Hall Tree v. Little Boy
Am I a racist because the groovy Afro-Cuban music at Ambassador Toys made me want to slit my wrists? Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it. It made me long for the furniture store in Everett, Washington, where they played old honky-tonk tunes while we shopped for bunk beds.
Am I a bad father because I didn't check the Jawa's butt for a bruise when he fell off of the hall tree thing in the entry way? I am, but that bonafide was established long before the youngster took his spill, when I made him take two swipes at cleaning the basement, then berated him for breaking the pull-out shelf on the armoire (sp?).
I just wanted a little time to write. But that's not happening. Especially not since he fell off the hall tree.
What is a hall tree? It is an antique thing that looks like a gigantic chair. It sits in our entry way after spending several years trying to fit into the modernist motif of my parents' house and condo. Before that, I think but don't know for sure, it sat somewhere in Aunt Lillian's house in Bangor, Maine. Sandra Bullock cleverly talked my mother into giving it to us, reasoning that it would feel more comfortable amongst our more traditional decor.
What the hall tree does not know is that had it stayed with my parents, it would now be living amidst radically modern things like Joan Miro-inspired rugs and insanely bright primary-colored walls. After all these years, my parents finally got the chance to decorate entirely according to their own tastes, and they made the most of it. The results wound up in the "Style" section of the local Sun City (+ whatever suffix) newspaper.
So you would think that the hall tree would be happy in our house. We tried to make it even more comfortable by hanging old photos of its former owners, my great-grandparents on my mom's side, next to it. But no! It still harbors grudges aimed directly at little boys.
The Jawa fell a split-second after I shouted, "Okay! Now I need to write!" He had a handful of wrapping paper (he was up there trying to reach the wrapping paper in the hall closet) when he fell.
Lately, the Jawa has decided that each and every pain, no matter how small, must be paid tribute with a howl of gut-wrenching sadness. A stubbed toe, a pinch, a trip, all must be followed with an "OOOOOHHHHH! AAAAAHHHH! OOOOWWWW!" as if he were a World Cup participant who'd just been slide tackled.
This time it was different. The screech was real, as were the tears, and the impressive sound of body hitting wood and then floor.
I ran to him and picked all 65 pounds of him up. It seemed serious, until I realized that he was holding his butt. "Okay, okay," I said, "You're fine. Lets lie down for a second." I thought maybe I was being Tony Soprano rescuing his child from the swimming pool.
The Jawa is at an age where extreme pain -- not the theatrical kind -- creates a problem of reaction. What to do? Do you cry or start swearing? Do you go fetal or start throwing things? Just as our earlier birthday present trip raised the question: Legos or a hip-hop CD? Since my Jawa is on the young side, he chose to combine faux-swearing ("CRAP!") with tears, stretching out on the couch in pain and then making the inevitable call to Sandra Bullock, because what are dads good for in times of crisis? You can't beat up a hall tree, though if you throw the house keys at it enough you may chip the varnish.
His day is about to get worse. Now that lifting even the smallest object like, say, a box of markers, "pulls" on his back, how will this afternoon's trip to the dentist play out?
A chance to redeem myself as a father. Which is pretty easy at the dentist. Something about seeing your child prone in a dentist's chair, his eyes and mouth open wide while he nervously taps his feet together erases any rancor you may have built while trying to write a novel, only to be interrupted every 30 seconds by a shirtless 9-year-old full of long, involved schemes of fantasy roller coasters.