Yesterday we took Junior to the Mystic Arts festival. After perusing the various stands of artwork we’d never be able to afford we took Junior to get some lunch. We were knee deep in a impassioned debate about who would make a better shrink (Chuck* said he would because he would have the nut to say, “Suck it up!” to someone who was depressed—why, oh why, do I see his patients dropping off like flies?), when Chuck pointed at Junior.
“Do you see what he’s been doing?”
Chuck handed Junior a Cheerio then leaned forward so Junior could feed it to him. But instead of smashing the gooey Cheerio into Chuck’s mouth like he normally does, Junior waited until Chuck’s lips were touching it and then crammed it into his own mouth. Then he laughed.
“The whole time we’ve been talking he’s been teasing me.” He gave me a pointed look. “That’s your gene.”
I love this part of being a new parent: knocking around whose gene pool is more undesirable, dissecting personality flaws, making corresponding pie charts.
“Yes, Chuck, my Uncle Winky was bi-polar and myopically challenged with dandruff but remember your cousin Buddy? The left-handed agoraphobic snaggle-tooth who kept rolled nickels in his oven?”**
This time, however, there’s no contest. I come from a long line of teasers (get your mind out of the gutter, I don’t mean that kind of teasing).
Take Gramps. When I was child, he used to butter and salt my arm and try to eat it. When he sat in my beach chair and broke it, he laughed when I cried. If he and my grandmother were babysitting he would sneak around the back of the house and put on a Halloween mask and throw himself against the sliding glass door and laugh while we screamed.
That’s my mom’s side. On my father’s side? Uncle Dave.
One very cold and very snowy January, Chuck and I spent a Thursday night at his house in Vermont so I could go on a job interview the next day (this is when Chuck and I were idealistic and thought we wanted to live in a log cabin and make our own maple syrup).
Before we went to bed (in separate rooms; we weren’t married yet), Chuck happened to mention he liked to winter camp—he was serious, it wasn’t a guise for being a Viking. Well, when we got up the next morning Chuck’s nose was bright red and his lips were blue.
Good ole Uncle Dave thought it’d be funny to recreate the winter camping experience for Chuck by turning off the heat in the room in which he’d been sleeping.
Poor Chuck was livid! “When I ca-ca-camp, I have wool s-s-s-socks, thermal b-b-b-blankets, an insulated sleeping bag.” (His teeth chattered something terrible.) “Your uncle g-g-g-gave me a c-c-c-cotton sheet. He left the w-w-w-window open. The one above the bed. I c-c-c-couldn’t r-r-r-reach it.”
Luckily, he regained feeling in his fingers and toes.
Unluckily, the gleam in Junior’s eye and sinister curls at the tips of his mouth point to one thing: He has discovered the delicious art of teasing. And it can be delicious. It took Chuck seven years to find out that I hadn’t really been bitten by a shark (I have a fabulous scar on my leg) and that was only because my stupid cousin outed me at a wedding. But oh, those years of trickery. Of listening to Chuck brag to his friends that his wife had survived an encounter with a sand shark (I’m not stupid—I’d never say it was a Great White).
Thank the starry Buddha’s butt Chuck is the one who would make a great shrink. Junior and I have years of free therapy to look forward to...on our very own couches.
*I find myself liking Chuck better than Charles. Chuck rhymes with words that are more interesting than Charles. It’s true, try it.
** Names have been changed to protect the family’s precarious reputation.