A post by someone who clearly needs to get out more

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm sitting in the darkness texting my wife, and I write, This is the worst morning ever but can't even punctuate the damn sentence because my daughter is clawing at my face and screaming in fear of a bedraggled green hoarder who never leaves his trash can. It's one of those moments where you wish you could turn into 1950s dad, lift the kid up by her collar, look right into her eyes, and in a calm-yet-slightly-menacing voice say, Look kid, Oscar is not a monster. He's just grouchy, is all. But you can't because your son is knocking on your other cheekbone like it's some great oaken door in an old Poe story, trying to get your attention so he can be sure you are indeed hearing him beg repeatedly to GO HOME. You want to say, I'm here suffering for your pleasure but it's clear they are not pleased. Instead of saying anything, you just collapse under their weight, endure their continued assaults, staring longingly into the next aisle where a woman has a one-year-old sitting perfectly content on her lap next to a well-behaved 3-year-old who keeps turning around to look back and forth between you and your kids as if to say, Consider how they reflect upon you, these reprobate offspring you've dragged to the theater. Tsk, tsk. 

You know you're a pretty lucky bastard when your worst morning ever involves nothing more than Monday matinee theater with a couple of kids who've changed their minds about seeing the latest potboiler performed by the Sesame Street Traveling Players (about five minutes after the curtain rises). But somehow this morning has turned out to be worse than both New Year's Day 2008 and that time two months ago when you went to The Mall. New Worst Morning Ever. You imagine other peoples' "worst mornings ever" that involve shipwrecks or drive-by shootings or waking up after a long all-you-can-eat night at the Shellfish Hut. What's made this morning so completely awful is not enduring the kids' behavior or twenty minutes of the performance itself, but the simple realization that you really don't want to leave. You had five hours of sleep last night. You walked over a mile in the February cold from your house to the theater without a stroller and you aren't nearly ready to go back out there with them. Besides, you don't get out much, and haven't been to the theater in ages. You actually want to sit there and find out whether this pink winged thing calling herself Abu Dhabi will remember the magical spell that can return the red muppet, the blue muppet, the monocled, besneakered vampire and the bear wearing diapers to their normal size so that the red muppet can plant his flower in the giant bird's garden. That's how far you've fallen. You manage to squeak out a halfhearted, "We paid good money to see this show. . ." but you know you won't make it past intermission, and it is with a distinct sense of sadness that you accept you may never know what happens at the end of Sesame Street Live: Ernie, I Shrunk the Freaks.

* * * * *

I guess my hopes were just too high. The last time we did this, long before her brother came along, Kid #1 seemed to really enjoy herself, and rereading that post proves her enjoyment was as infectious as my prose was pretentious. As a freshly-minted five-year old, I guess she's now way too mature for it, despite a lingering, irrational phobia of all creatures of indeterminate species with green fur. Kid #2 is the same age she was when I wrote that post, but he's as indifferent to Elmo as she was obsessed with him. If I try to turn on the television to keep him from destroying one part of the house while I clean another, I inevitably find him far from the screen digging for errant cough drops in the junk drawer or pointing and grunting at the pictures of soft air pistols in the sporting goods circular he's pulled from the recycling bin. Sorry Elmo, he's just not that into you. He's much more interested in figuring out a way to hurl projectiles at me more efficiently.

Lately I've taken to wearing an old-fashioned Mackinaw hunting coat. I shame my bird-hunting ancestors by hiding hippie diapers in the game pocket and various pre-packaged organic foodstuffs in the pockets where ammunition and beef jerky were supposed to go. Going to Sesame Street Live, my pockets were bulging with so much way-cheaper-and-healthier-than-the-concession-stand goodies I looked like I was heading for deer camp. Tragically, the kids ate most of the good stuff on the walk over and we were left with little more than a handful of cereal, two of those watered-down-apple-juice boxes my wife insists on buying, and an old-timey sassafras candy stick. When I gave the latter to my son, he spit it out and looked at me with disgust. What's up, Pa? Did you pick that up on your weekly visit to Oleson's Mercantile? You might fool some orphan you picked up on the streets of Mankato with that hokum, but this is the 21st century, bro. Where da Skittles at?

Alas, no one would be tasting the rainbow this day.

I emptied all my coat pockets looking for any more goodies that might prolong our stay inside the theater. Imagine my joy when I found a ziplock full of dried fruit and imagine my dismay as he dumped it all on the floor beneath our seats. GO HOME, he shouted while my daughter watched the stage between the slits of her fingers that covered her eyes. YEAH, LET'S GO. So we did, and we shuffled past the other knees in our aisle, past others' laughter and mirth, and my ungrateful little saplings never even turned their heads back towards the stage. After we made our way out through the ornate lobby and onto the street and a block and half towards home I realized I didn't have my wallet or cell phone. They'd fallen from one of my many pockets during the frantic search for food.

So we had to walk back and beg the doormen to let us back in despite a very strict no-re-entry policy, carrying both kids back through the ornate lobby, shuffling past the mirth and knees again and then down on my own to comb through spilled cheerios and dried apricots to find my wallet next to my phone stuck to a stick of sassafras candy. The seats were filled with children not insisting to leave, and I considered what conclusion to draw from all this. You could have just driven, you cheapskate. Things are naturally just harder with two of them. You probably deserve the children you got. And sometimes mornings are just the worst.

As we walked back up the aisle, the characters were dancing to some lyrically-butchered version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." "Look!" I heard someone shout, "Burt and Ernie are doing The Hustle!" But by the time I turned around, they were doing something else.  Damn, I thought, I really would have liked to see that.