“Okay, H-, so we last read how Penelope had promised the suitors that she’d marry one of them after she finished weaving the thing, but, then, secretly, every night she had been undoing the day’s progress. Then, one of her maids ratted her out and so now she has to finish the weaving,” he explained, pausing to let the girl catch up.
“She should make it very, very big,” H- suggested, apparently already in the lead.
“So, it looks like you’re sad,” he said. “Is everything alright?”
H- hesitated and began, “Everything’s mostly alright.”
“Now I know something is wrong. Want to talk about it? Can I guess?”
The girl just about began again, then stopped. Her eyes said she would rather he guess.
Her father continued, “Well, obviously it’s the holidays and we’re not together. So that’s sad.”
“Yeah, and then you brought up the time when we were at Miss M’s house for Thanksgiving.”
“I didn’t know that you didn’t like being there for Thanksgiving.”
“It’s not that. It’s that we were together,” she clarified.
He began again. “And then I suspect seeing me having fun at work makes you sad.”
“Well, H-, I don’t know what to say.”
A longer pause.
“So we’re just going to read! Like always,” he faux exclaimed.
She chuckled, pathetically.
“What we’re actually going to do is repress our feelings,” he said smiling.
Now as they were FaceTiming, he really amped up the physicality of his mockery and explained with accompanying motions, “We’re going to push our feelings way down deep. And we’re going to try and hold them there as long as we can. Then, one day, unexpectedly, they’re just going to burst out!”
She laughed at his large unexpected expressions of surprise.
He cloaked the next line in mystery, “We won’t know when; we won’t know in what way-”
“-like a Jack-in-the-Box!” she interrupted.
Yes, H- had done it again. She had the gift—even if she had the blues.
Playfully hopping around the kitchen, H- didn’t miss the opportunity to stop and look at her reflection in the back door’s glass. She then bounced, no, danced her way over to her father.
“Oh. My. Goodness,” he said, import coming from his staccato. He did not look up as he walked the butter wrapper to the trash can.
“What?” she asked, curiously.
“Can you calm down just for one minute?” he returned.
The laptop monitor had an image of James and Lars as they sat in the studio. The “making of” documentary H-‘s father had been showing her during dinner was now paused as he mixed the cookie dough.
Still attempting to solve the present energy riddle, he shook his head and mused, “It’s not even like you had any sugar.”
Her expectant eyes quietly suggested that no solution was in sight.
Looking down at her, he again noticed the screen as he returned his attention to the mixing bowl.
Proud of his ability and with a subtle cock of his head to the left, he concluded, “I guess Metallica is kind of like sugar for your ears.”
“It’s called ergonomic,” he informed H-, taking a moment to verify that he believed the mug’s slightly twisted handle was in fact designed that way, and not just poorly made.
“I would rather call it a foal. Or, like, a stallion or parents.”
“What?” he asked, confused and trying to not lose focus on what he was reading while they ate their donuts. “Why would you call a coffee cup’s handle’s shape a horse?”
After taking a moment to recount the conversation in her head, she replied, “You said,” then she paused before continuing, “Wait, what did you call it?”
“Ergonomic-” he repeated mechanically.
“-Right,” she said, recognizing the big word this time. “Then I said, ‘I’d call it a foal’—I didn’t say a horse.”
“Right,” he confirmed, belaboring the word. “Then I asked you, ‘Why would you call it a foal?’” Then, deciding that H- was not going to let him off the hook easy, he refocused all his attention on their conversation and, for clarity, asked, “What is a foal anyhow?”
Eyes wide in disbelief, she answered with an impassioned yet restrained increase in volume, “A foal is a baby horse!”
“Okay, okay. I remember now. But you still haven’t told me why you would call it a foal?”
Seeing that her father did have a point and finally hearing his real question, she answered, “Because they’re cute!”
“I’m so excited about St. Patrick’s Day because I get to wear green and my mom’s favorite color is green!”
“Ha. That’s true. When is it?”
“I think it’s Thursday next week.”
“Are you going to wear green?”
“Now H-, when have you ever seen me dress up for a holiday?”
“Do you want to get pinched?”
So I don’t like admitting that there are ever any parts of anything to do with Batman that I question, but for a long time I had a lingering doubt that the whole “Make the climb…without the rope” theory would work. You know, the idea that only when we are spurred on by the fear of death in all its finality will we truly find the strength to do what needs to be done. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The fear of death does increase jumping distance.
Picture this: H- and I at the pool. Goggles on. We’re in the three-foot deep shallow end. Every four seconds she’s adding the post-script to what I can only describe as an entry into a no-holds-barred splashing contest, “See, Daddy? I can swim?”
I smile and say, “Just about.”
Then she says, “I want to jump in.”
I say, “Go ahead.”
She gets out of the pool and with a decent running start proceeds to jump into this same three-foot deep shallow end of the pool. Her head never does go fully under the water and she says, “Ow.”
I say, “You should tuck your knees up so you don’t just land on your feet.”
She says, “Like a cannon-ball?”
I say, “Yep.” So off she goes for attempt number two.
“Ow. I can’t really do a cannon-ball.”
I say, “Well, then, you should come over to the deeper end and jump in.” She starts shaking her head and I soothe, “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”
Notwithstanding all the splashing, she actually can stay afloat a while during her attempts to swim in the shallow end. And if I remember right, swimming is like riding a bike. Add these things together, and you will see me a decent bit away from the wall in the hopes that when she jumps in, she may just start swimming to me and more importantly, realize she actually can swim. Ta da.
Instead, I learn that she can jump a helluva lot farther than I ever expected or have seen before as she nearly tackled me in a leap that can only be described as springing from legs attached to a brain that really thought a visit to the pool with her father might be the last event on her earthly journey.
The lesson: Teach kids how to swim before how to read the number four.