My daughter Grace walked out of her room this morning dressed like this and said, “Today I’m going to be a ninja!”
Last night, my wife took our children to the YMCA while I spent some time writing. Yes, that includes writing for this blog, which means that I was writing about raising our children while my wife was actually raising them. However, some of that time I spent assembling and setting up bookcases in our library, and around the time she was about to leave 1) I was not yet done and 2) my sinuses were in Full Revolt against the dust raised by my books. I did not feel like working out. After three hours at the Y she came home and made the quickest dinner she could, which meant chicken all around (a slab of breast for me — no complaints here — and chicken nuggets for the kids), freshly unfrozen peas and carrots, slices of oranges, and potato chips.
I helped with drinks. I think I deserve a medal.
As we began to eat, I became conscious of the order in which I was eating my food. Can you guess? First the chips. Then the oranges. Then — no, not the chicken, because it had Solidified after about two days in the refrigerator — then the peas and carrots, and then I sliced up the chicken breast and made a sandwich out of it. My wife, a sort-of vegetarian, had to my envy a grilled cheese sandwich. But as I was noticing my eating habits I looked around the table to observe my children’s eating habits. First the chips. Then the oranges. Then the chicken nuggets. Then the vegetables.
After noticing that my wife had eaten a little bit of everything in various orders, I realized that only one adult was seated at the table that night. . .
Earlier this evening, during dinner, I began a sentence to my wife with the words, “One time, when Josh and Steven were about eight or nine…” Before I could finish, she said, “You mean the iced tea thing?” I’m taking her response as a sign that I need to get this story off my chest before I find myself doomed to repeat it ad infinitum, so I will blog about it here, establishing a Definitive Text of The Great Iced Tea Story.
Before I begin the story, however, I want to leave you with a single, undeniably useful kernel of information on the off chance that you find the story a waste of time. I feel that there are certain undeniable facts in life, and that once found, they must be immediately disseminated for the benefit of humanity. These facts tend to take two forms: facts that accompany a positive good, such as a pleasure or benefit of some kind, and facts that help us avoid something uncomfortable or bad, such as those facts found in cautionary tales.
Being who I am, I will present the latter most of the time.
Today’s useful fact: it is an Unpleasant Thing to eat tortilla chips with a very dry mouth. Consider yourself warned.
Now to the iced tea story. Once day, when my sons Josh and Steven were around nine or ten years old, around the time our family was living in a house on Wavecrest Dr. in Orlando and playing Back to the Future on our Nintendo, we all converged at once upon the refrigerator for a glass of iced tea. I was slightly ahead of them, having removed the pitcher and started to pour when they arrived. They both told me that they wanted iced tea too, of course, but as I poured out the pitcher we all realized there was only enough tea to only partially fill up an eight ounce glass.
Now, we had two options. We could split this already pitiful glass of iced tea three ways, giving us all a gulp of tea, or we could somehow determine who would be the winner of the single glass of iced tea. I chose the latter option, being a latter option sort of guy, and suggested a contest: “Okay, we’ll all pick a number between 1 and 10, and whoever gets the closest gets the glass of iced tea. I got the number. Go ahead and tell me your guesses.”
At first they liked the idea and started nodding, but they nodded with a certain, oh, disturbance about them. Like they were bothered by something but couldn’t quite put their finger on it. Now this disturbance, in the course of three or four seconds, increased to a preoccupation, like a puzzle to be solved, and then gelled to a realization, a dawning light of truth upon their situation, not just in terms of the last cup of tea, but in terms of life. Almost simultaneously, they said, “Hey, you know what the number is!”
I laughed. They laughed. Then I drank the glass of tea.
In a single fell swoop my sons learned an invaluable life lesson about capitalism and scarcity and what happens to those who are neither holding the tea nor making the rules.
Not sure, but I think I made another pot of tea…
Food and Drink and Fatherhood is James Rovira’s personal blog, a central location for his publications, projects, interests, and observations. He has two other blogs devoted to his book projects, Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum 2010 hardcover, 2011 paperback) and Interpretation: Theory: History (in progress: working title).
I talked myself into going with my wife to a local Salvation Army thrift store yesterday. The usual routine is that she goes out and then I go out — with three small children, that’s the only way to get anything done. I don’t like the division of our time, though, and wanted to spend time with her, so I suggested that we all just go together. The inevitable — at least, the inevitable as defined by my wife — happened. She shopped very little. I shopped a little more. I bought Stuff for the Kids that they Didn’t Need. We chased children around the store.
But best of all, like most thrift stores this one had a healthy used book section. When I saw a hardcover copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The General in His Labyrinth I couldn’t resist picking it up. There was no need for me to do so, really. I own almost all of Marquez’s novels, probably in first edition hardcover, and have read almost all of them, including this one. I don’t really know why I had to pick up and flip through a book I already own.
I’m glad I did, though. I opened the book to a small collection of about ten or fifteen stamps. Two or three dropped to the floor before I realized they were in there. I asked my son to hand them to me. Then I realized I had to buy the book. Cost wasn’t an issue — the book was $.99. But that wouldn’t matter anyhow. The book had a history. It had been owned. It had traveled. I don’t know why or how it wound up in a thrift store, or why it was filled with stamps, but that’s all part of its history. As an object with a history, it is not in fact identical to the other copy of the same book that I own. It has acquired an originality and uniqueness. The stamps are as much a part of this book, now, as its cover and its words. So it sits on my shelf next to me, apart from the rest of my Marquez titles, having acquired me as part of its history as much as I have acquired it.
And I don’t mind.