Thursday, January 7, 2016
Soft Peanuts, Soft Peanuts
A few days ago, while I was taking care of Emily, I handled a major league mess like a real pro. My wife, Martha, would’ve flipped out. Lucky for Emily I was on duty. I was in the bedroom, tending to some work. Emily was in the living room playing. It should be noted, and I think parents everywhere can concur, that if your child is up to something you’ll find it unbearably quiet.
Boy did I want a big scoop of quiet. I’m so used to being the butler, Walking Wikipedia, and playing companion to my princess that I’ll do almost anything for a contiguous, twenty-minute reprieve. When Emily rushed into the bedroom, asking for scissors, this should’ve raised the red flag, but I needed to look up something before sending out an email or else consign my urgent message to draft status (to infinity and beyond). About three minutes later, I’m guessing since I haven’t worn a watch since Kerry ran for president, I went into the living room to see what was going on out there. Emily, who knows my footsteps, and has a better sense of diplomacy than 90% of Washington and the UN combined, met me in the hallway and said, “Daddy, promise you’re not gonna tell Mommy. You know how mad she gets.”
I promised her because that’s the best way to build leverage against a five-year-old when whatever she’s done is a complete catastrophe.
Emily escorted me from the hall to the living room, and I saw that she had freed a dozen ceramic piggies, part of an art project my wife had been planning to do for Emily’s birthday party. That, of course, wasn’t a major catastrophe, but she shredded the inside of the box, and kernels of Styrofoam were strewn all over the floor. It looked like a Jiffy Pop explosion. Phoebe, our dilute calico, rolled around in the white crumble, festooning herself in enough Styrofoam that I could imagine my wife saying,
“Get this package weighed and stamped.” It’s a longstanding joke. Martha’s a dog person.
As I’d begun grabbing the Styrofoam bits, I thought of them as the soft peanuts that come in some boxes. Maybe I would be able to refit the piggies after all, but first I had a floor to clean. Soft peanuts, soft peanuts. Catchy. Where did I hear that before? Then a trumpet blew. Soft peanuts, soft peanuts. Of course, Dizzy Gillespie. I hadn’t heard “Salt Peanuts” (the real title) in a quite a while, but the phrase insinuated itself in my head, helped me get through the tedious chore. Emily found the song funny. I told her it was a riff on a song that Dizzy Gillespie recorded. She’s familiar with his “Nights in Tunisia”
As I was air-trumpeting to the beat in my head, Piper was pushing one of the piggies off the dining room table. I rushed to save it in my stocking feet, dropped to my knees and snatched the piggy before it became shards of shame. I wondered if Tim Howard or Henrik Lundquist felt as good when they stopped a goal.
Emily really felt badly, the rueful look on her face was legit, but she was relieved to be under my jurisdiction because I wasn’t going to scream my head off or threaten to give away her toys. She was determined to help, had procured the dustbin and short broom. As a team, it would take forever to get the job done, but at least we had “Soft Peanuts” to motivate us. At some point, I needed to get things moving along so I did what only the best daddies on this mudball do under similar snafus, I handed Emily the iPad, and let her watch “Paw Patrol”. This clearly put me in charge, letting me pick up the pace although Phoebe and Piper kept pestering me up until I grabbed the dustbuster. They bolted off when I flipped it on, and it was smooth vacuuming from there.
Lessons learned: a silly riff goes a long way when faced with a domestic challenge, and always keep your dustbuster fully charged.