During dinner conversation tonight, in between comments about one person’s workday and another’s person feeling of being full, our six-year-old enthusiastically announced, “I’m gonna fatten myself up real good so no one will hire me and I’ll never have to work.”
Kids say such wonderful things as they seek to find their way with language. I asked our eight-year-old, whose birthday is today, if he feels any different. He said, “Not really. I feel like I’ve been seven my whole life. But I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m eight by lunchtime at the latest.”
Don’t you love the precision and analytical quality of that kind of reasoning? Not long ago I asked him about what it felt like to be standing by and looking into an empty Texas DKR Memorial Stadium where the Texas Longhorns football team plays. Speaking with an economy of words I never seem to achieve, he remarked, “I’ve never laid foot in a place like this. I’m gonna lay foot.”
One of daughters once asked, when riding in the car while we passed a no parking sign, “Why does it say no ‘P’s?” Clearly, she thought the letter was banned from use in the space around the sign. Another of our sons had a knack in his early years for asking very pointed questions and sometimes using terms uncommon for a 5-year-old. When a friend arrived ahead of his wife for dinner one night, our youngster inquired, “Hi Jeff. Where’s your woman?” And later, when encountering another single friend who was accompanied by a different woman than we had seen him with a few days before, our young Dan Rather inquired, “Is this your wife?” “No,” replied our friend. “Well, is (name withheld) your wife?” “No,” came the friend again, shifting uncomfortably. Our son finished the grilling session with, “I don’t understand?”
Our friend laid foot right outta there.
On this day of the grand unfurling of the Apple Tablet –which is a pretty cool product — my attention has been diverted back to the majesty of the natural gas hot water heater. This device, a pillar of modern civilization and depicted in all of its newly installed glory here, is every bit of uber-hightech to me, today. Why? Because I lived without it for three days in a house with 10 people, some of who continued their daily roll in the yard with the dogs inspite of a lack of an end-of-day hot shower to restore their bodily atmosphere to a life-sustaining state. Yes, the new tankless heaters are cool and a greener option, and if they weren’t three times the cost of the old-school unit I would have installed one. But for now, this one is, to me, my very own cutting-edge piece of tech. I have looked into the no-hot-water-heater abyss, and believe me when I say that the gray tank over there is an Apple Tablet, thorium-powered nuclear reactor, Bugatti Veyron all wrapped into one.
NOTE: If you live in the Austin area and have hot water issues, these guys installed mine and they were great. They have the tankless too.
Today, our hot water heater passed away. It had been clinging to life support for days, maybe weeks, and I didn’t even know it. My wife discovered the hot water leak. It was flowing out through a breach in the top of the 50-gallon tank, down the sides into the overflow pan, out through the overflow pipe through the outside wall and into our garden. She saw birds having a lovely warm bath and wondered how that was possible. Then we pried open the swollen door to the water heater closet in the garage and witnessed the result of warm moisture allowed to do its thing in a dark enclosed space. I’ll just say some sheetrock is coming out, and we can leave it at that.
But the thing that really scares me is young boys without a bath for 48-plus hours. This is not something that modern suburban life prepares you for. Strange odors multiply rapidly when soap with the stripping power of paint thinner is not applied to a young boy’s body ever 24 hours. And since most pre-10-year-olds seem determined to wear the same clothes at least three days in a row, some clothes our house will soon start walking around on their own without the respite of shower time and a clean body every 86,400 clicks of the second hand. What will I be able to say to the boys tonight when they scream, “Dad, there’s a monster in the corner!” with the knowledge that it is not their imagination. We will both be screaming.
While on the subject of the civilization-sustaining miracle of hot water, what is going on in that shower with the teen girls, and boys, who take 30-minute vacations in there? Maybe the term sabbatical, defined by Wikipedia as “a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year,” is derived from the original Greek Sabbathical. Strangely, it is the young atmosphere-altering boys who actually need 30-minute showers with multiple soap and rinse cycles but who would just as soon step in, shoot water around the shower stall for a few minutes, do some hieroglyphics on the glass, and then get out, still wet and dirty, and put their pajamas on inside-out and backwards.
H E L P !
Just got back from a couple weeks at a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. What I’m about to describe is not for the faint of heart, so if that is you, walk away from the screen now.
I was working late in the evening on my laptop, out in the RV, while I thought my family was sleeping quietly in the cabin just a few yards away. But suddenly there was a knock on the RV door and I opened it to our oldest, Nate, standing, horror-stricken, holding our 4-year-old, Evan’s, hand. “Dad, Evan peed all over the cabin floor!!” Nate blurted in a shaky voice. “I thought he was sleep walking and I held him and tried to wake him up and he let loose all over himself, me, and the cabin!” Swiftly I sprung into action and took command of the situation, offering him paper towel so he could clean up the mess. I found some clean jammies for Evan and suggested they both go back to sleep so I could finish working.
About 10 minutes later another knock and our 9-year-old, Paul, came in looking nauseas and barely made it to the bathroom before vomiting into the toilet. It seems the four large, late-night campfire smores had been a bit over the top right before bed. Then another knock revealed my wife, Elizabeth, holding our sleeping 2-year-old, Emma Lou, there to check on Paul’s status and scolding me for suggesting Nate clean up Evan’s earlier mess instead of doing it myself. She informed me that Nate was now in a fowl mood after having stepped, barefoot, into a pile of dog poop while returning to the cabin in the dark, which had resulted in a much larger cleanup operation. I apologized for my earlier cowardice and I joined she, Emma Lou, and Paul on the return trip with flashlight in hand, scouting for more canine landmines. We all made it to bed safely, and the rest of the night went smoothly except for a random, in-his-sleep shout of “Oww!” from Nate, followed by an “Are you OK?” from my wife, followed by Nate walking over to our bed to ask what Elizabeth wanted and stepping in canine landmine shrapnel he had missed in his earlier cleanup.
Who needs sitcoms when you have a night like that?
We camped at beautiful Garner State Park in the Texas Hill Country this past weekend. It is one of my favorite places. Beautiful Cypress tree lined Frio River with its clear spring water and limestone bottom. Majestic rocky hills that rise a few hundred feet around the old camping area. Also, some of the most polite skunks I’ve ever met. They came out in droves at dusk on this visit, scouring the campsites for crumbs of deliciousness left over from the days picnic activity. There were little skunks, medium skunks, and one big one that looked like a small Collie to me — maybe one that some honery youngster had taken some spray paint to. But to a man (or woman), they kept their defense mechanisms in check and we all breathed with complete freedom. Next time I’m gonna capture some video with night vision. It was an amazing site.
Here’s a skunk anyone could love, courtesy of Wikipedia.
… and they have so many of them in Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado. Our three days there this past summer were a joy. This photo was taken at the half-way point of a five-hour hike. I forgot the name of the lake, but it was beautful, to say the least. We were almost out of drinking water and the snack supply was running low. We were close to eating bark on the way home. How soft we city folk have become.