Friday, June 13, 2014

Junk In The Trunk

No, this is not a post about J-Lo’s derriere, Lady  Gaga’s bucket, or Nicki Minaj’s posterior.  (Although put a headband on them and game over.)

In British parlance, I’m talking about the boot.  For Porsches, it’s located in the hood.  Speaking plainly, for those of us not driving 911s or living in the U.K., I’m referring to your good old trunk of a car. 

The cars that my parents owned during childhood were aplenty.  And most of them seemed to require an inordinate amount of maintenance.

The earliest lemon we owned that I can recall was a silver AMC wagon with wood paneling.  I’m not sure if this car ever started.  I just remember it sitting in the carport a lot and my parents stifling curse words within earshot of me and my brother. 

As Asian imports began to gain in popularity following the gas shortage crisis triggered by OPEC and oversized American cars, my family chose a sky blue (or maybe it was grey?) Datsun over a Honda.  Bad mistake.  My dad used to place a light with a hook in the engine to keep it warm during cold Granite State winter nights.  It made a lot of sense to me back then: the light was hot, it was cold outside, so naturally the engine should turn over when my dad tried to start it the next day.  It makes a lot more sense to me now because my dad did a lot of weird things like that in retrospect.  In any event, the Datsun also seemed to spend a lot of time in the carport. 

Next up, we transitioned to a Volkswagen Beetle.  It was yellow.  And it had a really cool sticker of a bass fish on the back.  I think it had a stick.  And of course, the trunk was in the front.  I don’t recall that car sticking around for very long, though, either.

Finally, my parents returned to the home country’s vehicles with a long string of American vehicles.  Mostly GM products. 

The forest green Impala had a long tenure at 2 Bert Street.  I remember lots of trips to and from New York.  A highlight was anytime we passed the Polar Bear billboard in Worcester.  I also remember lots of uncomfortably hot naps with my face leaning into the hard plastic of my sister’s car seat.  Now that car had a sizable trunk.  No Thule racks for my original family of five.  The trunk fit everything and the kitchen sink.  We even threw a canoe on top when a fishing expedition ensued occasionally. 

Sometime thereafter, we had a battleship grey Chevy Celebrity station wagon.  Before getting my license, I used to sit in the far back seat facing traffic traveling behind us.  Even with the seat there, our bags would be stacked Tetris-style around me as I stared out the rear hatchback.  Once 16 arrived, I got pulled over for doing neutral drops at red lights on Maple Street in Manchester with that ride.

Somewhere along the way, Chevy models came and went: Lumina, Corsica, Malibu, and Caprice Classic.  My dad really upgraded when he scored an Olds 88 with a sun roof and leather seats. 

The one constant throughout all of the rides used by my dad?  A ton of miscellaneous items stored at all times in the trunk.  Sporting equipment of all types but definitely balls from most any sport, a stickball bat, a Frisbee, and a racquetball racquet.  Jumper cables.  First aid kit.  Fishing gear.  A bottle of wine.  Tools.  Work files and folders.  A winter coat.  Extra sneakers.  WD-40 and quarts of oil.  A spare tire that probably would not have fit on the car in question.  A box of recyclables for the next trip to the town dump.  Soft cover books on philosophy or haikus and hardcover treatises on workers compensation law.  “You gotta have backup,” is one of the many mantras my patriarch is known to announce. 

None of this would surprise anyone who knows my father.  He is the same man whose only luggage checked on the plane during our most recent pilgrimage to Key West was a makeshift portable cornhole board folded in half, which contained assorted tools and plastic bags of screws and bolts so he could complete assembly once we arrived at our condo.

Before I go too far with the razzing, however, I am reminded of the old saying about glass houses and throwing stones.  To my amazement and dismay, the trunk of my own current Malibu (not the baby blue 78 Chevelle I drove to college) has evolved into a 2014 version of my youth.  Multiple frisbees?  Check.  Racquetball racquet?  Check.  Jumper cables?  Check.  You get the picture.  The only major differences appear to be my golf bag (Grizz isn’t a fan of the sport) and my cold weather sleeping bag.  (Hey, you never know when that could come in handy.)

Well, at least in this isolated sample of quirky automotive antics, I suppose we have a clear example of like father, like son.  A chip off the old block.  Following in the footsteps. 

Maybe some day, my little Gus man will be giving me shit for all the junk in my trunk.  That will make me smile. 

Dad, if you’re reading this, I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day in 2014.  I am not embarrassed to follow your example.  (I've even started wearing dark socks with shorts and sneakers.)  I love you. 

Now, if you could only teach me how to hit that hook shot while holding a glass of wine, smoking a cigar, while wearing a v-neck sweater and loafers…

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Can't

THE WIFE has a tendency to say “I can’t” when someone gives her a good laugh.  The joke has to be on the better side to trigger the catchphrase.  Actually, when she says it, THE WIFE tends to repeat the words a few times while nodding her head side to side as the intonation of her voice ascends in pitch.  The funnier the joke, the more she says it.  Allow me to illustrate.

During any given telephone conversation with (former guest blogger) Kristen Frazier, for example, THE WIFE will pause whatever we’re watching when the call comes in.  As I’m staring at a frozen screen of Don Draper scowling or Walter White grimacing, I’ll overhear the following:

WIFE:                    Hi!

KRISTEN:              [Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice on the other end.]

WIFE:                    “I can’t.”  Ha ha ha.  (indicating no with her hear)  “I can’t.”  Ha ha ha. 

KRISTEN:              [More of Charlie Brown’s teacher.]

WIFE:                    “No!  No!”  Ah ah ah.  “I can’t!  I can’t!”  (her voice getting higher)  Ah ah ah.

And so on.

Anyway, neither Greta nor Gus have ever mimicked the phrase.  But Tilly, on the other hand, has taken it to a new dimension.

Tilly doesn’t say “I can’t” as a means to catch her breath and laugh at a funny.  She just says it matter-of-factly in a cute little high pitched voice.    

ME:                        TILLY, get back over here and give me back my sawzall right now.

TILLY:                     (her voice trailing as she jogs hurriedly away) I can’t.


Tilly’s addition to my clan of offspring definitely pushed our daily state of chaos from manageable into barely within our control/totally unpredictable.  (I was basically jogging into the urologist’s office on the day of my vasectomy.)  Part of the dynamic change was due simply to the numbers and going from man to zone coverage.  However, part of the challenge was because Tilly’s personality is so much more fiery than her siblings.  I’ve probably complained about this in multiple ways since she arrived 2+ years ago. 

In all fairness to Tills, however, I have become completely smitten with her over the last few months.  Citing to the “I can’t” example is just the tip of her iceberg.  The bigger picture is that she is such a funny and adorable kid.  I don’t know where to start so I’ll just fire off some of the endearing little tendencies she has, which make me want to kiss and hug her.

First of all, she is the only one of my kids with a Mass accent.  It’s wicked hard core (read: hahd coah.)  There is probably no coincidence that Tilly’s sitter, Sam, has one of the strongest Bay State accents I’ve ever encountered.  So when Tilly pronounces words, you have to picture an “ah” for words that contain an “er” or “ar.”  (Interestingly, Tilly does not substitute “er” for words that end in “a,” as discussed in detail during the infamous “Idears On An Accent” post a few years ago.  

Irregahdless, Tilly says “Nana” or “Greta” as English intends, rather than “Nan-ner” or “Gret-er” as many folks from Revere (read: Re-veah) or Quincy (read: Kwin-zee) might say.  We could go on forevah on Mass accents, but I digress.

Tilly is a bit of a paradox.  On one hand, she can be fearless.  I find her standing on kitchen countertops or tables fairly often.  She terrorizes Greta and Gus with her brute strength and bear hugs.  She is happy to make a run for it outside if THE WIFE or I leave the front door unlocked.  She couchdives when left unsupervised.

On the other hand, Tilly is still my baby child.  Another go-to phrase of hers is “I scared” (read: ska-yid).  During any Disney movie, Tilly will jump off the couch and bury herself into my lap and arms when the scary part  occurs.  Big dogs and loud noises also trigger the “I scared” declaration.

I have a freckle on one of my lips that Tilly pointed to and asked “What’s that?”  I told her it’s a freckle.  Every few days when it catches her eye, Tilly points to my face and says “Daddy’s freckle, I scared.” 

My little lady is also very affectionate.  She often puts her hands on my cheeks and kisses me (while dodging the freckle of course) without any notice.  When I get home from work, the biggest reception is almost always from Tilly.  She comes barreling in for a giant hug and a squeeze.  Then she holds my hand and drags me around the house to discuss anything noteworthy from the day.  “Look Daddy, Frozen!”  Or, “Gussy pinched me!”  Or, “I fed the ducks with Sam today!”

When she wants to be held, Tilly doesn’t say “Hold me.”  She says “I hold you.”  It kills me.  I love it.

And so on.

Everyone knows the youngest child always gets shafted in many ways.  They have the fewest baby pictures.  They wear all the hand-me-downs from older siblings.  They have to share their toys when the oldest had free reign at the same age. 

By extension, my blogs have probably shafted Tilly as well.  I write many fewer posts first of all.  When I finally get around to doing one, they rarely focus solely on my baby child.  She was due for some air time.  (Tills, when you read this as a teenager who can’t stand me, just know I am sorry for the delay.)

As I conclude my effort to count all the reasons why I love you Matilda, Tilly, the Tills, Matildees – well, I simply find that “I can’t.”  There isn’t enough space to write. 

I love you, honey.  You will always be my little baby.  Now don’t be scared of the freckle and give me a kiss!