Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Did ya hear the one about the man...

While enjoying a Bloomin' Onion with Wes and the girls at the Outback Steakhouse last weekend, six-year-old Bella made an announcement. "I know a man who has a LOT of testicles coming out of his head." Nearly choking on my onion, I turned to her with what must have been a confused--or perhaps, horrified--expression. Since her birth, Bella has seen that exact expression on my face at least 436 times. And without exception, she has been the root cause of its genesis.

She didn't miss a beat. "Davy Jones," she explained. Two things you must know about this child. One, she has a loud voice. It's, well, it's just loud. So I'm sure those dining in our vicinity also had the good fortune to vividly imagine a visual of a grown male sprouting testicles from his skull. And two, she likes to play tricks on anyone gullible enough to fall for them. I'm usually that fall guy. "From 'Pirates of the Caribbean'," she further explained.

"Oh," I heaved a sigh of relief. "You mean 'tentacles'." Davy Jones is a character in the hit movie, and he is portrayed as a sort of degenerate octopus. "Tentacles, Bell. Like the arms of an octopus." She smiled sheepishly. "Oh. Yeah."

Bella's faux paux reminded me of my own very similar confusion when I was just a bit older than she. My friend Carla Pivotto had a dog who tried to clear a barbed wire fence. He didn't do so well, as I relayed the tragedy to my family at the dinner table. "His tentacles got caught on the fence. And they tore off. And he had to get an operation right away," I breathlessly and dramatically recounted the story. I was sure I had them all spellbound, because all four of them--Mom, Dad, and both my older siblings--were staring at me, forks poised midway to mouth.

Of course, it was Mom who first lost control and started laughing hysterically. "Becky honey," she managed to bleat out in between belly chortles, "you mean 'testicles'. Tentacles are what you find on an octopus." Of, for the love of god, I wanted the earth to just open up and swallow me whole, right there. Here I thought I had something very newsworthy to contribute to our dinner table conversation, and I messed it up. Testicles. Of course! How could I be so naive?

So when Bella made the same mistake only backwards, I vowed not to have that same hysterical reaction (though I've long forgiven Mom, because hey, we should all take our laughs where we can find 'em). Rather than give in to the rollicking laughter that threatened to take over my body and send it into seizure-like convulsions, I conjured up in my mind images of traffic accidents and missing appendages so as to remain as serious as humanly possible. And I was successful, for the most part. I even shared with Bella my own testicle/tentacle anecdote so she wouldn't feel alone in her confusion. It was no biggie to her; Bella suffers from no self-esteem issues.

But the experience gave me pause to remember that even the seemingly insignificant events of our lives--a dinnertime conversation, a bedtime confession, an off-the-cuff remark--can have lasting effects. When we're old and consider our lives in retrospect, will we remember it as a series of major events, with filler in between? Or will we reminisce about the journey--the dailyness of it, the traditions and rituals--and view the major events as highlights?

A dear friend whom I've had the pleasure of knowing and loving for over three decades recently remarked on how I've never had a plan as to how my life should go. So everything that has happened, good and bad, has just been the next step. I've given her observation a lot of thought, and she's absolutely right. Never having concrete plans, I never had to experience life-crippling disappointment or surprises so profound they threw me off course. Because I never had a course. So I imagine for me, at least, I will look back as an old woman and ponder my life not by its milestones, but by its many unexpected moments when epiphany crept up and bludgeoned me on the head.

In the meantime, I will continue to fight the good fight, being the best parent I know how to be. And testicles/tentacles be damned, I will find glory in the small and subtle blessings.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how something as normal and (dare I say "mundane") as dinner with the family can turn out to be a memory of a lifetime? When our daughter was three years old, we went to Red Lobster for dinner; nothing special other than the pound of crab legs I was craving. When the server brought the plate piled high with crab legs, our sweet, innocent little girl stood up on the booth seat and pretty much yelled, "Mama's got crabs!!"
I'll meet you under the table, Rebecca!!

Judith K. Witherow said...

Move over and make room for another mother.
My six year old son always wanted to use every bathroom ever made for some unknown reason. (Nameless son just needed to see everything--everywhere.)
One evening we went out to dinner, and as usual he made his trip to the bathroom. The popular restaurant didn't have an empty table.
After a short while I heard a LOUD, little voice shout. "Look what I bought for only a quarter. It was in the machine in the bathroom." He was proudly holding a condom in a wrapper over his head.
Every head turned in our direction, and the laughter got even louder when I tried to "gently" remove the packet from his hand so he wouldn't open it to see what surprise he had won. He was not a quiet child, and I can't even remember what I promised if he just gave it to me until later.
The only thing I recall is how upset he was when he thought he had paid an entire quarter for a dumb "balloon."