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If my children are a proper gauge, I would have to conclude that every family’s older generation is funny and weird, and every kid loves to hear the stories that make it so.  These are the stories of growing up in the old days, when the old folks were kids.  And these stories best not be long or sad or even meaningful.  They have to be as every child supposes his or her parents to be – worthy of a good laugh.
     The stories have to be embarrassing, but only for their subjects, not their audience.  They also have to be a little cruel and insensitive, the sort of stories that at least one member of the older generation does not want told – for obvious reasons.  But, most of all, these stories have to be true.  Why else would someone not want the whole world to know?
       
If the stories have value beyond these properties, the value is merely coincidental.  If they have reasons for telling beyond what has already been suggested, that, too, is merely icing for the cake. 
        I am going to tell for the benefit of my children, certainly not the world, what I hope is entirely for fun.  I’m going to tell what it was like for a family of nine to grow up in a time and a place and under circumstances that were at best, and wholly in the inaccuracy of uncorroborrated hindsight, especially funny and weird.
  

 
  Many years ago, when I was old and far away, but not as old or as far away as I am today, my typical morning would begin, as with almost no other family in our neighborhood at the time, at 5:00 a.m.  My wife would have already slipped out from between a tidy set of bed sheets and blankets and be gone.  I’d not slip, but roll out of bed – my back usually too stiff in the morning for just getting up.  I’d, of course, be careful not to mess the bed too much.  I’d crawl onto the floor onto my back and stretch, then slowly rise and do some light exercise, get nearly winded and sweaty, then shower, dress, smooth out the bed, then sit down at my computer to read the latest news on the Internet in my quiet ordinary way.  And by 6:00 a.m., I’d be ready to go back to bed – give myself at least another half hour before getting the kids up. 
        When their time came, I’d gently nudge them on the shoulder as they lay pretzel-like in their mounded clump of bedding and whisper a warm and comforting, “Five more minutes.”  The warming, I actually mean warning, was merely an exercise in doing the right thing, for they slept without a care about how much on the clock or in what manner they slumbered.  They weren’t afraid of stiffness or wrinkles in their beds; they wouldn’t be rolling or sliding out.  They’d bound, sometimes more than once, onto the floor when it was time to wake and get out of bed.  And my warning wasn’t so much for them as for me.  I was getting an extra five minutes. 
        When the time was up, I’d nudge them on the shoulder again, not so gently; and, like a Buddhist monk practiced in the sprinkling of flowery, softly crushed petal-like platitudes of eloquence, slightly wise and slightly incoherent, I’d think to remind them that one does not live life in a tousled bedroll, but in a healthful breakfast awaiting them at the table.  I’d think to say this, but actually bellow, “Get up! You’ll be late for school.” 
        I’d have breakfast on the table.  Both kids in their respective ways would humph themselves into the room, plop down in their chairs where on the table they would find a choice of Cheerios, Cornflakes, and sometimes Lucky Charms, sometimes a Poptart.  They’d eat – silently – as I would pepper them with the latest news or trivia for the day.  Without speaking, they’d finish eating, repair to the bathroom, get themselves dressed.  Sometimes I’d help them pick out clothes.  Usually, I just helped make sure what they chose fit. When we were rushed, which was not unusual, I’d also help them hope their mother would not find out what I let them go to school in.  Then, at last, we’d be on our way. 
        We’d walk, which they hated.  I’d sing to boost their spirits, which I think they especially hated.  They’d grimace.  But when I’d say things after each verse, things like “Music hadn’t yet been invented; you’ll have to hear without music,” the two of them giggled.  Ally, the kindergartener and articulate one, would usually cup her hand over her mouth pretending to contain an outburst.  Adam, a third grader, in response to his sister’s reaction, would also roll his eyes.
 
        I could sing the J.P. Richardson song – the only J. P. Richardson song that ever existed as far as I know, but more importantly the one song that always made our trek through the neighborhood mile slightly more pleasant (depending, of course, on the morning and the mile and the ghost of J. P. Richardson). 
 
        “Tell us ‘bout the bear and Dennis,” Ally’d interrupt just about where she knew my singing was nearly over or close enough.
        “Yeah!” Adam would add, no longer looking embarrassed by my interpretation of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.”
 
        We had another 10 minutes before we’d reach school, and the bear story wasn’t that long.  It wasn’t really a story either – just a moment of an incident that happened when I was a kid.  So I’d embellish it a little – well, a lot.  That way it lasted.  It had also become one of their favorites – mine, too, now that it seemed to have an audience.

One Response to “Story 002 – Huh?”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Hey, I know these kids, and I never dreamed that their father was embarrassing them by singing his way to their school.

    THE BIG BOPPER???

    Yuck! All grownups ARE weird and funny, if we can judge by this guy.


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