My pockets are dusty. How does dust get into the pocket of one’s jeans, you are surely asking yourself right now. Jeans pockets are practically sealed off! And why is dust trying to get in there in the first place? You’d think dust would be struggling to get out of my pocket!
Then I realized this may be unique to me. I also realized the dust was mostly in my left pocket.
Which turned out to be a clue.
As it turns out, the difference between my left pocket and my right pocket is this:
In my left pocket, I carry two tissues. No more, no less. And the reason I carry two tissues is because of what happened in seventh grade.
I was on a field trip, taking one of those big yellow buses. We were going to the Morse Home. Every kid has the historical field trip where they had to go that they kind of dreaded – for me, that place was the Morse Home. Where Samuel Morse invented Morse Code, I think. No offense to the Morse Home and all the Samuel Morse enthusiasts out there, I’m sure I’d love it now, what with the gardens and all. As a kid, though, I’m not looking for ancestral houses. I’m looking for Moon Bounces. Are we going to a Moon Bounce? It’s a yes or no question. Now kids got iPads or whatever, I don’t know.
Anyway, I’m on that school bus, on the way to the Morse Home, and I get a runny nose.
From the deep recesses of my face holes I could feel the flood coming, like those scenes in action movies when they’re in the tunnel and they’re like “Don’t worry, this tunnel hasn’t been active in years” but then hear the rumbling water and they’re like “Ruuuuun!”
But this wasn’t exciting like those movies. This was awful. Because I had no sleeve to wipe my nose on (which was option 1) and, worse, I had no tissues.
Lemme refresh your memory: When you’re a boy in seventh grade? You don’t go around asking for tissues. You may as well ask your friends for a sequined penguin costume. Except asking for the penguin costume would be cooler than asking for tissues. And cool is a fragile, fragile state in middle school.
Longest bus ride of my life, people. I’ve never been more focused on sniffing, trying to hold that river in place, desperate not to sully my seatmate, a crime I might never live down. We reached the Morse Home and I cannonballed up the aisle and out the door, looking for a bathroom.
Since then, I never leave the house without two tissues in my left pocket.
From time to time I’ll forget they’re in there and I’ll throw the jeans in the laundry and then I’ll open the dryer and it’s like a Kleenex factory exploded, but otherwise there’s no evidence that I keep two tissues with me everywhere I go.
Now, here’s why I bring all this up:
Three years ago, on Father’s Day, Finn had a present for me. He’d been telling me about this present for weeks. Who plans a Father’s Day present weeks in advance? Well, Finn did. When the day arrived, he shook me awake and gave me this oddly shaped present.
Even when I opened it, I wasn’t sure what it was. That photo at the top of the page? That’s what I was looking at.
Finn blurted out, “It’s Tissue Bird!”
Tissue Bird looked sort of like a bird, or as birdlike as a plastic cup could look, and inside were tissues, held in by Scotch tape.
“Because you always carry tissues! Now you can bring Tissue Bird with you instead!” Finn said, breathless with excitement. “And if you ever run out of tissues, just tell me because I know how to fill it up again. Now you don’t have to carry tissues everywhere because Tissue Bird will carry them for you!”
Now, I wasn’t about to bring Tissue Bird with me everywhere I went.
But I did bring it to my office, as you can see above.
More importantly that the practicality of thing itself, Tissue Bird made me feel known by my son.
Six years old, and he noticed that I carried tissues around, and so he gave me a gift that was specific to me (I can’t imagine there’s a huge market for Tissue Bird out there), and something that told me that he was paying attention to me. I felt known by my son.
That Christmas, I felt known by Lucy when I opened her gift to me: A pair of boxers with chickens on them. She knew I would like them. (Then for the next couple of months she delighted in pointing vaguely and saying “Hey Dad, there’s chicken under there” and I’d look over and ask “There’s chicken under where?” And she would crack up because I had just said chicken underwear.)
And then for my birthday the year before last, Lizzie ordered me a cake with the Mets and Virginia logos on it. And yes, I know that’s the kind of cake you get when you’re 11 years old but it was my most favorite cake ever because I felt known by her. (This is a picture of the cake. I wasn’t allowed to post a picture of my chicken boxers.)
If that feeling of being known means a lot to me, I’m guessing it means a lot to others too. So I’m working at remembering people’s names when I meet them. I’m working on remembering details of what’s happening in my friends’ lives.
It doesn’t have to be all the time and it doesn’t have to feel like a burden. But I need to do that more. I need to Tissue Bird more people. Because if you’re anything like me, then you know that there’s nothing quite like it.
Speaking of remembering names, here are:
The Top Five Incorrect Names People Have Called Me Over the Years:
When I first met the kids in the orphanage in Nepal where I volunteered, I told them my name was Conor. The kids thought my name was “Krondor.” I kept telling them it wasn’t Krondor and they kept insisting. They asked me to repeat it several times and every time I did they would point to me triumphantly and say “See, brother? You are saying Krondor!” (I wasn’t saying Krondor.)
I lived in Brussels and my French-speaking friends always introduced me as Corner. I would point out that my name wasn’t Corner and they would say it was just easier to say because it was an English word. What kind of logic is that? Pothole is an English word. Why not just call me Pothole?
My soccer coach in high school called me Conners. I told him that wasn’t my name, for, like, 4 years. And I was the captain of the team. But he said “Like, Jimmy Conners, the tennis player!” but what does that have to do with anything? That’s his name! And it’s his LAST name! And my name is Conor! And I see you at practice every day!
Everyone called me Conrad when I was a kid because, unlike today, Conor was not a common first name when I was growing up. People would say “Hey, Conrad! How’s it going?” and I would say, “Good, thanks” and wonder again why my parents tortured me with this name.
- “Conor Brennan.”
Nobody in history of enunciation has ever enunciated like I enunciate the G in Grennan. Because the world wants to hear Brennan. Like that’s such a great name? “What’s the last name on the reservation?” the hostess as a restaurant will ask me, looking down at her clipboard. “Gggggggggggggggrennan,” I would reply. Then I spell it, and when I spell the first G I say it like “Gggjjuueeee” so forcefully that it has about four syllables and my lower jaw rumbles like a mechanical bull. Then she’ll run her finger down the names on her clipboard and tell me, sadly, that she doesn’t see a reservation for Brennan.
Anyway. Off to see Tissue Bird.