In nature, every mama bird must at some point allow her fledglings an attempt at flight. Whether the impetus to release her young comes from nurturing or annoyance, it is still a biological compulsion – although one that occasionally results in full-bellied felines.
I’m not sure what made the Rev decide that my father and I were capable of providing care for my small nephews for three days, but I’d wager it was pure irritation combined with the bitter algebra of necessity. There may have also been just a soupcon of “I’ll teach those jerks to appreciate me” thrown in, too. Dad and I are convinced that she rearranges her kitchen once a fortnight for purely that reason. If no one but Mom can ever find anything, we probably have to keep her.
In any case, the Rev unceremoniously left us to fend for ourselves while she went to what Dad called “some preacher concert in San Antonio.”
I know you’re worried, so I’ll just tell you right now: NO ONE DIED.
Day 1: Home Sapiens
I spent most of this day with the family getting sunburned while chasing children with sunscreen at Schlitterbahn. After hauling ourselves and our arsenal of kid-specific water junk back to my parents’ house, I cooked a couple of pizzas for dinner. The G.P. thought I had made way too much, and yelled at me. I snuck a piece to Stadler (my dog) in the interest of proving him wrong.
After dinner the evening pretty much went as follows:
Chase Avery (age 6) into shower. Kid starts yelling for help. He has broken the cold water knob. Rescue child from certain death as he is not smart enough to just get out of the shower. Excavate pajamas from the Jabba-the-Hut sized pile of clothing that had grown fungus-like on the floor of the boys’ room after somehow sensing the Rev’s absence. Insert kid in pajamas. Put kid in bed. Yell at other kid to take shower. Avery is missing. Find him in the great room playing with Dad’s pool table. Put Avery back in bed. Give him a book. Continue to scream at Jovanni to take shower. Chase Jovanni into shower with shouting and threats of no more waterparks. Avery is not in bed. Locate Avery at dining room table making “animals” out of pipe cleaners. Physically carry Avery back to his bunk. Exhort him to “STAY!” Frustration caused me to resort to commands that work on the dog. Repeat pajama excavation for Jovanni while Avery shouts helpful archeological advice from the top bunk. Run around behind naked Jovanni with pajamas. Tackle kid. Insert second kid in pajamas. Put Jovanni in bed. Avery has vanished again. Find him trying to lasso dog with an extension cord. Haul kid back to bed. Jovanni has stayed in his bunk. MIRACLE! Screaming/panic ensues because Avery can’t find a stuffed giraffe which turns out to be the size of a contact lens after we tear apart the bedroom looking for it. Both children finally in bed. Say goodnight, go to close door, “WE WANT A STORY.” Give up. Yell for G.P. Let Dad finish putting the wee heathens to bed. Clean kitchen. Go home. Collapse.
Day 2: Homo Neanderthalensis
The next morning, I arrived at my parents’ house early. I let myself in the front door, and headed to the kitchen. It was already wiped out. Dishes and peanut butter encrusted knives were stuck to every inch of available counter space, with entire constellations made of bread crumbs between them. Every cabinet door was open, with the exception of the one that concealed the trashcan. I sighed, grabbed a fresh dishcloth and got to work. The children hadn’t yet awoken.
Avery emerged, shirtless and ruffled.
“What do you want for breakfast, Avox? How about some fruit and yogurt?”
“No.” he muttered, eyes narrowing for a fight.
“How about eggies and bacon?” I suggested.
“NO, AB!” he yelled, still a slumber-fuss.
“What about PIZZA then?!?!” Hoping against hope that he’d eat a couple of pieces (there was still a 12 inch brick of pizza slices preserved in plastic wrap on the bottom shelf of the fridge).
“YEAH, PIZZA!” Avery shouted, excited to get an unusual breakfast. I heated two slices up for him, and snuck Stadler a third.
At about 2 p.m., the G.P. texted to ask me if I could help him take the children to a place called “Get Air.” I was finishing the Island Moon’s new website (www.islandmoon.com) and couldn’t leave.
“That’s ok,” said the G.P.’s final message. “What could go wrong?”
A few hours later, the G.P. and the kids returned home bruised and battered. Evidently, the best thing to do at “Get Air” is play dodgeball. Unfortunately, some of the kids playing the game were prodigies trained since birth in the art of viciously beaning other people with red rubber death balls. Avery had a black eye, and Jovanni sported a big bruise on his jawline. Dad bought them fried chicken, mashed potatoes (which looked more like Elmer’s glue with pepper), and biscuits for dinner. The kids picked at their food, claiming to be “too sore” to eat it. I brought them some ice cream – a miraculous cure.
Day Three: Homo Erectus
On the third and final morning of the Rev’s absence, I arrived shortly after dawn. The gentle morning light slipping tenderly between the blue and white floral curtains revealed that the house was in a state of near total disrepair. Detritus was strewn thick as seaweed — I counted at least four pairs of tiny (and quite dirty) tighty whities in the living room alone. The oak dining table was covered in crayons, half colored copier paper, pipe cleaners and something sticky that might have been either glue or melted popsicles. There were glasses half full of goopy and mysterious liquids stacked haphazardly on every available surface. Sofa cushions littered the floor – the only marker designating the once great “Fort Brat” that tragically appeared to have been nuked from space. Forlorn, fluffy dog hair tumbleweeds drifted across the slate floors. Sanitation had taken a real nose dive.
The men emerged soon after my arrival. They communicated almost entirely in grunts and shoves, lapsing briefly into pigeon English to answer my questions. They had devolved into itchy, sticky, proud farters.
They were extremely happy.
Stadler and I backed slowly out the front door, not wanting to witness what came next. I feared they would start spitting on the floor and marking territory.
That night, Mom returned from her liturgical journey. By the time she arrived, the well-trained G.P. had whipped the house into shape and forced the children into mismatched but modest clothing. I think that the boys had a lot of fun being boys. Still, it’s probably good that it was only short term. Otherwise, property values would plummet, neighbors would move, the CDC and the EPA would get involved, and Canada would start gently suggesting ways to solve the global health crisis generated by my family. “Fire is cleansing, eh.”
“Grunt,” the G.P. would respond.
At least I got rid of all the pizza.