Tony Woodlief | Author

This, That, the Other

It has been a while, hasn’t it? Insert the usual excuses here. Since the thought of composing a seamless essay is usually what keeps me from writing anything here for unconscionable gaps of time, I lured myself to the computer with the notion of writing you a disjointed, conversational little jaunt of a letter, much like what one sometimes gets from one’s grandmother.

We recently had the big homeowner’s association meeting, to vote on the oversized monuments intended to announce to the world that our neighborhood is just like every other insular white enclave of privilege. It was surprisingly civil, though one of the women on the monument committee proved to be decidedly ugly. Her vicious snippiness, however, was more than offset by the kindness of another monument committee member, who I now consider my new neighborhood friend.

During the spirited debate, my attention was drawn to a new resident, who has the distinguished, healthy-looking early gray of businessmen the world over. He seemed to be sizing up the crowd rather than the issue, as if he was looking to throw in with the winning side. Not a bad strategy for a new neighbor. So when he spoke up in favor of the monuments, I knew we’d lost. He parroted the arguments of the pro-monument side, and for good measure, accused one of the anti-monument folks of not attending previous meetings — a strange accusation coming from someone who had never been to a previous meeting. But it was what one of the pro-monument speakers had implied, and so he was just throwing in with the winners, and proving his mettle with a meanspirited jab. He’ll fit in just fine here.

So yes, the side of reason lost, by nine votes. Adding insult to financial injury, a couple of evenings later I left my truck in our driveway overnight. In the morning, I went out to find that someone had let all the air out of one of the tires. Coincidence? Maybe so.

In other news, Caleb and I had a an appointment yesterday with our new dentist. While my hygienist scraped and fussed over my chompers, I listened to Caleb in the next room, quizzing his hygienist. He is in this ask-and-answer stage that I hope will pass before he needs to find a wife.

Caleb: “What’s that big machine thing for?”

Hygienist: “Well, it’s—”

Caleb: “Oh, I know, it’s a laser, so if there’s a cavity you can blast it. What’s that pedal for?”

Hygienist: “You see, that’s—”

Caleb: “I bet it’s so you can turn up the lights really bright, when you want to see way way far down somebody’s mouth.”

After we were done, the receptionist offered us cookies and hot chocolate. This seems, to me, the equivalent of a car repair shop spreading one of those tire-puncturing nail strips across its exit. We like everybody in our dentist’s office, though. They make me want to get more cavities.

My mother bought the boys a trampoline. I set it up a few weeks ago. It involved lots of pipes. Caleb organized the neighbor children into a platoon, and marched them into the garage, where all the pipes lay, and then out to where I was assembling the contraption. They love the trampoline. I, of course, think only about future dislocations and broken fingers and blunt force traumas to the head, but to them it’s all about somersaults and belly flops. That’s probably a better perspective on trampolines, and life in general.

Sometimes when I put Eli to bed, he whispers to me in long, breathless sentences all the things that I think he’s stored up for the day. Recently I went outside with the boys, after the ice storm, and put them on thick pieces of plastic, and slid them down our driveway. When we came inside, shivering and ready for hot chocolate, Eli took my hand and asked me if we could snuggle until the hot chocolate was ready. It is hard to describe how it feels, to be loved that way.

Isaac hits me, all the time. He whacks me, and then he wraps his arms around me and squeezes. This is how he says I love you. I hope he finds a new way by the time he’s bigger than me. Isaiah, meanwhile, has already smiled more in his first six months than I have smiled in my nearly, ahem, forty years.

That’s right. It will be official in four days. I am going to be old. I’m actually sad about it, because I don’t see what I’ve accomplished. The Wife keeps pointing out all these beautiful children, but then I remind her that God made them, not me, and it’s my job not to screw them up, and we’re a long ways away from being out of the woods in that regard. I suppose I won’t be happy until they’ve survived my parenthood, and I’m in bookstores coast to coast, with perhaps a movie deal thrown in for good measure.

The Wife, meanwhile, is getting younger. All that stuff you hear about men aging well, and women going to pot? Apparently there’s some kind of reverse-aging force field operating over our house, because the opposite is true here. I suppose that makes me a lucky man.

Yeah, it does.

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