Deena and I joke sometimes that while a bigger house would be nice, it wouldn’t change much around here. Our family would still try to occupy the same five square feet of space, all the time. A typical morning will find Dad (that’s me), sitting on the can and realizing a second too late that he forgot to latch the bathroom door. In comes my almost 11 month old, Thomas, asking, “Dah dah dah?” Right behind him is my two year old, Owen. “What’s Daddy doing? He’s pooping!” And then right behind them is my wife to pull them all back out and latch the door properly. I just turn to a fresh page in the newspaper and sip my coffee.
Working at home with two boys makes time management a challenge. Although I’m fortunate to have a wonderful setup where I only have to spend four hours a day in front of a computer — leaving the other four free for child care — sometimes the only way to get a damn thing done is to sit up late and work with a shot of whiskey on the side.
And staying up late to socialize? Ha! If it’s 9 p.m. and the kids are asleep, then that’s a good time to pass out, too. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.) Having friends over last Friday to watch a 1980s TV movie, The Incredible Hulk Returns, on Netflix, which kept me up to an ungodly 11 p.m., about killed me. Incidentally, I cut my teeth watching Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno portray Banner and Hulk, but my god were they such pussies compared to the Hulk of the current Avengers movie. I just couldn’t stop laughing at the scene in the 1980s movie where Hulk is felled by tranquilizer darts, and he and Thor are powerless to stop a helicopter from flying away.
All of this brings me to my point, which is, of course, fairy tales.
By fairy tales, I refer specifically to that wonderful tradition (and I say that without the slightest sarcasm) of telling Owen a tale at bedtime, either reading from a book or reciting from my head. I’m discovering it’s one of the greatest joys of fatherhood, next to the morning bathroom intrusion, variations of which are Yank Daddy’s Shower Curtain Aside and Inventory Our Special Attributes.
Owen cycles through different favorite movies (currently Thomas the Tank Engine and the Wobbly Whatzits, or what the fuck, I can’t remember now) and favorite books (currently a book with awesome illustrations of tornadoes). Past movie favorites have included the Rugrats’s retelling of Jack & the Beanstalk and before that Toy Story 2 (which I can thoroughly appreciate after the 30th viewing, again said without a trace of irony). Past book favorites have included the Berenstain Bears B Book. Recite it with me: big brown bear, blue bull, beautiful baboon biking backwards blowing bubbles bump black bug’s banana boxes and Billy Bunny’s bread basket and bonk Brother Bob’s baseball bus and Buster Beagle’s banjo bagpipe bugle band, and that’s what broke Baby Bird’s balloon.
What was I talking about again?
Yes. Fairy tales.
So, a few weeks ago, as Owen is in the throes of processing the Rugrats and Jack & the Beanstalk, every night he’s naturally asking me or Deena to tell him the story of Jack & the Beanstalk at bedtime. The traditional version includes a goose who lays golden eggs and a golden harp that sings. Anyway, so I’m sitting there on his bed, having just put him into his Buzz Lightyear green underwear and tucked him under his Elmo blanket, and arranged his four stuffed animals (Tiger, Curious George, the brown dog, and Winnie the Pooh) along the side of his bed to keep vigil. I ask Owen what story he wants to hear, and he says, “The Three Golden Eggs.”
What the hell. I decide to improvise something. I decide that it’s a prequel to Jack & the Beanstalk. Over the past few weeks, the rough edges have smoothed out, and now he asks for it nearly as much as the one about young Jack.
In my drunken blogging stupor, I offer it to you, in slightly longer form:
The Three Golden Eggs
Once upon a time, a runt of a goose named Geesy lived with his brothers and sisters, who made fun of him. “You’re such a runt, and you don’t fit in here,” they said. “Why don’t you leave?”
So that’s exactly what Geesy did. On a cold morning, he flapped away from the other geese, out into the world.
Soon he flew up into the highest mountain range, above the clouds where they were never obscured by storm or wind. Atop one mountain, Geesy came across a bird’s nest of darkest wood, its twigs harvested from the farthest corners of the land. Inside were three golden eggs, and upon them sat a great, golden bird.
“Ho there, traveler,” the golden bird said. “You look like an honest bird, and I have need of one.”
Although Geesy felt worthless and despondent, he nodded respectfully to the great golden bird. “How may I be of service?”
“My three golden eggs are about to hatch, and I need to go out and forage for food. I need you to sit on them and hatch them in my stead. If you do, I’ll give you a great reward.”
Geesy felt he had nothing better to do, so he accepted the job. As soon as he sat down on the three golden eggs, the great golden bird flew away.
After a while, the first egg hatched. Out crawled a tiny golden bird, just like its parent. It immediately flew off.
The second egg hatched. Inside was a tiny golden harp with the head of woman. “Good morning!” it cried to Geesy. “May I sing you a song?”
“Sure. It’s lonely here. What can you sing?”
“Anything your heart desires.”
So Geesy asked her to sing an old ballad, The Honking of the Skies, which reminded him of home. And the harp sang it perfectly.
Soon, the last egg hatched. But inside was nothing. It was just an empty shell.
After a while, the great golden bird returned. “Ah, I see you have hatched my three eggs. Very well done.”
Geesy bowed his head. “I’m so sorry. I’m afraid I failed you.” He went on to tell the great golden bird what happened.
The great golden bird threw back its head and laughed. “You have done exactly as I asked of you. From the first egg hatched my son. When he flew away from you, he came and found me, and I fed him the food I had foraged.
“The second and third eggs contained gifts for you.
“The golden harp that sings any song you request will keep you company for the remainder of your days. You will never be lonely again.
“The third egg appeared to be empty, but when it hatched, it changed you. It gave you the ability to lay golden eggs of your own. They will not hatch but will be solid gold ingots that you can melt down or sell, and they will give you wealth for the remainder of your days. Now go forth with my thanks.”
So Geesy — now the goose who laid golden eggs — set off again. Under his wing, he carried the golden harp that could sing anything asked of it, even The Honking of the Skies. And they were very happy together — until one day, when Geesy came upon a castle in the clouds. In the castle lived an evil giant, who enticed Geesy to come inside.
But that is another story.