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It’s a Magical World

P: …Hobbes is a tiger, a stuffed tiger, like one of the stuffed animals in your bed, and everyone knows that. Well, everyone knows that but Calvin. Calvin thinks that he’s real, but everyone else, they know that…

Papa takes the twins just around the corner, to read to them. Daddy gets a yogurt from the second fridge. As Daddy sits in the kitchen and mixes the honey through, Papa explains, in a house where everything is within earshot, that he loves Calvin and Hobbes, that he got this book as a gift from an old friend, and that he will read them parts of it, if they would like him to, that this book will be something shared between Papa and them, especially.

F/C: Yes!

Over the next half hour, Daddy hears words drifting around the house, but none of them stick. The words are eclipsed by the laughter. They are tracking at sixty, maybe seventy percent, content-wise, but they are laughing. From the gut. Laughing and loving it. And laughing some more.

It’s a magical world.

Beachfront Misery

After a few good days…

C (whispering in the dark at bedtime): Daddy, I’m never going to live some place without you there, too.

Physically tired, Daddy squeezes her, imagining an older, Sharapova-esque version spending a healthy fraction of her Wimbledon prize money to add a comfortable wing onto an already spacious beachfront mansion, realizing an oft-expressed desire to keep close.

C: Because I love you so much.

After a subsequent few, not-so-good days…

C (whispering in the dark at bedtime): Daddy, I don’t ever want to live anywhere without you there, Daddy.

Emotionally drained, Daddy squeezes her, imagining an older, Kathy Bates-like version placing a four-by-four block of wood between a sleeping Daddy’s ankles, bringing a sledge hammer down heavily, first one way and then the other, realizing an oft-expressed desire to keep close.

C: Because I love you so much.

Motivating Fisher

While Cory cracks tennis balls across the street, Fisher usually rides his bike up and down it, trying lamely not to get hit — but kind of loving it when he does.

D (asking only once): Are you sure you don’t want to work out some wiggles by hitting some balls?
F: No, thanks. I’ll work out my wiggles on my bike, Daddy. Thanks for asking, though, Daddy.

That was when things were some kind of even: she had the stronger forehand (by far); he, the better backhand (by far). Within fifteen minutes of the backhand side clicking for Cory, he, without prompting, parks his bike, takes off his helmet, and wanders inside. He returns a couple minutes later with his racket.

F (lining up next to Cory): Daddy, I’m on the line!

It’s apparently time to work on that forehand.

Oliver Squeezed

Fisher sits babbling over a lemon, picked from the tree in the back yard, resting in a bowl of water.

D: What is that?
F: It’s my pet lemon.
D: Oh, cool. Does it have a name?
F: Oliver. It’s name is Oliver. (Pointing to the stem.) The stem is his hair. Oh, I know what I need!

He runs to the kitchen, climbs on the counter, and returns with a paper towel that he folds up and immerses at the bottom of the bowl.

F (patting Oliver): There you go, Oliver, my little sweetie.

Daddy lets the bowl sit in the middle of the table for a few days but then, when the kids are out, cleans it up. Oliver lands in a fruit bowl, his juice to be extracted for a green smoothie on the weekend. Later, Daddy asks Fisher to go pick three more lemons to be likewise sacrificed. He returns with four.

D: What’s the other lemon for, Fisher?
F: Do you know why I like to pick an extra lemon from the tree?
D: Why?
F: To save one from the blender. (To himself as he moves to reassemble a bowl, water, and paper towel bedding.) You’re my new little Oliver. You are safe with me. I won’t let Daddy mix you…

Daddy stops him when he tries to take the bowl out of the kitchen. Oliver II enjoys a few extra, well-bathed days before he too gives up the juice. There is little doubt an Oliver III is molding away somewhere hidden in their room. The smell will eventually give him away.