We drive down to St. Louis for the day, Tiffany and the babies and I. It’s a peaceful drive, even though it’s cold and cloudy, and we left about an hour late per usual. Our entertainment for the trip is provided by my wife’s new phone, a Samsung Somethinerother that has a 4G connection. We’ve got Pandora Radio opened up, and we both think the Steely Dan channel is a great idea for about the first three minutes. We spend the rest of the drive listening to Justin Timberlake Radio.
A lot of people discount Timberlake’s talent or straight out can’t stand him. When he dumped the boy band and went solo, I wanted not to like him, but he hired The Neptunes and put out some perfectly good pop songs. Then he did “Dick in a Box” on SNL with Andy Samberg, and I couldn’t not like him. On top of it, for probably the first six months I knew Tiffany, Timberlake’s FutureSexLoveSound was the only CD she would play in her car. We got to know that album very well as we were falling in love and doing crazy shit like getting married and moving away after knowing each other for 11 weeks.
"Every single holiday, a dick in a box..."
When you create a station on Pandora based around an artist, only every third or fourth song is by that artist. The rest is matched up on an eHarmony-esque compatibility scale that encompasses similar artists and styles. So the JT channel had some good R+B I’d never heard and equal parts unabashed Britney/Christina-type stuff. During a family drive, when everyone’s in a good mood, I don’t mind that sort of music at all. My wife’s kept up on music and celebrity gossip over the years, too, so each song generally sparks a different mini-conversation.
Eleven people sit down to our family dinner, which includes a hard- and soft-shell taco bar with chips and a vat of chili con queso. But attendance comes in two waves. The first group includes me, my two spawn, Tiffany’s parents, and my brother- and sister-in-law.
Sarah uses the occasion to bond extensively for the first time with her Uncle Tom*. Which means, in so many words, that Sarah’s seat is next to Tom’s, so she’s going to spend the duration of the dinner making sure Tom sees everything that Sarah sees. (“Tom, look, chips!” “Tom, you see a ceiling?” And so on.)
The second group includes Tiffany, my stepson Josh and two daughters of Tiffany’s best friend, who attend so many of our family dinners they should consider changing their last names. By the time they all get back, I’ve had a couple pounds of Mexican food and am finishing dessert.
Once Sarah lies down for her nap and Silas falls asleep in his car carrier, I stretch across the upstairs sofa. Fall almost instantly into a half-consciousness where I can still mostly hear what’s being said. Then fall completely asleep. I don’t often get the chance, but I love taking naps in unusual yet safe places. I end up on the couch for well over two hours.
Tiffany and Josh leave to drive the older daughter back home so she can get some overnight stuff, and meanwhile I’m downstairs watching the younger daughter and my two kids. This little girl, who’s 6, has come across as bashful over almost four years’ worth of holiday gatherings. Tonight, she wants to talk.
Specifically, she wants to talk about “iCarly,” which is on the TV right now. She has complete vocal mastery of this episode’s plot points and how they fit into the bigger story arc of the “iCarly” canon. She also knows what on the show is funny.
[Teenage boy character's elevator dumbwaiter door thingie opens. There's a giant mound of pillows.]
“He ordered two pillows. They sent him 200 pillows. That’s funny.”
[Teenage boy character somehow gets stuck and immersed in the pillows.]
“Look, he can’t get out. That’s funny. The door’s about to fall on his back. That’s hilarious!”
[Sure enough, the door falls on the kid's back, and he reacts with an overdrawn comic expression of pain, as the 6 year old and laugh track issue forth a cacaphony of mirth.]
To me, “iCarly” seems like it’s written on the second grade level. This kid’s going into first grade in the fall. She knows what’s up.
Apparently, there's a soundtrack and everything.
We’re barely across the Illinois state line, headed home. Silas is asleep, Sarah’s quietly eating a snack, and on the three-inch iPod screen, propped up against the car’s radio and cassette deck**, the 1987 Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn softball romance comedy Overboard is just getting to the fun parts. I’m ready to conclude it a peaceful ending to a peaceful day.
Then Sarah bites one of her fingers while eating. She starts crying and screaming, waking up her little brother, who starts crying and screaming, and the next hour or so is one tense ordeal. I’d describe it further, but I’ve already done an awful lot of mental work to dominate and subdue all memories of Midnight Overboard Road Trip Screamfest 2011. It sucked for everyone, let’s just say.
This is the peaceful ending I was waiting for. Everyone’s asleep but me and Silas, who is barely awake by the time I pick him up and hold him close while swaying us back and forth softly under the ceiling fan in the living room. It’s dark, save the light over the kitchen sink, and the iPod plays softly on random in the background. As I’m alone with my baby boy, having a daddy-son dance, on comes “Patience” by Guns-N-Roses. Normally, I’d skip it. Tonight, it seems so perfectly appropriate as to be completely contrived. Which somehow makes it even more appropriate. Silas falls asleep, a Bob Marley song comes on, then Daddy’s ready for bed, too.
*Yes, I’ve already mentioned in this blog that my kids have an actual Uncle Tom, and that I think that’s funny, and now I’m repeating that sentiment because I still think it’s funny. Uncle Tom. Tee hee.
**Yes, cassette deck.
BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY
Sarah's Silly Spider costume, the first time around.