I wasn’t really looking forward to the evening’s events tonight. Not really.
My day had been long, covering a murder trial’s sentencing that ultimately ended in the death penalty for the man convicted, I was already a bit stressed out.
Understand, I’ve described my day before as a sort of “Dad Sandwich.” I wake up in the morning, make sure that the kids get a good breakfast – this morning it was waffles I’d made and frozen over the weekend. Then it’s getting them situated, making sure their socks match, belts are on, pants aren’t too small (Sam, one of the twins, had put on a pair that was a size too small and looked like a scientist at Google . . . just needed the horned rims and tape between the lenses) and that they have their shoes. Both shoes. I swear, one day I’ll write my autobiography and it will be called “One Shoe – the things that drove this singular parent to the cliffs of insanity!”
In the middle of this I was medicating my oldest daughter who has a cold so nasty I’m just counting down the minutes until I catch it myself.
This comes to the point where I work, as an investigative journalist, and spend my eight hours trying to pry information out of people who don’t want to give me information. It’s rewarding, sometimes entertaining, and more often very stressful. My day usually ends, then, with my getting home, making dinner, getting the kids in order, arguing with them to clean up the dishes, then doing the bedtime routine. That’s followed by planning breakfast for tomorrow and making lunches as well so that I’m not up at 4am trying to do it all then.
On my way out the door today I shouted at my middle daughter, Hannah, that the dishes and kitchen needed to be cleaned. She did it two days ago and apparently believes that she can do them once a week and that’s enough. I’ve since stopped cleaning up the kitchen and informed the other 3 children that if Hannah doesn’t do her chores and I can’t get to the stove we’re not eating.
Tonight, though, they were saved . . . saved by, of all things, that murder trial. I had taken the light rail into work, which is fairly typical, but I had to work to the last train out, which usually gets me home just after 7pm. I had to take out some pre-made stuff from the freezer, throw it in the oven, and that in turn alleviated the stove from the equation. That’s good, you see, because Hannah, without a doubt, had not put a single dish into the dishwasher, even. I was exhausted, grimy from the light rail car, and just in a cruddy mood.
I shouldn’t ever come in the door in a crummy mood, by the way. That’s not fair to the kids – who have been waiting all day to tell me about their afternoon. I walk in and see the table a mess, the stove dirty, and no dishes cleaned up. Hannah is nowhere to be found – and it’s her chore today – and sitting in among the dishes is a strange looking cup.
It’s a snowman.
A ceramic coffee cup, carrot for a nose, scarf rolling around its head . . . it’s the hollowed out head of a snowman turned coffee cup. It’s the cutest thing in the room at the moment, I have to say.
“Where’d this come from?” I asked knowing the flood of expository remarks were coming.
Sam then entered . . . “We get to buy things with points and I used them to get this . . . and a pocket frisbee.”
He immediately removed a tiny circular bag which he unzipped and removed a circular cloth frisbee that went “pop” every time.
“I got one of those too,” Noah expounded, and then ran to his backpack and regaled me with the tale of every…single…detail of how he paid for them, what his search entailed, and how he got that, a couple koosh balls, and a memory card game.
“Yeah, I just got the frisbee, some Christmas stickers, and the cup,” Sam tells me, but he’s got this pleasant little Stan Laurel smile on his face.
We ate, so late by this point that the bedtime routine was shoved back and we only read a few pages of their book – A Wrinkle in Time tonight. I was grumpy, had cut them all off of their descriptions more than once as they tried to recount their days. Hannah walked in with a piece of artwork and I grumpily told her I’d look at it if she ever managed to get the kitchen cleaned up.
As I finished reading and was tucking in my kids, Sam looks at me and says “do you like the snowman cup, Dad?”
“Yeah, kiddo, it’s really cute. Totally you, I can see that.”
“Good . . . because it’s yours, Daddy!”
“I got it for you. I’d been waiting to get enough points and I wanted to get it for you so you could use it before Christmas!”
By this point I was deeply touched . . . I truly was.
“You used your good behavior and classroom stuff, Sam, you can keep it.”
“Oh . . . I didn’t want the cup, Daddy, I thought you would like. I always wanted to give it to you!”
I tucked them both in, and gave Sam a huge hug.
“Thank you kiddo.”
“Merry Christmas, Daddy!”
I went downstairs, having seen that all four kids were in bed . . . and decided that tonight I could do the dishes myself.
Except for the snowman cup. That I used to drink some hot chocolate . . . and smiled my own Stan Laurel smile as I drank out of it.