of detail; we can always imagine a better detail than we can remember.” The most truthful detail, he contends, is what could have happened, what should have happened.

John Irving in NYC

Irving traces the origin of his writing career to a time when he and his friends mercilessly taunted the mentally retarded man who collected garbage on Front Street in his stately New Hampshire neighborhood, much to the dismay of John’s gracious and genteel grandmother.

“Oink, oink,” they would call as Piggy Sneed tossed trash into the back of his rickety pickup truck, a vehicle whose only passengers were pigs. Rumor had it that Piggy slept with his pigs in their pen at night and that he never spoke; Piggy simply snorted and oinked.

One afternoon, the local volunteer fire department’s alarm sounded and a truck was dispatched to Piggy Sneed’s house. John, the youngest volunteer, was incredulous as he listened to the other men joke that Piggy would roast in the fire with his pigs because he was too simple minded to escape. Dangling from the side of the fire truck and feeling the heat of the flames on his face, John began to wonder who Piggy really was. And, he began to feel guilty about tormenting a man who had done nothing whatsoever to him.

Maybe he’s not really retarded, John reasoned. Maybe he’s saving money from the sale of his pigs to move to Florida, he suggested to the other firefighters. The men simply stared at him. Or, John speculated, Piggy is from Europe or some other foreign land and he doesn’t speak English. That’s why he doesn’t talk.

As the blaze engulfed Piggy’s pigpen, it was all too evident that Piggy could not possibly have survived, were he with his pigs that night as was his custom. Not until the men pulled Piggy’s burned and blackened body from the fire did John grasp at one last straw, and then relent. (Maybe he had family in Florida and was planning to join them).

For Irving, writing became an endless journey of Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, the title of his 1996 memoir. Irving’s stories and books are his attempts to rewrite history, to run back into that fire and pull Piggy out alive – or to prevent the fire from starting in the first place.

A lifelong love of writing has skewed my own view of life as it unfolds before me, and it has shaped and reshaped my sense of recall, that monster Irving calls memory.

As a child, I escaped fears and worries by writing stories of triumph and perseverance told by awkward, flawed characters who solved mysteries, fought crime and battled injustice, winning the love and acceptance of their families and friends. Slowly, what really happened took second chair to what should have, what could have happened. I lived in a world far shiner than the real one. I still do.

Still, it always frustrated me that my sister remembered people, places and events of our life as Air Force brats on the move in a way that differed, sometimes dramatically, from my version. More annoying still was that she remembered, with great detail, significant events and turning points in our lives that I don’t recall at all. It’s as if I was not there, as if I had taken leave, only to return later without bothering to ask and without being told what I had missed.

Looking back and looking inward, which is where I find myself today, I now understand that my lapses in memory, my gaps in my own history and my hazy recollections are an essential part of who I am and how I view the world. I hadn’t taken leave at all. I simply preferred my own version of what was happening around me to what actually was. Oftentimes I still do.

In the early 1990s, I read John Irving’s seventh novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I was mesmerized by the odd but inexplicably close friendship between two 11-year-old boys growing up in Gravesend, New Hampshire: John Wheelwright, for whom it seemed a lifetime would not be enough to find himself, despite the privileges and opportunities afforded him; and Owen Meany, who, despite mysterious medical conditions that stunted his growth and damaged his larynx, believed himself to be God’s instrument.

Because Owen had no idea how he would be used or when he would discover his purpose, he chose to construct his world as a practice field, regarding even the most insignificant occurrence as part of the training that would prepare him for the moment when his time arrived.

Owen lived in a world of his own creation, driven by a purpose so spectacular that everything else in life was intensified — more beautiful, more sorrowful and more urgent. Because of his size, his prominent, translucent ears and a voice squeezed and expressed through his nose in a shrill shout, a voice John describes as “wrecked,” Owen is picked on and ridiculed, teased and mocked by the other kids. But Owen soldiers on. He has work to do. God’s work.

While I ascribe to no religion, preferring a spiritual path I travel alone, as I approach 50 I am discovering that my purpose, my calling,  is to be an instrument of change, of enlightenment, of understanding and harmony. Within and without.

Owen was a tiny, odd boy with a high-pitched nasal voice and radical, some would say delusional, belief about the world and his place in it. I am a flawed and fractured woman whose memory puzzle has many missing pieces, a seeming contradiction of an unrelenting optimist who has been an eye-witness to the darker correspondences of this world. I, like Owen Meany, will soldier on.

In the end, Owen fulfilled his purpose, was an instrument of God in such an unexpected, obtuse and beautiful way that it both broke the heart of his best friend John Wheelwright and stirred within it a faith in God, in life, in people and in himself, allowing John to, at last, lead a meaningful and peaceful life.

Like Owen Meany, I don’t need – or even want – to know the details of my destiny, the ultimate purpose of my being, to know how I will get there. As long as I, like Owen, regard everything and everyone in my life as a significant part of my sojourn toward fulfilling my purpose and realizing my dreams, I will have faith, I will believe. I’m practicing; I will be prepared when that moment arrives.

Meanwhile, I’ll forgive myself if I’m distracted from the minutiae of real life and lose track of what day it is, can’t recall what happened along the margins of last month or if my memory of events doesn’t match that of someone else’s. Chances are I was leaning over a desk, scrawling something across a piece of paper, rewriting and editing life as it unfolded.

It has been my experience that, as Irving said, the most truthful detail is what should have been, what could have been. Those are the very details that, when pieced together at exactly the right moment, will ensure that I fulfill my destiny and realize my dreams. Many who know me well say that I live in a fictitious world. I’m always quick to respond with a sincere “thank you,” and a sly smile.

How else will I save Piggy Sneed?

* With gratitude, love and respect to John Irving, John Wheelwright,
Owen Meany and that first pencil and paper.
 ~ C. Mist Harman

Welcome to the Family, Kristy McNichol

Thirty-six years later, the first 10 seconds of the theme song to the 1970’s television show “Family” stirs a sweet medley of emotions and evokes so many of my most vivid memories. I’m transported back to those Tuesday nights when I’d sit on the living room floor, anxious and eager to see myself on TV.

Buddy Lawrence, brilliantly portrayed by Kristy McNichol, was my teenage doppelganger.

Buddy was 14. I was 14. Buddy was an All-American tomboy. I was an All-American tomboy. We both wore boys’ clothes — overalls and sports T-shirts with numbers were our favorites. When we dressed up, we wore the girls’ department equivalent of the leisure suit.

We were two gay girls just trying to sort it all out.

What’s that you say? Buddy wasn’t gay? As far as I was concerned, she was every bit as gay as I was. Sitting there on that shag carpet, my back against the sofa, arms crossed and draped over my knees with a pack of David brand sunflower seeds and a cherry Slurpee between my feet, I held my breath, hoping no one else in my family felt like watching TV.

This was my hour. My only hour. The only time that I got to see a girl who looked, talked, behaved and dressed like me. Buddy Lawrence, and therefore Kristy McNichol, let me know that I wasn’t alone. We three were kindred spirits, learning to navigate the straight world as Lesbian teenagers.

Would it have been fantastic, out of sight and groovy if Kristy McNichol had announced to the world decades ago that she’s a Lesbian? Of course it would have been. Just as it would have been far-out, man, if I had come out to my parents before I was 20. I could have breathed a little easier and carried less guilt about hiding and lying. But I didn’t. I just couldn’t.

I’m guessing Kristy, had she, for whatever reason, come out years ago, could have breathed a little easier, too. But she didn’t. Clearly, for her own personal reasons, she just couldn’t either.

In the land of shag carpet and leisure suits, of unspoken everything, that place where little gay boys and little gay girls rarely, if ever, saw themselves on television, up on the big screen, in magazines or newspapers or at concerts, there was virtually no one “out there” assuring us that It Gets Better.

But for one wonderful, comforting, perfect hour each Tuesday night, Buddy Lawrence and Kristy McNichol assured me that it would get better, that I wasn’t alone and that, in fact, I was special.

Thank you, Buddy. Thank you, Kristy. And welcome to the Family.

Emmy Award Winner Kristy McNichol

The Downy Ball Theory of Life

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Due to extreme fluctuations in both my private life and my laundry habits, I have become more of a dryer sheet kind of girl.

The dryer sheet, both a plan and a substitute for a plan, provides that last-minute hope for slightly soft and somewhat wrinkle-free laundry which, in the end, is better than a wad of crunchy clothes with more wrinkles than Cher’s surgeon’s floor.

Though only marginally satisfied with my half-hearted effort, I have always been a little suspect of those Liquid Fabric Softener Girls. I envision them standing by the washer, watching and listening for the cycle change, Downy bottle dangling from one hand, pre-measured cap clasped in the other, pinky poised and pointing.

I confess: I once envied – even coveted – the ways of the Liquid Fabric Softener Girls. I, too, could swoop from room to room, tinkering away on The Great American Novel, feeding the children – mine and the world’s – achieving a new plateau of soft, smooth and fresh smelling laundry. I would be the New Millennium Martha Stewart, minus the drab wardrobe and legal woes.

But it simply wasn’t meant to be. I’d rather be at the bookstore, chasing the perfect cappuccino or walking my dog – anything except worrying about the rinse cycle. Sure, I long for a softer laundry and a softer life. But I can’t seem to stop my own spinning long enough to stop the spin cycle.

Enter: The Downy Ball.

Yes, I’d seen the commercials. I’d heard the giddy testimonials. Yet, I remained skeptical. How could I trust that the half-inch of blue liquid trapped inside that giant pacifier will be magically released during the rinse cycle? How can I be sure it won’t pop open in the washer as soon as I walk away, leaving me with baby-blue tie-dyed everything? I just wasn’t willing to risk that level of trust.

Until recently.

I’ve been so singular in my focus that I’ve lost all vision. My laundry has  been stacking up in direct proportion to my personal challenges. Both reached such a critical mass that new and drastic measures seemed my only hope – for fresher, softer laundry and for a kinder, gentler life.

The Downy Ball made its way into my shopping cart and, after a week-long purgatory on the kitchen counter, finally found its way to the laundry room. After several loads during which I periodically lifted the lid to spy on the state of the mysterious blue ball, I was free to tinker away on The Great American Novel and catch up on my reading with the simultaneous promise of softer, less wrinkly clothes infused with an April Fresh scent.

As it happens, the Downy Ball bounces happily about during the wash cycle, stubbornly holding hostage its magical contents until it takes such a beating that the rubber cap finally pops off and the softener is purged into the rinse water.

Because I often lack perspective on my own life and doubt my ability to make things softer and more appealing, I, too, had to take a beating recently before my solution was released. I’d been spinning around in my own cycles, a whirl of worries and doubts that threatened to consume me, just as piles of dirty laundry threatened to envelop me.

In the end, I discovered that my own fears and worries were fueled by a lack of trust. In myself. So, in a pathetic attempt to make my pity party a bit less pitiful, I plunked the Downy Ball into the wash with blind faith. Crying into an exceedingly fresh and soft pillow, I reasoned, is better than crying into a stale, stiff pillow.

So, I put my trust in the Downy Ball and in myself. I closed the washer lid and I opened my mouth. I confessed my pain and my fear and my needs (ugh, that one is tough, April scent or no), and I let myself beat against reality until the solutions began spilling out.

Nothing is magically solved. I have a long way to go. But at least I’ve stopped spinning.

I am a strong woman with ridiculously soft sheets, and I intend to conquer the world. One load at a time.

Mouse Hunting in the Nutmeg State

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Connecticut is the Nutmeg State. Sure, your middle school civics teacher told you that Connecticut is the Constitution State, but that was just to make your teenage life a tad more miserable. You would have remembered Nutmeg on any pop quiz.

People here are proud to be called Nutmeggers. That’s a much kinder nickname than I wanted to give the three Connecti-cats (Connectici? Connecticeese?) who gave me lousy directions when I got lost on the way to buy a computer mouse this morning.

I readily admit that I can get lost anywhere, anytime, regardless of my familiarity with the terrain or the number of times I’ve traversed it. I am directionally challenged. Maps, while a great idea on paper, in practice only further confuse me.

I am at peace with my dull spatial skills; I have razor-sharp compensating strategies. I always have pen and paper handy, say “please” and “thank you,” and certainly am not above bribery or over tipping. I smile nervously, give a little shoulder shrug, and turn my palms to the sky – universal sign language for “I have no idea where in the hell I am.”

But the thing about getting lost in the Nutmeg state, I found, is that Nutmeggers aren’t sure where the hell they are either.

Oh, they’re eager to help. They rush up, one by one, nodding self-assured noggins while spinning the map first clockwise, then counterclockwise, and then conferring in a Nutmeg huddle. They debate the shortcut vs. the long way, the highway vs. the back roads, and offer traffic pattern predictions and possible delays along each route.

 In the end, the Nutmeggers project just the right combination of confidence and determination while I frantically take notes and rue the day I  decided against taking that shorthand class in high school.

“Okay, I’ve got it,” I say to the Nutmeggers. “You’re sure this will get me there?” I ask, slipping back into my car. Through my dusty windshield I watch the self-congratulatory look in each Nutmegger’s eye as they shake hands and pat each other on the shoulder. I read their lips to see if they’re planning a parade or a celebratory picnic.

I drive two miles down the road and there are no promised markers, no “Big sign, can’t miss it.” Nothing matches my notes. I’m lost again. Lost. Again. I stop, ask another Nutmegger. Rinse and repeat.

Hours later I am finally home, only to discover that I purchased a mouse that will have nothing to do with my cheesy computer. In a moment of conspicuous consumerism I bought a wireless model. Sleek and snappy. The Nutmegger at Best Buy assured me the gadget would work on my Dell, that it was a simple matter of “plug it in, pop in the batteries, that’s it.”

Not exactly. There’s a bit more to it: a CD ROM and a 50-step set-up matrix and, as luck would have it, the mouse is not compatible with my PC. I should have known. A mouse without a tail … well, rats!

So, it’s back in the car, back to Bust Buy, back to trusting Nutmeggers along the back roads of eastern Connecticut. I knew I would get lost again. I did.

This all happens on a day when my Sidekick is on the fritz. I’m driving aimlessly with no internet or email access, no cell phone. Just me, my mouse-in-the-box and a notebook full of directions leading directly from Point A to Point Nowhere.

It’s just as well. The only people I know to call are Nutmeggers.

The mouse-capade is over, I only swore twice while installing the basic model, and I rewarded myself with the Sarah McLachlan CD Afterglow. She lives in Canada. I’d like to get lost there sometime.

But I’d probably never find my way out of Connecticut.

(With apologies to the good people of Connecticut, which is also known as The Provision State and The Land of Steady Habits. I kid you not).

Snow In Connecticut

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Snow is on the ground in this little Connecticut hamlet. It’s just a light dusting,  already melting in spots. This will be my first winter in the Northeast, and they’re still wearing shorts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I spent last winter.

There was one significant snowfall in Tulsa during the winter of 2002. It blew into town suddenly and trapped my nephew Tyler and me in my house. We were all alone with a Playstation 2, the highly addictive Palmer X snowboarding game, a mountain of sugary, hi-carb snacks and no phone service.

Life doesn’t get much better than that. We were set. It was on.

The Playstation 2 was slick, black and new, our addiction to its hypnotic blue light and sleek black cover reaching critical levels. The pressure to interact with the rest of the family was off. We were alone, we didn’t have to eat real food, showering was optional and sleeping, well, that was for wimps.

We played Palmer X until we saw hip, edgy snowboarders swooshing on the backs of our eyelids. So we stopped closing our eyes. Nightly sleep sessions were replaced with power naps and only when hallucinations threatened our ability to land a decent 360 or Rodeo or Japanese Air on the half-pipe.

We silently regarded the first person to fall into a coma-like power nap as a complete wuss. It went something like this:

Me: You tired?

Ty: (Fingers still flying over the game pad) No way. Not me. You?

Me: No. Not unless you are. I’m not going to bed. I’m gonna kick your butt again.

Ty: Bring it on!

He was nine; I was 40 going on seven. But I had those wild college years to draw upon when sleep deprivation threatened. It was an even match.

Tyler settled into his gaming gear: shorts, a T-shirt and a Nike cap. I chose my workout clothes: flannel pajamas and a pair of loud but warm socks. With black circles under our eyes, a grey fog over our stinky heads (the PS2 addiction steals all consideration for conventional hygiene), and a side bet on who would spill the most soda – counting  spills was more fun than cleaning them up – we gamed our gamey way through some 96 hours of winter storm nirvana.

On Day 3, when our vision was blurred, our necks stiff and we had both toggled up worker’s comp-worthy cases of carpal tunnel, we agreed that an extended power nap was in order. We had been sleeping in shifts, one person giving in to fatigue while the other skied solo, learning new tricks to show off.

Neither of us wanting to be the sucker who slept first, we agreed to set the alarm and get a full four hours of sleep. We woke up some seven hours later in a panic, looking at each other incredulously, like two cartoon characters late for the office.

This can’t be happening!

The alarm had failed us, we agreed, shaking our heads and mumbling. Only the PS2 was reliable, our trustworthy electronic friend. We splashed water on our faces, did a quick courtesy tooth brushing, resumed talking smack and headed back to the couch.

But soon the snow melted, the cell phone started ringing and going out in public seemed unavoidable. I needed to go back to work.

There were PS2 games to buy and we’d discovered Jones soda and a new flavor of Doritos. We needed supplies for the weekend. I had to get back to work. We would need another fix soon.

It takes a little pocket change to chase that PS2 dragon.

Adult Supervision Optional