One of the first things I heard when I got in to my folks' place in Jamestown was that my sister had told her kids I'd be checking their fingernails for length and cleanliness when I saw them. And that if I found them too long I'd trim them myself, and when I do it it's really really painful. All lies. This is how she got her 2 and 3 year old children to agree to let her cut and clean their nails before Thanksgiving dinner. I was more than happy to play along. When they got to the house, I made a show of asking to see their nails, and they thrust their hands out with smiles, so I guess they weren't buying it.
Later I got back at my sister by teaching all three of the kids the phrase "Party Foul!" when the youngest inadvertently smeared ice cream on my shirt. All night and the next day, they'd wait for an opportunity to call it out. I had my suspicions that they had no idea what it meant, but I was told yesterday that when my mom asked my niece what it meant, she said "mistake" without prompting. She's on the ball.
After dinner I parked myself on the floor and got into some serious matchbox cars and action figures action like it was my job. Man I could do that all day. The cool thing was, it was mostly my old matchbox cars. I helped my nephew by playing the part of a passenger as he rolled a backhoe around on the floor and offered rides to the action figures. I think I annoyed him at times by throwing curveballs into his narrative, like when I made my action figure go off to the side to have a "meeting" with other action figures. When my nephew came with the backhoe to pick us up, I told him, "we're in a meeting. would you like to join our meeting?" At one point when he ran my character over by accident, he offered to take him to the doctor. It turned out the doctor in our world works out of a tiny van with the Superman logo on the side of it. He pulled right up to the backhoe and made everything ok.
Being a distance uncle is a good time. You get all of the admiration and fun, but none of the unpleasantness. I felt like the coolest guy in the world, especially when I got to hand out the push-up pops. I told them "when you think of ice cream, think of uncle Dave" as I filled every hand with delicious iced creams. I was all the more a hero as I helped them push their pops up to get more of the ice cream out. As Lester Burnham said when he scored that car in American Beauty, I rule.
Another trick I taught them was how to fake an injury as you get WWF wrestling moves perpetrated on you. I whispered into my little nephew's ear "after I do this, walk around holding your back and say 'oh, my back, you hurt my back'". Then I performed a serious atomic drop on him, and on cue he played his part much like you'd see Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase do back in the day. Though in this case it was accompanied by the wide smile that comes from knowing you're playing a role that's sure to please the crowd, and pulling it off above your grade level. We had a blast with that little routine.
As it turned out, I was also a hero to my parents as I braved the confusing massive remote control that had been programmed to make everything easy. "Ask your father how to work the remote." So I picked it up, pressed two buttons, and had the TV and cable box going strong. "How'd you do that?" my dad asked, and I believe there were actual question marks hovering over his head. Later I showed them how to work the DVR they didn't really know they had. I have to give extremely grateful props to my mom for ordering HBO and On Demand for the few days I was there, so I could catch up on my The Wire. She even stayed up with me way past her bedtime and took in a few episodes of a show that has to be confusing as hell if you haven't watched it from the start. I think she liked it.
My dad and I bonded over raising a "Raider Nation" flag on a serious, heavy duty, commercial-weight flagpole of the kind you might see in the training ground scenes of any Police Academy movie.
Few more memories to add, but that's it for now.
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