My family’s kajillionth listen of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone on the car’s Bluetooth. This did not faze the Twins, who just kept on singing, reminding their audience that the cold never bothered them anyway. My wife and I had just picked them up from school, and like most school days, they’d gotten a fresh jolt of energy during the drive home, proceeding to uncontrollably kick the front seats and belt out lyrics with absolutely no regard for the melody or their mother’s migraine.
Without even looking at the caller ID, I answered. Typically my mother calls us on our drive home to see how the Twins’ day at school was. They’ve been attending semi-sporadically since the summer of last year, but as my PhD work has gotten increasingly demanding with each passing semester, we’ve slowly been increasing their weekly amount of school days. (And yes, I’m calling it “school” for a reason. This place has a big-kid curriculum, individualized learning goals for each kid, and even parent-teacher conferences. It is decidedly not a “daycare.”)
As you may remember, for most of the time I’ve spent on campus to do my doctoral work, my mother has very graciously taken care of the Dynamic Duo. However, due to some other important family commitments (which are beyond the scope of this Twincident), she’s been in and out of town, prompting us to seek other (tragically not-for-free) care options for the kids. The transition hasn’t always been easy, with several month-long plagues of sickness throwing off any weekly routine we hoped to establish, sometimes resulting in tearful toddlers at the morning drop-off, but lately, we’ve finally, finally, FINALLY found a groove.
And so whether she’s here in town, hunting Chupacabras in the Mexican wilderness, or scaling Mt. Everest to destroy the Eighth Horcrux, my mom calls us nearly every school day on our way home to see how the Twins’ day was, partly because she really and truly wants them to do well and partly (I’m guessing) because she misses them and wishes she could see them more often.
But when I answered the phone, I found that it wasn’t my mom after all.
“Hello?” I barked casually.
“Hi, I’m looking for John?” said an unfamiliar female voice, cranked to 11 on the car stereo while the kids were still screaming Frozen lyrics.
“Yes,” I called, clawing for my phone in my pocket to turn off the Bluetooth. “This is John.”
“Hi John, I’m calling about the position you interviewed for yesterday.” She hesitated for a moment, assumedly due to the stereophonic pixie voices booming, “I don’t caaaaare what they’re goooing to saaaaay!” Then, she continued. “Is this a good time to talk?”
I’m fairly confident I will look back on this semester as The Semester That Shall Not Be Named, and my reasons for this are statistically based.
And that is because, against my better judgment, I enrolled in two statistics classes.
At the same freaking time.
Although, yes, it was ultimately my decision to plague myself with such nerdery, I was not left with a whole lot of options. You see, certain classes I need to take are only offered during certain semesters, and because I’m hoping to finish all of my classes in the Spring (before taking the dissertation plunge), I needed to be economical with my schedule.
However, once I’d plotted everything out accordingly, my eyes were drawn to this semester, where a Dark Mark had materialized above my yellow legal pad. Sadly, the optimal schedule meant a double dose of stats, meaning that fun would be SO out this Fall.
While–if I say so myself–I can hold my own in the subject, I find it incredibly boring and tedious. The time required to understand it and perform well on tests is way more than I’d like it to be. As you may have gathered, I’m a word guy, so if I have to do school work, I’d much rather spend my time reading interesting research or writing papers for publication, NOT verbally abusing uncooperative math problems.
I grimaced as the all-too-familiar sound of my daughter’s signature baby cuss-fests reverberated throughout the cabin of our 757. Her inflection was remarkably similar to a Ricky Ricardo Spanish flipout as she rattled off unintelligible rapid-fire syllables.
Typically, these soliloquies have me in stitches. The invariable final “BAH” and its emphatic arm thrust just kills me every time.
But here and now, all I could muster was a nervous smile at my wife across the aisle, who flashed a quick one back while wrestling our tiny squirming diva in her lap.
Since two lap kids aren’t allowed in the same three-seat half-row, my wife had elected to fly solo while my son and I sat on the other side with my parents. The plan was to take turns and rotate seats as necessary throughout the flight, but for now, with the “fasten seat belts” sign lit and the crew preparing for take-off, we were locked into this configuration. We had booked the flight to coincide with their naptime in hopes they would crash for a significant portion of it, but the TSA security shuffle and unfamiliar surroundings now had them simultaneously wired and tired. And grumpy as hell.
Remember the unbridled childhood excitement of Christmas Morning? The insomnia-inducing obsession with the sheer possibilities of the bounty Santa Claus would surely leave under the tree? Staring at the ceiling at 4:00 am, debating asking your parents if you can just cut the nonsense and get this party started right now?
As we grow older, however, there seems to be less and less magic each year, which ironically provides less and less of a window for acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Is it lame that at 29 years old, I’m still waiting for that owl?
But I’m thrilled to say that after believing it was gone forever, I’m suddenly feeling that familiar old Christmas Morning anticipation once again because starting today, my wife and I will be orchestrating that magic for the Twins, as we prepare to give them their First Christmas Ever.
At 11 months, they’re not by any means at an age where they can fully comprehend all that’s happening, but we’re in no hurry for them to grow up any quicker than they already have, and we see this year as a prelude–a taste of many happy memories to come.
And now, on The Night Before Christmas, as I look all through the house (with my dog, the only stirring creature, pawing at my shin for attention now that the Twins are down for a long winter’s nap) I see decorations that will become ingrained in the Twins’ subconscious as Christmas-defining relics, just as my parents magically transformed $4.99 pharmacy purchases into The Singing Christmas Bear I Played With Every Year While We Decorated the Tree, The Christmas Carol Book with Which I Led the Whole Family in Rousing Sing-Alongs, and The Nativity Scene with Which I Fabricated Alternate Biblical Storylines Involving He-Man Saving Baby Jesus from Cobra Commander with the Help of the Three Wise Musketeers, the Ninja Donkey and the Jedi Cow.
I was just about to fall asleep after an exhausting day of twin-wrangling.
They’re both crawling now–not full-on, up-on-their-knees crawling, but they are definitely proficient army-style creepers, swift enough to entangle themselves in dangerous twinanigans if I look away for even a few seconds.
Beside me in the bed laid my wife, whose mind was still apparently very much at work, contemplating important career decisions.
As I approached the threshold of sleep, it occurred to me that upon entering the dreamscape, my arch-nemesis Skeletor would undoubtedly be up to his usual antics, necessitating a DeLorean trip back in time during which I would need to orchestrate my then-teenage father decking that skull-faced a-hole outside the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in the Castle Grayskull Gymnasium to create just enough of a diversion for me to hurl the Ring of Power into the Goblet of Fire, so that it could be displayed in a museum where it belongs. But just as I was unsheathing my Light Saber, a voice broke the silence, pulling me out of the Gumdrop Forest and back to reality.
The voice was my wife’s.
If I were Willy Wonka, I would have made a cheese factory instead of a candy factory.
If you had found me just then, I would have been dumb. Because I was dumbfounded. “Huh?” Those of you who are Loyal Readers are aware of my wife’s fascinating pillow talk contributions to our marriage.
“Think about it. There would be all kinds of cheese everywhere–a forest of cheese, a cheese river, cheese wallpaper, Everlasting Cheese-Gobstoppers that never go bad. It would be amazing.”
I weighed my wife’s idea carefully, critically, honestly, and came to a crucial decision. “That. Is. Phenomenal.”
“Yeah. Wonka really dropped the ball on that one.”
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If not, the answer may be cheese.