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A Better Combination

The public moments of the twins’ last day of summer were fine. Fun, even. They had a lemonade social at the grade school…to meet their teachers, to see their new classrooms, and to play a little bit with this year’s classmates. Having been TK kids, Cory and Fisher were old pros. Very few jitters to go along with the excitement of starting a new year. Later, they rode bikes out front with the next door neighbors. Again, near chaos, total fun.

But, the private moments left a bad taste in the mouth. Fisher has new pajamas with a picture of a brown bear on the chest, saying, “I’m a bear in the morning!” He’s not. But Cory is. Especially on the last day of summer. Her food. Her clothes. Her hair. Her shoes. Whether she is going to walk a dog or ride a bike. Whether she wants to wear a helmet or keep her “braid bun.” Whether the straps on her helmet are too tight or too loose. Whether she walks Zoe or Boston. Or Quincy. Fisher circles the driveway on his bike, in his helmet, ready to go, for about 45 minutes while Daddy and his sister circle each other. On this day, he has far more patience than Daddy, who eventually takes her helmet off, straps loose or tight, and puts a vice grip on her wrist. “You are walking.”

The low point (of the morning) comes semi-publicly, out on the street, Cory having whined, cried, and yelled “Daddy, you are hurting me! You are not being nice!” at the top of her lungs for the past half hour. Fisher is riding off to check out the activity in the beehive further down the street. Daddy kneels down in front of pouty-faced Cory, who is rubbing her wrist, which Daddy had to free to pick up the crap from one of four dogs strapped to his waist.

D: Cory, listen to me.
C: You are not being nice to me, Daddy! You…
D (hands on her hips): Cory, please listen…
C: I know you just want to be nice to…
D (voice rising despite best intentions): Cory, stop talking. Stop talking for just…
C: …Fisher! And, you hurt my wrist! I don’t…
D: Cory, we need to…
C: …want to walk anymore. I am not walking anymore. My feet…
D (hands moving to shoulders, shaking her briefly, voice definitely rising, dogs agitated): Cory! I am done. Done, done, done. We are done. (Hand lifting her chin so that she has to look at Daddy.) We need to take a break from each other for a minute. But, you can’t go to your room because we are far from home. So…
C: But…
D: No! (Finger over her lips.) Don’t say a word!
C: B…
D: No! Not one word, Cory. Don’t say any words. Because the words that you are saying and the words that I am saying are NOT working. Don’t say anything until I tell you that you can speak. I will talk to Fisher and only Fisher, and you will talk to no one, and hopefully, in ten minutes, twenty minutes, a couple hours, you will calm down, and we can resume normal communication. But, for now, don’t speak.

Cory’s eyes well up. Daddy moves his finger away from her mouth, stands up, and takes her back by the wrist. The walk resumes. Fisher chatters on about the bees in the hive, the witch brooms in the graveyard, the dead rat. He’s particularly broken up about a squashed dead rat.

F (riding next to Daddy): Oh, Daddy, I am so sad for that little guy. I hope he was a er, uh, eh adull rat because if he was just a baby and he got squashed, then he didn’t have much life. That makes me so sad.
D (unable to resist): That’s right, Fisher. I don’t know if it was a full-grown adult. Life can be so short. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have fun and be good to people. You just never know when life is going to be over, so you don’t want to spend all your time whining and fighting and crying and yelling and…
C (breaking silence): See! You are NOT being nice, Daddy! You…
D: Cory! It’s not time to talk yet. I was just talking to Fisher!
C (way too smart to miss Daddy’s jabs but not smart enough just to scowl in response): But…
D: Cory! It’s not time. No more words. (Stopping and extending the poop bag to Cory’s free hand.) Here, hold this for a second.

She puts her hand behind her back. She shakes her head “no,” wrinkling up her nose.

D (shaking the poop): Here. Take it.
C (reluctantly taking it): But, Daddy, it stinks. I don’t want…
D: No words, Cory. Words aren’t working for us.
C (holding the bag by two fingers): Now you are not being nice by making me…
D: No words! You don’t seem to get this concept. Can you just hold that bag all the way home. (It wasn’t a question.)

Cory harrumphs and sighs in agony, one wrist clamped to Daddy, the other extended away from her body to maximize the distance to…poo. Later, it’s an extended time out because she won’t clean up a mess that she made. The low point (of the evening) comes when she screams from her room, “Daddy, I know if you just let me lie next to you for a minute, I will calm down. I know I will!” But, Daddy makes her do her time. Then, it’s a near loss of bedtime privileges for both of them because of mean words to each other. At lights out, everyone is okay with each other once more. Daddy gives Cory an extra long hug in her bed.

C (whispering in Daddy’s ear): I’m sorry, Daddy, for all my sassafrassing today. I’m really sorry.
D: Cory, we’ll do better tomorrow. I bet you’ll have less sassafras, and I’ll have more patience. That’ll be a better combination.
C: I love you, Daddy.
D (wishing the last day of summer would have gone better): I love you, too, Cory. Now, get some sleep. You have a big day tomorrow.

The first day of kindergarten (as full-fledged kindergarteners) comes off without a hitch. They rocked it. A better combination in play on a brand new day…

A Tale of Two Stories

C: What happens if you are bleeding when you are away from home, like on a walk or something?
D: Well, it depends on how bad the bleeding is. That reminds me of a story. It’s a story from when we lived in the Winding Way house.
F: What is it?
D (continuing up the highway): Do you guys want to hear it?
F/C: Yes!
D: Do you remember the canyon back behind the Winding Way house?
F/C: Yes!
D: Well, one morning I was running with the dogs through the canyon. Do you remember how steep it was?
F/C: Yes!
D (noticing a nondescript white four-door sedan pass on the left): Not too steep, but definitely downhill, with gravel along the path, and it had rained the night before, so everything was wet and muddy.
F: Did you have er, eh, uh Indy Bear with you?
D (the white sedan slows markedly to drop back by the Suburban on the left, four people in it laughing and smiling): No, Fisher, Indy had already passed away by then.
F: Oh. That’s sad.
D: Yes, it was. So, I was jogging along, not too fast, because it was wet on that gravel, and I was going downhill. Normally, I can control how the dogs pull. I can make them go this way and that because I am just as big as they are.
C: And, you are a person, so you are smarter than they are.
D (the white sedan is behind the Suburban and to the left, the guy in the passenger seat trying to take a picture of the Suburban, everyone in the car is laughing): That’s right. But, on that morning, all of the sudden the dogs jumped from jogging to pulling super hard in the same direction! Do you know what direction that was?
F: No.
D: Downhill! That is bad news for Daddy.
F: Why?
D: Because it is much harder to stop 200 pounds of dog when you are running on wet gravel. They were pulling faster and faster because do you know what they smelled?
C: A coyote?
D (the white sedan crew still trying to get a good picture of, it begins to be clear, the license plate): No. Not that day. It was a deer. I couldn’t see it because it was up in the trees a little bit, and I couldn’t hear it because I had my headphones on, and I couldn’t smell it because, well, because…
C (smiling): …because you are not a dog! You can’t smell things as good as dogs can, Daddy!
D: That’s right. People might be smarter than dogs, but dogs can smell way better than people do, and Boston, Quincy, and Kohl sure smelled that deer. They pulled so hard and so fast that as I tried to get control of them, they pulled me right over!
C: What the what?!
D (the white sedan slowing further to pull behind Daddy, the passenger holding up his cellphone for a shot from directly behind): Yah, and they dragged me along down that hill of gravel. They were trying to get that deer, and they just dragged me! Hey, guys, look behind us.

They look behind.

D: Do you see the people in the white car?
F/C: Yes.
D: They are taking a picture of our car.
C: Why? Why, Daddy?
D: They want a picture of our license plate.
F: What’s a licen plate?
D: It’s the little sign with the all the numbers on it on the back of every car. Like see those.
F: Oh.
C: Why are they trying to take a picture of ours?
D: Because ours says “GAYBIES.” And they like that. See how they are smiling and laughing?
F: What does “GAYBIES” mean?
D: Do you want me to tell you that story?
F/C: Yes.
D: Well, it just means…hold on, guys, here comes the white car. (Rolling down the tinted backseat windows.) Fisher, can you wave to them?

Fisher waves to the white sedan as it passes, to the delight of its four passengers. Daddy nods, as the picture taker points to his phone as if to say “Got it.” The white sedan continues on its way.

F: Those people in that white car were so nice.
D: They were. So, when someone has two daddies or two mommies, some people call that person a “gayby.” Like you two. You have…
C (interrupting): Daddy?
D: Yes?
C: Actually, that story is just boring. Can you finish the story about the doggies dragging you on the gravel?
F: Yah. Did they make your body bleed?
C: Fisher, remember when Boston pulled me over and dragged me down the street some?
F: Yah. Daddy, did they make you bleed?
C: Tell us.
D: Well, eventually after Daddy fell, the dogs couldn’t pull anymore and…

Daddy smiles, as he finishes the deer-dogs-dragging-blood story. Way more exciting for them than letters on a license plate…

Child Pirate Booty

Earlier in the summer, while Daddy was out of town, Uncle Pierce volunteered to help a shorthanded Papa by watching the kids on Saturday morning for a few hours. When the twins arrived at Uncle Pierce’s new San Francisco house for the first time, Uncle Pierce showed them a large map that he “found” when moving in. It read…

(As a child pirate I had riches,
Silver coins, chocolate kisses,
Hidden treasure for the taking,
Pirate’s booty in the making.
Called away to the sea,
I had to stash it and flee!
Somewhere here, locked away,
For adventurers willing to play,
If you find it, you will see,
Vast rewards come to ye!

Clue #1: Once small as a seed,
It’s grown big like a weed!
Now tall as a giant,
A shaggy green lion,
Root around for a clue,
Find secret number two!)

Clue #1 led them to Clue #2, all the way through Clue #5, which directed them where to dig. When Daddy returned from Missouri, they showed off the buried treasure that they had found.

F: And, there a boy and he was, er, eh, uh…
C: And, he left two treasures, Daddy! One for Fisher, and…
F: And, Uncle Pierce just found the map, and…
C: And, we had to dig down there, all the way down there, to find…
F: And, he just had to sail away so he hid…
C: And, there was gold and candy and…

And there were two very happy, excited children, chattering on and on. The treasure boxes still sit on top of the refrigerator with just a piece or two left. Candy preserved oh, all the long years since a child pirate buried it should be doled out slowly over the whole summer.

As August memories of that June day attest, Uncle Pierce did more than “watch” them that day.

No Pipsqueak Wannabe, This One

After a little group pruning, the trunk of the tree in the back yard catches Fisher’s eye. He climbs up.

F (pointing left): Daddy, look!

Daddy and Cory look up. Oh. Those. Yah, move along, just the pipsqueak wannabes seen every year since moving to this house. None of them have ever fattened up into something edible.

F (pointing right): Daddy, look!

Holy smokes. There you go. Right there. Good eye! Daddy gets the camera and passes it up to Fisher. Next year, if the kids plant onions next to the tomatoes, the yard could feasibly produce enough guacamole for say, two, maybe three chips.

Eight Chances

P: This is disgusting! (Dropping a stuffed animal on the table.) Can you wash this thing today?

Cho Cho has been watching over Cory since she was about ten days old. Before the kids were born, Daddy and Papa decided that the theme of their baby room would be “dogs,” and on a trip to Maine, bought two large snuggly stuffed dogs, one gray (Cho Cho for Cory) and one brown (Bing Bing for Fisher). The two were placed on shelves over the babies’ cribs, heads arranged to watch them whenever they were sleeping. The twins stayed in the Oregon hospital where they were born for about five days and then in a nearby condo, gathering strength for the long drive home. It wasn’t until they were about ten days old that Cho Cho and Bing Bing started watching over them.

And, it wasn’t for two-ish years that Daddy would take them down for more than a few minutes. Cho Cho and Bing Bing were larger than Cory and Fisher for most of that time and might have accidentally smothered those babies with all their, um, love. Eventually, the watchdogs were allowed in the beds, and Cory and Fisher have been sleeping with them ever since. When the twins started using words, Daddy pointed out to them at bedtime that it was okay, nothing to be scared off, their watchdogs are right there, either up on the shelf, watching over them, or right there in the beds with them.

Don’t try to take Fisher’s Bing Bing away, by any means, but Cory’s relationship with Cho Cho is a bit tighter. She runs to him for comfort whenever she’s upset. He helps her to calm down when she’s angry or crying and needs a time out. She spoons him when she sleeps at night, she is usually carrying him in her arms every morning,…and she clearly slobbers on the thing while sleeping. Hence, his ripeness.

Too scared that Cho Cho might just disintegrate in the wash machine, Daddy and the twins take Cho Cho to the dry cleaner on a Friday…

D: And, how long will it take because we want to get Cho…(pointing down) this guy back as quickly as possible?
DC: Is Monday okay?
D (seeing Cory’s eyes move into their pre-tears position): Um, okay. We’ll keep him today, but bring him back next week, okay?
DC (as Cory smiles and grabs Cho Cho): Okay. I understand. You want a candy? (Bringing the box up from below the counter.) Your uncle say it’s okay!

Uncle Daddy smiles through gritted teeth. A Thursday later, Cho Cho is handed over, to be returned on Saturday. Between 5 p.m. when that happens and 8 p.m. bedtime, she bursts into tears about six times. “I… miss… him… I… just… miss… my… Cho Cho… I… have… never… been… without… him…” During the first dinnertime outburst…

F: Oh, I have a good idea, Cory!
C (through tears): What, Fisher?
F (through soup): If you let me sleep in your bed with you, I can bring Bing Bing down with me. Then, we can both sleep with Bing Bing while they are cleaning Cho Cho. Do you want to do that, Cory?
C: Uh huh.
F: But, you have to let me sleep in your bed? Otherwise, no Cho Cho.
C: Okay.
F (patting her on the arm): Okay.

Ten minutes later, Cory (because: control freak) has taken his crackers and won’t give the package back. She is doling out one cracker at a time, as he wants one. He gets aggravated.

F: Cory! If you don’t give me those crackers, I am not going to bring Bing Bing down into your bed!
C (not giving him those crackers and apparently not fully processing): How many…
F: Cory! Okay! You just lost your chance! I gave you chances, but you just didn’t want them. You are not sleeping with Bing Bing tonight. Or your dirty old Cho Cho.

Cory wells up again. Daddy mediates. Truce is uneasily restored.

F: Cory, I will give you eight chances. You have eight chances, Cory. But, if you do eight bad things, it is not going to go good for you. Because you don’t have your Cho Cho.

As long as Cory doesn’t use up her eight chances, it seems that Bing Bing will make the journey down with Fisher for Cory’s two nights of soul-shaking nighttime solitude. At least, it seemed that way until actual bedtime. At bedtime, Fisher starts crying…

F: But, I want Bing Bing to watch over my bed. He’s my watchdog. Who is going to watch over my bed, if I take him out of there, Daddy? Who?
D: But, you’ll be right…
F: But, what if somebody does something in my bed!? I need Bing Bing to watch my bed, Daddy! I…
C: But, Daddy, I don’t have…

Sheesh. Daddy heads off bedtime armageddon, facilitating a compromise. Fisher will come down to sleep with Cory and bring his big white bear, while Bing Bing watches over both of them from up above in Fisher’s bunk. Cory reluctantly agrees. As Daddy closes the door…

C (sleepily): Fisher, can I snuggle with your bear?
F (just as sleepily): Yes, Cory. (Pause.) But, be careful because he doesn’t like it too much around the neck. See, if you…

Sensing that she’ll make it through, Daddy smiles and closes the door. At wake up the next morning…

…the twins climb up on Daddy’s lap, per usual, but they are awfully lovey dovey with the big white bear, which they have brought with them. At breakfast, they move a chair between their own two at breakfast in order to share their food with the bear, talking to him the whole time like a brand new baby brother. Cho Cho better not extend his spa stay beyond Saturday…

…Indeed, after Daddy returns on Saturday from collecting Cho Cho from the spa…er, dry cleaner, Cory is watching a movie with Papa. Daddy holds up a super-clean, fresh-smelling Cho Cho. Her first words are…

C (eyes moving from TV to Daddy, lips moving into slightest of smiles): Daddy, you didn’t get me a lollipop?

She does hug Cho Cho and settle him under her, but one thing about purely emotional comfort: you can’t actually taste it.