On driving your daughter to distill

Posted by jdg | Monday, October 02, 2006 |

It strikes me that the bulk of one's toddlerhood is spent in restraint. From the moment we are plucked screaming from behind the bars of our cribs in the morning to the second we are left to listlessly console ourselves to sleep at night behind those very bars again, we are shuttled between various snap-button harnesses and four-walled mesh apparati and rooms barricaded by safety gates. All of this is done in the name of "safety," but it strikes me that every modern child is given a healthy dose of the penal experience before they hit the age of three.

Should it really be a surprise then, that upon occasion a child is born with the same impish fire in her eyes and singleminded desire for freedom that Steve McQueen's character exhibited in The Great Escape? Over the course of the last 20 months I have played the evil Teutonic commandant to her wily prisoner-of-war, thwarting her ever-increasing efforts to escape various contexts of restraint, from bedroom to high chair to stroller to car seat. I have uncovered escape tunnels, discovered contraband bolt and wire cutters under her crib mattress, and found various disguises and forged documents she was clearly planning to use to blend in with the adult population before making a dash for the Canadian border, where babies are treated with respect and dignity. But I don't think that fake mustache and monocle would have fooled the Canadian customs agents. They're craftier than that. I'm just grateful her legs are too short to reach the pedals of a Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle.

As I have thwarted her escape plans time and time again, Juniper has turned to her old tactics of protest, from the banging of tin cups against the door to her cell, to dumping urine and feces-soaked rags in my lap every three to four hours. But when I got into the car this morning and smelled the pungent odor of fermenting fruit I knew Juniper had taken things one step too far. She was manufacturing pruno under her car seat. For you delicate readers who may never have served any time in a state or federal prison, pruno is a handcrafted distilled beverage common in our nation's prisons whereby an incarcerated vintner stuffs a dirty sock with as much fresh fruit, sugarcubes, ketchup packets, fruit cocktail, and moldy bread, and then leaves it to ferment behind his cell's radiator for a few weeks in a plastic bag. The end product, filtered through the sock, has been described as a "vomit-flavored wine cooler."

It has been my wife's idea to have Juniper on a consistent diet of fresh fruit to keep her regular in the shitting department. That means when I pack up the day's snacks, I often include some fresh pineapple chunks, carefully-halved grapes, peeled mango and apple slices. When I took Juniper on the two-hour car trip to the Hillsdale County Fair last Wednesday, I found that by frequently reaching behind my back and handing her a grape or a pineapple chunk she would stop screaming about being strapped into the damn car seat. I thought she was eating them, but instead, upon inspection of her car seat this morning, it appears she was hoarding them under the seat cushion, stuffing them under a mash of cheerios, goldfish crackers and pirate's booty. She apparently planned to distill all this into a nice batch of pruno by the heat of her little farts. The car already smelled of fermented fruit cocktail.

So Herr Commandant shoveled up the contraband pruno into a garbage bag and hauled it into the house. He and the Mrs. recently entered into a little wager with details too sordid for public airing, but they have already decided that a fitting result will be the loser trying three spoonfuls of Juniper's baby-prison pruno.