A week ago my nine year old Gabriel asked me to take him and his friend Teddy to the skate park. It was a sunny Sunday, I was in a good mood, what the heck. “Let’s do it,” I said enthusiastically. I jumped up, checked for my keys and was about to open the front door when I caught sight of my wife, caught sight, that is, of her stern glance.
A keen sense of self preservation overwhelmed me. I made a prompt about face, turned back to Gabriel, wagged my forefinger and reminded him that, “Of course you can’t go today! You forgot your helmet at Tristan’s house! It’s unthinkable!” My wife returned to her current issue of “Simple” magazine and domestic tranquility was preserved.
This last Sunday Gabriel asked me again if he could go to the skate park with Teddy. During the week he had retrieved his helmet, so of course I could grab those keys without giving it a second thought. My spring friskiness had returned.
Not so fast. Teddy was wearing wrist guards along with his helmet. As I was herding the two boys out, my wife Linda called after me, “You should stop at Target first and buy Gabriel some wrist guards.” Oh how close I was to escape! A few more feet and I could’ve plausibly told her – later, at the hospital, while Gabriel was having pins screwed into his wrist – that I was out of earshot and hadn’t heard her suggestion. I could’ve wrung my hands and sworn up and down that if I had heard her, I certainly would’ve stopped at Target and bought him the wrist guards. But I simply didn’t hear her! Curse the useless flaps of flesh hanging from the sides of my head!
But no. I heard her. And she knew it. And then something inexplicable happened. I turned back and said, “don’t worry about it.” My wife looked at me coolly, levelly, and said, “Okay.” You have to understand: when it comes to protecting her kids, my wife can say “okay” in a way that would make a polar bear shiver.
“Just make sure he doesn’t get hurt,” she added.
I can barely remember the drive to the skate park. I do remember anxiously explaining to Gabriel that under no circumstance was he allowed to hurt himself, that if he did hurt himself, especially his wrist, he would be in big, big trouble, the kind of trouble he couldn’t wrap his brain around. No dessert that night? No video games? Those would be just table stakes, I yelled, pounding the wheel. He looked at me, genuinely worried, and asked how he could be held responsible for accidentally hurting himself. I told him not to bother me with his petty concerns – I was too busy concocting ghoulish punishments should he actually have the chutzpah to hurt himself.
We got there. He and Teddy grabbed their boards and rode. I sat on a bench and watched. Fifteen minutes later he wanted to go home. After waiting all week! Hmm. Go figure. Oh well, who can understand the whimsy of children. We returned home, Gabriel strangely silent. I smiled triumphantly – there would be no broken wrist on my watch – huzzah!!
One Bad Thing
Well, you can only give a person good advice. You can’t make him take it.
Plus I love the woman who runs “Kyoto,” the little bento box place up the block. The store is maybe two hundred square feet, with no tables or chairs, and just enough space for a few display shelves filled with those sodas with marbles in the necks, long mylar packs of gummy fruit candy, and various wasabi infused snacks.
The woman must own the place – she’s the only one we’ve ever seen working. And she has a soft spot for kids. Whenever I bring the boys along, she throws in something for free: a spicy tuna roll, a California roll, maybe some unagi. For that I would drag my kids along even if they were suffering from typhoid fever. She’s the best.
And sure enough, Sunday night, at the sight of Rafael and Gabriel, she threw in not one, but two, freebies this time: an extra five piece nigiri and a salmon roll.
We got home, took the rubber bands off the little boxes, and prepared to dig in. We took the lids off. The odor sent us slamming into our chair backs. After we collected ourselves, my older son asked if we might not skip the freebies this time, that we probably shouldn’t have violated the Sunday rule. What!?!
Holding my breath and shoving a piece of cloudy salmon into my mouth, I mumbled something about how Ms. Kyoto loves us and would never give us old, impossible-to-cut-through-even-with-your-incisors sushi.
I was able to force down one more piece of rotting fish before the air in the room began to buckle.
Next thing I knew those little plastic boxes were sealed inside two plastic grocery store bags. All that free bad fish! I wept as I threw it into our trash can.