Oddities create the strongest relations
September 9, 2016
It was rather peculiar the way it worked out. That I would be sitting in a sidewalk cafe in the Sugarhouse area, in the afternoon with my youngest grandchild — the 12-year-old who is attending West High — but then, Axel is kinda a peculiar kid.
Over dishes of ice cream he shared with me his new adventures being part of a small program where smarty pants 7th and 8th grade students are integrated into the high school environment. Best thing about it? He had so many choices for lunch — little taco stands and pizza offerings and mac and cheese and all of god's perfect foods. Worst thing? The four flights of stairs made getting to some classes with just six minutes between periods really hard. Most unusual? It was the first time he had to change for gym class and put on different clothes.
Axel's sister and older male cousin are engaging chatterboxes and often he just sits back and lets them all talk away. But we sensitive souls know each other without words and I often sense he is tucking things away to be discussed/ devoured later. We had already done our back-to-school shopping. It is a tradition I made up when his now almost 15-year-old sister was entering kindergarten. I take them each to lunch and then let them pick out some special pieces of clothing that are extra — beyond the basic stuff moms and dads have to buy. This year Axel wanted long sleeve, button down shirts and some corduroy slacks, which seemed simple enough. All three kids ended up buying shoes at Van's. This guy also had one extra special request: a suit.
Though they are spiritual, kind people who attend a church on occasion whose ministry is mostly through music, this family doesn't belong to any congregation that requires dressing up. Axel has no outside interests where such an outfit would ever be needed. I asked him why he was so attracted to the dark suit. He said it made him feel and look like a tiny businessman and he'd rather have that suit than anything else. We laughed a lot about him looking just like "a tiny businessman" and yes, I bought him the suit. Because sometimes, I want to be that grandparent.
Over our ice cream I had a chance to ask him if the suit had gone out yet. He looked at me quietly for a moment, maybe wondering if there was a correct response. He said thoughtfully there hadn't been an occasion for it… yet.
So it was then he asked if I knew when the movie was coming out that we were both anticipating, Tim Burton's suspected mastery for the novel, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." And I told him soon — Sept. 30. And I confessed that even though I had bought him all three of the books in the series I had only read the first one. He looked a bit sad and said, "you really should read them all." Which is how we ended up in Barnes & Noble. I had purchased the original books from Dolly's as I do 95 percent of all my reading material. I bought a copy for each of the grandkids and one for myself.
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The series is perfect young adult material, creepy and a little otherworldly with disjointed parents and the death of a beloved grandfather under mysterious circumstances. And a trip to a foggy strange island overseas. It has picked up a following of odd, quirky readers. When we walked into the store there was a display right in our path with a new book, a companion book to the series that explained some of the "tales." There are many and the characters include invisible twins and a girl who must tie herself to things so she doesn't levitate all the time and another who can shoot fire out of the palms of her hands. They dress funny to this generation of readers — rather Victorian to those of us who are older. And there are strange black-and-white, scalloped-edged photographs that are clues scattered throughout the book.
I grabbed us two of the new book (the other kids didn't finish the first book — it wasn't to their way of liking). Then we journeyed upstairs to find me the missing two books I needed to read. And what should be there with those books but small green envelopes labeled with a "limited edition collector's item" of The Lost Photos of the Peculiars. We needed those. And then back downstairs to check out, we spied an oversized, beautiful new book that is all about the making of the Tim Burton supernatural movie. I know a longing look when I see one.
I said, "this book looks pretty interesting about how they actually made the movie — made those special effects happen." His eyes got large as I put it in his hands to examine. He turned the pages slowly. Then he looked up and said those words he thought might cinch the sale: "Look Oma it's 20 percent off!" — as all new books are there, but why spoil that? I agreed it was a good time to buy it for him.
When I dropped him off back with his peculiar father who is a physics doctor/researcher guy at the U, there was a quick look through the bag until he produced The Book. Axel and his Dad were pouring over the pages describing the making of the movie by the peculiar Tim Burton and the magic he used to bring those unusual characters to life. I quietly made my exit as they started pointing out cool stuff in photos to each other. I remember the child's father as a child and I wonder if I ever understood him then. I'm grateful I get a second chance to embrace and celebrate his peculiar nature through his kindhearted son.
But to be ready for the film release I have serious reading to do. I will read days and nights when I can steal time — starting this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.