F (breathless): Daddy, I was the king!
D: You were?! That’s cool. Did you say anything as king?
D: What did you say?
F: I said to the pilgrims, “No! You must believe in my god.”
D: What did the pilgrims do?
F: They didn’t like that. (The Pilgrim in the horse shirt sure didn’t.) They got on the Mayflower and sailed to where there was too much snow on the houses. It was er eh uh too cold. And, then they got back on the Mayflower to Plymouth. That’s a rock. It was cold, and there was really much snow.
D: Brrrr. Why did those Pilgrims want to be here so badly?
F: Because they didn’t like the king to say they couldn’t believe in their god.
D: Were there people here when those Pilgrims came to Plymouth?
F (still, after a year of occasional corrections): Yes, Nate of America was here.
D: What did the Native Americans do?
F: They hid behind that easel. (In the reenactment, that’s exactly what they did.) Except one, but I don’t remember his name.
C: Fisher, I’ll give you a hint. It’s Squanto.
F: Oh, yah.
D: Nice hint, Cory.
F: Then, they had a feast.
D: Who did?
F: The Pilgrims and Nate of America. Squanto, I mean. Squanto said welcome and showed those Pilgrims how to be er eh uh not so cold.
D: That was nice.
F: I know that. (Pause.) Daddy, when I was king, I got to sit on a chair that was on top of a table!
Between intolerance and hospitality began a nation of, um, immigrants.
C (screaming from a time-out in her room, between sailor-mouthed curses): I want new parents! You don’t take good care of me! I! Want! New! Parents!
A pretty good morning turns suddenly south at lunch. A forced nap that stretches on for a couple of hours in the afternoon seems to right things.
In a calm talk later, Daddy explains (again) that words spoken can never be taken back, that sometimes, most times, it’s better not to speak when anger rises, better to just go to time-out and quietly tell all those frustrations to Cho-Cho (her stuffed dog). It’s all right to have mean thoughts when angry. Everyone does. It’s even okay to say them out loud, scream them even, just do so into Cho-Cho. Get them out, but don’t scream those mean words, words that can never be taken back, out of the door at friends and family. Don’t even say them to people. Words can hurt people, and they can’t be taken back. Apologies can be given, yes, but those words, they just can’t ever be taken back.
She absorbs all of this, shaking her head, calm ears open to things her angry mouth won’t remember next time.
C (in the morning): Daddy, what are we doing today?
D: Well, we have to take the dogs for a walk, we should eat something, I know Papa wants to look at new cars, and we do have to find new parents for you.
She gazes up with a “wait, what?” look.
C (after a long pause): Daddy, can I tell you something?
D: Yes. We have so much to do today. Those are two big tasks on list: a new car and new parents for Cory. (Taking a sip.) Ima need more coffee for this day. It’s gonna take a lot out of us. Cory, would you get me some more coffee?
After a back and forth about which button to push on the coffee machine, whether to use two hands, how to fill beans, etc.
C: Daddy, can I tell you something?
C (whispering): I don’t want new parents.
D (faux surprise): Oh, wait, what!? Cory, I’m mapping out a whole schedule here for the day. I thought you wanted new parents?
C: Stop. I just said that.
D: I know. You said that, so I thought, well, let’s see what we could do. Thankfully, our Sunday isn’t too busy. So, I think we could squeeze new parents in. We’ll just have to…
C: Daddy, stop. I just said that because…
D: Because, what?
C (whispering even more quietly): …because I was mad.
D: Oh. You mean that you didn’t mean it?
D: Okay. Well, shoot. This changes the whole day. Are you sure?
D: Well, okay, but I had arranged a few good candidates. I mean, you’d probably miss Boston and Quincy and Fisher and stuff, but sometimes a fresh start is just the thing. Are you sure you didn’t mean those words?
C: Daddy, stop. I’m sure.
Daddy scratches that off a random list of words she can’t read yet, nudges her a little with a shoulder, then a hug.
For the last several nights, Daddy has planted seeds that maybe it’s time, after the second book, to take a break for a while, in favor of other things. The Harry Potter story ratchets the scary up pretty quickly. After Cory nails the answer to every trivia question during dinner…
C: Daddy, can I tell you something?
C: I think I’m going to have a nightmare iffin we read the chapter about the monster in the Chamber of Secrets.
D (without pause): We don’t want that. You know it’s only a book, right?
C: No. It’s a movie, too.
D: Yah, but Aragog and Voldemort aren’t real real. They are just in our imagination.
C: Yes, but…I think I will have a nightmare.
D (eyeing Fisher to see how big a disappointment this might be): Then, let’s not read it.
F: Oooooh, but Daddy, that means Hermione will just be, er, eh, uh, what’s that called again?
F: She’ll just stay petrified like that forever.
C: Because I know that it’s just a book or a movie, but my brain just forgets or something when I go to sleep.
D: Dreams are amazing things, Cory. Your brain puts things together in cool ways while you are sleeping. That’s imagination. And, you see…
C: My brain just sees stuff, and it doesn’t know that it’s not real.
D: You’re so right. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether what you are seeing is just a dream or whether it’s real.
F: Daddy, I have a good idea!
F: We could take a break from Harry Potter. We could just read another book.
D (watching Cory pick gently at her busted lip): That’s a great idea. There are SO many books that I want to read to you. I could read to the two of you all day every day, and we would still never finish all the books that it would be fun to read together.
F: We could just read another book…(snapping a circuit element randomly in place)…okay, Cory?
D: How about we read something else tonight, and we find out what’s in the Chamber of Secrets this weekend, in the middle of the day, when it’s bright outside and not so close to bedtime?
D: That way, you won’t go to bed and see Aragog or whatever that monster is in your sleep.
F: And that way, Hermione only has to stay petrified at the weekend.
C: Thanks, Daddy.
D: You’re welcome.
In the morning, without realizing that Cory’s face is up close on the other side to say something, Daddy firmly closes a pocket door the last inch. BAM. The lip busts, and she cries.
Same morning, Papa roughhouses with Fisher in the bed when…BAM. Front teeth meet bedpost. The teeth remain intact, but he cries.
Each begs not to go to school. No can do. Off they go, faces battered and eyes swollen from crying. Daddy keeps one eye on the cell phone all day, waiting for the call, sure the school, maybe DFS, is going to call. Where’s the call?
No call comes. On the commute home, Daddy prepares for an evening of improving sullen moods, moving past things, soothing any lingering aches, repeating whatever needs repeating, lots of love and distraction.
Pshaw. The two of them are in the best moods they’ve been in in weeks. He never mentions his teeth. She briefly wants an ice pack for a swollen, purpled spot on her lip, but otherwise, they are chipper and polite, listening ears open, nice words flowing, little bickering, ready laughter, slammin’ dance moves, healthy appetites, and, um, begging to build another circuit. (A circuit a day keeps…well, something away.)
After they are in bed, excited that tomorrow will bring the chapter that reveals what monster lives inside the Chamber of Secrets, Daddy walks by and notices a red blotch on the door jamb.