"Who is this?" asks the boy, who always wants to know the name and artist of every song.
"It's..." I pause. "Huh."
I can't remember.
I know every lyric. I know how to play it on the guitar. My college band played it, and being the drummer, I was the one to kick it off, and set the tempo way too damn fast. (Also, I forgot that we changed the setlist and was supposed to be starting an entirely different song. Whoops.) I've been listening to Natalie Imbruglia's new cover of it for days on end now. If I could draw, I could probably storyboard the video, even without having seen it in years. (Or at least that was the case before I wrote this post.) I was outraged when it was used in a fast food commercial. I loved it when it was used in Valley Girl.
I know this song.
But I cannot think of the name of the artist.
The hit was so pervasive that it's not like this is some arcane bit of music trivia, like who was the first major rock artist to use Paiste cymbals or something. I can picture where the artist's catalog was located in the record store I worked at in high school. The band was the very definition of "one hit wonder." I'm working my way there...but no. I can't quite do it.
I'm crushed. How can this be happening? And it's not a temporary glitch: the song's nearly over and I still can't came up with the artists' name.
I can't believe this. This is the most
"Modern English!" I yell.
I breathe a sigh of relief. And then I simply sigh.
"This is it," I tell the Rose. "I have passed my peak. This is like peak oil, only it's me. We have hit peak Scott. This is the exact moment at which I have started my long inevitable decline. It's all downhill from here."
The Rose pats my knee. "Remember, Daddy," she says. "Once you've crested the mountain and start going down the other side? Well, a mountain looks beautiful from the other side of the peak, too."
"Hey! Why's the carseat over on this side now?" asks The Brawn as he gets into the car. Almost all his trips are taken in the minivan, and apparently, at some point, in this vehicle his carseat got moved from the passenger side to behind the driver's seat.
"I dunno," I say. "The carseat goblins must've come in the middle of the night and moved it."
He pauses, mid-buckle. "Are there really carseat goblins?"
"No," I say, and take over buckling for him.
He stares into my eyes a long moment and then, very slowly, he smiles ever so slightly and nods almost imperceptibly, with what might have been an attempt at a sly wink.
Sorry for the radio silence. What can I say? Other than Comic-Con, a few sniffles and the Rose having abandoned the family, things have been perfect. Which is nice, but doesn't lead to having much to say. (Not that that's often stopped me.)
I'll be back with more when things fall apart again, as they're certain to.
"Did you know the low for today was 54?" the Rose asks in delighted disbelief. Given that it was in the high 90s just a few weeks ago and she blooms when it's cold and overcast and if it's rainy? oh my. This is her way of making it clear it was a good day.
The Golden Weasel looks perplexed. "What a loafer?" she asks. Clearly she didn't know me back in college.
The two boys are watching Dora the Explorer as I'm doing the dishes, the younger one enthusiastically, the older one considerably less so; he's not a huge fan of La Exploradora, for reasons I've never understood, possibly because they're utterly inexplicable.
I hear Dora instruct her faithful viewer to call Map and, instinctively, I yell "map!" as I always do and have ever since our oldest started watching television. We hoped, as did the makers of the programs, that it would encourage the kids to be more actively involved, rather than simply passive viewers. It never worked, no matter how many times or how loudly I tried.
(The show did, however, lead to one of our family's favorite sayings, thanks to a then-young daughter who couldn't pronounce the villainous Swiper's name correctly: "Fiper no fiping!")
Except I'm dimly aware I can hear The Brawn join me in yelling "map! Map!" from the other room as I start scrubbing the pasta pot.
A moment later, I realize he's now yelling, "Dad! Dad!"
I turn off the water. "What is it, buddy?"
"It worked," he politely informs me. "We got Map to come."
The 16-year-old, attempting to prove to the Golden Weasel that as her older sister she does, in fact, know all there is to know, confidently states the prime interest rate at the close of business (on a Sunday): "C2."
The final exchange rate for the yen against the euro at market close? "Cumulus."
The Golden Weasel looks suitably impressed. The Rose looks at me to see if I'm as proud of her as she deems I should be.
I'm not. I'm twice as proud. Or, as she might put it, "Schrödinger equation."
We've got those word magnets on our fridge. We have at least the basic starter kit and the Shakespeare expansion pack and maybe another. We've had them for nearly as long as we've had kids, or maybe even longer? We go through phases as a family where we'll be more active and then through dormant periods, and even some dark times where the fridge has been free of "besmirch" and "verily" for a few months, until the kids find them and dig them out again. We've gotten some great sentences and phrases over the years and more than a few that made no sense but amused the heck out of the younger contingent.
So I'm opening the fridge today and I knock one onto the floor. The Golden Weasel says, without looking up from the kitchen table where she's been drawing, "what word was that?"
"Um..." I say, bending down and picking it up. "To. Tee Oh."
"Mm," she murmurs, nodding, still not looking up. "That's what I thought. It sounded like that."
There is nothing quite like the feel of one of your kids falling asleep on you. The way they get heavier and heavier, the way their head slowly sinks further and further into a position you just know can't possibly be comfortable, the way their little body—normally stuffed full of so much energy they can't be still for a moment—grows more and more still, all tension leaving, until finally all that's left are those one or two full body muscle twitches that tell you your mission has been almost fully accomplished.
A few days ago I read something about how every person on earth, at some point, their parents put 'em down and never picked 'em up again. It happens to all of us—at some point, we simply get too big to be picked up by our parents. But rarely if ever does either parent or child know it—no one goes, "right, that's the last time I'll be picking up little Bobby then." The kid doesn't think, "well, that was a good long run; I guess I'm walking to bed from here on out for the rest of my life." It just...happens.
(Naturally, the moment I read that, I went and picked up every one of my children living at home, even the almost 17-year-old, who went along with it patiently, but who looked at me as though I'd lost my mind. Which means: yeah, you, up there—I know you're reading this, Max, and you know what's happening the next time you come home.)
Top Management and I went and met one of her best friends from college and his husband for drinks last night, and I mentioned this little revelation, and it hit both of them as hard as it had hit us. Unfortunately, shortly therefore, I found out that the husband had lost both his parents a few years earlier, making it that much more poignant. I mean, it's not likely my dad's going to pick me up any time soon, even if he weren't 3000 miles away...but, you know, at least in theory it's possible.
So tonight I had some work I hadn't finished and I was tempted to get it done after the boys were in bed and before Top Management finished her evening shift. But instead I put on a Springsteen concert DVD and turned off the lights and had The Golden Weasel cuddle up on top of me on the couch while she's still (just barely) small enough to fit. And as I felt her going, I thought, that last time may be approaching...but, at least for now, it's not here quite yet.
The Golden Weasel, uncharacteristically, grows weary of drawing and drifts over to the couch. She picks up a book and begins reading—and, characteristically, it's aloud. Which is fine, delightful, even; I'm going to be very sad when I one day realize she doesn't do that anymore.
I'm only dimly aware of her voice chirping away in the background, as I'm working on Important Things, and as I'm characteristically much closer to the speakers currently pumping out music at an uncharacteristically reasonable volume.
Max, uncharacteristically home from college but characteristically on her computer, IMs me from nine feet away.
what're we listening to? bc i'm really enjoying the contrast we've got going here between the music and the story we're being read.
I pause and listen.
This is what we're being read:
And this is what we're listening to:
Talk about worlds colliding or, perhaps, two great tastes that taste great together.
I turn and see a commercial for a furniture store. We have a family policy about fast-forwarding through commercials, since about 95% of what we watch is from the DVR, but this is one of those rare live shows.
"If you go to that store," says the six-year-old in wonder, "you get a dollar."
"Yeah. You could go to that store every day and get a dollar every day."
"Buttons can't talk," says the six-year-old with affectionate exasperation.
I look up at the television. Apparently there's either a talking button I missed, or someone is under the mistaken impression that buttons can converse? Something like that and, either way, it's obviously absurd.
Never mind that on screen at that exact moment, a cow and a chicken are learning to square dance. That's just fine. But talking buttons? A bridge too far.
Our freezer's malfunctioning a bit again. It won't stop making ice cubes, even though the bin into which the cubes fall is completely full, so when you open the freezer door, dozens of excess cubes spill out if you're carefully monitoring the inventory. It keeps doing this even though I've actually turned the setting to off. Some things just don't take "no" for an answer.
So I open the door this morning and see that it's now malfunctioning in another, at least more aesthetically pleasing, way. I reach up and snap off the result of the malfunction and hand it to the six-year-old, who happens to be standing right next to me, thinking he might like it.
The Brawn looks at the thing in his hand, puzzled. Then he picks it up and turns it this way and that, delighted by its shape and texture.
"Look!" he yells. "It's like a straight cold candy cane made out of water!"
Yes, buddy, it is. To those of us who didn't grow up in SoCal, we call such bizarre, foreign marvels "icicles."
The door to the boys' bedroom is closed, which is unusual for late evening. I knock gently.
"Come in," politely calls a distinctly unhappy voice.
I poke my head in, and see The Brawn lying sideways on his bed, an arm sticking up straight in the air, an extremely disgruntled expression on his dirty face.
"What's wrong, buddy?" I ask. "Everything okay?"
He sits up and frowns. He grumbles something I don't quite catch.
"You can't what?"
"I can't snap."
"Oh," I say, relieved that for only the third time in my fathering career, here's something I can maybe help with.
I have him show me his technique, and I correct it. Soon he's...well, not snapping, since there's no sound accompanying his movements, but his form is very nearly correct. All that's now required is some patience and some practice, two things for which six year old boys are widely renowned.
Then I have an idea. You can find out how to do anything online. I google "how to snap" and bingo. The ftop hit lays out the exact steps—all of which merely confirmed I'd advised him correctly—and the fourth or fifth hit is a video that looks like just the thing.
We click through. The Brawn mimics the motions, looking down at himself to make sure he's doing it right. So he misses when the video really takes off.
He looks up for the final few seconds. "Wait," he says. "What was that?"
I play it again. He watches silently. When it's over he just keeps staring at the screen, then turns towards me. He doesn't say anything.
"It was a joke," I explain.
"Oh," he says. He thinks. "Can we watch it again?"
We do. This time he smiles. When it's over, he laughs. Then again, harder.
My children are, as everyone who's ever met them will whole-heartedly attest, often (but not always) to the chagrin of their own offspring, the best ones ever born. But they're not blessed with what you would call an overabundance of The Funk.
Until now. In the past few months, it's suddenly become very obvious that I finally have a child who seems to have been born with an innate sense of rhythm.
(Indeed, whilst writing this, I played a tiny bit of the linked video, and he immediately began bobbing in time. When I closed it, he looked shocked and hurt. When I opened it again, he said, "keep this on.")
Naturally, Top Management is delighted by this turn of events, barely able to stop grinning whenever The Beast starts up his banging on stuff.
I, on the other hand, feel like I'm in a film from the 1930s: those drums...those blasted drums. Won't they ever stop?
I am given to understand I was the same way as a child. Top Management informs me that I still am—the same way, that is, not a child...I think—but I find that hard to believe.
Either way, I cannot imagine how the hell my parents and sibling put up with it. (My good lady wife and offspring are a bit easier to understand: they pretty much have no choice, as I am too large for them to move.)
And now I can sadly add "No bongos before 7 a.m." to the list of sentences I never thought I'd have to say.
I look up in surprise at the five-year-old calmly getting undressed.
"...what did you say?"
He looks me dead in the eye. "Shit."
"That's what you almost said. You almost said 'shit'."
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did."
I cast my mind back furiously, feeling unjustly accused while entirely aware of just how regrettably possible his version of events is. And yet...I really don't think I even came close to having any reason...
"When you told me get ready for bed," he clarifies. "You almost said 'shit'."
"I did?" Again, for the record, I really don't think I did.
"Yeah. When you told me to put my pajama pants on, you almost said 'shit'."