Old people get a bum rap for two things: the early-bird special, and the amount of time they spend discussing their physical ailments.
But you know who does this to an even greater extent?
Let’s start with the early-bird special. At our house, dinner is usually around six p.m. Adam arrives home then and I do my best to have something tasty on the table, even if the kids and I tend to disagree over the definition of “tasty.” (Their definition: anything from a box.)
It’s not exactly a late dinner we’re having, but Lucy simply cannot wait for the meal to start. Never mind that she devours a lunch that weighs several pounds because she eats like a fruit bat. Never mind that I give her a huge after-school snack; she is forever sneaking into the cupboards and gorging on nuts, fruit leather, raw oats and other assorted items.
No matter where I am in the house, I can hear those cupboards slam, slam, slam, so I know exactly what she’s up to, even if I’ve told her to hold off on stoking her engines because dinner is on its way. (Oddly, Lucy slams the cupboards open; they’re always gaping when I go into the kitchen. We usually look like we’ve just been robbed.)
In short, the child would be happy to have dinner start at 4:30 p.m., and whenever possible, I feed her then. For a while, I worried that she was going to eat her way onto the obesity charts. Wrong. Lucy is made of solid muscle and she can lift her 180-pound father off the ground. She’s a spray tan and a body of baby oil away from being Little Miss Ironpants. Honestly, I am starting to worry that she’ll rip the kitchen cabinet doors right off their hinges.
So perhaps her early-bird special isn’t exactly like the senior citizen one, which is more about chicken soup, soda crackers and fiber supplements. But the way she and her friends discuss their ailments? Now that is like a little corner of Florida has parked itself in my family room.
“Look at this bruise!” “Once, when I was coughing, yellow stuff came out!” “Did you hear that David’s toenail fell right off?”
The worst part, though, is hearing them talk about their orthodontia, largely because it has a show-and-tell aspect. In the weeks before she got her retainer, I heard repeatedly about how a friend of hers had one.
“It hurts,” Lucy said. “Her teeth ache. Her jaw barely works. And she can’t talk right when it’s in.”
“Lucy,” I said. “I had a retainer. They’re not that bad.”
“Oh, but they are,” she said. “They’re terrible. They KILL.”
“Are you worried about your retainer?” I said.
“No!” she replied. “I can’t wait!”
She even brought her friend over to me for a little retainer demonstration the day I volunteered in class. Her friend clicked her retainer out of her mouth and offered it to me for inspection. Unlike my retainer, which was dyed to match the roof of my mouth, this child’s retainer was blue with stars. And lots and lots of saliva.
“Want to hold it?” she asked.
“No thanks,” I said. “Maybe put that back in your mouth, OK?”
“Ish kind of hard to talk when ish in,” she said.
“See?” Lucy said. “She can’t say her Ss.”
When Lucy finally got her retainer on Monday, she was in her night-before-Christmas mood—vibrating with energy. I picked her up in the waiting room of the orthodontist and was practically blinded by her wire-enhanced smile.
“Ish hash a kishen on tah!”
“What?” I said.
She unhinged her jaw and showed me the roof of her mouth. Apparently stars are not the only decorative orthodontia option. You can also get kittens on your retainer.
“But you can talk normally, Lucy,” I said. “Please talk normally. I talked normally when I had a retainer.”
Didn’t we all talk normally when we had retainers? Wasn’t a speech impediment something you wanted to avoid? Like visible underwear and/or head lice?
Not so to kids these days. They celebrate their infirmities.
Because our appointment at the orthodontist’s office was sandwiched between school and Lucy’s back-to-back dance classes, I stopped at a teriyaki joint to feed the kids an early-bird special dinner. While we waited for our food to arrive, Lucy alternated between popping her retainer out of her mouth and snapping it back in so she could mispronounce words for Alice’s entertainment.
“Shee?” Lucy said, “I can’t shay tup.”
“Lucy, you can say cup perfectly well. You are faking it. FAKING IT!” I said.
To no avail. Alice was highly amused and rattled off a long string of words for Lucy to mangle until dinner arrived. And Alice can’t wait for her turn to be crippled by her own teeth.
For my part, I shake my head and hobble behind them, trying not to let anyone know that my Achilles tendons hurt because I played with a jump rope on Saturday. Somehow, I don’t think anyone would be interested.
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