Sunday papers (don't ask no questions)
Charlie loves the Mini Page. Did you have that when you were a kid, the little half-page in the Sunday paper with news stories simplified for kids, a couple of puzzles, and line drawings of this little Raggedy Ann-like girl in, like, a Tutankhamen headdress or a football helmet or a rubber mask of Richard Nixon, depending on what was happening in the world? My local paper didn't carry it, but my grandparents' did, and Grandma would clip it and send it to me. I loved the Mini Page. (I did not love the thank-you notes my mother made me write and send. But I now love that she did.)
I was excited to see that our paper here carries it, along with the dumbest crossword in the world — "1. Da Vinci's Mona ____. 2. Da Vinci's ____ Lisa." — and I've been passing it along to Charlie each week, feeling pleasantly wholesome and nostalgic, along with the color comics. (He sometimes gets the weekday strips, too, but honestly that depends on how hateful Dear Abby is being that day in the inches right next to Garfield.)
Last weekend, though, I happened to glance at the Mini Page before I gave it to Charlie. It was about September 11, and although it was tastefully done...
We know these hijackers were angry at the United States and our way of life. But even adults don’t really understand why they did this horrible act.
...I decided not to pass it along. So far as I knew, he was unaware that something very bad had once happened, and I saw no reason to tell him. I briefly wondered if that qualified as shameful not-"Never Forget"-ting, but decided it must not. I remember it fine, God knows, and although I know his innocence won't last forever, why would I hasten its end?
So I memory holed the Mini Page. Comforted by the note that said, "Next week, The Mini Page is about school lunches," presumably with Raggedy Ann wearing a hair net and dishing out deep-fried Fanta, I thought that would be the end of it.
This week I handed over the Mini Page with confidence. ...Along with the color comics. ...Which were all about September 11.
I didn't notice, of course, until Charlie complained, "These aren't even funny." And while I privately feel they never are, he usually finds even the Family Circus hilarious. (I disagree. Screw you, Not Me.) But yesterday was different. They weren't supposed to be funny. (Though if you can look at some of them without laughing incredulously, you're a better person than I am, because a few are just downright weird.)
Paul brokered that conversation, explaining it all simply, just as the Mini Page had, and discreetly skirting some of the horror of it, eliding the fact that so many people died. (Overhearing this, I supplemented Charlie's burgeoning understanding by hollering down the stairwell, "And a lot of people died, so we're sad." I think I heard Paul whisper, "Just ignore your mother," before resuming his more nuanced approach. Good one, Julie. A+ smiley-face in super-mindful parenting.)
I draw a lot of lessons from this little incident. First, trust the Mini Page, and let mass media guide your child whenver you feel uncertain. Second, leave all difficult conversations to your better-spoken spouse. Third, Dagwood Bumstead has feelings, too, for other things than sandwiches, and despite the fact that we've always known Beetle Bailey as a dependable, tough-as-nails grunt who could carry our country through its darkest days with resoluteness and aplomb, well, even heroes weep. And Mark Trail can speak without opening his mouth, and thank God Cathy is dead so I don't have to see her cry, too.
Charlie has a new hobby. "What's your new hobby?" I asked him, ready to help or rustle up supplies. I'm always eager to support his interests, as long as they don't involve explosives, and sometimes even then:
He was kind enough to make me an apprentice, with my own ID card and everything.
I think I am quite photogenic.
My soul-sucking tally still stands at zero (unless you count Paul's, which was really just beginner's luck). I'm hoping Charlie will soon have time to train me properly, but first he's working with a new kid at school. "I really think," he said optimistically, "this guy is good soul-sucker material."
And that is how you make new friends when you are my son Charlie.
Yesterday we went for a hike in the woods. Long story short, Ben and his friend A. ran out in front of the group. A.'s mother and I were walking fast to catch up with them, lest they fall into quicksand or slip on some mossy rocks or accidentally be exposed to a drum circle or something. I was looking at Ben and not at the ground, and I tripped on a root. I wrenched my ankle badly. It didn't hurt much at the time, but later, halfway through the grocery store, it hurt so much that I practically had to call a tow truck to get that godforsaken firetruck grocery cart back to the front of the store. (The whole time Ben was squawking indignantly from the cab of the truck, "But we need to stop for gas!" Which is absurd. This is Vermont. The grocery cart was a hybrid.)
So my ankle is wrapped and elevated, and I stump around the house on crutches. Charlie made me a cast patched together from neon-pink index cards: "It utilizes CrossWeave Technology," he assured me, securing it with tape and staples. (The ™ was unsaid but understood.) And Ben? Ben gave my ankle a kiss and two careful hugs, then vaulted over me on the sofa whooping, "Leeeeeap!" And when I then yelped in pain, he went to get a monkey Band-Aid, introduced himself as the doctor, and read me five of his books.
Which was all well and good but I can't wait until three-year-olds can legally prescribe morphine.
How was your weekend? Good, I hope, despite that little suckup, Jeffy.