Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A father's eyes

I used broccoli to define Big Bird in this dish of macaroni and cheese. His beak is a sweet yellow pepper, his tongue is sweet red pepper and his eyes and detail feathers are Swiss cheese. Big Bird's pupils are tiny bits of nori.
There are a lot of things i couldn't imagine myself saying before I had kids.  Not so much in the sense of giving voice to a feeling I never expected to have. Not like "I don't remember my life before you came along and I don't know what I'd do without you." More in terms of words that I didn't- couldn't, really- foresee coming together in a cohesive, topical and appropriate sentence. Like "Please stop swinging the Sword of Wisdom at me."
That one popped out of my mouth a few weeks ago as Primo waved a foam sword in my face and repeated: "The Sword of Wisdom. The Sword ... of Wisdom."
As my children have grown, so has my fondness for, and desire to protect, my eyes. Just days prior to staring down the Sword of Wisdom, I had been down on all fours digging for one cleanser or another under the sink and had turned to acknowledge Primo's "hey dad," to find him standing at my side, swinging his arms in a wide sweep around his body, a fork in each hand, their paths bringing them within inches of my face now that I had turned.
And that's what he wanted to show me. "Hey dad, look at me! Watch me swing these forks around! Wasn't that a cool last thing to ever see?"
Maybe it's been too long since I've read them Oedipus Rex. I'm supposed to end up dead, not blind. You couldn't tell it by my sons, though.
The latest effort was by Secundo as I was buckling him into his car seat recently. He punched me in the eyeball. That may seem like a sentence that came back from Babelfish. I know the phrasing is usually "hit me in the eye" when concerning kids, maybe "punched me in the eye" when there's intent. Well, it's a considered description. I was leaning over him, buckling his harness when he swung his little fist at me and said "punch!" milliseconds before it hit my open- though directed at the task of ensuring his safety- eye. There was a little wet squishy sound and everything. Like dropping a fish onto a cutting board. Not a tuna or anything, maybe a goldfish, but still. I jerked my head back and banged it on the doorframe. If only he could have winged his sippy cup at my groin when I finally reared up outside the car and started trying to blink my vision back... Rule of Three, son! Well, comedy's something you have to work at.
Maybe that's what kept him from laughing. Oh, he had a big smile on his face, to be sure, but he didn't laugh the way he usually does when someone gets hit with something or falls over. Just the smile a guy gets when he realizes he can finally take the old man.
Things were still blurry enough a minute or so after dropping heavily into the driver's seat that I considered going to the hospital.
"Can you tell us what happened?"
"Oh, I walked into the door. Clumsy!"
"We both know there was no door."
"Okay, he hit me. But it was my own fault. We were already late for his nap, but I just kept pushing. I..."
"Mr. Wilken- Kai, this time it was just his endearingly tiny fist, but next time it could be a crayon, or scissors, or..."
"Toy car keys? A handful of gravel? A plastic pterodactyl? I know. He's not my first son."
"Then why do you keep covering for him? We can find someplace safe for you. Somewhere he could never find you or hurt you again."
"I love him, alright? And he... he loves me. Hang on, did you say he'd never be able to find me? Maybe let's talk about that part."
As my eye slowly returned to normal, I thought of my own father. And of his glasses. And I wondered, for the first time, whether he actually had a prescription.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Time for jumpin' overboard

Are you a fireman who wants to know what's in the dish above, but the fire alarm is going off, so you kinda feel guilty reading this, but you know if you went to the fire wondering about what my son had for lunch it would distract you enough that it might interfere with your job, and that could end up being worse than just being late? If so, I'm sorry I didn't respond directly to your emails - there were just too many, and my time's pretty valuable, so I figured I'd just let all of you know at once that TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY! That there is whole wheat penne and homemade meatballs in bottled red sauce topped with mozzarella and baked. Mickey is a couple of said meatballs with provolone and a sliver of tomato skin for the tongue.
Now get out there and do what you still can to help! And guys (not intended to be gender-specific)... thanks.
For reading this.

There's a PSA on the radio right now about never really knowing what moments are going to stick in your kids' heads. The intent from there seems to be to remind dads to do stuff with their kids, but what it reminds me is to not try too hard to "have a moment" with mine.
When Primo was three, he really liked fire trucks. He liked to wave at them, liked to climb on the one at our local children's museum, loved to see them on the way to a fire. So I arranged a tour of our local firehouse. It was easy and I recommend it. Anyway, we got to the station and Primo was borderline petrified. He wouldn't talk to the firemen (who were super-nice,) shook his head and buried his face in my hip when they asked whether he wanted to climb on the fire engine ... didn't even ask about whether they had a dog. When we were done, he ran to the car. Not "where next?" running. "Fight or flight" running. I still don't know what was wrong. Maybe he thought there was going to be a fire. Maybe it was "stranger-danger." Maybe it was overload. Whatever it was, it actually left me feeling a little bad.
Then, a couple months ago, we drove by the fire station and from the backseat he said "Daddy? Thank you for taking me to the fire station. It was really fun." So, put another tick in the "better" column of the "I remember that as being _____ than it was" tally board.
Maybe if I can figure out a way to be sure the firemen who didn't have to respond to an alarm earlier aren't reading I can write about something else I did so Primo could see a fire truck. And an M-1 Abrams tank! Twofer!