I hate their texture, quasi-deflated soccer balls rolling clumsily hither and tither on your plate. I hate their smell, sweet but pungent. I hate the way they all look when they’re standing in a group, staring up at you like orphaned brussel sprouts. I hate peas. But more than anything, I hate the way each one explodes in your mouth like blisters filled with pus, like beetles filled with insect jelly, like sacs of goo ripe for the squeezing. I smite you peas. I smite you dead.
But recently there has been a change in me, deep down in my soul. I first noticed it beginning to percolate weekend before last while I was in church. Sitting in the back row I had Rory on my lap and next to me was your mom with Quinn. We were bouncing you around jovially, entertaining you and trying to keep you quiet but truth be told, no man nor woman can do this for long. No living person can keep a baby silent for 90 minutes without a pillow and some duct tape… so you have to get creative.
I look to my right and see that your mom has pulled out a little baby jar filled with peas. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM!!? I’ve never seen this before. I didn’t even KNOW you could eat peas. For lunch I was shoveling mashed up bananas mixed with avocados into your gob and this whole time you could eat WHOLE FOOD!?
Your mom pops the cap off the jar and shakes a few peas into my hand. I pinch one between my fingers and pop it into Rory’s mouth. He smiles and he loves it and he shakes his arms about and hums happily. Next door Jade is ski-balling them into Quinn’s face one after another. Babies love peas!… and I hate them… and this is my moment of clarity. Sitting there in church, with my son on my lap and my daughter sitting next to me, I have a very clear understanding that every decision I make will effect them. Everything big to small ranging from how much time I spend with them and how much I tell them that I love them, down to the minutia of everyday life; do I say thank you and do I eat my peas?
What would I say to Rory if we were at dinner and he told me he wasn’t going to eat his peas because he didn’t like them. Fine, fair enough; I don’t eat peas either. And what if he tells me he hates carrots and bread and noodles? What can I say to that? Do as I say and not as I do? Eat your food, I don’t care if you don’t like them, you’ll do as I command. That’s not the dad I want to be for either of you. I want to set examples for you to live by, whether it’s about eating peas or stealing cars (which, by the way, is bad). I take another pea and I pop it into Rory’s mouth and I take another pea and I put it in Rory’s mouth and I take a third pea and I put it into Rory’s mouth and I take a fourth pea and I put it into my own mouth and I smile at him and he smiles back. His mouth cracks open and his two little top teeth and his two little bottom teeth form a little gate and I can see behind them that he’s got about six peas in his mouth like a starved vegetarian hamster. He smiles wider and three peas just roll down his chin onto his lap.
For my birthday, which isn’t technically for another few days, we all went camping for the first time at Leo Carillo Beach. We roughed it for about sixteen hours with our tuna steaks, potato chips and indoor plumbing. We walked to the beach and played in the waves. We watched the sun set. We sat around the fire and ogled the children as is our custom, “Can you believe they’re ours? They’re so cool! This is crazy! What do you think they’ll be when they grow up? Will they like us? Are you afraid to spank them?” and then I realized that Rory had gotten a hold of my half empty (half full?) Red Stripe bottle and was lifting it to his lips. I had to give him points for his casual demeanor, sort of like, “Do you mind if I hit this?”
The whether was gorgeous and there was next to no one else there and we caught both of you on great days and everything was fantastic…until 3am. At 3am I had the misfortune of waking Quinn Jong-Ill and being subjugated to her wrath for the following 3 hours. Honestly, I felt like I was in Guantanamo Bay and the government wanted secrets from me. “I’ll tell you everything! What do you want to know?! Just call off your rabid weasel! Why is she crying?! Why is she screaming!? Is it because she’s wet, cold and in a strange place? Is it because it’s dark? This is camping and camping is fun! Please stop chastising me, Miss Bonapart!
Quinn, you screamed from 3am until 4am, non-stop and it wasn’t whining-crying. It was the full on, strap a bull horn to the side of your head, firecracker goes off in your hand, trapped in a wind tunnel loud. But strangely, Rory just kept sleeping……until 4am…….and then it went stereo and, honestly, don’t all records sound better that way?
The four of us crawled out of our tent, I poked up the fire and we all sat around the pit, staring into it. Quinn and Rory, you were both thinking, “Oh, that’s pretty. That’s very pretty.” Meanwhile, two and a half feet above you, your mom and I were thinking, “Everyone hates us! The people in the other campsites hate us! They are going to come to our site bearing torches and burn our tent to the ground. Does anyone know we’re here? Could anyone locate us in the event that our family was eaten by bears ie angry mob of campers?
We pack you in the car and drive twenty minutes up the coast; a stunningly beautiful drive……in the sunlight. As is, we were were driving by the light of a new moon, which, for those of you that are Lunar-illiterate, means there was no moon at all and hence, no light. In fact, you could’ve found more light in a gift wrapped box hiding in a closet built in a cave…that said, I COULD hear the ocean and it sounded just riveting. We drive to put you to sleep, we drive to let the other campers get back to sleep. We drive because we don’t know what else to do. Back at the campgrounds we find the entrance is closed and locked and we can’t get back in….so we sleep in the car. Yes, parked right outside the campsite that we paid for, we slept in our car, which, strangely, was far more uncomfortable than the tent. A ranger showed up later and opened the gate for us, we broke camp and sped home…until we got stuck in morning traffic.
Honestly though, all joking aside, that’s ADVENTURE! All the stuff we did in the daytime – the beach, the fire, dinner – it’s great and fun and I will forever have fond feelings for our first outing as a family but from 3am to 6am…I will always remember that, crystal clear, beat for beat. The moments at 3 in the morning at a dark campsite, the moments at 4 in the morning on a dark empty freeway, the quiet moments in the back of a church, the moments that only the four of us share even when we’re in a room with hundreds of people – those are the moments and experiences that make us family…that and the DNA thing.