The Dad Joke

(scene opens in dining room)

Beta: (tying shoes) I need to be dropped off at 6:30 and then picked up after the game.

Me: Okay, we can do that, but what time?

Beta: When the game is done.

Me: Yes. But what time does the game end?

Beta: I don’t know, how long does a basketball game go?

Husband: (holds two hands wide apart) From end to end.

(room pauses)

Me: (puts head down on table and laughs until she cries)

Beta: (scowls)

Husband: (quite pleased with himself)

Beta: Mom. Not that funny.

Me: (wheezes) Honey, the jokes with accidental set up are the best jokes.

Husband: Got another one for you. How do you tell the sex of an ant?

(silence)

Husband: You put –

Beta: Wait. Let me figure it out.

(more silence)

(Gamma enters the room from the parlor)

Husband: (gleefully) Gamma! How do you tell the sex of an ant?

Gamma: (measures the room and with resigned hopelessness) No. Just no. (leaves)

Carrot: (begins to laugh again, wiping tears)

At a certain age

(Daylong montage of parents getting breakfast donuts, birthday card, ice cream cake, discussing sushi dinner parameters)

Me: (standing in kitchen, watching Alpha enter, notices uniform) Going to work?

Alpha: Yep. (goofy pout)

Me: (resigned) Well. Welcome to adulthood, Alpha, working on your birthday. Love you.

Alpha: Thanks. Be back later.

(leaves)

(Carrot stands perplexed a moment, heads to basement)

Me: (to Husband over bank of computer monitors) Alpha just left for work.

Husband: (blinks) He didn’t take the day off? Of course he didn’t. (sighs) I guess we’re doing sushi tomorrow.

Beta: Can we do sushi without him?

Gamma: We can save him a few pieces.

Beta: Sushi at midnight is still birthday sushi, right?

The delicate art of murder.

(scene opens in kitchen, Carrot cooking)

Gamma: (pounding in) Mom, I broke my needle.

Me: (pauses, thinks) The one I got you today?

Gamma: (sheepish grin) Yeah. It was an accident.

Me: What were you stabbing?!

Gamma: The wool. (holds up cute needle felted doll)

Me: Wool roving isn’t that dense… (trails off, sighs, kisses Gamma’s forehead) You did a really good job on your first try. I’ll get you some replacement needles.

Gamma: Its okay that I broke it?

Me: They do break now and then, but they’re pretty sturdy so I thought you’d get more than a couple hours out of it. I’ll order some tonight.

Gamma: Thanks mamma! (runs off)

Same Time Same Channel

(scene opens in early morning bedroom)

Me: (instantly awake, eyes fly open)

(seconds pass, Carrot nudges Husband repeatedly)

Husband: (sleepy) Huh?

Me: (carefully) I need you to reach up and turn on the light.

(Husband flails looking for the sconce above Carrot’s head)

Me: No! The one above you!

Husband: Oh. Right.

(light floods room, brown bat circling the ceiling, Husband and Carrot contemplate it)

Husband: We’re going to have to get our windows checked. Our bedroom door was closed.

Me: I can’t figure out how they know they can slither through a gap in a closed window but can’t figure out how to fly out an open one.

A very special Christmas

(scene opens in quiet Christmas dinning room, Carrot at table, opening some forgotten mail)

Me: (opens letter, reads frowns)

(Beta enters from kitchen)

Me: Beta? Are you familiar with the concept of the ‘Parent’s Curse’?

Beta: Is that where they swear at you really loud?

Me: No. Its when a kid’s parent looks at them dead in the eye and says “I hope you have one just like you.” so the kid will one day experience the hell you’re putting them through.

Beta: And?

(Carrot passes letter over)

Beta: (reads aloud) Based on test scores, we recommend you take the following classes next year…. (looks up) AP English Literature?

Me: AP. Advanced placement. Based on your scores, you apparently rate for college classes.

Beta: But isn’t English the class I’m getting a D in?

Me: (throws up hands) AND THE CURSE HAS BEEN FULFILLED!

Beta: You got Ds in English?

Me: Math. I did pretty good in English, but was never invited to the AP club. My grades and scores were so mismatched that I was accused of cheating on my SATs. I’m a designated “Does Not Live up to Potential”.

Beta: Merry Christmas, mom.

Me: Merry Christmas, sweetie.

Experiential Wisdom

(scene opens in Christmas mall, Carrot wandering between Alpha and Gamma)

Me: This was the mall that I used to hang out at as a kid.

(Alpha and Gamma side eye Carrot)

Me: When I was your age (pokes Alpha) our parents would drop us off at a particular door, tells us to be back there at a certain hour, and just leave us here with our friends to wander, hang out, and shop. It was like teenage day care.

Gamma: (excitedly) Did you ever buy anything?

Me: (snorts) With what money? No, it was mostly hanging out. At Christmas, before internet, you’d make lists of things you wanted and shared them with the family. Then the whole family would go to the mall, you’d get your list, and then separate to go buy things for everyone.

Alpha: (confused) Why don’t we do that?

Me: What kid had enough money to buy everyone presents? Presents that were “good enough”? It used to make your Auntie K and I so anxious with the pressure of getting the “right thing”. I never wanted that for you, that expectation that you have to buy people gifts just because. So I never pressed you guys to buy gifts for one another. I want you guys to grow up giving gifts because you like the person and want to do something nice. Something special. The holidays are stressful enough as is. And you kinda need a source of income before you can do that anyway.

Gamma: Can we hang out at the mall anyway? (shock and awe) Did you see the food court?!

Alpha: (skeptical) What’s fun about hanging out at a shopping place?

Me: (sighs) It was a different time.

Alpha: Your childhood was wierd.

Not pulling punches.

(scene opens in harried dinning room, Carrot combing the hair of a suffering Delta)

Gamma: Mom, did you know there are people who think the earth is flat?

Me: (just not having it this morning) Yes. They’re stupid. There are some people in this world who – no matter the unarguable truth you put before them – will only believe what they want to believe. Although its possible some don’t, they just like picking fights and watching people get upset. They’re stupid too. Avoid them.

Delta: But mountains! The earth isn’t flat because mountains.

Me: Wrong kind of flat. It’s bumpy, but they think the earth isn’t shaped like a ball, but like a frisbee.

Gamma: Why do they think that?

Me: (aggravated, puts hands to head) People who believe conspiracy theories do so because its an issue of control. Or power. You can’t tell them what to do. You aren’t the boss of them. If you told them the sun set in the west, they’d argue it sets in the north just because they want to be right. Not correct. But right. Being right and being correct are two different things, and they’re so convinced of their super smarty better-than-you selves, that they cling to conspiracy lies just so they can lord it over people that “Ha ha, I know the truth and you don’t!” and give themselves a sense of self-worth.

Gamma: There’s a kid in my class who says the earth is flat.

Me: Don’t be friends with those kinds of people. Its just not worth it.

Gamm: Wait, there are other people like that?!

Me: Damn, girl, they’re everywhere. And they’re not worth your time.

Setting mood and theme.

(scene opens in small kitchen. Platters of frozen ingredients thawing: everything from meat to mulberries. Kitchen aid-mixer running.)

Me: (muttering to self) Bread going, where are the peppers?

(Carrot take down small red glass jar, holding five small red pepper. Carefully shakes one out, begins to de-seed. Crumbles to near dust in her hands.)

Me: Damnit, they’re too old. I can’t use these.

(Pepper flakes re-bottled, Carrot turns back to mixer, tests dough with finger.)

Me: Damnit, too watery and I’m out of flour.

(Carrot absently licks fingers. Freezes. Surprised look on her face.

Me: Oh. They’re not too old.

(Carrot claps hand over her mouth, begins hunting for coffee mug, downs it)

Alpha: (Watching. Points.) Ha. Ha.

Me: (blinks rapidly) Legit.

Bail! Bail! Bail!

(scene opens in early morning dinning room, several bouquets of multi colored roses on the table)

Me: (reading email, drinking coffee)

Beta: (sees card, picks it up to read it, item drops out) Mom? What’s this?

Me: Your father gave that to me. We’ve been married twenty years today. That’s my golden watch.

Beta: (with relief) Oh good. I was hoping dad got this for you and wasn’t some toy of Delta’s laying around. You know that there’s no way he bought this by itself, right? That this was probably some Paw Patrol set and there’s a bunch of other Paw Patrol stuff just laying around the house somewhere.

Me: Going the extra mile for the joke is why I like your dad so much.

Beta: It kinda makes sense he’d give you a gold watch. I mean, you’re kinda retired. You don’t work.

Me: (mildly) I don’t work?

Beta: (recovering) You don’t work for money. Dad works for money and you kinda hang out here with him.

Me: (obviously laying a trap) Oh. I just hang out here and let dad do all the work.

Beta: (sweating) No! That’s not –

(footsteps off screen announces the arrival of Husband)

Husband: (blinking in the bright light of the dinning room) What are you doing up so early?

Me: (gets up, kisses husband) I was going to sneak out and get you a card, but I forgot that pandemic means nothing opens before 6 am any more. Beta loves the gold watch you got me. Said it made sense since I don’t work.

Husband: (gives Beta “you done messed up” look)

Beta: (dramatically flails arms)

Me: (sitting, picks up coffee) Also told me that you work, and I just kinda hang out.

Husband: (dramatically alarmed, looks at Beta) Run.

(Husband flees off stage, not pursued by a bear)

Beta: (mean mugs Carrot) That’s not what I meant! I know you work hard!

Me: Extra mile for the joke, honey. Have a good day at school.

Acceptable Limits

(scene opens in mini van)

Me: (buckling seatbelt) Okay. I am totally willing to support you in your dream dress vision. I want you to understand that there are a couple of times I will be enacting the Parental Veto.

Gamma: Why?

Me: If it’s too expensive, I don’t care how perfect it is, we just can’t. Or if it’s too risqué.

Gamma: What does ‘risqué’ mean?

Me: It’s the sexy level. And you’re only almost twelve…

Gamma: My sexy level should be zero.

Me: (approvingly) Exactly.

Gamma: (fist bumps Carrot) Then let’s do this!

Takes No Prisoners

(scene opens in long open cabin room, tween pre-bed chaos in full swing)

Me: (paces to center of the room, orates loudly) Okay campers! I did not get any sleep last night and I am highly resentful of that fact! Tonight, at lights out, we will not have yelling! We will not have running around and shaking the entire cabin! There will be no crying, no fighting, and there will be quiet! Am I understood?

Tween Greek Chorus: (muttered sporadic responses)

Me: I can’t hear you! Am I understood?

Tween Greek Chorus: (different muttered sporadic responses)

Me: The only acceptable answer is “Sir! Yes sir!”! Am I understood?

Tween Greek Chorus: (loudly) SIR! YES SIR!

Me: (satisfied) That’s what I like to hear.

Acceptable Paygrade

(scene opens in driveway)

Delta: (climbing into minivan) Mom! Why is it so cold out?

Me: Winter is coming.

Delta: What comes after winter?

(everyone buckled in, van pulls out and begins to drive)

Me: Spring. That’s when your birthday is, you’re my little Lord of Spring.

Delta: I don’t want to be Lord of Spring!

Me: You don’t? But it sounds so grand. Alpha is the Knight of Winter and Beta is the Knight of Summer.

Delta: And Gamma is Queen of….

Me: Fall. Or Autumn. Queen of Autumn is fancier.

Delta: I like Queen of Fall.

Me: You could be King of Spring if you want.

Delta: (thinks is over) Maybe emperor…? No, I can be the God of Spring. Don’t you think that’s a much more appropriate job title for me?

Me: (grinning stupidly) Yes. I think that’s perfect.