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Father’s Day 2013

On the morning of Father’s Day, Papa misses and rebooks a flight to Boston. Then, Cory (after too little sleep) cries incessantly, “I want Papa.” Fisher (after too little sleep) joins her in tears, announcing through quivering lips, “But, Jane and Michael will never see Mary Poppins again!” Neither will leave the pool at swimming lessons, prompting a public display of “stern Daddy.” Ice cream at lunch goes fine until Cory ends up with s-pants (oops) at an outdoor shopping mall and Fisher states in car on the way (quickly) home…

F (matter-of-factly): Daddy, my butt itches.
D: Okay, Fisher.
F: It itches really badly.
D: Why, Fisher, do you know?

Pause.

D: Did you wipe when you went potty at the mall?
F: What’s a mall?
D (teeth gritting): Just now, Fisher. At Town & Country?
F (quietly): No, Daddy, I forgot this time.
D (deep breaths): Fisher, you can’t forget. You have to wipe every single time.

Pause.

C: Daddy, my butt itches, too. I’m sitting in…
D (cutting her off): I know, Cory, I know. We’re almost home. (Switching radio station to find Bruno Mars, of course.) Look guys, it’s Bruno Mars. “My pride, my ego, my needs, and my selfish ways…”

Bruno Mars an ineffective wipe-n-dipe, Daddy watches two very grumpy faces in the rear view mirror, one staring down, the other out the window.

There was nothing for it but to bust the slip-n-slide back out in the afternoon.

Ich Konnt’s Nicht Verhindern

One night when the babies are crying, sleep eluding them, Daddy goes into their room, lies on the floor between their two cribs and tries a few songs. The first couple don’t do the trick. So, Daddy tries a third: “Und wir rannten durch die Strassen, zogen Sonnenbrillen auf, so dass niemand uns erkannte, und wir waren so gut darauf…” It is a German pop song that Daddy learned over fifteen years ago when he taught English as a second language in a small town, called Wust, in what was East Germany.

A woman who had fled to the West before the Wall went up, her family abandoning their estate, wanted to do something positive and special for the people in the surrounding area after that Wall came back down. She put the word out to her academic friends and brought enough people together to start a summer school for English. The “faculty” included students from the US and UK who had at least some interest in German, and the summer school, even in its first year, became as much a cultural exchange as a rigorous school for English. Many adults and kids from around Wust attended the school, and it remains a successful enterprise to this day.

Back in 1991, the younger adults, including the younger members of the faculty, would often gather on the Sportplatz at night to carouse, joke, sing songs around a campfire. A teenage German student named Cristina would play a guitar, and she would often sing (eventually by request, if memory holds) “Ganz Egal” — a German pop song that she gave a more serious treatment. As she sang the lyrics “ich konnt’s nicht verhindern,” her voice would rise impressively high and crack ever so slightly. It was absolutely beautiful.

That song stuck with Daddy over the years, becoming almost the only German he could manage years later. Perhaps thinking that the sound of the German words, being foreign to the twins’ ears, would calm them, Daddy introduces it that night with a slower, lullaby cadence, trying along the way to preserve Cristina’s high-vaulting “verhindern.” It works on them. It works the next night. And the next, and soon, the twins hear that lullabied German pop song hundreds of times, without a clue what any of the words mean, and they have no idea that every time Daddy sings it, his mind drifts back to a much better rendition sailing up into a dark, carefree German sky.

News of Cristina’s recent, untimely death from cancer, leaving behind two daughters, nine and eleven, is a blow to the gut, particularly fixed in memory as she is as a teenager herself. It is nevertheless sad and odd and wonderful the gift that she unknowingly gave to kids that she never met, before they even existed, across both years and miles.

“Ich konnt’s nich verhindern…”

Tennis Skips, Refined

The family watches a lot of tennis, particularly during a Grand Slam. Given the time difference, coverage of the French Open has conveniently aired in the morning before preschool over the past few weeks. The twins love watching the matches, but they have no idea what exactly is happening. A typical stretch…

C (after Nadal and Djokovic rally for a few shots): Daddy, who winned?
D: We don’t say “winned.”
C: Daddy, who won?
D: Nadal.
C: The one in the red shorts?
D: Yes.
F: Not the one in white?
D: No. The other one.
C: The one in red shorts won the game, right, Daddy? Not Joke-a-bitch.
D (letting the b versus v thing pass): Well, Nadal won the point, not the game.
C: The one you want to win?
F (walking over to the TV and pointing): This one?
D (mid-next point): Yes. That’s (announcer voice) Rafa Nadal.
F: Oh.
C (after the next point): Daddy, who winned that one?

On walks, Cory likes to come up with creative things to do with her arms and body while she skips, asking Daddy and Fisher to guess what kind of skip it is. Example…flapping arms usually signals “butterfly skips” (but pay attention to the exact angle and flapping speed because they just might be “hummingbird skips”). She introduced “tennis skips” quite a while ago: wrists together executing a two-handed backhand (and a two-handed forehand, for that matter) while skipping, of course, and while, to Daddy’s alarm, producing an unmistakeable Sharapova-inspired grunt.

During a walk the day after the Nadal-Djokovic match, Cory wants to show Daddy, Fisher, and the dogs her “skips.” After some “alligator skips” and “windmill skips,” she smiles in some quirky mixture of mischief and shyness.

C: What’s this one, Daddy?
D (watching her stand there executing what look like baseball signals…before eventually tennis-skipping): Tennis skips!
C (smiling): No. Watch, Daddy!

Daddy pays closer attention. She pulls at one shoulder of her shirt. She then pulls at the other. She pushes the hair behind one ear. She clears any sweat from her nose. She pushes the hair behind the other ear. Then, she tennis-skips, a “ha-uh” issued with each swing.

D (smiling): Hey! I know those skips, Cory Bee.
C (smiling just as big): What are they?
D (announcer voice for “Rafa Nadal”): They are Rafa Nadal skips!

Thankfully, the tournament ended before she could incorporate certain, um, adjustments into that particular routine.

Lucky Sister

D: The only kids who get gum are the ones that are clicked into their car seats when I get out to the car!

Fisher drops whatever he is doing to race past Cory, who is already on the porch, toward the Suburban. Cory, however, stops in her tracks.

C (whining and stamping foot): But, Daddy, I do want gum!
D: You can have gum, Cory. You just need to buckle yourself in. You can do that.
C (pitiful half-crying): No, I can’t, Daddy! I need help!
D (turning back to the house to grab wallet and phone): Yes, you can. See, Fisher is already buckling himself in…
C (mix of despair, anger, drama): But, Daddy, I can’t do it! I need your help, I say, and I am not going to get gum and I want gum!

Daddy is distracted by something.

C (louder, stamping foot some more, spiraling downward): I can’t buckle…
F (interrupting): Cory, I can help you!
C: …myself in without…(emphasizing each word)…some…help!
F (Daddy watching through the window, Fisher returning from Suburban): I can help you buckle, Cory.

Cory stares at him, quieting.

F (nearing her, gesturing with his arm toward the car): Come, Cory! I can just help you. I can help you, er, uh, eh, click, and then you can get your, eh, uh, eh, eh, gum, Cory. Come!

Cory follows him to the car. Daddy arrives with two pieces of gum, one for each, even though Fisher did twice the buckling.

D (climbing into the driver’s seat): Cory, you are so lucky to have a twin brother like Fisher. He was so super nice to help you buckle in today, right? Most people are born alone, without a twin. I was born all by myself, Cory. I didn’t have a twin brother or a twin sister. You are so lucky.

C (chomping away on her gum, not aware that Daddy is watching them in the rear view mirror, after a pause and in a barely audible whisper): Thank you, Fisher.
F (reaching across to pat her on the arm): You’re welcome, Cory. You are my sister. You are my lucky sister.

Lawyering Lasso

Daddy explains what a lawyer is over breakfast before heading off to take a deposition…

F:  Daddy, why do you have to go to Austin?
D:  Well, I have to ask a man questions.  I have to sit him down in a room and ask him some questions, and you know what, Fisher?  He has to tell Daddy the truth.  He can’t lie, no, no.
F (unimpressed and/or not comprehending):  Oh.
D:  It’s like the man has a golden lasso around him, and he can’t lie even if he wanted to.
F (smiling, more enthusiastic):  Oh!

In the car on the way to school that morning…

F:  Do they put a golden lasso around you, too, Daddy?
D:  No.  Daddy just asks questions.
C:  Is that just boring?  Asking that man questions?
D (thinking, isn’t that what toddlers do all day, ask adults questions?):  It can be, here and there.
C:  I like when Diana Prince spins into Wonder Woman and stops the bad guys, Daddy.  The parts where the people are just talking or asking questions is just boring.

Nearly the first thing the morning after Daddy arrives back from Austin…

F (sleepy voice):  Did you catch that man with your lasso, Daddy?

Daddy has apparently made lawyering into something only a four-year-old would believe.