Dad, I KNOW the odds are REALLY REALLY low that someone can become a rock star.
But I’ve worked it all out: all you need is to be a one-hit wonder! Then you’re set for life!
So Rachel tries to convince me to do ballroom dancing after school. I was like, “Hey, Sam! What do you do after school?” and Sam’s like, “I’m in Robotics Club.”
Robotics Club. Robotics Club is cool. Robotics Club is manly.
And what do I do after school? I swim. Swimming is cool. Swimming is most manly.
But ballroom dancing? Not manly. Not manly at all.
Yeah. You can’t get away with ballroom dancing unless you’re Zorro and you’ve got a Spanish accent.
TIGER: Hey, Elizabeth! I haven’t—whoa. You look weird with your clothes on.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, I know. So do you.
TIGER: Once again swimming is making my life sound perverted.
SQUIRT: MOM! Push the button!
BONNIE: I did! You’re on. Do your thing!
SQUIRT: Arrrrgh! MOM! You’re ruining EVERYTHING.
(puts down the ninja sword, walks up to the camcorder, hits the PAUSE button)
BONNIE: What? There’s no such thing as editing? You don’t believe in blooper reels?
SQUIRT: (sighs heavily, runs back to his mark and gets into position) Okay. NOW.
(Bonnie pushes button)
SQUIRT: HEH, HEH, HEH! HI YAH! (lunges at neighbor kid Bob)
BOB, THE NEIGHBOR KID: ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!
SQUIRT: (freezes in an attack position, looks over at his mom) MOM! Push the button!
BONNIE: All right! Jeez. You know, you could just say “Cut!”
BOB: I screamed like a girl, just like you said. You want me to do it over?
SQUIRT: No. You were fine. (looks pointedly at his mother)
Meet Squirt, who is all set to be the next Steven Spielberg–if his annoying camera crew doesn’t finish him off with an attack of Gross Exasperation.
He’s making this movie for his Japanese class. It’s about a burrito-loving ninja who hides behind trees and under the van and talks to a picture of Chuck Norris. The ninja also unexplicably turns into a pirate at one point before returning to ninja form to make gnarly burritoes in hyper-speed. Since it’s all in Japanese I’m a little unclear on the plot.
He’s editing it now. Meanwhile, back in the Wren Cocina, our turkey is in the oven. Twenty-four pounds! That should last us, what? Twenty minutes–unless the boys improve on their technique from last year.
Hubby and Tiger are out, buying more potatoes because the ones I bought a few days ago mysteriously disappeared. I was going to substitute with sweet potatoes but the outcry was so great you would’ve thought I was selling our national holiday out to Satanists, or something.
I’ve carefully examined Squirt’s movie footage (the stuff I didn’t take) for evidence of potato cannons, but the boy is clean.
So I’m taking this waiting-for-potatoes opportunity to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
Be thankful, eat hearty, help clean the kitchen afterward, and at all times… keep an eye out for the ninjas. The ones with camcorders are especially dangerous.
SQUIRT: You know that swim trip to Sweden that’s gonna cost $2000 if we go?
The way I figure it is, sure, I could spend $2000 and go to Sweden and look at Swedish babes…
I could spend $2000 and get TWO laptops! And then I could look at Swedish babes on the internet all I want!
“So,” I told Hubby, “I asked Squirt if he turned his report and he tells me he forgot! AGAIN.”
“Are you telling me that boy missed another deadline? He’ll be kicked out of the program!”
“Nope. It turns out he was just kidding me. But holy cow, I really blew up at him.”
“Ha!” Hubby bellowed. “Face it, babe, you got pwned.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“‘Pwned’? ‘PWNED’? You’re gonna use gamer lingo on ME? And whose side are you on, anyway?”
Hubby started to do a bobble thing with head as he wagged his finger at me. “Babe,” he said, “I am hippest of the hip. The coolest of the cool. And take it from me: you got pwned.”
What a turncoat. I mean, really, is it too much for me to expect my man to back me up when I need it? Especially when he supplied half the DNA to a kid who forgets deadlines as frequently as he scarfs down chow?
The kids came in at that moment so I could say no more, but the battle lines had been drawn.
Hubby knew it, too. He smiled.
I smiled right back. Heh! I’d show HIM pwning.
“So dad,” said Squirt, “Grandma just told me she’s mad because she lost money on you.”
“Yeah! Grandma says she bet Kat that you could figure out how to replace the fuses on the Halloween lights before Mom could, but Mom beat you to it and Grandma had to pay up.”
It took me some seconds to get past my mother-in-law’s lack of faith in my fuse-changing abilities. But then I realized my opportunity for retaliation had popped up much more quickly than I’d expected.
“Face it, babe,” I told Hubby, “you got PWNED.”
“Ugh! Mom!” said Tiger. “You can’t say ‘pwned’.”
“What?” I was indignant. “Why not?”
“You’re too—er, um… you just don’t know how to use it right.”
Hubby smiled. “Oh, she knows how to use it,” he said. “In fact, your mother was just telling me how SQUIRT PWNED HER YESTERDAY.”
Tiger cringed again. “Ugh! You shouldn’t use it, either, Dad.”
Hubby looked at me with raised eyebrows. He apparently expected the two of us to deal as allies against this blatant age discrimination. Yeah, right. Like I’d EVER collaborate with a traitor.
Hubby’s head began bobbling again. He wagged his finger at Tiger. “Yo, boy! In case you haven’t noticed, I am hippest of the hip. The coolest of the cool. And if I say you are pwned, YOU ARE PWNED.”
Squirt shuddered. “You’re right,” he told Tiger, “somehow it sounds wrong when they say it.”
“Hello!” thundered Hubby. “I am THE PWNER!”
The boys grimaced and squirmed. I have to admit, I was enjoying their ageist discomfort. Hubby was a turncoat, sure, but these pups were trying to curtail our right to free speech!
“Yeah!” I said, brushing aside my plot to leave Hubby to the teenage wolves. “You might say Dad is the original opPWNent.”
“Ha!” Hubby roared. “Good one, babe!” We high-fived each other. “Just call me MR. PWN!”
The boys rolled their eyes, but Hubby was just warming up. “I am the pwnER, not the pwnEE!”
“Look what you’ve started,” said Squirt.
“Right,” said Tiger, “like you didn’t pwn Mom in the first place.”
“I am he,” Hubby proclaimed loud enough for the entire cul-de-sac to hear, “WHO PWNS UNCEASINGLY!”
Indeed. The man may need to work on his marital teamwork skills, but when it comes to unceasing pwnage, nobody can squelch teen rebellion with it like he can.
When I heard my brother-in-law was planning his memorial service, I called him and asked if he was giving up. After all, his doctors had given up on him a long time ago—they were always telling Mark how he wasn’t going to last very long.
“Liver cancer is fast,” they’d explain, and just to make things clear they’d offer him a helpful estimate, like one, two, or even three months. And three months later Mark would still be plugging away, despite the helpful estimate.
So they’d come up with another estimate and remind him to put his affairs in order, and that time would also pass and Mark’s affairs would be quite orderly. But he was still alive, and possibly one of their most uncooperative patients, EVER, especially considering how he’d been pulling this stunt for almost three years.
“I’ve outlived all my expiration dates,” Mark liked to tell us, a line that always made us laugh because Mark was our Miracle Man, our Survivor. He was the Guy Who Just Did Not Quit. The guy who was beating the thing trying to kill him.
So I got on the phone and I flat out asked him: was he planning his funeral because he’d given up? Because he wasn’t going to fight anymore?
He just said I was being kind of silly. “Everybody dies,” he told me. “Everybody should plan their memorial service. You mean, you haven’t taken care of yours yet?”
He seemed surprised when I said I hadn’t, like planning one’s funeral was such an important but mundane task you might find it on everybody’s To Do list: 1. Get groceries. 2. Call Mom. 3. Plan my funeral.
I never thought of it like that, Mark, but you’re right. One of these weeks I’ll get around to it, I promise.
But not this week.
This week we’re helping prepare for Mark’s service, the one he planned for himself.
And even though we know he’s in a better place—even though we know he’s not suffering any more, that he’s at peace with God—our hearts are still broken.
Our Miracle Man is gone.
December 1949 — September 2006
SCOTT: You know what would be neat? Having a tail. I would like to have a tail just like a monkey. I could hold my drinks with my tail.
SQUIRT: Wait, wait, WAIT! Would you rather have a TAIL? Or WINGS? Think about it! You could fly anywhere!
SCOTT: Yeah, but with a tail, you’d be so great at climbing stuff. If you had wings you still wouldn’t be very good at flying. And you wouldn’t be so great at climbing stuff, either.
SQUIRT: Yeah. I guess I’d need something like a special bird tail to stabilize myself for flying.
(they think this over)
SQUIRT: Crap, that really sucks, needing a special bird tail.
BONNIE: Just a little closer…
TIGER: What, and take my life in my hands?
BONNIE: The ruler isn’t even in the picture!
TIGER: You want me to die just so you can get a ruler in the picture?
BONNIE: You won’t die! They aren’t poisonous.
TIGER: Easy for you to say! How about I hold the camera and YOU hold the ruler?
BONNIE: Um, no.
High School Emergency Form (as filled out by Squirt)
Name: Squirt Wren, Sweet Ninja Badass
If your parent/guardian needs an interpreter, indicate what language: Klingon
I wish I did speak Klingon. It would take the sting off of technologicaly impaired weeks like this one when:
- The black ink nozzle on our printer clogged up for good
- My iBook charger cord spit sparks at me before it died
- I dropped my camera and BROKE the lens right off the front
Yes, if I spoke Klingon, I could face all this technology death properly, with a “baQa’!” or “You pathetic mak’dar!”
Since I don’t speak Klingon, I’ll just content myself with the knowledge that my Sweet Ninja Badass turned in a bunch of downloaded forms printed up in baby blue ink.