Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sometimes my children inspire me to write creatively

Sometimes my children inspire me to write creatively and only because there is so much truth in this fiction.

Every day I look forward to 4:00 when I get off work. It is not that I hate my work. Indeed, I enjoy the challenges of engineering. I like the math. I like to find solutions to a wide variety of problems. It is just that I look forward to coming home to my wife and my children. This was one day in particular that I was looking forward to. My daughter and I were in a three day marathon playing monopoly. It looked like after a long struggle I could finally drive her into bankruptcy. She had won the first three games and each time squealed gleefully as I mortgaged all of my properties. This was my turn and I was looking forward to it. I got home, opened the door and was greeted by a finger in the chest."You, this is all your fault!" my wife growled at me. When my wife is mad, she seems to forget things she has told me before. Clearly, my two sons had done something wrong. My wife needed to remind me that while my sons committed the crime, I, committed the original sin. It seems that my sons were playing dump truck with the sugar on new living room carpet. Somehow, the food coloring from my daughter's easy bake oven set got involved. Our blue carpet did not take well to the red dye #3. All of my attempts to clean the carpet only left a sticky crimson mess and moving the couch over it did not pacify my wife. The dump truck and the easy bake oven set were gifts from my sister in law, Mandy. My sister in law brings over different gifts to our children when the mood hits her. She never brings gifts on Christmas, or birthdays, or the fourth of July or Thanksgiving. She only brings them at times when they can do the most damage. First it was the legos that left the entire house mined for anyone who walks around in stockinged feet like I do. Next it was a sewing kit for my daughter, Lisa. You can put it together - a Saturday evening bridge game, a needle, a chair. I was the butt of that joke. Mandy had it in for me starting when Lisa was four. I had Lisa go to her aunt Mandy to tell a secret. When Mandy turned her head so that Lisa could whisper in her ear, Lisa blew in Mandy's ear. My pretense of innocence didn’t work. Mandy told me that I should teach my children better than that and she would see that I do. I wish I never found out what she meant by that. The stain on the carpet reminded me of Mandy's evil grin and that is what prompted me to cover it with the couch. Dinner was not a happy affair. My wife kept giving me the look. She never said anything more about the stain on the carpet, but she never said anything else. She just kept giving me that look that made me fear for my life. It was same look that the sisters of the Immaculate Conception School used to give me when they taught me Geography and English. My wife was taught in the Philadelphia public school system. I don't know where she learned that look. At the end of dinner, Lisa broke the silence and reminded me she had an orchestra recital that started at 7:00 pm. I could have kissed her. She risked her mother's wrath and she saved me! I am college educated and an engineer. I recognize a solution to a problem when I see it. With my three children, Lisa, Sean and David, I ran - straight to the car and off to her recital. Arriving at the school, David’s face was covered with purple ooze. Mandy had given him Fizzies. These are tablets that are added to water to make a carbonated drink. David had been eating them. I kept Kleenexes in the car just for such occasions. David resisted my attempts to clean his face. Neither of us was successful. His face was raw with all the rubbing I did with the Kleenexes. The purple stain on his face defied my most valiant efforts. I t was hopeless. The four of us headed for the school auditorium. Other parents would look at David’s purple face and smile at me. At school, you are not known as Mr. Ed Smith or Mrs. Nora Jones. You are the father of Lisa or the mother of Dennis. When your child breaks his arm, other parents will ask you “How’s the arm?” David’s face made mine purple. I thought of a paper bag in my car, but it would do no good. Putting a bag over his head would reflect on me too. At school, Lisa left us to join the school orchestra on the stage up front. Sean, David and I all moved into the auditorium. The three of us sat down and David let out a belch that rocked the auditorium. There must have been dynamite in that belch because it killed all conversation. The auditorium held more than 1000 people and was more than half full. All I could hear was the throbbing in my veins. The silence was unnerving. I wanted to scream, “I didn’t do it!” even though I knew that I was guilty by progeny and proximity. My only hope was that the reverberation from the walls would keep everyone from determining who actually did it. Act normal. Look straight ahead. Nobody will know. I heard Sean’s stage whisper, “Wow, Dave! That was cool. Can you do that again?”I grabbed Sean’s wrist, straining not to crush it. “Sean, I don’t want you to encourage him.” I whispered into his ear through gritted teeth. Sean only smiled at David, wisely saying nothing more. After an eternity of thirty seconds, the lights dimmed and the audience’s attention went up front to the orchestra. Now that the pressure was off, I thought about the Fizzies. Mandy had gotten me again.The orchestra had not even started playing yet David was restless. He stood up, letting the theater seat flip up. Then he sat on its edge so that it would flip back down with him on it. Satisfied that this would help assuage the boredom, David repeated that action. I reached for David’s wrist and asked him to settle down. That worked for all of 15 seconds. Sean, being the shining example for his younger brother, joined him in the frivolity. The lady behind them was getting annoyed and was giving me the look, the same look that the sisters of the Immaculate Conception School gave me, the same look that my wife gave me, the look that said, “Can’t you control your children?” For any of you ladies reading this, do you teach that look to your daughters? Do you make them practice that look in front of a mirror? Is this one of those secrets men are not supposed to know about? I want to know! There was no hope for it. I took Sean and David out of the auditorium and into the foyer at the auditorium entrance. With their newfound freedom, Sean and David were chasing each other and ululating like men on the warpath. It was not long before I could see that David was not enjoying the chase. Sean was teasing him. When Sean was chasing David by me I grabbed his arm. Sean’s momentum turned me around 180 degrees. I put my hands under Sean’s arms, picked him up, held him six inches from my face and growled. (Sean learned monster language at a very early age.) “Now repeat what I just said,” I whispered returning to English. “Don’t tease David,” he replied and before I could set him down again, Sean was off. The two of them ran back and forth bouncing between the walls with an energy that only children have. They were chasing each other and they were loud, but there was no blood. I could live with that. I held the auditorium door open just enough so that I could peer in and listen to the orchestra. An apparition came out of the darkened auditorium, opened the door and looked at me with the malevolence of hell on her face. Where do women learn this? This woman must have been 6 foot 4 inches tall because she towered over me. And she had the voice, the same one the sisters of the Immaculate Conception School used to call on me each time they knew I did not know the answer, the one that sounded like a circular saw cutting through plywood. “Your children are too loud. I can’t enjoy the orchestra.” I don’t know whether it was the height, the look or the voice, but I was intimidated and I was doomed to further exile, to the outer hall where I could no longer hear the orchestra. There was no help for it. I took Sean and David to the outer hall and waited for the show to finish. Outside in the hallway, the school had a glass trophy case. Sean and David put their hands and face to the glass to peer inside. Sean said, “Dad, can you open this?”It was bad enough that Sean could think of taking the trophies out of the case, but to ask me to participate, that crossed the line. “Sean, do you see the glass? Do you see the lock? That says that the school wants you to look but not touch,” I growled. They could not handle the trophies and that ended their interest. Off they ran. There is something about the hands of young boys. They ooze greasy dirt. Both boys left their paw marks on the case. I went to the men’s room to get paper towels to clean up the mess. While I was wiping the case clean, I felt a cold stare on my back. When I turned around, a diminutive woman stood there with her hands on her hips. “If you kept their hands clean you wouldn’t have to do this.” There was that voice again, the one that makes a tiny woman look six feet tall. She had the look too. I turned around and continued to wipe the glass clean even though I felt like I was turning my back to a firing squad. My hand trembled as I finished the job. When I turned around again, she was gone. When I was in Immaculate Conception School, I was taught that purgatory is a place where we contemplate our sins waiting for heaven. That is how I felt. I was pondering my two sins and the wait was interminable. Sean and David did all of the running and by the time people were exiting the auditorium, I was exhausted. Lisa came out and I was delighted to see her. Her arrival marked the time when I could go back home. Lisa and I walked back to the car while Sean and David raced ahead. I was putting Lisa’s violin in the back when she opened the car door and challenged, “Alright, which one of you two did it? Which one of you burped?”“David did it,” Sean replied tersely.I knew that she heard it. Everybody heard it. But, “You could tell that he did it from up there?” I whimpered.“I couldn’t tell which one did it but I knew one of them did.” She answered.I was appalled. I did not want to be the father of the burp. I drove slowly home contemplating my sins.

In this story, it is true that I took my children to my daughter's orchestra recital. It is also true that my two sons were so rambunctious that I had to take them out to the foyer and then to the outside hall. It is also true that David belched loud enough to stop the conversation in the auditorium. What is astonishing is that my daughter did know that one of the two of them did it. The rest is embellishment.

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