Pre-nup

Ella is into marriage these days.

First she was going to marry me. Then she was going to marry her mom. Now she’s going to marry each of us; it’s not clear if this will happen concurrently or separately over time.

Last night Ella said, “I’m going to marry you, mom. Then I’m going to marry my dad.”

I said, “your mom and I are already married, so if you and I get married, what does that make your mom?”

“It makes her the grandma.”

ouch

A few days ago Ella said, “Mom, will you marry me? Dad, would you please turn on my cartoons?”

I asked Ella what it means to be married. I did not understand her reply. Something about having someone to do all the work around the house. … No, it was a quote from Trish: “This house would fall down around us if you had to take care of it.”

Another time Ella said, “I have nine babies in my belly.”

I suggested she and her mother marry … fast!

To the Wild!

Ella loves Madagascar, the movie. People told me that kids will watch the same movie five times a day, every day, for a month. I didn’t believe it. I was reared in the pre-home video days. We watched whatever Disney decided to show us on Sunday nights and we liked it.

Ella has her own mini DVD player, which hasn’t always been helpful (see Road chunks). This sounds really bad, but sometimes she’ll lie on the sofa and watch a movie on her player while I lie on the floor watching a game on TV. It’s mutual inattention. At least we’re in the same room.

There’s a scene in Madagascar where Marty has freshened up his “act” for the people. He takes a big drink and spits it all over several mothers standing by the fence, and the ladies’ kids crack up.

Ella does that. We were walking down the sidewalk at an outlet mall, Ella took a big drink of water and spewed it all out in front of God and everybody. “What are you doing?!” I was incredulous. “Being fresh! Like Marty!”

I wish I could get away with that.

Would I …

Yes, yes. That was me on CNN on Tuesday morning, and again Thursday afternoon, and probably a few other times the story recycled.

I’m walking out of the CNN Time Life building in New York and a young associate producer and cameraman stopped me on the street. Could they ask me a few questions?

About male contraception.

I haven’t seen the video but I’ve read the transcript (which I can’t find now). I’m told I didn’t have any bears up my cave. Whew. I tried to represent men as best  as I could. Would I use male contraception? Sure. It’s only fair. Men are willing to share the responsibility. My wife would appreciate it.

The guy after me had a much better soundbite: Yeah, I’d take it. Unless it’s a suppository, then I wouldn’t take it.

Hi. Remember me?

In the words of Brother Lyle:

Hello

I’m the guy who sits next to you and reads the newspaper over your shoulder.

Wait. Don’t turn the page.

I’m not finished yet. 

Life is so uncertain.

Here I am.

Yes, it’s me.

Take my hand

And you’ll see. 

Hmmmm. A lot’s happened since my last post.  I’ll make a quick reference to two posts ago, just because I think I need a little closure.

The murder of a very popular, very high-profile college student, someone who had already begun leaving a very impressive, positive mark on the world, was a national story that lasted for days. It’s a story worthy of a book, because it’s woven from numerous threads of irony. The alleged murders were two young men who slipped through the criminal justice system and should have been in jail, but were free due to technicalities and gross negligence. They were black, living in a mostly black part of a Southern city that seems to periodically go through very rough racial problems. They murdered a white girl in a prosperous part of a neighboring city, a city that calls itself a Southern piece of heaven. They were high school dropouts, she was president of the university’s student body and a Phi Beta Kappa. They were probably financially challenged, she was from a financially secure family. The city where she was murdered prides itself on tolerance and diversity, yet it’s hardly racially diverse. The young woman lived a life of purpose, of service to others, but the crime itself seems to have been totally random and self-serving — I doubt even the man who pulled the trigger felt satisfied; two months earlier he killed another student, on another nearby campus.

I went to the “celebration” of this woman’s life. It was held in the university’s most revered location, the basketball arena. Honestly, I thought the university was overblowing the response. It seemed a bit unseemly, self-promoting. It garnered more national news coverage.

But sitting in that stadium, with more than 8,000 students, faculty and people from the community, the sadness, fear and love were almost palpable. Thousands of people turned out to honor this one student. She had touched that many lives, and more.

I asked a few students and faculty members afterward: was the response appropriate?

Absolutely. People needed to grieve their loss, the world’s loss of this hard-working young woman, and they needed to come together to put their fears out in the open, to realize they were not alone.

On the day the identity of the murder victim was made public, the chancellor, a very sincere, caring man, said the university needed a giant group hug.

It sounded trite, sappy.

But he was right. And that’s what happened in that celebration.

Brother Lyle, take us out, please:

I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain’t seen
Since the last time
Somebody died

Everybody talking
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain’t said
Since the last time
Somebody died

Toilet humility

I took off from work last Thursday and Friday, and today, while Trish worked and our babysitter started her pre-summer tan on spring break. So I’ve had to think of things to do. Today we went to the zoo, where the polar bear was putting on a show. I swear he looked up at us several times. I could practically hear him … “Hey! Did you see that? Pretty cool, huh? Want to see it again! Come on, just watch a little longer.”

On Thursday, we, uh, well, I don’t know what we did. I’m sure it was fun.

On Friday we went to a kids’ museum, which has a lot of interactive stuff to play with. I don’t know why these places are called museums. I supposed they’re supposed to be educational, but they’re more like giant vectors for germs.

So we’re in the museum a few minutes and I Ella has to go to the bathroom. I’ve gotten over any embarrassment about taking my daughter into the men’s room. I have a distinct memory of a being in the Astrodome men’s room during an Astros game, when I was probably 6, and a man walking in with a little boy and a little girl, and being very self conscious. But, 33 years later, I’m glad to say I’ve outgrown that.

Until Friday.

There were several school groups at this place, leaving slimy handprints everywhere. And there were several dads chaperoning the kids. They all seemed to come and go from the bathroom in waves every 30 seconds.

So I’m in the handicap stall (go ahead, shame me), which is very roomy, and Ella does her business like a champ.

Then it’s my turn. Ella, who usually stands behind me, wanders to the side of me. I asked her to get back, in case there was any stray spraying — but really because it’s just a little bothering. But she persists. And finally she points at — me — and says, “Look, Dad! Look at that! Look at your LITTLE LAB!A! Look at it!”

Yeah.

My first thought, as a man, was to think, “‘Little’? what do you mean, ‘little’?”

Almost instantly I realized that this shouldn’t be my most pressing concern.

“Yeah, OK. That’s not what it is, but, OK, you can move now. Move. MOVE!”

I understand she doesn’t really grasp the differences between men and women. She knows I stand to pee, but she’s puzzled by urinals. She’s seen “me” before, in and out of the shower, although I’m really trying to limit that big-time now.

When I told Trish about it later that night, she, ever the nurse, asked, after a fit of laughter, if I told her it was my p*nis.

Yeah. No! I had quickly decided that a crowded men’s room was not the place for an anatomy lesson. I could imagine my correcting her, and her quickly picking up on the word, and loudly proclaiming this new vocabulary treasure, the rest of the day, to nobody in particular, in the way that we praise her for peeing in the toilet or eating her vegetables or telling her she’s a great kid.

“Dad? That’s your p*nis? That’s a very nice p*nis, Dad! I’m very proud of you for using your p*enis. Way to go, Dad! My dad knows how to use his p*nis very well.”

I work at the University of N*rth Carlina at Chapel Hill.

If I had gone to work today I’d still be there now, hashing out methods for working with the news media on the story about the tremendous young woman, a student, and was killed yesterday.

Instead, I stayed home. Our babysitter, who’s also a UNC student, started spring break early. Trish was asked to work, so I cashed in a vacation day to spend time with Ella. I’m so glad I did. We slept late, then played with the vacuum cleaner, goofed off for a while. Ella painted the toenails of one foot blue, then wiped it all off and painted them white. I yelled at her when the toenail polish bottle tipped over onto the bathroom’s tile floor. We went to a big playground for a while, met a friend for lunch and took a nice long nap.

But every day thousands of parents wake up to the last day of their child’s life.

Of course I can’t begin to know what that feels like. I don’t want to. I knew a family once who did, and it was awful.

I told my friend at lunch that becoming a dad has been the most amazing experience in my life. I never imagined — couldn’t have imagined — how wonderful it is. I remember Trish, before I was convinced that producing offspring was a good idea, trying to put into perspective what a child means. I only knew about dogs. “If you think those dogs love you, wait until you hear your own child say she loves you.”

She was right. Hearing Ella, a little person who has, most of the time, complete trust in me, says she loves me, it’s indescribable. What did I do to deserve such loyal affection?

But the love I have for her, it’s more than satisfying, more than fulfilling. I told someone the other day that often when I’m about to laugh or marvel or just enjoy something Ella does, I have a physical feeling that I’ve never felt before. It’s like getting a sudden jolt of the chills mixed with butterflies. It happens just above my gut, and it swells into my throat. I’m glad I’m fortunate enough to recognize that feeling.

Of course, the student who was killed was and adult of 22. But she was still someone’s child.

Trish and  Iwonder, how will we ever be able to let Ella go off to camp, or to a friend’s house for a sleepover, much less leave our home and go away to start her own life somewhere. How will we resist the urge to keep her close, protect her? We will, of course.  We’re not the typoe to be helicopter parents. Probably. Maybe.

AWOL

I’ve done it again.

I’ve neglected my blog. But, I’ve spent more time with Ella and Trish.

I’m also a hypocrite. We went to the circus and spent$90 on tickets and $24 on a bag of cotton candy and a snow cone in a plastic cup that looks like an elephant.

Ella was kind enough to share her cold with me. It knocked me out for several days. I had to miss work [ awwww : ( ]

I’ll write more soon. I promise.

Three ring racket

The circus is coming to town. Are we supposed to like the circus these days?

I can’t keep up with what’s politically correct, or considered humane.

I know what’s NOT humane. Clowns.

I remember the  first clown I ever met. My grandparents took me backstage at a Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus in Houston, in about 1972 or 1973. This clown was a big mutha. He towered over my grandfather. Musta been 6-2, 6-3. He was wearing the big red shoes and the goofy fro. The grandparents thought I would like to what goes on behind the curtain, I suppose, but I took a death grip onto my grandfather’s leg and didn’t let go.  The clown was a freak. And he was trying to coerce me. Maybe he just wanted to give me a balloon. But why was he wearing makeup? I remember thinking about that — why would someone want to disguise himself so thoroughly? What was he hiding? And why were they slap-happy all the time? Why were they soooo intent on making me laugh?

Then there was that episode of Fantasy Island. Remember? A little girl had a toy clown that became real and did horrible things. The show added special effects to make it scarier.  The clown was a homicidal maniacs who preyed on little kids. It’s as if clowns are their own species, something twisted and foreign. Like the Jacksons.

Anyway. Clowns are weird. Except rodeo clowns. Those guys kick ass.

Back to the circus … are they to be boycotted because of the way they treat animals? And midgets? Or do they provide a comfortable, secure life for tigers and lions and elephants? Do they give them fulfilling work and engage them in play? Or do they confine them and humiliate them with whips and chains.

Are the people who rage against the circus the same people who rage against zoos? Because I can’t get on board that protest train. Some zoos, sure, they’re horrible. The National Zoo isn’t very nice. But a lot of places now are protecting endangered animals and they’re living on acres and acres of habitat.

Ah. I did a little research. I’m totally opposed to the circus.

Do you know how much it costs? For three tickets in decent seats, plus the ticket handling fee (but if it’s paperless, who’s handling what?) and parking: $100.

That’s not peanuts … they’re probably another $10.

My day will come

I have this thing that I do. I think it’s fun. Trish at least acts amused. Most of the time. In fact, if I suspend doing it for more than a few days she thinks something terrible is wrong with me.

But it’s one of those things that’s going to come back to bite me. Like cursing. In fact, it’s very much like cursing.

Sensitivity alert: If you were offended by “Superbad” you might want to stop reading, because this thing I do is highly sophomoric. Very juvenile. However, unlike the Superbad characters, I have no illusions that it makes me cool.

All right. Here it is. I constantly turn everyday phrases spoken in our house into sexual innuendo. Or downright sexual requests. Or verbal illustrations.

For instance, we were watching the National Geographic Channel last night. There was a story about some kind of big ship that acts like a natural gas pumping station (if they’d called it that I would have had a field day!) and the voice-over dude was describing a big cable. And I said to Trish, “do you want to reel in my cable?”

Trish will tell Ella to get off the counter or the sofa or whatever, and I’ll say to Trish, “I wish you’d tell me to get off.”

Cooking provides a goldmine. “Is it hot enough?” “Oooooh, yeah. It’s hot enough for me. Is it hot enough for you?” “Would you stir this?” “I’ll give you something to stir with.” Even something as simple as, “I’m going to cook dinner,” prompts, “I’d like to cook your dinner.” Some comments, say, inquiring about whether or not I’m ready for a meal, result in a pause and a sly smirk, which has the same affect.

The garage is a pretty rich environment, too.

I’m not misogynistic. Really. I don’t objectify women. While I like Hemingway I can see the flaws in his characters and plots.

Some of the time it’s just a lot of hot air. A silly way to bide the time.

But I really do like my wife. And I enjoy our … recreational time together. It’s not just the recreation, either. It’s her. These aren’t just generic sexual pheromones going off like fireworks. These are woman-specific chemicals.

Remember how Mrs. Cunningham would tell Howard that she was feeling frisky and then run upstairs? It’s kind of like that. Happy Days meets Porky’s.

But Trish says that one day Ella will open her mouth and announce to the neighbors that “my dad says he likes to butter my mom’s bread!” Or in the middle of the grocery she’ll yell, “My dad says he loves to take my mom downtown!”

I figure I have a window of time when I’ll have to curtail the solicitous flirting. Ella is starting to come of her shell, starting to talk to people more. Pretty soon she’ll start repeating things without knowing what they mean. Thus begins the dead zone. But before long, say when she’s 13 or 14, she will know what I’m talking about and she’ll probably think it’s so gross that she would never repeat it.

And when that day comes, I’m in the clear!