No Idea

Tuesdays are “grampa takes the ballet lesson girl home after he gets off work” day. Except the girl who can usually talk and sing about nothing for half an hour in rush hour traffic was quiet and mopey, even after a pack of assorted princess fruit gummies. When the car rolled up in front of her parents’ house and stopped she worked her way through the back seat, drug out her backpack, let it drop to the the curb. All just barely four years of her completely dejected.

“Was ballet lesson a bummer?”

“Ballet class. No. At school. I wanted to be first.”

“Yeah? That first thing doesn’t happen all the time.”

“Even for princesses?”

“Even for princesses with lime green tutus.” That didn’t sit very well. “Here, I’ll get your bag, you go show me the door lock code again. I forgot.”

“‘Kay. You get the mail.” She shuffled up the driveway and grumped her way through the door lock code, left a trail of shoes and tutu and tiara in the living room.

“Want a cookie?”

“NO. I wanted to be first.” She was pacing around the family room of her parents’ house, arms folded, hrumphing, toe kicking random stuffed animals and floor pillows. Or pillows that had found the floor and maybe shouldn’t have been there. Telling the dogs and her brother both “NO.”

“You get to be first a lot. It’s okay not to be first every time. And you need to get used to it because nobody gets to be first all the time. Not even grampas. I’m gonna eat your cookie if you don’t ungrumpy.”

“NO.” She let one arm of the folded pair out, took the cookie. “I wanted to be first. You were never not first, papa?”

“I was not first a lot. I told my grampa about this guy I went to school with named Kent. He could play everything better than me. Run faster, kick the ball farther, go across the monkey bars better –”

“What’s monkeys bars?”

“Where you hang by your hands and climb all over –”

“Like playscapes?”

“Yeah. Playscapes. And Kent was always better than me, at least most of the time. Sometimes I got to be better. But I told my grampa all about Kent and he took me to meet the bear wrassler. That’s where I learned it’s okay not to be first all the time.”

“What’s bear wrassler mean?” Her arms were still folded and she wasn’t buying it yet.

“My grampa took me out in the woods in this place called Missouri to meet the bear wrassler. Because I was complaining so much about Kent not letting me win all the time. He took me waaaaay off in the woods where the wrassler man lived in this funny house made out of rocks, and he was sitting on the porch smoking a long pipe, waiting for us. He was kind of scary looking. Let’s get that cookie off your hands before your mom gets home.”

“Scary like a monster or a spider or like Beast?”

“Not as scary as Beast, but close. He had a black patch on his eye like a pirate and a big, long scar on his face where –”

“What’s a scar?”

“Where a really bad bo-bo happened.”

“Ohhhhh…”

“And he had on old overalls and no shirt and was all hairy, and he had big brown boots.”

“Like Garcon?”

“Sorta. So my grampa says to him ‘Tell this boy ‘bout b’ar wrasslin’ ‘cause he’s driving me nuts whining about some kid not lettin’ him win all the time.’ And the scary man looks at me with his one eye, sets his pipe down on a table made out of an old piece of wood carved out like a bear, blows smoke in my face and says, ‘Boy, you look kinda short in the britches to hear ‘bout wrasslin’ b’ar.’ He meant maybe I wasn’t big enough. Like you, maybe.”

“I’m big! I can do all kinds of things now that I’m,” she worked her fingers, planted the thumb in her palm. “Four! You can tell me!”

“Okay, I guess you’re big enough. The bear wrassler man says to me his job is to get up every morning, early, and go out looking for a bear to wrassle. You know, he and the bear go after it like you and your brother sometimes.”

“I wrassle better than him ‘cause he’s a baby. And only, only because, um, he takes my stuff that he, he, um…that’s not his. Does the bear look like my brother?”

“Probably. With better manners. Anyway, the wrassler man goes out to find the bear every day so they can do their job wrasslin’. I thought the man was crazy going out to do that, you know, fighting with a bear? Crazy. But that was his job and I asked him why did he do something crazy like that and I hoped he kicked the bear’s booty or else it would eat him. He pointed at his eyepatch and said, ‘You got to be on your toes and ready to wrassle b’ar with all you got, every day. Some days I kick his butt and some days he kicks mine, but this eye patch is why I get up and go lookin’ for him. ‘Cause this here eyepatch is what happens when you expect to win all the time and whine about it when you don’t. You act thataway and the b’ar, he’ll just come up on you and RAWRRRR all over you standin’ there thinkin’ first is yours just because you’re some kind of princess. And that ain’t how it works a’tall.’”

“Were you a princess, too, papa?”

“No. He was saying that because even princesses don’t get to be first just because they’re princesses. So I’d understand the story he was telling me. Everybody knows princesses are special, but they have to fight the bear like even people who aren’t princesses.”

“Like Brave? She fights a bear!”

“She does, but it’s her mom, and your mom’s not a bear, is she?”

“Sometimes!”

“Yeah, I can see that. So after the bear wrassler told me that, my grampa shakes hands with him and I gotta tell you, that man really scared me. We get in my grampa’s old truck and he looks at me for a minute and scratches his chin before he says, ‘You gonna be a b’ar wrassler or you just gonna keep complainin’?’ And I said I was gonna be a b’ar wrassler ‘cause I didn’t want him to think I was a weenie or anything and the wrassler man was so scary and I sure didn’t want an eye patch. Grampa took a drink out of this flat bottle he kept in his overalls and he says to me, all serious. ‘Good. S’long as you understand that you don’t always get to be first. Because I’m tellin’ you, like he said, some days you get the b’ar, and some days the b’ar gets you. But you gotta get up tomorrow and wrassle him again, win or lose.’ So at school tomorrow if you’re first, great. You got the b’ar. If you try and you’re not, that’s how it goes. Because some days you get the b’ar, and some days?” The tickle monster came out, she squealed and took off.

“Some days the b’ar gets me, papa!”

***

The grocery bag and car keys hit the kitchen island, the lawyer turns into daughter for a split second. “Dad, before you leave…My daughter is saying things at school to the kids behind her when she’s line leader like ‘I got the bar today and the bar got you.’ And sometimes she makes a monster noise to go with it. You have any idea what she’s talking about, or where that’s coming from?”

“Nope. No idea.”

Fathers Day

If you’re a father you know how this goes. “Happy Father’s Day!” Maybe it’s wrapped, probably not. Then you go out to eat. You’ve gone out to eat somewhere kid or grand kid friendly for as long as you can remember, you get the check. Or someone with joint account privileges makes a nice gesture.

I got this one yesterday, Father’s Day Eve, which was okay because everybody is busy and “Dad doesn’t mind.” I tipped this guy the max. Twenty percent. In a Taco place with Formica tables and grand kid proof tile floors. Because you never know. I almost put the receipt in the charitable donations file because I’m still not sure if it was a tip, or a tithe. The scary thing? He kinda looked the part.

And that really got me to wondering. You know, what does that guy give his dad for Father’s Day? Did he wrap it?