I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”
“I got your ear! I got your ear!”
This quotation does not involve the unfortunate loss of an appendage due to a hyper-competitive boxer taking a match just a liiittle too far, nor an evil, metal-faced Japanese overlord exacting revenge on a mutated rat ninja master, nor the alleged madness of a Dutch artist (or, apparently, a covered-up fencing squabble). No, this utterance hereby ignites a story destined to be more legendary than the ear-related tragedies of Evander Holyfield, Master Splinter, and Vincent Van Gogh combined—without even any actual ear removal. It is a story that will live on in the hearts of the Pseudonymous family for years to come as the time we almost certainly won several thousand dollars.
“I got your ear! I got your ear!”
The faux ear threat in question was directed at my son, who was lying in front of my wife on our ottoman/living room changing table/Pride-Rock-style dog lookout as she knelt on the floor, hunched above him. This was about a month ago, with the Twins about to hit the 4-month mark, and they were just starting to laugh. Now, we’re not talking mere smiles here—those had been around for months (for most babies, the smilestone hits during the second month). No, these were full-on belly laughs accented with elated shrieks, and that was where my wife had my son at this very moment, as she lip-nipped at his ears.
He was in this position for a reason. We’d just watched him pinch out a massive dump while sitting in his bouncy chair, and my wife had lain him down to change him. However, once he was down, his bashful flirting with Mommy prompting a little playing before delving into his brown abyss.
For those who have never experienced infantile giggles, it has to be one of the world’s most debilitatingly adorable, heart-melting sounds. Just try to be upset near a laughing baby. It can’t be done, even if you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t like kids. I contend that even the Heath Ledger incarnation of The Joker would ask himself“Why so serious?” in the presence of this sonic euphoria.
And thus, as my son shrieked and squealed with belly laughter, my wife and I were aglow with parental enchantment, which, in cooperation with the perpetual exhaustion of our super-sized parenting stint, impaired our now ever-dulling alertness. Holding my daughter at the time, I propped her up on the couch and made a ninja-grade dash for the camera, as I am our family’s documentarian.
I am determined to capture the Pseudonymous family’s greatest hits in high definition for the following reasons:
1) It provides the possibility for me to auteur an Official Selection for the Sundance Film Festival (or at least phenomenally indulgent highlight reels for such occasions as 18th birthdays and weddings).
2) I am compiling blackmail as ammunition for the upcoming teenage years (and beyond, if necessary).
3) Finally, and most relevant to this anecdote, I am convinced that the more I film the World’s Most Interesting Children, I will eventually wind up with a videographic twincident that will earn us $100,000 in winnings from America’s Funniest Home Videos.
With this fervor at full blast, I was capturing a very touching moment between mother and son within seconds. As he squeaked elatedly, my wife kept turning to me, declaring, “I’ve never heard him laugh like this before.”
A week or two prior, we’d gotten our daughter in similar stiches by composing an impromptu chant to the effect of:
Gonna take a bath?
Gotta take a bath!
Gonna make a splash
In Daddy’s face!
There’s actually some Grammy buzz surrounding the chant, and we don’t want to be preemptive, but the Best Bathtime Chant Category has pretty few nominees this year, so we’re fairly optimistic.
Anyway, our daughter had just about lost her mind laughing at our chant, but we still hadn’t gotten him to crack yet. At that point, it seemed our daughter was hitting all of the developmental milestones about a week sooner than her brother—smiling, hand usage, chainsaw juggling, etc. At first, we worried our son was not progressing along as well as his sister, but we realized that if he were the only 4-month-old in the house (without another to compare him to), we wouldn’t even be thinking about this. He would just be progressing the way that he was and even doing so earlier than average.
We thought this could possibly be attributed to how they were born. When my wife’s body notified her of its desire to expel children, it was my daughter’s water that broke. She was the first to be born (in multiples circles this is what they call “Baby A”). Once she arrived, they actually had to break our son’s water at the hospital to deliver him (“Baby B”).
Typically, naturally-broken water means a baby is “ready” to be freed from The Matrix, but since his was broken by the fine staff at the hospital, we figure our son wasn’t necessarily quite “ready” and thought he might even be roughly a gestational week behind. This, of course, came from our own lay-analysis, and I have no idea if it’s medically sound or complete crap. In the scheme of things, though, it didn’t even matter because now, at 5 months out, this one-week delay is gone. They’re splitting milestones in half, with him perfecting many new tricks before her, and vice versa.
After recording baby laughter footage galore (probably more than I will ever have disk space for, considering the compounded baby laughter footage I will undoubtedly amass), I stopped filming, put the camera down next to me on the couch, and picked up my daughter again. I would later regret this, to the tune of thousands of hypothetical dollars.
Having sufficiently gotten my son’s ear, my wife decided she needed more, and trained her crosshairs on his stomach. “I’m gonna get your tummy! I’m gonna get your tummy!” she giggled, unsnapping his onesie and pulling it up, exposing his belly. It was at this point that I remembered how my wife and son had originally gotten into this position. It was not difficult to deduce because baby feces smattered his belly well above his diaper.
However, my wife did not seem to be aware of this, persisting “I’m gonna get your tummy! I’m gonna get your tummy!” as my son laughed his ass off. It seemed that during the undressing process, she had not broken my son’s gaze.
As she lowered her face towards his stomach, I told myself “She has to know,” as evidenced by the pronounced layer of peanut butter glaze coating his lower stomach, but she was headed right for it! I shuddered.
“Babe!” I called, but, alas, to no avail.
She “got” his tummy.
“What?” she answered, looking in my direction, allowing my viewership of the gooey, brownish-green, diagonal, prolonged soul patch of baby poo now caking her chin.
My son was equally surprised, staring with eyes wide at the guy who interrupted his giggle-fest. My daughter looked up at me from my lap, horrified by the sudden, loud outburst emanating from her chair/Daddy.
“Um, I think you just got sh!t on your face.”
“Look.” I pointed at my son’s bare stomach, still chock full of fecal spread.
“Oh my God,” she chuckled. ” I was just so focused on his laughing I didn’t see it.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
Cleaning her chin with baby wipes, she bashfully added, “Guess it’s time for more coffee.” Suddenly, she inhaled excitedly. “Did you get it on video?”
I spun desperately towards the camera, sitting idly next to me on the couch.
Had I kept rolling for just a few more seconds, I’d have comic genius in my hot little hands, a prime candidate for not only winning the episodic $10,000 first prize on AFV, but a contender for the $100,000 grand prize finale. But no, I had instead decided to exercise self control, to not overdocument, to conserve disk space. That’ll teach me.
I tried to convince my wife to reprise her role as “Sh!tfaced” Mommy, this time with the camera rolling, but she wouldn’t go for it. Plus, I would also have had to renegotiate a modified contract with my son’s agent, and that would have been a paperwork nightmare.
My head hung in shame, I did my best to move on with my life, pushing the what-could-have-been’s out of my consciousness–the waterslide I could have replaced my stairs with, the world-class recording studio I could have built in the Cluster Room, complete with a retractable grand piano for my wife that lowered from a secret ceiling compartment, the personally-pimped-by-Xzibit-Go-Go-Gadget Minivan we’d be rolling in, complete with changing table, cotton candy machine, and gold-plated Diaper Genie…
But no, I can’t let myself think about these things, because the video was never shot. Instead, I’ll have to settle for sharing it pro bono with you, O Loyal Reader, which, I guess, is better than nothing.