Category Archives: mi familia

Outsmarted

This exchange just happened between my daughter and I as she drifted off to sleep:

S – Mommy, did you know that life goes on and on for infinity? Not the kind of infinity that goes on and then stops when you stop it. The kind of infinity that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and never stops. It’s kind of hard for you to imagine.

I mean, people die, but the life goes on. Like, you had me. Then I have a baby girl named Vinny. Then she has a baby boy named Peter, after Daddy’s middle name. Peter’s wife has a baby named Soshan, and Soshan has a baby named John, and his wife has a girl named Glora, and she has a girl named Rosie and she has a little boy named Izza. And it goes on and on. You know what I mean.

Me – You’re right, honey. That was really smart. Those concepts are hard.

S – I wasn’t even taught that. I just knew it from my own brain.

Me: Oh.

And what I meant by that ‘Oh’ was, Oh my God you’re going to be smarter than me by the time you’re in first grade. Also, she should name characters in the next YA dystopian novel.

These are Happy Tears, Ducky Momo!

My daughter has just hit a level of sentimentalism that I didn’t know was humanly possible. It is off the charts. This one goes to 11, folks. It all started on Sunday…

I let the kids watch a tv show, and they asked for Phineas and Ferb, which our family has newly discovered. If you’re not familiar with the show it’s about two step-brothers who have spectacular adventures to maximize their summer vacation fun. The cast of characters includes their teenage sister, Candace, who tries to get them in trouble, and their pet platypus who is actually a secret agent. Brilliant! I’m being serious. It’s really clever.

If I had known the drama this particular episode would cause, I never would have let the kids watch it. You see, my daughter is more empathetic than just about anyone I know, whether adult, child or in-between. It sounds sweet, and it is. And then you see the side effects. She accidentally hits her brother with a wooden spoon – she cries, he doesn’t. A friend’s balloon flies away as soon as we walk outside – she cries, the friend doesn’t. Somehow I still never seem to have a tissue handy.

What the world needs now is Bunny, sweet Bunny.

Another side effect is that she gets very attached to things. She has a pink bunny, we’ll call her Bunny (because that’s what we call her), who must sleep with her every night or there will be no sleep. One time we were driving home from visiting my parents in Sacramento and we left Bunny behind. We were hours away before we realized it, and it was awful. The look of love and joy on her face when they were reunited was something I wish I could bottle up and give to the world. There would be no more war if we were all blissed out like that.

That bunny has been a companion to her for as long as she can remember. On Sunday’s rerun of Phineas and Ferb, their sister Candace goes to a sci-fi/fantasy convention dressed as Ducky Momo, a cartoon duck. My daughter could highly relate to Candace, who cared for the duck in plush form as a child and who has been her companion ever since. I know this because they did a sweet montage of a toddler Candace watching a cartoon of Ducky Momo, playing with the stuffed version of the duck, all the way up to Candace as a teenager with her Ducky Momo doll propped on a chair helping her pick outfits out of her closet.

When the montage was over I heard a gasp and sniff next to me on the couch. I hesitate to admit that my first ungenerous thought was “Are you kidding me?” I know that’s not the way a mother is supposed to react to her sobbing child, but cut me a little slack. We are talking a cartoon character within a cartoon show here, people.

“Honey, why did that make you cry? Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she said taking a huge breath and wiping her nose on her sleeve. “These are happy tears.”

That made me smile and give her a big hug. She ran and got her bunny and hugged it as she hysterical laugh-cried next to me. I thought that emotion was reserved for puberty, and I tried not to do the same weird, breathy contortions as I freaked out a little inside. Then she calmed down and I thought we were done with it.

Nope. Later that evening she asked for a Ducky Momo. We told her that Ducky Momo was not really a cartoon and that nobody makes a plush version of it. It’s not really a thing, Honey, we said. We hoped we were done with it.

Candace and the unexpectedly evil Ducky Momo (courtesy of Disney)

Nope. That night, after the lights were off and she was in bed, we heard crying from her room. My husband went in to investigate. “I really want Ducky Momo!” She was sobbing hysterically.Have you ever been in a situation where you will say anything, literally anything, to make someone happy? Or in this case, to make someone stop being sad. We have. “We’ll look for one for you, we promise,” we said, just to get her to calm down and go to sleep. We hoped by the morning she would have forgotten about it. Of course, we knew it was only a hope.

As she was getting ready for school yesterday she asked me, tearily, if I had looked for a Ducky Momo doll yet. “What about Bunny? I thought that you loved her. Won’t she be sad if you cuddle with Ducky Momo instead?” Of course, as the words left my lips I wished I hadn’t said them. I think sometimes that I am not sensitive enough to parent her well.

The cries came in earnest. “I can love both of them!” I let her have cookies in her lunch. The anticipation was good for halting those tears of longing.

Yesterday evening was not as bad, because John drew a picture of Ducky Momo that she hung next to her bed and kissed before lights-out. Of course, we are aware that it might just be drawing out the pain.

We haven’t told her yet that John did find someone who makes Ducky Momo on Etsy. It’s a crazily expensive toy for a stuffed animal. Before I make the leap, I want to make sure it’s not just a passing desire. But as I said, sometimes I worry that I’m not sensitive enough for her.

I am still shocked by her reaction to a single musical montage. And you know what? Shame on you, Phineas and Ferb, for being so effective in your portrayal of the evolution of an attachment object. I may never be able to watch it again. At least not with the kids.

The Dancing Jacket

It seems appropriate that I post this on Father’s Day. My Dad, who is fabulous in his own right, learned from one of the greats: my Grandpa Mal. Yesterday I went to a great writing workshop where we were tasked with writing a very short piece about an article of clothing. The most obvious, for me, was a certain blazer that took on a persona of it’s own at my wedding. It became an ode to Grandpa. So, to the wonderful fathers in my life, Dad, Grandpa, and John, Happy Father’s Day!!

The blazer was the life of the party. It had its beginnings a long time ago and was reborn at my wedding.

I was the first of my cousins on my Father’s side to get married. Just before the ceremony, my Mother said, “Grandpa was going to wear a terrible jacket. I told him he could not!”
I didn’t know what coat she was referring to, but I knew that my mom was misguided in admonishing my Grandpa. I was disappointed that it wasn’t making an appearance.
Later, after the ceremony, as we were making our way around the reception, Grandpa mentioned something wistful about the coat.
“Your room is close. Go get it!” The bride had given her blessing, so he did.
The Blazer in Action

On the dance floor a handsome, mustachioed gentleman appeared. He sported a blazer of the finest polyester. White background, shades of red and blue weaving together into a plaid pattern that, sadly, you just can’t find today. Silky(ish) brown lining. A wide collar that has probably come back into style and will again.  

“Grandma and I used to go dancing every Saturday.” Grandpa’s friendly tanned face pulled into a grin, white caps showing.
He wasn’t dancing, just standing with the smile. “So, let’s dance!” I said. And we did.
When he got warm Grandpa Mal needed to take the jacket off, but the jacket didn’t seem to want to leave the floor. It quickly found its way on my brother’s shoulders. He insisted it had climbed onto his back of its own accord. Todd, once wrapped in the blazer, seemed to need to dance. An uncontrollable urge took over. He danced like he was on Soul Train, with a continued performance out of Solid Gold. His exuberant dancing tore a little bit of the seam in the lining.  
I put the blazer on. It compelled me to dance like a moron and like it.
It had become magical. It stayed on the dance floor, the center of attention all night.
And when the blazer made its way back to its true owner, Grandpa Mal, that’s when I could see the real magic of it. This amazing man was getting all the attention he deserved and had earned in his long life. Sure, it was just dancing after a wedding, but everyone knew who the star of the night was.
The blazer has made its appearance at several more weddings since then. Each time the lining is a little more worn, and it smells a little more like body odor. But also, each time the coat’s magical owner has strutted his stuff and by doing so has taught us so much about how we want to grow old: Happy, surrounded by family, and still willing and able to dance.