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Pluperfect Possessive-Obsessive

We’ve Got a Lot of Kids

I’m in our library, working on an earlier version of this column, when the fragile calm is shattered like a brick tossed through a window. Our oldest son Colin, ten, and oldest daughter, Meredith, eight, have discovered that they disagree.  

“It’s mine-uhhh! Give it!”
“Give. It. Back!“
 “It’s mine-uhhh. I had it first. She took it from me!”
“Mom, he took it and won’t give it back! Hey-uhhh!”

Our kids often use an apparently recently devised grammatical tense, a sort of pissed-off pig-latin. You add an “uhhh” to the end of ordinary verbs, nouns and exclamatory remarks.  For example, “Hey-uhhh! Get off of me-uhhh!” adds just the right touch of indignation and righteous anger: pluperfect possessive-obssessive.    

My wife Maria short-circuits this very familiar argument to its usual and customary conclusion:

“OK, everyone out. Out! Everyone out of the living room immediately! Find something to do!”

But the combatants steam on, oblivious:

“Give it back! Give it b-a-a-a-a-ck!”
“Both of you; out! Out of the living room. One! Two! Thr--”
“Mom, she punched me-uhhh!” Fifteen love.
“Give it ba-a-a-a-a-ack!”
“Give it back to her.” intones Maria. Forty love.  
“It’s mine! She took it! And! She punched me!”
“You took it from me-uhhh!” Set and match.

I stomp into the living room, a lumbering silverback. “Give it to me.” I growl. I pocket the trinket, it may have been a shower curtain ring, yanking it from our oldest son’s sweaty fingers. “OK: next kid that says one word, even one itsy-bitsy little mouse peep, gets it.”

After mumbled assurances that they heard me, the fragile quiet returns. On my way back to work in the library, I see him glaring at her with all the menace a ten-year old can muster. Folding his fingers on his right hand painstakingly, he brandishes the resulting fist with an exaggerated flourish. She jumps to her feet to tattle on him, but glancing at me and apparently remembering the part about making even one itsy-bitsy mouse peep, she sticks her tongue out at him instead. 

Immediately they are both sticking out their tongues at one another, alternating with a smirk. Tongue, smirk, smirk tongue, tongue smirk smirk. It’s a game now: Match My Expression. Tongue tongue smirk tongue, faster and faster. A duel. Smirksmirksmirktonguesmirk. Eyes locked, their faces taut in concentration.      

Earlier this morning, our two sons are wrestling and giggling on the bathroom floor, like brothers do, while our youngest daughter Gracie and I stand before the bathroom mirror and brush our teeth. She watches the commotion passively in the mirror for a moment. Son number one slinks from the room.

His younger brother Alec gets up from the floor, slowly, now to his knees, whimpering rather unconvincingly and shaking his head. “Yuck.” he says.

“Dad…Oh, Dad; Alec was on the ground and he couldn’t get away,” explains Gracie, “and Colin went like this,” she bends over, rump high in the air like a cartoon skunk, “and then he farted in Alec’s face!”

“Yuck.” says our youngest son in agreement, the reaction shot; the story is told.

“You can’t fart in your brother’s face.” I yell down the hall. An involuntary guffaw, a spasm; I quickly cave in to completely uncontrolled giggling. Full disclosure: I was an oldest brother.

Later in the afternoon, I’m at the hardware store, buying a new toilet seat. On average, toilet seats last less than a year in our house. I can’t imagine what they’re doing with them.  Cracking coconuts, perhaps.  

In the checkout line, fishing for bills in my pocket, I feel the shower curtain ring in my pocket. I pick out four wrapped chocolates from a box on the counter. For one perverse second I imagine buying only three chocolates. They’d have to fight it out. But then, they do enough of that already.