Facial Stubblery

Perhaps it’s because I’ve made a job change recently. Maybe it’s because I craved some other change. Possibly, it’s because I’m an idiot, but I’ve done something that I swore I never would attempt. I’m growing facial hair. A small beard to be specific. Possibly, too small.

The men in my family have never been a terribly hairy lot. Mercifully, most seem to have held on to the growth on the top of their heads but as far as actual hairiness goes, we’re a pretty smooth skinned bunch. In my youth, my Dad did have a mustache when that was the law, apparently, but other than that, all the men I’m related to by blood have been smooth faced. When it comes to lack of facial whiskers in the family though, I am the zenith. I had a fair shot of bucking the trend with the genes supplied to me by my Mom. The French, the English and especially and specifically, the Sicilian gave me an even shot at a lifetime of shaving and you’d think the Sicilian would be the trump card when it came to doling out the facial hair, but Great Grandpa Giovanni’s people didn’t count on one thing. The perfect foil for their Mediterranean fuzziness.

North American Indian.

The American Indian is naturally a pretty scruffless individual, though there certainly are exceptions. A friend of mine who is obviously closer to our mutual deerskin clad family ancestry than I am, sports a full and perfectly reasonable goatee and ‘stash. This is more than I could ever aspire to. When I was a very young man and just entering the fun filled pit of despair that the call puberty, I did not get the choice whether to grow or shave any appearing face fuzzidge. My chin and lip stayed just as smooth as always and remained so for many years.

shaving

When I moved on to college life, I was the butt of much teasing and god natured ribbing about the lack of any shaving equipment in my ditty bag. In fact, it was far more reasonable to follow the practice of my native heritage and simply pluck out the few hairs that dared to show themselves. This way they tended to be gone for longer than if I shaved them and since they were so scarce, lathering up and dragging a razor over my face seemed like a titanic waste of time just to whack off the dozen or so whiskers. As the years went by, the teasing from my dorm mates changed from, “You still don’t shave?” to a more jealous, “You mean you still don’t HAVE to shave?” Apparently, the shine had worn off the morning ritual for them and now it was just one thing they had to do each morning that I got to skip. Most of the guys had noticeable facial hair and needed to attend to it daily, lest they look scruffy. One friend of mine, Kirk, was a facial ape man. More so, when I think of it, since apes really don’t sport much in the way of beards and mustaches. Kirk’s body must have put at least ten percent of its energy into producing hair. By noon, Kirk had a five o’clock shadow. By evening, he looked like a red headed hobo. Kirk had become resigned to this and took the only enjoyment out of it he could and changed his look about twice a week. Monday, he’s be clean, by Wednesday, it would be a handlebar mustache and sideburns. Friday, he would have gone for the full beard and on Sunday, he’d appear with a bright red Captain Ahab.

mustache

I can only imagine how much he spent in razor blades. Unlike Kirk, I graduated school with a smooth and unshaven face and remained that way for a long, long time. He graduated too… just hairier.

As time went by, more and more whiskers seemed to emerge. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t seem to have any sort of a plan as to where they would call home. One side of my chin started to fill in about the time I turned twenty-five. My upper lip needed razor attention too, although the middle bit under my nose remained smooth and hairless. Likewise, the sad little patches on my upper lip have never met the colony on my chin witch to this day only travels down one side of my neck. My chin, at least is covered completely. Well, almost. I had to give up plucking the hairs when the process became too painful and goofy. I had enough to warrant buying a razor now and have been using it daily ever since.

A few months ago, I sold my business and changed my life to one of child watching and house fixing and with this change has come a disruption in my routine. Where I used to get up, bathe, shower, dress and head out the door to work, I now have a much more haphazard morning than I’m used to. The day usually starts with Short Stack hopping into bed with us, followed by a frenzy of breakfast making, clothes getting and walking out little man to pre-school. By the time I’m home again, Lulu Belle is falling asleep on my back and needs to take a nap. I’ll get her down and then dive into some quiet project. The shower gets put off until later. What this has done is given me a closer look at my face with stubble, and you know what? I think I have enough to grow something contiguous!

So, last week, I stopped shaving my chin. The upper lip had to be done, lest I look like a fifteen year old with “My First Mustache™” but the rest is growing in pretty well. Here I am, in the middle of my life and only now do I have enough facial stubblery to have a shot at growing something that could pass for “normal looking.” To be fair, it’s actually pretty early on to call it “normal looking” but hope springs eternal. It’s one of the last rites of passage into the adult, male word. What I have found out is that it’s more time consuming to carefully shave around my little patch of whiskers that it was to quickly zip it off and also I can no longer shave in the shower since a mirror is now needed. I’ll have to see if having a small beard can beat out my inherent laziness. In the mean time, I’ll let it get longer and try to assess if it looks good or like I dribbled food down my chin.

Action Girl says she likes it, but no one else has said anything yet.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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Book ’em, Danno…

There are a lot of inconsistencies in my personality. I’m a tech junkie, and yet tend to cling to ancient and outmoded machines far past their age. There are handy computer applications that I know I’d probably use like crazy that I willingly bypass for no other reason other than pure bloody mindedness. I don’t know why I do this to my self, but I do. Eventually though, I usually cave in.

Facebook is my prime example of the moment. I’ve known about it and it’s teenybopper cousin, Myspace for ages now, but just couldn’t bring my self to get into it any farther than a disparaging glance would bring me. Avoiding Myspace was simple enough. It screamed its gaudy, bubblegum snapping attitude loud and clear and I immediately knew that I had more important things to focus on…. like breathing.

Facebook, on the other hand at lest has the veneer of being something slightly more adult. I say “veneer” because behind its conservative and uncustomisable front page, it’s just as full of yahoos tagging you with silly “25 Things you don’t know about me” chain letters. What surprised me was how many of those yahoos were old friends whom I had lost touch with and was genuinely happy to hear from again.

I finally succumbed to setting up a Facebook account when I was desperately trying to get a message to an individual whose email address I had lost. I knew he was on Facebook and that you could send messages to other users. A few minutes and snarky, glib informational statements for my profile, and I was on. I sent the friend request and accompanying message and I thought that was that. I wasn’t looking for anyone else except my friend Ian… and that was for work purposes only.

Then it began.

The very first “out of the blue” friend request came from a high school ex-girlfriend whom I had gone out with for about a month. THAT one caught me off guard and frankly, spooked the hell out of me. I’ve never been back to my high school, not even for reunions… actually, especially to the reunions, and really didn’t want to start reliving the thrill that was the eleventh grade. I’m a gracious guy though, or at least I try to be, so I accepted the friend request and mercifully, haven’t heard a peep from her since.

College friends are another thing all together. First of all, I really liked my college. It was a small, artsy, Catholic college full of really wonderful people. For the most part, it was an all around great experience. I say it “was” because it isn’t any more. I’m not saying that it’s not a hip happening place. It’s actually gone.

It had been around since nineteen-fifty and when I attended, they were in the throws of trying to expand. New buildings were being bought, new land set aside and new majors added. Even as art and education majors, I remember the talk on campus being about how confused we all were as to why they were trying to change their focus. The had been well known as a teaching and liberal arts school and for some reason, they had decided to try and spin a gigantic cocoon and emerge as a sport medicine and pre-pharm institution. As things turned out, the board of directors should have listened to the commercial art majors and stuck with what they knew and were known for. About five or six years after I graduated, the school was closed and the parts sold off. Strange to think that my old dorm is now someone’s permanent home. I hope they could successfully paint over the glow in the dark stars I put all over the ceiling.

Over the years since we left on our individual journeys, a few of us have managed to stay in touch. We were just on the edge of the technology revolution back then but just a tad too early for email. To my knowledge, I was the only one in the entire dorm with a computer and I used to have to snake a fifty foot phone line down the hall to a foolishly unsecured phone jack just to hack my way online via telnet. There was no “web” at this point with its pretty pictures and blogs, but if you knew where to look, there was fun to be had.

Not always one-hundred percent legal fun, but fun nonetheless.

So fast forward a fist full of years and you get me sitting in my living room with an amazed look on my face as I see names appear on my screen that I haven’t read in a long, long time. My old roommates pop up like gophers out of unseen holes. People whom I whittled away the small hours with as we solved the world’s problems drop by to say “Hey! How have you been?” Some folk who seem enthusiastic to find me… I do not recall in any way, shape or form. That’s a tad uncomfortable… but I bluff my way along and ask about their families and what they’ve been up to.

facebook

For the next couple of weeks I was sucked in entirely. The Facebook monster had eaten me whole as old faces and names appeared from my past. It was like discovering that a party had been going on in a building you had walked past every day for years and you just happen to know everyone there.

Well, almost everyone. Their families are fine, by the way.

Things have calmed down a bit now since I first joined the shindig and the initial greetings and whirlwind of hugs and double fisted handshakes has subsided. I’ve got my drink now and I’ve found a seat at a good table and just like in real life, when you’re forced to reacquaint yourself with an individual whom you’d rather have let disappear into the Sands of Time, you can always back away after the uncomfortable greeting and forced smile as you motion at your empty glass and look for some people you’d rather be chatting with under the guise of a top up.

The best thing that this has done is let me back into the daily lives of some of the people whom have meant the most to me over the decades. Mountain Man is there and I get to hear about his kids and wife and what they are up to. Ioseph is there as well in all his flammable, danger prone glory. Right now I can look at the pictures he’s taking as he travels across Syria and Lebanon on one of his crazy, T. E. Lawrence inspired vacations. The palest man I know is inexplicable drawn to the places on the globe with the most possible sun exposure. Some day he’s going to get his fill of Vitamin D.

The odd parts now are the holes that I see. Friends who have not succumbed to the siren song of Facebook and remain noticeably missing, like empty chairs at the table. Where’s The Doctor? What’s keeping Wendy? Has anyone seen Charlie? I won’t bug them to come in and join. It somehow seems gauche to twist their arms and ask them to sign up. They know its there and can come to the party or not. It’s their call. I can understand the reluctance if they would rather not pop in. After all, I was a latecomer as well.

I hope they do come eventually though. The goofy contests and “which world leader are you?” quizzes aside, it reminds me a lot of the common rooms at my now non-existent college. You can pop in any time, add your two cents and then get back to what ever you were doing. Productive? Not a chance, but it is nice to see some friends, long thought lost and now rediscovered, again.

With some luck, my ex-girlfriend will stay on the other side of the room as I sip my drink and talk about philosophy and beer fueled adventured gone by with the guys.

The Big “Three”

Today is my son, Short Stack’s birthday. The whopping big “three” has been achieved and with the messily devoured cake and ice cream, the presents and family, our son has enjoyed himself thoroughly.

Three years seems like such a short time to me now, but for him, it’s been his whole life and I try to remember that when I have the opportunity to do something with him or by my self. It’s so easy to put off playing when there are things to do, but as the old chestnut goes, “He’ll only be this age once.”

I try hard to make time for the playing.

It’s been an amazing time over these last three years. I’d wanted a family for a long time and waiting for things to come together financially and domestically before starting one was hard. I may be an only child, but I’ve always loved the idea of having children of my own. Short Stack was the perfect way to start off. He’s sweet by nature, smiles by default and is relentless in his quest to find out “why.” He makes us laugh almost daily. He may have only been part of our lives for a brief time, but I can’t quite remember what it was like before he joined us and I look forward to each day I have with him and his sister.

That’s not to say that he was easy on us in the beginning. Oh, no.

It’s funny how the horror shows of infancy fade from memory or morph into funny stories to be related to friends over the dinner table. It’s like showing off your scars long after the wound that made them has long since stopped causing you pain. You laugh, nod knowingly compare war stories and have another glass of wine. It all makes for good conversation, but when it was actually happening, you would have happily slept in the unfurnished basement in an effort to escape the six month old who refused to stop screaming no matter how far you bent your will to making them happy.

Short Stack has turned into a great little kiddo, but as a baby, he was tough. During the day, he was almost always a peach. He’s smile and burble. He’d playa and laugh. He’d fool just about anyone into thinking that we’d hit the easy kid lottery.

Then, the “witching hour” would arrive.

The witching hour was right about dinnertime and from that moment on, all bets were off. Our sweet little baby boy would turn into the fussiest baby on the planet and there were damn few things you could do to placate him. Usually, it was just me, alone in the evenings. Action Girl often works second shift and that left me with my dream come true, strapped to my chest and screaming like an air raid siren as I paced through the neighborhood, drying to get him to calm down. Being outside had two benefits. Firstly, he loved being out in the fresh air. He still does. About three quarters of the time it would get him calmed down and possibly even asleep. The other benefit was that if he didn’t calm down and continued shrieking and carrying on, it didn’t bounce off the walls like it did in the house. I doubt that the neighbors liked listening to it much, but I was in pure survival mode at this point. I’m willing to bet that our cats appreciated he being gone for an hour or so.

Then there was getting him to bed. This was an exercise worthy of any martial arts dojo. Everything was laid out in preparation for bed and followed a perfect trajectory. Deviation in any way spelled doom. The last step of the rigmarole was laying him in his crib, whereupon he would grab my arm and pull it to his tiny chest. My job was to not move and pretend that the top of the crib was not cutting off the blood flow to the rest of my arm. Then, I’d wait.

Pull the arm out too soon, and he’d wake up and scream.

Pull the arm out too fast, and he’d wake up and scream.

Try to wiggle fingers in a hope to keep the blood from pooling and the arm from going numb, and he’d wake up and scream.

If the screaming started, the only thing to do was to start the entire night time rigmarole form step one and be on the job for another twenty minutes to a half hour.

As I slowly, oh ever so slowly extracted my arm from my son’s snoozing grasp, I’d work hard at pacing my self. I was the ninja. I was imperceptibly slow in my movement. For extra entertainment, I usually also had to pee as well. To slow my self down to mitigate the risk of upset my tiny but loud applecart, I’d turn on my internal music collection and mentally play back every single note of the Beatles, “A day in the life.” The entire time, my hand was slowly, slowly pulling away. When the song was done, I would be free, but not a second before.

This worked, right up until it didn’t. That was the breaking point.

The fateful evening when I had stood on my head and done all my tricks to no avail, I had had it. I kissed him, told him I loved him and when down stairs. All I can say is “thank God for head phones.” The screaming for “DADDDDDY!” went on for over an hour. He got hoarser and hoarser and I ground my teeth down lower and lower. When he finally stopped, I waited another good hour before venturing up to check on him. My nerves were shot and though it was murderous to go through alone, I was happy that Action Girl wasn’t home. She’s tough in a lot of ways, but I seriously doubt that she could have lived through the tidal wave of guilt that had been thundering down the stairs at me that night.

As I carefully crept into Short Stack’s room, the sight the appeared to me was somewhere between heart breaking and hilarious. There he was in his crib on his knees. Both hands were over his head grasping the vertical bars that held him at bay while his tiny noggin sagged down like that of prisoner who had lost all hope of escape. He was fast asleep. With great trepidation, I carefully uncurled his hands from their grip and laid him down. Much to my relief, he didn’t even stir.

This was not the only night of these shenanigans, but it was the most memorable. Eventually, he got better at falling to sleep and just about the time of his second birthday, he consistently was sleeping through the night. Then, Lulu Belle came along…

It’s been a log time since we’ve had a full night’s sleep on anything like a consistent basis but that’s all right though. To quote my Grandma, “ I’ll have plenty of time to sit still when I’m dead.” I knew the work load of having children was going to be epic and I also knew that I had no real idea of how hard it was going to be until I got there, and I was right on both accounts! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

These days, my hobbies gather dust and my “to-do” list gets longer and longer as I fail to accomplish items faster than new ones accumulate and yet, I’m happier now than I could have ever imagined. I have two of the most wonderful kids in the world and a moment spent with them trumps a year doing just about anything else.

I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next and I’ll do my best to savor each and every moment at is passes us by forever. They’re only this age once, after all.

Happy Birthday, Short Stack! We love you more that we could ever put into words. What adventures we have to look forward to together! I can’t wait!

But I will.

Happy Birthday, buddy.

dad-and-john

Oh, Sugarbunnies!

I had almost completed my first week of kindergarten at St. Joseph’s Catholic school and I had a question for my Mother.

“Mom. I head some words at school and wondered if they were bad. Can I tell you what they were?”

My mother put down what she was doing and looked at me. “Yes, you can tell me the words you heard at school. It’s alright.”

With permission granted, I happily ran through an extensive and well rounded list of epithets and interjections that one would normally associate with bars and pool halls rather than Mrs. Jobin’s AM kindergarten class. As my mother sucked in a long breath, he eyebrows rose up her forehead as if she was inflating. “Yes,” she added as evenly as she could, “those are bad words.”

I was thrilled to have my assumptions affirmed and before the special moment was lost, asked, “Does Dad know any worse ones?”

“No. Your father doesn’t use that kind of language.” Was the reply. Happy for what I had but wishing I had found more, I left the kitchen and headed out into my five year old world to hunt down what ever knowledge I could find. After all, I had some swear words in my quiver now!

swearing

The best part of this conversation to me wasn’t the fact that I had been sent to a religious school and immediately discovered the world of blue language, but rather my mother’s response to if Dad hand any other gems that I might not yet know about. My Father, though a good and kind man, was also a platoon sergeant and must have been at the nexus of foul language for much of the time he was in uniform. Oh, if I had only known.

My Kindergarten discoveries were not however, my first dip into the swearing pool. The very first cuss word to escape my little mouth was a time honored favorite. It rhymes with “fit.” I don’t recall what made me say it, but I’ve been told about the conversation that occurred after I said it. Dad looked up and my Mother and simply uttered, “He didn’t learn it from me!” Dad had worked very, very hard at cleaning up what he said at home since when he was at the barracks, swearing was a necessary part of every sentence. You didn’t ask some one to pass the salt. You asked then to pass the fu**ing salt. You didn’t get into the jeep, but rather got into the godd**n jeep. Not using the swear word would have been like serving a burger with out the ketchup. He lived in fear of sitting down to dinner with his wife, child or in-laws of and asking for the “d**n gravy.”

No, my initial venture into the world of expletives came, much to her embarrassment, from my very straight laced Mom. The fecal swear was perhaps her one real vice. It was not used loosely about the house but came out only in once geographical local, and from this it derived it’s nickname. We referred to it as “the kitchen word” and when you heard it, you knew that things were not going well in there. Often, it was used following the sound of pots and pans hitting the floor.

My Mother has never been the swearing type and her mother, famously in family lore, once castigated her for using “Bull Tickies” when something didn’t work right. She glared at her adult daughter and replied sharply, “That’s pretty close to something I don’t like!” Grandma was hardly unfamiliar with swearing in the house she grew up in and reportedly, when he Father let loose with his ultimate, “God D*mn it all to Hell”, you knew that he had reached the end of whatever rope he was currently hanging from. To this day, that particular sentence still carried weight within the family.

Having apparently taken her Mother’s admonishment to heart, my Mom came up with her own fill-in swear. One that could never be tisked at by Gramma: Sugarbunnies.

This wasn’t the family’s first foray into renaming dirty words. For what ever reason, my Grandmother, the same one who wasn’t fond of “Bull Tickies” decided that she needed to come up with something else to call poop. For some strange reason, she settled on “Bunkie.”

I have no idea why.

What it meant though was that I grew up surrounded by an extensive family of aunts, uncles and cosigns who all used the word, “bunkie” to describe a bowel movement. It was normal to hear and for one of my more rambunctious cosigns, served as his vehicle for his first full on tirade. Confronted one day by our Grandfather and having been told by him in no uncertain terms that things were not, in fact, going to go the way he was demanding, the young and aggrieved party squared his jaw and told Gramp, “Your name is Bunkie and you live on Bunkie Street!”

This, naturally lead to peels of laughter. Not what he was hoping for. Later that week, my parents made a fake street sign reading, “Bunkie Street,” placed it at the end of their road and took a photo to give as a gift to my Grandparents. It was well received.

I have worked hard at keeping my own language in a realm that would keep both my Mother and Grandmother happy with me and for the most part, I succeed. I do slip from time to time, but it’s fairly rare. I never thought of my lack of swearing as terribly noticeable, and as it turned out, it isn’t… until I swear.

The time that struck this home to me was back in college. My roommate at the time was of the “thick” variety and had a habit of doing knuckleheaded things. Sometimes to me, sometimes to others. He wasn’t bad, just numb. One night, I had come home to find that he had ruined some of my things though his all to often, careless behavior. I had liked these things he had ruined and was justifiably mad. I had also had a really rotten day. Apparently, the other folks on the hall were so caught off guard by my litany of swearing and vitriol that one of them was dispatched to find my roommate and instruct him that he was not to come home that night, lest he loose a major body part or several quarts of blood. Now, I’m not the violent type and I truly doubt that many would find me imposing but these fellows whom I lived with were so caught off guard by the nice, quiet guy letting loose with his best profanity that they the consensus was that I had snapped. From this episode, I learned that swearing needs to be used carefully. Measure it out and place it well and your point will carry that much more weight. Just don’t do it when Gandma is within earshot.

Working by my self for years made keeping my language clean pretty easy for me. Action Girl has had a rougher time. She works as a sea captain, longshoreman and is a card carrying Teamster. The vocabulary of a sailor is a colorful thing and it has taken a good deal of effort, discipline and glares from me over the dinner table, lest Short Stack catch on, to keep her more dynamic speech in check. She works hard at it and I’ve become an excellent covert glarer.

My Mom also has worked hard to overwrite “the kitchen word” with “Sugarbunnies” and she has pretty much succeeded. It tumbles off her tongue without a thought and now, Short Stack has picked up on it. He thinks it’s hilarious. As she stands in the counter making a meal, she drops a fork to the floor and utters an exasperated sigh. Short Stack is making a pass thought the kitchen at the time with his toy dump truck and stops to examine the fork and the situation. He looks up at his Grandmother and in true Short Stack fashion, asks a question.

“Gramma. Why did you not say ‘Sugarbunnies’?”

With a little luck, he should be swear free until Kindergarten. Then all bets are off.

Movie Night

So, the kids are in bed and Action Girl won’t be coming home tonight due to a late night at work and an early morning shift that precludes getting back to our island home. Lulu Belle’s put me through the ringer this evening and Short Stack is freshly tucked in bed and hopefully drifting off. I’m pooped. It’s been a heck of a day. I should probably go to bed too, but I just can’t. I’ve always been a night owl and need a good distraction before I’m ready to turn in.

Normally, I’d be in the kitchen cleaning up the wreckage that two little kids and a their dad make around the dinner hour and possibly making something chocolaty and gooey for tomorrow, but Lulu’s got me spooked. Her room is right off the kitchen and after the hour and a half of screaming that she put in after I put her down for bed… for the third time… there is NO WAY I’m willing to risk dropping a pot or clanking a plate and reawaken the tiny, pink beastie. No way.

Plan “B” for nocturnal distraction is to head to my basement lair to make ammo for the ridiculously odd and ancient firearms I collect. Many of them require ammunition no longer readily available in commercial hunting supply stores, so I make it my self. It may sound like a lot of tedious work, but just like any other solitary and repetitive task such as knitting, whittling, or fishing, it can be very rewarding and calming. Two problems present them selves tonight. Firstly, I’m out of bullets. I have shells, primers and powder, but without the actual projectile, there’s not a lot of point in starting a new batch this evening. The other issue is that I’ve locked the cat down there after his incessant meowing threatened to wake up the kids. The same kids I just spent the last hour and a half getting to finally drift off to Dream Land. The cat isn’t allowed out side, so to the basement he goes. The second I open the door, he’d blast by me like he was fired from a cannon.

cat-cannon

What to do? I can’t make noise in any way and since we own no TV, I don’t have the option of turning my brain to mush the tried and true American way. I’m feeling lazy. I want to be entertained.

I need a movie.

I truly miss having Action Girl home in the evenings, but her current schedule has her gone about half the week. The one bright spot in being solo for the night is that the viewing choice is mine. ALL MINE! When movies are concerned, my wife and I have limited crossover interests. True, she does have a thing for Chow Yun Fat and that means a lot of good shoot ’em up movies. She’s also is willing to see most of the comic book inspired films that seem to be coming out of Hollywood faster than the actual comics are being drawn. The line is drawn very definitely however, at war movies.

I’m not sure why watching gunplay and explosions interests her so long as uniforms aren’t involved, but there you are. This means that on nights like this, I reach for some old standbys as I warm the couch on my own. Casting around in our disheveled video collection, I paw past the ancient VCR tapes and look longingly at my double tape, directors cut of “Patton.” My VCR has long since died and gone to a better, landfill-ier place and as I said, I have nothing to hook one up to anyway. I wonder sadly if I’ll ever get to watch it again. Then my eyes fall on a DVD, still in it’s cellophane.

“Midway”

midway

Now THAT’S a classic! This was a gift from one guy to another and I, for one, am thrilled to have it. “Midway” was one of those movies that I first saw years and years ago on television. Probably, it was some lazy Sunday afternoon when I should have been out playing in the sun but instead, managed to get some time clicking the dial around and around until I spotted dive bombers making their runs on the Japanese carrier fleet. Being the airplane junkie that I am, I stopped to watch.

Since that day, I’ve caught the movie being rebroadcast at least a half a dozen times. I remember parts of it in perfect detail and love stumbling upon it and I’m always blown away at the cast: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Minfune, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, James Coburn, Erik Estrada, Tom Selleck, and Pat Morita, just to name a few. It was a bizarre fusing of the old Hollywood and the new and they threw in just about everyone they could get their hands on. The score was by a new and untried composer named John Williams. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

One night, just before Christmas, we were over visiting my folks for dinner. As I walked through the living room and glanced at the TV, a familiar movie caught my eye. “Midway” was just starting. Frozen in my tracks with a goofy smile on my face, I paused to catch a few minutes of history, Hollywood style. As my Father came over to deliver my drink I commented on how, though I’ve seen this movie so many times before, I seriously doubt that I’ve ever watched it from beginning to end. Whenever it seems to be on, I either come in half way through or get to start it and am then called away. That night was no exception. Dinner was already laid out on the table and the kids needed to go right home afterwards and get tucked into bed. Oh well.

A month or so later on Christmas day, I unwrapped a small rectangular present from Dad and happily thanked him. My copy of the movie has been sitting since then, waiting for the right moment. The house is quiet and mercifully, Lulu Belle has tossed in the towel and seems to be sleeping happily. Short Stack must be snoozing now too. As quietly as I can, I peel off the wrapper and pop the DVD into the laptop and pop in the headphones. The acting is stiff by today’s standards and let us not even talk about the “special effects.” Parts of the film look almost amateurish in their lack of glitz and method acting, but I love it nonetheless. In some ways, it’s almost like watching a play. It isn’t about making the pilots look like they are actually flying a plane or seamlessly cutting in real gun camera footage. It’s about the story, and I find that pretty refreshing.

I like old movies, and old war movies are even better, in my opinion. They may not be Action Girl’s cup of tea, but that’s fine. There are lots of movies that she likes that I wouldn’t go near with a ten foot pole.

I’m looking at you, Romantic Comedy.

I’m looking at the clock now and just realized that there is no way I’ll be able to finish “Midway” before I need to get to bed tonight. At least I can stop it and pick it back up when I want. Action Girl will be home tomorrow night, so it will have to wait a while. If I start watching now, I think I can just make it to the part where the American’s break the Japanese code.

Once again, I’m thwarted at seeing it all the way through in a single sitting.

I’m okay with that, though. Why mess with tradition?

Cookies in the Freezer

I was always a little confused by what exactly a Girl Scout was. As a youngster, I remember seeing the cluster of girls in their green and brown uniforms with their various ranks displayed as quarter sized badges sewn onto a sash that was worn like an earthy version of those seen at a beauty pageant. Rather than reading, “Miss Russet Potato”, or some other title, the little dots showed the trials and tribulations that the wearer had undertaken and mastered.

This was a foreign world to me. Not only did I have no sister to demystify the organization for me, but I was never part of the male version either. Boy Scouts, though they undoubtedly did neat stuff, had one major flaw as I saw it. They still had to follow directions given to them by adults. Though I was hardly what you would have called a rebellious child, I was happiest when doing what ever I wanted to do. I would put my head down and get through the things that were expected of me, but when it came to unstructured time which I had control of, there was just no way in hell that I was going to put it in the hands of more people who would be telling me what to do, where to do it and how it was to be done.

The funny thing is that I always had a mild fascination with the “Scouts”, be they the boy or girl variety. The friend who I have been closest with my whole life, The Doctor, eventually attained the rank of Eagle Scout and many, many weekends I was left on my own while he want off with his troop to camp in the woods, paint park benches or… do what ever else Boy Scouts do. I believe there was some sort of a “Jamboree” thrown in there somewhere. I have no idea what that was about.

As far as our friendship was concerned, he left the “Scouting” stuff at the door when he came over to play and we never really talked about it. The only time I actually saw him in his uniform was during his Eagle Scout indoctrination ceremony and I think it was odd for both of us. It was held in a church hall, long after he, himself had left organized faith far behind on his personal road. There were, naturally, big American flags hanging up, just at the time he was starting to seriously question what our country was doing in the world and it involved jumping over symbolic sticks… which both of us found mildly humorous. I still have no idea what the sticks were about.

Now, lest I offend, let me say that I do not in any way look down upon those who choose the Scouting life. In many ways I was jealous that it just didn’t seem to fit with me. I love camping. I like doing projects. I LOVE riflery, which you can, if I’m not mistaken, get a merit badge in. I would have lived at the rifle range. For some reason though, I instantly chafed at the idea.

I think it was the neckerchiefs.

cub-scout-fred

If the Boy Scouts confused me, the Girl Scouts baffled me. I had a lot of friends in the neighborhood and we all lived on the edge of some serious forestland. We all lived in those woods and the girls whom I spent many a long day playing with were of the rough and tumble sort. Tom Boys, to be succinct. They were right there with us, scraping their arms on branches, skinning their knees and peeing in the bushes. These girls were FUN! When I looked at the groups of Girl Scouts patiently waiting for their den mothers to direct them to what ever fun that awaited them, I couldn’t help raising an eyebrow at their neatly pressed blouses, perfect and jaunty barrettes and those brown knee skirts.

SKIRTS?

To my mind, skirts were reserved for things like school and church. The girls I knew never opted for skirts and why would they? They offer poor protection form thorns and rocks and then there’s the whole tree climbing issue. The Girl Scouts uniforms were all done in dark green and tan, giving the illusion that they could step into the jungle and take on the Vietcong, but really… it was like having an camouflage bathing suit. What’s the point? Then there were the merit badges.

I knew that the girls didn’t get to do the same stuff that the boys did. A topic that is still to this day, a point of some grievance by Action Girl. She was cast out of her brother’s Cub Scout den when she started to have too much fun doing all the projects that the boys were doing. When offered the trade to Brownies (the Girl Scout starter rank) she balked. Sewing and singing just didn’t stack up well against setting things on fire and using hatchets. She will forever be a disgruntled Boy Scout wannabe.

The Girl Scouts do, naturally, have on major feather in their barrettes, however.

The cookies!

For those who live beyond the borders of the United State, I hope, with heart felt sincerity, that whatever country you live in has an equivalent to a Girl Scout Thin Mint.

thin-mints

Every year, Girl Scouts in the thousands pour out of meeting lodges and church basements and hit the pavement, going door to door in their neighborhoods with long sign up sheets and catalogs showcasing various cookies that can be ordered from Girl Scouts of America. It’s a fundraiser for the organization and one that I believe, will never leave the G.S. of A. short of funds. The cookies offered are not available in stores anywhere to my knowledge and even if there were an equivalent, it just wouldn’t be the same. The beauty of Girl Scout cookies is that the ordering happens months before the cookies actually arrive. Just long enough for you to have totally forgotten that you put your name down for an obscene quantity of sugar and chocolate covered snacks. They are divine. They are to be savored. They have just arrived!

A hand made sign on a lamp post down by the store gave notice that the cookies were on their way and would be arriving on Saturday and I mad darn sure that I would be around. As I say, there are many different cookies that the Girl Scouts sell and many of them are very, very tasty. It doesn’t matter though. I just want the Thin Mints.

A mint flavored chocolate wafer covered in more chocolate and bundled in a sleeve and two sleeves to a box, I wait for them with anticipation every year. I thought that they were perfection in a cookie until my Wife showed me the error of my ways. There was, in fact, a way to make them even better. They need to be kept in the freezer. Oh, ho ho ho. I’m in heaven. As I write, there are two boxes in the freezer, one having been mildly pillaged and two more in the deep freeze in the basement. I’m hoping that I’ll manage to forget all about them until mid summer, but that’s a long shot. I can hear them calling to me just now.

So, I still don’t understand the draw of the Scouting life and though I know that the Girl Scouts have beefed up the types of merit badges they offer to include more outdoorsy kind of activities in the hopes of appearing less… 1950’s, I’m still clueless as to what their goals really are, but that’s ok. They just need to keep me in Thin Mints and I’ll keep handing over the contents of my wallet to the nice young girls on the front step in the brown and green uniforms. At least I think they were Girl Scouts.

If Lulu Belle ever decides to join their ranks, I am truly doomed. Doomed and in a sugar coma… So I guess I won’t know about it, at any rate. And now… If you’ll excuse me, I feel a freezer raid coming on.

Company in Bed

Short Stack is in tough shape at the moment, but on the mend. He’ll be fine thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and unlike parents of just a few decades back, we have no life altering concerns about our son’s current health. He has pneumonia, though not a very severe case. What the illness has done has turned our normally lone wolf-ish, self entertaining kiddo into a baby lemur who just wants you to be with him. Preferably within reach. Very preferably, actually in his tiny grasp.

Last Friday night was not fun for anyone involved. Somehow, and I still don’t know how, Lulu Belle managed to sleep through the entire ordeal of a three year old coughing, vomiting and yelling, “I don’t like this! I don’t like this!” at the top of his lungs.

None of us, naturally, liked this.

sick_kid

It was his first real illness since a bout of croup when he was just a miniature version of himself and thankfully, he doesn’t recall that experience, though we certainly do. After his second round of coughing, then vomiting and then crying, which kicked off the coughing again, things finally settled down and with a freshly made bed and his third set of Pj’s he was succumbing to exhaustion. So were Action Girl and myself. It was three in the morning and we were officially running on our personal reserve batteries. To say that Short Stack was in a fragile state of mind is an epic understatement. Everything was making him cry, which led to the progression of coughing and barfing. We were ready to do what ever made him happy. What he wanted more than anything was not to be alone. Not for one second.

So, with a good deal of leg and arm folding, I managed to fulfill his request and joined him in his bed. His bed, by the way, is built for a toddler and uses a crib mattress.

toddler-bed

Throw in the pile of pillows needed to keep him elevated, a half dozen necessary stuffed animals and a full headboard and footboard and there was not much room left for dad. As I crunched my frame into the corner and he nestled into my arms, I remembered doing just this same thing on the far roomier couch when he was maybe four months old. He had a cold and needed to sleep sitting up so he could breath. It was scarier back then, not only because it was our first time as parents but also because he was so small. I did, however recall having a heck of a lot more leg room. This time, he was bigger, wigglier and due to his low grade fever and fleece pajamas, was like cuddling a coal stove. A wonderful, soft coal stove that you’d die to protect, but a sweat factory, none the less.

As I lay there listening to his breathing get regular and deep, I closed my eyes and was transported to the various times my parents had held me while I stretched out, limp and exhausted after a night of some illness or other and realized now, just how hard it was to live through as the concerned parent. From my memory as the sick child, I also remembered not wanting to be alone either.

My folk’s room wasn’t more than a step away from my own, but when I was sick and didn’t dare move, it seemed like they might as well have been on the moon. I can still pull up the feeling of being alone in the dark while Mom and Dad were just over there, snug in the same big bed, sound asleep. I craved that company and though Mom or Dad would always cuddle with me after stories, my bed was too small for two and not conducive to sleeping with a parent hogging up the majority of the mattress space. As a kid, it always felt like an injustice that I was solo each night while they had each other. No number of plush, foam filled animal friends seemed to fill that void. That and the unmistakable fact that the skeletons in my closet were just waiting for me to nod off before leaping out and devouring me. That most defiantly didn’t help.

One day, in a non-ill state of mind, I hit upon the solution. It was perfect! I could have my own bed AND someone to share it with me. It was fool proof! That night, I brought up the idea to my Father. “What we need,” I said triumphantly, “are bunk beds! That way, you can sleep here with me and we’d each have all the room we need!” To a five year old, this was a breakthrough of logic. Dad was always telling me to stop wiggling when I was supposed to be falling asleep and I always felt crunched between him, the wall and the stuffed animals.

The animals, by the way, were there to keep the skeletons at bay. I figured if magical monsters could get me in the night, then my plush friends might just as logically rise up to be my personal army. That’s why I liked the stuffed seals and the alligator. Those things could BITE!

In the end, I think it worked out for me. I’m still here, aren’t I?

As I recall, Dad mumbled something about Mom being lonely and how that wasn’t fair, but to be honest, it didn’t seem fair the other way either. I thought briefly about a triple bunk but doubted that one could clear the ceiling. Someone was bound to be left alone. I just didn’t see why it had to be me.

I out grew it, naturally, but was glad on the day I no longer slept alone. Granted, the space is nice to have and I do tend to loose the blanket war from time to time, but I do understand where Short Stack is coming from. It’s no fun to be alone in the night, even if Mom and Dad aren’t far away at all. Throw in being sick, and it’s enough to make a three year old cry. Which leads to coughing and other things at times. As I said, he’s on the mend and we’re happy to see him more like him self but he still doesn’t want to be left in his room come lights out time. He remembers having me to cuddle up to that night and he wants it again. I can’t blame him. We’ve talked about how that was a special thing and how it can’t happen every night, and that’s true. It is special. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I didn’t get to sleep much while shoehorned into a bed made for a child and holding on to my little boy, but that’s not the point. I can sleep later. I’m just glad that I had the chance to make him feel safe when everything he thought he understood went out the window.

With two kids, I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing this again some day. If either of them comes up with my bunk bed idea, I’m going to have a heck of a time talking my way out of that one.

“But Dad, you can sleep with me in my room and Mom can stay with Lulu Belle! It’s perfect!”

“Ummm, yah. Well… You see, Short Stack…”

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