Some days I wonder if the children I parent are even mine. They certainly resemble their father more than me and, if I hadn’t actually seen my belly shrink approximately the size of a child and then watched their wrinkled, newborn faces as they screamed their way toward the ritual of their first weigh-in (I scream every time I weigh in, so I understand), I might not have accepted this gig as their full-time, gainfully unemployed, tutor, chauffeur, cook, maid, and all-around-slave. I mean, it’s a thankless job and I know someone has to do it, but without even so much as similar eye color to go on, I have to wonder sometimes.
And, it is because I wonder that I so heartily appreciate it when the Universe provides me with proof that these spawn truly do belong to me. This evening we were driving home from dinner. The three of us were having a stimulating discussion, the kind we often have when we are trapped in a moving vehicle together. First, Joe attempted to educate me about the vomitoriums of ancient Rome, at which point I had to tell him that a) yes…I am old enough to have knowledge of such a thing but not old enough to have firsthand knowledge (thank you very much), and 2) no…it is not what you expect it is. Google it, my young apprentice. The conversation turned then to a discussion of the stop-motion animation video they planned to make when they got home and to which Luke had already assigned the pre-production, working title The Suite Life of Rex and Cody, after the Lego Clone Troopers he planned to turn into stars.
While the boys excitedly discussed Clone Trooper stage blocking directions, it began snowing. When it begins snowing at any point after the end of January, I begin cursing. Once the holidays are over, I see no point for the snow. I graciously allow winter a full-month to vacate once the holidays are in my rear view mirror, yet tonight winter was mocking me. It’s not the snow I hate as much as the cold and, glancing at my car’s thermometer, I registered it was a balmy 19 degrees outside. This, of course, caused me to interrupt their conversation with a pseudo-expletive.
“Cheese and rice!” I exclaimed mostly to myself. “I hate the cold. Have I ever told you that I hate the cold?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison with a bit too much annoyance.
“I like the cold,” Joe ventured. (Joe is the one who least looks like me. Did I mention that?)
“Really? You would rather it be 0 degrees than 100 degrees?” I responded.
“Yep,” he replied with confidence. Of course, this is the child who told me his dream vacation destinations include Antarctica and Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.
“What about you, Luke? Would you rather be hot or cold?” I queried.
Before Luke had the opportunity to answer, Joe and his impulse-assisted mouth burst back into the conversation to persuade Luke to his side.
“Luke….100 degrees is torrid. It’s a warm spring day in the Sahara,” he shared. (Joe pronounces Sahara as sah-har-ah rather than the more common US pronunciation suh-hair-uh. It’s positively British of him. He won points for that even though he was busily arguing against me. But, I digress.)
“Joe,” I asked, “did you just say torrid or did you say horrid?” I knew he knew the second word, but I’d never heard him utter the first.
“Torrid,” he repeated as if my elevator didn’t reach the top floor. Then to make matters worse he added, “it means oppressively hot.”
“Gee…thanks for the explanation, Joe. Believe it or not, I am perfectly well aware of what that word means. Why don’t you spell it for me?” I asked.
“T-O-R-R-I-D,” he answered both quickly and flawlessly.
“Wow,” I said, duly impressed. “Good job, Joe.”
“I would rather it be 100 degrees,” Luke chimed in, perhaps fearing we’d forgotten about him. “I could always take my shirt off.”
“Keep your shirt on, Fabio,” I replied.
“Who’s Fabio?” Joe asked.
“Oh…never mind,” I said, disgusted and depressed that I had dated myself by decades.
The conversation returned to stop-motion videos while I wondered at my son’s new word. According to the most recent educational report we received about Joe and his learning disabilities, both his working memory (the ability, for example, to mentally add 26 + 54) and his processing speed (the amount of time it takes him to do such a math problem) are well beneath average for a child his age. These deficits make school quite difficult for Joe. The one bright spot the tests illuminated, however, was in Joe’s Oral Language skills. Turns out that as a 5th grader he currently has the language skills of a 9th grader. I smiled to myself at his use of the word torrid. The kid did inherit something from his ancient mother with the BA in English and the MS in Professional Writing. Genetics did not grant him my blue eyes or my freckled fair skin, but he did end up with my curiosity and a sturdy vocabulary. For a brief second, I spied something of myself in my son, something we had in common. Tonight, for a few seconds, I was 100% positive he was mine. And, while one could argue that the things I determined we had in common are more likely derived via nurture rather than nature, I don’t give a flying fig. I’ll take it.