Wednesday, September 14, 2005


In Which Dad Puts Food on the Table...

What was I thinking? It was an hour past the kids' dinnertime, and we had spent it glugging milkshakes. God, social services was going to come rapping on the door at any minute.

During the day, the dinner table had become Art Lad Central, so I instructed Thomas to clean it up.


Meanwhile I surveyed the pantry.

At this juncture, I must point out that Her Lovely Self is an exquisite and thoughtful cook, who makes most meals from scratch, and ensures that my children and myself do not become convulsing, bleeding-gummed, rickety masses of flesh by consistently supplying fruits and vegetables and tasty yet nutritious meals that seem to cover the entirety of the Food Pyramid.

So I figured it wouldn't kill us to spend the weekend at the very top of the pyramid. You know the part I mean, that little triangle reserved for junk food, with the words that you're supposed to "EAT SPARINGLY"?

Well, screw that. I whomped up every last remaining corn dog in the house.


After picking up, Thomas also took it upon himself to set the table. Plates, cutlery, the whole works.


Little known fact: In addition to the being the Official Smell of Childhood, Play-Doh is also apparently a tasty condiment (at least the dog thinks so).

As we sat and ate, the Brownie eyed me thoughtfully. "Dad," she said at length. "How did you learn to cook? Did Mom just teach you?"

I couldn't help but smile. I told the Brownie that when I was 4, I had the same skepticism for my own father's culinary skills (though obviously, in my case, the Brownie's lack of faith was entirely justified).

I remembered well the first time my brother and I were left alone in my father's care. My aunt had just had a baby and my mom--her only sister--was going down to Boston for the rest of the week to help her. I was the very picture of open-mouthed indignation when I realized Mom was leaving then. That very afternoon. Before supper.

As she pulled away and headed down our little road, I turned and looked up at my father with rank disbelief. "What the hell are we gonna do now?" I squeaked.

My father was too bemused--or perhaps too preoccupied thinking the same thing--to correct my language. "What d'you mean?" he asked.

"What are we gonna eat? YOU can't cook."

Well, luckily for me and my brother, I hadn't quite learned everything yet and my father astonished us by revealing a theretofore unknown skill. He could make cheeseburgers! And when to our shrill dismay it was discovered there were no French fries left in the freezer, my father dug some spuds out of the garden, sliced them into familiar rectangles, and fried them up on the stove. Who knew you could turn potatoes into French fries?!? We were so impressed, we didn't even mind that the kitchen--and our clothes--stank of burned Wesson oil for the next few days. Truly it was astounding. It was like our father had lived some whole other life before we came along!

After dinner, my brother went off to ride his bike and my father decided to mow the lawn. Without a playmate, I was left to my own devices, a big mistake. At length, I ended up kicking rocks around the driveway and happened to toe a beautiful specimen out of the dirt. It was a smooth, flat, slightly pointed rock. It fit perfectly in my hand, seemed custom-made for me.

I was not supposed to throw rocks. Earlier that summer my mom had caught me throwing stones into the road, and I had very nearly hit a passing car. She made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that if she ever caught me throwing rocks again, I'd be grounded for life. But I wasn't going to throw this one. It was amazing. It looked like an arrowhead. I tossed it from hand to hand. It really captured my imagination. Another big mistake.

I've never been very scientifically minded, but gradually an idea began to occur to me. I looked at the pointed rock and decided, no, it wasn't an arrowhead, but a jet plane. I started spinning with it in my hand. And then I began to wonder: What would happen if I spun in a circle really fast and let the rock go? Wouldn't it be cool if the rock spun in a circle too?

Now, you must admit, in theory, I was correct. If I had weighed, say, as much as the entire planet, I have no doubt the rock would have orbited me. However, since I was only a 4-year-old boy and lacked my own personal field of gravity--as well as any kind of common sense--I didn't ponder matters of physics overlong.

Instead, I just spun like a dervish there in the driveway. I started to get dizzy and felt myself falling forward. At the last second before I collapsed to the dirt, I let the rock go.

My eyes were closed, but I heard the distinctive metallic Ka-Ching of the rock ricocheting off metal.

Then there was a terrible silence.

Even the lawn mower engine had died away.

I opened my eyes. Why, there was our lawn mower now, rolling slowly across the yard by itself.

And several feet behind it, my father lay on the freshly mown grass, rocking noiselessly and holding his crotch.

I didn't have to be a scientist to figure out what happened. I abandoned the experiment and took off.

Despite his grievous injury, my father caught me in about eight strides, lifting me off the ground by my belt lugs. I was certain he was about to pound me into cheeseburger, but instead he deposited me in the bed of his pick-up truck, parked smack in the middle of the driveway, where he could keep an eye on me while he finished mowing. It took him a lot longer than usual, for some reason.

I spent the rest of the week in certain dread that when my mom came home, my father would tell her everything. The first night that my mom returned was one of the most excruciating of my young life. But instead of ratting me out that night, my dad helped himself to several glasses of blackberry brandy--to celebrate my mom's return--and ended up sleeping on the sofa. Whew.

By this point in the narrative, I was pretty well lost in my own world, chuckling to myself and nodding at certain places. It took several seconds for me to realize Thomas was trying to get my attention. "Dad!" he hissed.

"What? What is it?" I asked.

"Shhh!" he whispered. Then he pointed across the table.



Leaving the dishes til tomorrow (and wouldn't you?), I gently carried the Brownie up to bed and asked Thomas to empty the tub, which of course was still filled with all the stuffed animals the girls had decided to bathe. While he carried load after sodden load to the dryer, I wrestled the Brownie into some jammies I found on the floor.

In short order, Thomas had a quick bath and we found ourselves in his room, reading books. But he was so tired from the wild rumpus that he was nodding off halfway through the second book. He laid his head on my shoulder, something he hadn't done in ages. I smelled the top of his clean blond head while he muttered at me.

"Dad," he said sleepily. "Did Grandma ever find out about you hitting Papa in his you-know-where?"

"Nope. He must have forgotten. So far as I know, he still hasn't told Grandma," I said.

"Oh, good," he said emphatically, then smacked his lips in a decisive way and was silent.

I thought he was out, so I got up to leave. My own soft bed was beckoning to me.

Then Thomas murmured, "I hope you don't get in trouble with Mom for letting the girls paint the hallway."

And I detoured down to the basement to find a scraper. It was going to be a long night.

I just had no idea how long...


Corndogs...definitely invented by a man.
I'd say your work was well done if you had the youngest one asleep before she even left the table.
I hope the Brownie's friends survived the ride in the dryer, (did you put them in pillow cases?)
And I say you should have just painted the whole wall ;)
You know you done good when they fall asleep at the table. That's true craftsmanship right there. :)
Woah, your day with the kids sounds even more tiring than my day was yesterday. Of course, I think kids always have the potential to wear you out.
MmmmMM... french fry coma. *THAT* is a relaxing state.

I'm happy to see that the Order of Secrecy is being passed down from one generation to the next.

Hell, if you ply me with fried foods and sweet treats, I won't say boo.
You = my brothers, growing up. I, at this point, see you as a brother o' mine. May I have your address? I just wanna know where to send the drum kit...LOL My next purchase at the grocery is corndogs, ice-cream, and chocolate.
So, apparently being injured by a child (or dog) while mom is away is a family tradition. Might want to warn Thomas when he gets married...never let the mom go away over night!

As usual, great story. Can't wait to hear what misfortune happened during the night.
Why does Thomas look in awe of the plate of corndogs? Also, Heinz is better than Hunt's. Was it on sale?
You were right about the site. Like a mythical beast, my true self is wiley and elusive.
Sitting at work laughing out loud...great story so far.
NOW I know what happens when I leave my hubby and son alone together. God, I am never leaving again!!! Of course, I must admit, I have never had the remarkable ability to get my son to fall asleep at the table...maybe you're on to something after all....
You know its been a while, but this post actually sounds like it does not have a cliff hanger ... :)

It actually sounds like a ending to a LONG STORY ARC ...

:) ... just wait till he missus get back ... corn dogs for the children :)

You do know they will get sick over this rite? You knew that rite?

HLF is going blow her casket ... :P
I'm loving this story more and more.......
that's what, the third time you've mentioned corn dogs??? (though we call them "Pogos" up here in the Great White North) and now I am seriously craving one, which is weird and frightening and damn, the PNE (the only place where I actually allow myself to indulge in that kind of foodstuff) is over -- damn you!
I've been enjoying your tales for a few weeks now and I wanted to say thanks for all the smiles they've generated.

Corndogs? I have to say I am amazed by the volume of corndog consumption south of the 49th parallel!

I'm also bewildered and amused by the way men seem to feel when left to their own devices while caring for their offspring.

Thanks again for the entertainment.
I love Thomas' expression in the photo - it's kind of like he just saw Santa or something - total "I'm completely in awe" saucer eyes. And the rock story - my little brother did something similar when he was about four, but with his tennis shoes. He'd seen Mr. Rogers toss his from hand to hand before putting them on each day, but apparently didn't realize that it was a gentle toss...and so came the demise of one of our living room windows...
French fries from scratch? And you got the potatoes from your garden? WHAT KIND OF A MAN ARE YOU???? Next you'll be telling us you snuggled in for the night with a dvd of Sleepless in Seattle and some tissues.

Thanks for the laughs!
My mom and dad are teaching me to cook.

Mabey I can convince my dad to teach me to make corndogs.

Tell the Brownie and Thomas that I said Hi!

Love the story...This is why moms so rarely leave for vacation.

On another note, I'm embarassed to admit I tried the "Baaaa" trick with my two dogs as they tried to shred each other over a rawhide. It worked. My throat is raw and my neighbors think I need to be medicated, but it worked....
The glow on Thomas's face is coming from the highly flammable substance(s) they put in the corn dog dough. He looks like he's discovered the pot of gold, though, and that expression is worth the trans fats on this one occasion. Even I admit that, health food nut that I am! Hey, I've been known to enjoy a cupcake. PS Glad to see you didn't freak out and take down your blog and that the blank screen this aft was not because you have run out of things to say!
Truly it was astounding. It was like our father had lived some whole other life before we came along!

hahaha :D
Good thing your dad had all the kids he wanted before he was "stoned". That wouldn't have helped, to say the least. Haha!

Can't wait to hear what HLS has to say about the corndog dinner. You know mothers. :P
Damn. I wish my dad were like you when I was growing up!
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