“When is liontamer going to wake up?”

The sentence floats up the stairs and into my room, nudging me awake. I fight it off and pull the covers over my head, but within a few minutes the room is full of copies of this question and I realize that I have no choice. I have no option but to go downstairs and answer:


Things, however, are very strange in the house that I call home. My parents are in their sixties and I had assumed that during my time in Asia, the two years that I had’t been home, that they had been happily planning their retirement. To my surprise, I come face to face with the truth. My mother has decided to become a helicopter pilot and my father is apparently planning to lead the life of a pirate.

I rub my eyes, thinking this is just part of my usual early morning confusion and walk into the kitchen for a much needed cup of coffee.

You can’t go in there!

The same voice that launched the earlier questions yells out.

“That’s the landing pad for the helicopter.”

I turn around, and sure enough, my mother is nodding her head in agreement. My father is brandishing a sword behind her, standing on top of what used to be the couch. The old sofa has magically transformed into a pirate ship and my father seems to be in charge. One of my juggling balls lands at my feet. Wait a minute, it’s not a juggling ball! It’s a canon ball. I am under attack!

I quickly hide under the living room table, or what was the table and is now a tank, and try to sort out just what has happened to my family. They were normal last night. After about five minutes, things seem to quiet down and as I am about to crawl out, I hear the voice one again. It says:

“[liontamer], you have to make some swords,” it says to me.

Yes, of course. I am sword smith, after all. As I am fashioning the swords in the oven, I hear the ferocious growling of large cat. I see a cheetah descend the stairs and I assume it must have once been our pet cat since it nuzzles me before continuing to the basement.

I finish the swords and present them to he who rules the universe, he who owns the voice. It seems the swords are much needed because an army has been spotted approaching the house and we must prepare ourselves for battle. I am very glad that my father is on our side since he is a mean looking pirate with my scarf wrapped around his head in place of an eye patch. The four of us, mom, dad, myself and the Master prepare to fight.

We do not fair so well, my mom is horribly wounded and my father’s leg is cut off. The Master and I get them upstairs to safety, but we find that my room is full of monkeys. We go to another bedroom and I see on our way past the bathroom that the tub is full of baby dinosaurs. I am no longer phased by anything.

As I am about to call 911, I glance out the window. What I see floors me. It’s a spaceship pulling up. I don’t know what to do now. Not only do I have casualties, but now we are all facing abduction. At the same moment, the volcano in the corner explodes and spews lava all over the floor.

We run downstairs. Mom and Dad have miraculously recovered. I don’t ask because at that moment the doorbell rings. I didn’t think aliens were so polite, but nothing surprises me any more.

Except this. Instead of little green men, the Master opens the door to my sister. My sister is an alien. I’d always suspected as much, but my parents had never believed me.

“Hi, Mama. You missed it we fought a battle and Dziadek lost his leg and Auntie [liontamer] made me a sword…” our leader is saying quickly.

He continues in half formed sentences, relating the events of the morning, in fine detail. My sister only nods her head, her eyes wide with feigned amazement. She clearly does not understand the trails we have endured.

“Time to go home,” my sister takes her son by the hand.

My parents are no longer pirates or pilots and the house is restored to its original self. My nephew turns and waves at me and walks out the door. As the door closes, the house grows silent and the cat, back to being a cat, follows me upstairs. I lay down to have a much needed nap.

That’s when I find the wand under my pillow.

For my nephew Calvin Jack

Take for instance, an old run of the mill, ordinary everyday shoebox, a belly full of beer and the lure of the basement.

Some of friends might make the claim that at times, I’m full of shit. That given enough alcohol, time and a willing ear to bend, I can weave a story about almost anything that comes to mind. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not but I’ll try and take it in the spirit that it was intended. After all, I can pretty much say the same about most of them on any given night when the beer and shots are flowing freely. In part, I think that’s what keeps us coming back to each other.

And so it was when I got home the other evening that I went looking for buried treasure. No, not in the backyard or out on the many beaches that dot the coast line of Ohio. Sometimes the treasure one seeks isn’t hidden at all. It’s right there underneath your nose just waiting to be found. In my case, all it involved was yet another trip down to the basement.

There, scattered amongst the dampness and the long forgotten suitcases and other assorted relics are a couple of rows of shoeboxes. While the shoes themselves have either long gone out of fashion or been discarded because their soles have worn thin, there’s no denying they still hold on to another type of soul.

Maybe they contain old newspaper clippings from days gone or an old report card or two. If you’re old enough, there might be a set of dads cufflinks, a tie clip or a billfold that you kept as a keepsake for some reason or another. Maybe it’s the index cards that your mom used to transcribe her Betty Crocker recipes on. If you’re a parent, maybe they contain a lock or two of hair and either some baby shoes or baby teeth that you felt the need to hold onto.

In my particular instance, most of them hold old photographs.

All of these were taken long before the days of jpegs, digital cameras and cell phones that take pictures. Most of them are old Polaroids that seem to be on the brink of crumbling or falling apart when you lift them out to look at them. Truth be told, I find that rather comforting.

I’m sure that many of you are now scratching your heads and are wondering what preposterous reasons could be floating around in that thing I call a brain. After all, images are much easier to organize, don’t take up as much room, are hard to lose, can be edited at almost anytime, can be forwarded to just abut anywhere under the sun and will seemingly last forever. Don’t get me wrong, that all goes in the plus column when it comes to the debate over images versus a picture but then there’s also the minus column.

See, to me, images don’t have another side to them. Oh sure, they can be captioned with text but that’s just what it is, plain text. You can’t hold them in your hand and turn them over in order to try and decipher some faded handwriting or to wonder about under just what circumstances it was taken. They seem to hold a certain air of mystery to them and you have to play detective to figure out just what was so important at the moment that it warranted a snapshot. I mean, just look at some of the people in the photo and the poses they struck.

Most of the pictures that I have are what’s probably known as staged shots. There hidden amongst what seem like forced smiles and stilted postures are the little buried treasures that I was referring to earlier. It takes some time and some imagination to look at those expressions and to try and figure out what the back story might be. They don’t vanish with the click of the mouse or by the hitting of the delete button but are meant to be pored over and wrestled with until they take on some meaning.

Somehow, long after I’m gone, I think I’m gonna find it reassuring to know that my kid can still pick up a picture of me and hold it to her cheek and maybe shed a tear or two or let a smile cross her face when she thinks about the times that we’ve had. When it comes to things like that, something’s aren’t meant to be edited or thrown out.

For all their convenience and their own brand of magic, I just don’t see that happening with an image on a screen.

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