Countless tiny fortunes

There is a white squirrel that plays in our back yard from time to time. We have scads of black squirrels and a sprinkling of grey squirrels, but this is the first white squirrel we’ve seen. 

We like to watch him whenever he shows himself. The last time I saw him, I called for my wife to look out her office window. “That means good fortune is headed our way,” she said when she spotted him.

“I could sure use some good fortune about now,” I replied. I think that’s a common sentiment these days, but I immediately regretted saying it. As a parent who chides his children for whining, I felt like a hypocrite.

I had fallen into the trap of thinking of good fortune in terms of big, milestone events: winning a lottery, getting a big promotion, or landing a book contract from a major publisher. 

True, none of those things have happened, and they aren’t on the horizon. It would be great if they did happen but expecting them will lead me into a lot of self-defeating whining.

Think he’ll let me rub his tummy for luck?

I’m not a person who finds himself in the right place at the right time. In that sense, I’m not lucky.

But in a more important sense, I am lucky. I’m not a person who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes the most fortunate events are the ones that miss us – the things that don’t happen.

I have the people and things I need to be happy. Maybe fate has not answered my dreams, but it has also not burdened me with unsurmountable nightmares. 

The last two years have been a time of suffering around the world. I have suffered less than most. I did not lose my job. I did not lose any family members. My children have had to adjust to a new way of being children, but they have adjusted more easily than many others.

A lot of us could use some good fortune about now. Many of us already have it, often in the things we take for granted because they are not huge, lifechanging events.

A little, white squirrel made me consider all my subtle, good fortunes. How odd that he came to visit during our Thanksgiving Holiday.

Thankfulness via poetic license

Buster likes to break up the monotony of family life by sharing his vast knowledge with me.

Some of his wisdom I assume he picked up in Kindergarten: “Five plus five is 10.”

Some I hope he hasn’t: “I know two bad words. Wanna hear ‘em?”

The other day he explained a hierarchy to me out of the blue: “It goes like this: baby, kid, big boy, daddy, grampa.”

“So, what will I be when you’re a daddy?” I asked.

Without hesitation: “You’ll probably die.”

Well, that’s that then, isn’t it?

Maybe not.

Since it’s Thanksgiving time, I decided I’m going to spin this episode toward Thankfulness.

You may wonder, “How exactly do you expect to manage that?”

I’m gonna tackle this blogger style – by linking to an old post. That’s how.

In this post from five years ago, Big Brother told his friend I was already dead. So you see, this new development is quite a reprieve for me. I am very thankful to have had these five years on Earth, and maybe several more, depending upon the length of Buster’s “big boy” phase.

In fact, I’m downright optimistic now. Having gained years of life between Big Brother and Buster, I expect by the time Big Man is heard I’ll be ready to live forever.

It appears I have a long life ahead of me, albeit among rotten children who anticipate my demise (joke’s on them when they see their legacies), and that, on balance, is something to be thankful for.

Amen.

The family gives thanks for Daddy’s longevity despite its predictions to the contrary.

Kindergarten artwork – middle child edition

By the initial Fourth Grade teacher conference you mostly know what you’ve got. In our case, it’s a good student who could be a very good student if he developed discipline or a work ethic. But we who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and since I don’t want to break my own windows or menace our good student with rocks, I’ll let Big Brother skate until I can show him a better example, or learn to revel in my own hypocrisy. Either way would work.

Kindergarten teacher conferences are harder to predict. The little diamonds are still in the rough. It’s too early to know what type of diamond/quartz/shiny shard of glass Buster will turn out to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to critique his Kindergarten artwork.

Let’s not name names.

This piece took my breath away. The sentiment was so sweet. The tear I was about to shed was choked by a revelation. He doesn’t know what “thankful for” means. He thinks it’s an alternate way to say “mad at.” I shook off this terrible notion. Of course he knows what it means. They would have talked about it in class. All the other kids are thankful for appropriate things; so is he. He’s truly thankful for his brother. What a charming boy!

Now there’s only one minor difficulty.

He has two brothers.

Did he mean to make it plural? Probably not. It’s strain enough being thankful for one brother. Being thankful for both is a bridge too far. No child should be held to that standard.

So which one?

We could show it to his brothers separately, like we do when we privately tell each of them, “You’re our favorite. Don’t tell your brothers.”

No. These kids are the worst at keeping secrets when you’re trying to divide and conquer them.

We’ll just pencil in an s at the end of brother before anybody sees it. That way, the only people who will have to wonder are his parents. We won’t puzzle over the mystery of the exalted brother too long. If we had a dog, neither sibling would have made the cut. I’m not sure how they’d fare against a hamster.

Portrait of the artist as a trick-or-treater.

Self-portraits always give good insight into the Kindergartener’s mind. I know this is a self-portrait because the subject is carrying Buster’s Halloween bag. The scabs on the knees offer secondary evidence. The letters may indicate he is covering his knee wounds with International Olympic Committee Toilet Paper and he plans to shav[e] his legs. More likely he is following in the footsteps of Michelangelo, who, as every schoolboy knows, liked to practice making his letters on the peripheries of his paintings.

I wish the top weren’t stuck behind the wall bracket. I like to see how kids depict their own hair. That’s disappointing, but it doesn’t detract from the significance of this masterpiece: whatever this kid’s strengths and weaknesses may turn out to be, he draws a killer jack-o-lantern.

We’ll always have that.

Click here for a flashback to the critique of Big Brother’s Kindergarten artwork.

Thanksgiving’s minor blessings

As I pick through the bottom of the barrel remnants of my kids’ Halloween candy, the little clock in my head (adjusted backward one hour to Eastern Standard Time) tells me it’s time to start feeling thankful for stuff. In America, when you reach the dregs of Halloween candy, it’s time for a little Thanksgiving.

If Thanksgiving is about one thing, that thing is turkey, and also football. But Thanksgiving isn’t about just one thing. It’s about many things, like awkward dinner conversation with extended family, finding that one morsel among the cornucopia of foods your picky preschooler will eat, and, increasingly, college basketball. The latter means Thanksgiving is also about negotiation with crazy people who believe the holiday is family movie time.

Beneath all this important stuff, Thanksgiving is also, in a tertiary kind of way, about giving thanks. I have many blessings in my life, and at halftime I spend all my spiritual energy giving thanks for them. They know who they are, and if they’ve forgotten, I will remind them by asking them to move out from in front of the TV before the second half begins. Since the game usually starts up again before I have time to move on to giving thanks for lesser blessings, it might be good, as I work my way through this least coveted candy (3 Musketeers), to preemptively list the mundane things for which I am thankful this year.

  • I’m thankful for the bountiful Halloween harvest my children brought in this year and that they were raised by good parents who taught them the value of sharing, especially with said parents.
  • I’m thankful Edwards’ frozen cream pies went on sale, thereby assuring the Thanksgiving dessert satisfaction of Big Brother, and to a lesser extent, Buster.
  • I’m thankful there are no more days for Big Brother to ask if we can have the cream pie before Thanksgiving. And then get another one for Thanksgiving, of course.
  • I’m thankful there was a sale on Butterball turkeys, not just the off brand, and that my amazing wife used her top-notch organizational skills to make space in our crowded fridge for it to thaw for three days. Meanwhile, don’t even think about reaching for the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter; that’s trapped behind the bird until roasting time.
  • I’m thankful Stovetop Corporation employs factories full of workers who will cut bread into little pieces for me so I don’t have to tear through an entire loaf of bread all by myself to make stuffing, as my hapless ancestors did.
  • I’m thankful for this one meal each year when it is legal to have Stovetop stuffing AND potatoes.
  • I’m thankful for gravy.

I guess I’m done now, because how do you follow gravy? I’ll deliver my major thankfulnesses in person: “[Child’s name], you are blessing and a joy to me, and the only way I could love you more is if you were out the way of the TV.”

"It's a Butterball. And there's cream pie in the fridge for later." (Artist: J.L.G. Ferris)

“It’s a Butterball. And there’s cream pie in the fridge for later.” (Artist: J.L.G. Ferris)