Complements and Waiting

It seems to me that a more adequate metaphor for children is not cute little naked cherubim, nor wide eyed bundles of innocence; but rather an empty bowl. Yes, a child is a large empty bowl. An empty bowl placed down stream, filling up with whatever refuse might be floating by. While a parent’s appointment, is to forcibly stuff those bowls with good things. Fill them to over flowing at a breakneck speed in order to fill them first, and push out the garbage that always seems to settle at the bottom.

And at times, Wife and I find ourselves able to stop our mad rush for just a moment to listen to a total stranger complement their good behavior. We were at a restaurant, when a lady commented, “You wouldn’t even know that there were eight children in here.”

At this point, if you do not wish to read of my children’s good behavior, I urge you to calmly, but sincerely, turn off you internet now.

To start, we had suffered a long drive to the graveyard. Be assured, everyone is alive and kicking; and kick they do. The burial was for an old family friend. Wife, I, and the children piled out of the van into the heat of an early summer. Our girls were in their Sunday’s best, complete with hair done up and little sweaters, which as it turned out were too hot to wear. The boys’ attire was topped off with vests and ties, and they could have fit in at a mafia reunion.

The service was delayed by an inept funeral home. The children had a slight panic when they thought we had run out of bottles of water. #7 and #8 had just gotten over the flu, and were getting fussier and fussier as the day got hotter and hotter. We had to wait for the gravedigger to widen the hole so the ashes could be buried. And finally, I got lost on the drive to the wake.

And the day got hotter and hotter.

And the day got hotter and hotter.

A lunch that should have started at about two-o-clock was instead started at a little after four-o-clock. And the savages were hungry. When the spaghetti hit the table, the children set to it with a passion.  The complement stated above was given some time after that.

What’s our secret for well behaved children? I could give a litany of how to raise, discipline, and nurture children. However in this case, I assert that they were just starved down.Food at Last

In Loving Memory

How do you explain to the children not to say “Trick or Treat” at a funeral? The house where the wake was at, was where they had Trick-or-Treated for all but one year of their lives. Luckily for Wife and I, they all had a good understanding that we were there for the reception after the funeral. However, #5 was very excited when he recognized the house and announced to us with all the pride due to a great discovery, “Hey mom, hey dad, this is the place we go for Halloween!”

The children were all dressed in their Sunday best to morn the loss and celebrate the life of Art, a very long lived family friend. My children have known Art and his wife Pat their whole lives, but beyond that so did I. But before I knew Art and Pat, my father grew up with them as close as an uncle and aunt. The affections of Art and Pat spanned multiple generations.

My parents with Art and Pat

My parents with Art and Pat 2006

Somehow, and I was too young to know how it happened, Halloween became Art and Pat’s holiday. While Halloween for many is a night about candy or alcohol, for us ever since I can remember, it was about Art and Pat; and the same could be said about my children.

Art would meet us at the door in some goofy orange tee shirt that read “This Is My Costume” and would immediately begin to offer his famous chili. You could not turn down his chili. Not only was it that good, but by the time he was done talking to you about it, you weren’t quite sure whether it was the same recipe Lewis and Clark used on their journey across the continent, or if it was carried down father to son from before the fall of Rome. And as you chewed you wondered just how old those beans were. Art’s tall tales were endless.

I tried to look like Art.

I tried to look like Art. 2006

Pat is just one of the sweetest ladies a person could meet. Art on the other hand, well, I always felt that my children just didn’t know what to do with him. If jokes are a sign of a well formed personality, then Art’s was formed by the most talented sculptor. I remember once, many years ago, when Art introduced a man to me as his long lost twin brother separated at birth and newly discovered yesterday over a scotch on the rocks. I believe I just stood there in stunned silence not quite sure if my silence was rude, or if he was telling one of his tall tales. I have since seen my children react the same when he put the same kind of proposals before them.

My father always loved the two like a second set of parents. To tell the truth, it was years before I realized that Art and Pat were in no way related. Of course it was some time in my childhood before I knew which was Art and which Pat, after all they were both boy names as far as I could tell. My children would have had the same trouble had not Wife made sure they knew who was who.

At the wake, family and friends shared Art stories like those above; and like everyone else, I reminisced too. I think his favorite phrase, or at least the one he seemed to repeat the most was, “Life, no matter how long, is too short to be taken seriously.” As I watched the children play in the yard, I thought that they would help take away a serious mood before it started. They were making plenty of noise running around, and I saw more than a few smiles directed their way. At one point I saw #5 and #6 had a new friend by the hand and were leading her through the yard and into the house, showing her around like they owned the place. Pat was happy with the children, and I know Art would have been too.

It was dark before we left Art and Pat’s house. I don’t think I will ever be able to just call it just Pat’s house, for Art’s memory will always be there for me. And it is a loving memory.