Issue 19

Waiter, There's an Octopus in My Medicine Cabinet


                Mornings are the hardest for me.  Skylar, my six-month old and living alarm clock, did not make the daylight savings shift that the rest of the country seems to have made.  Where everyone else congratulated themselves on gaining an hour, I in fact lost an hour, and feel like I’m losing another one every day.

                Skylar did not come with a snooze button.  I wake up exhausted, just able to hear him jabbing away to himself.  I groan inwardly.  As tempting as it may be to see how long I can continue to lay in bed, I know that at some instant the cute baby talk will erupt into fiery lungfuls of pained crying (the pained part comes from Rebecca jabbing me in the side with her elbow).

                Skylar reaches DEFCON 2 levels of babble as I stumble into the bathroom.  Really, I’m too tired to think this early in the morning, which means that I forget important things like where the light switch is hiding or how cold the floor tile is.  The last thing I want to see is my own face, so I open the medicine cabinet door quickly to get my contacts out.

                I can’t tell whether the happy music is real or not, but there’s a whole shelf of smiling creatures with huge eyes waiting to greet me.  Monsieur Octopus, waving his spongy tentacles, sings out in a French accent, “Good Morning Daddy!  Is your belly button clean?”  Fish Scrub smiles and offers to clean my hair.  The half-dinosaur, half-bird whatever-it-is thing shows me her cloth teeth.

                I slam the medicine cabinet door closed.  They are way too happy for me right now.  I don’t want to be happy; I just want to be tired.  The realization strikes me that I have just had a brief encounter with the world Skylar faces every day.  He wakes and there are smiling animals to greet him.  Sometimes they talk in voices amazingly close to Daddy’s.  Getting tired and grumpy?  Look!  It’s Dragonfly!  Either my son is surrounded by an incredible Rogue’s Gallery of special friends who don’t mind how hard he bites or he’s in an insane asylum.

                Skylar hears me in the bathroom, and his crying escalates to DEFCON 3.  I reach inside the cabinet without opening it all the way, groping for my contacts case.  I can still hear the calliope music but I don’t have to watch the animals talk.  As I put my contacts in, I wonder when my sponge stopped talking to me.  I mean, I gave up a friend who scrubbed away all the dirt on my body, made me laugh, and took away the fear of water and bathing.  Now I use a color-coordinated washcloth with no backbone and no sense of humor.

                I wonder what else I’ve given up as I stumble to the kitchen to prepare a bottle. My clothes used to be fun like Skylar’s.  Now the idea is to dress for success, to be professional.  Professional is dull.  I want a suit covered with yellow ducks.  And don’t forget the squeaky cuff-links.  My car has also changed.  Now I think of things like comfort and safety.  Way back when the most important characteristics of a car were the color of plastic and how fast I could go before I wiped out and flipped over.

                We’ve reached DEFCON 4.  One more level and Skylar’ll wake the neighborhood.  I wonder why my microwave has a popcorn button and a “cook bacon” setting but not a Instant Bottle Warmer button.  I’d pay serious money for something like that.  The bottle is ready in that thought, and I’m off to Skylar’s room at a light jog.

                As I open the door, the entire room breaks out into song and dance.  The animals painted on the wall – Grandfather Frog, Reddy Fox, and Peter Rabbit – shout “Good Morning!” with their bright colors.  The fish mobile scintillates in the dawn’s first rays.  The basket of stuffed animals is already laughing and having a good time.  I feel the grin break across my own lips, and as I step in, Skylar is able to see me, the biggest smile in the room on his face.  We reach out for each other, but then he sees the bottle in my hand and his smile drops away as he suddenly remembers how hungry he is.  I get the bottle in his mouth just in time to prevent meltdown.

                As I sit with my son in the rocking chair, I realize that I haven’t forgotten any of my childhood friends.  Perhaps some of the names and faces have changed, but they’re all here.  “Good morning,” I say to them.

                Suddenly I’m as anxious for Skylar to finish as they are because that’ll mean it’s time to play.


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