In the years before Lil Bro was born, both my parents held full-time jobs. My father worked a regular 9-to-5 gig doing quality control for a local defense contractor and my mother worked evening shifts as a nurse’s aide at an assisted living facility a couple of blocks away from her parents’ place.
This was before my school years, so my mornings would be spent watching TV or playing with my toys while my mom did housework. Then she’d drive me over to my grandparents’ place before her shift began. I’d stay there until my dad picked me up at dinner time and minded me until my mother got home.
That block of time I spent with my father was both strange and amazing, filled with memories of canned chili and English muffin pizzas and learning to play various card games and watching weird (and often nightmare-inducing) shit on post-primetime UHF TV. His restlessness and obsessive need to be the “cool” parent — which my mom resented ferociously — meant every night was adventure. One day he’d show up with a model ship or car to build with my grubby-fingered “help” and another he’d decide we should visit the observation deck of the Prudential Building at eight in the evening.
My memories of those days have gotten a bit hazy, but the father-son bond that emerged from the experience has proven astonishingly durable. It’s a good part of why I could never bring myself to hate or disown the man even when he was at his worst. Maura sees it as an example of how different my experiences were from her own as the middle child of a very Irish middle class immigrant family, and she’s right. It sums up my childhood as a whole, fucked up yet functional on a certain level.
There is one incident from that period that I can recall with perfect clarity. My dad and I were watching some kiddie special on TV and an ad for Playskool’s Weebles toy line came on. The Weebles were an attempt to one-up Fisher-Price’s line of “Little People” by adding weighted bottoms to the ovoid inhabitants of the Weebles’ world of whimsy.
Instead of toppling over, Weebles would rock in place if pushed, and navigate slides or similar diversions with upright aplomb. This characteristic was touted in the ad jingle, in which some cornball sang “Weebles wobble but they dont fall down.”
And my father, who’d already knocked back a few cold ones, responded “Those fucking Weebles.”
I’ve had a lot of giggles in my lifetime, but nothing has ever come close to the eye-watering, side-stitching, breath-shortening attack of unrestrained kid-laughter that followed my dad’s Weeble-hate. I let loose a couple residual chuckles when brought it up on Twitter yesterday, and unleashed a few more while I was explaining it to Maura afterward. Even as I type this, I’m trying to stifle a goofy grin.
Oddly enough, my mother was not amused by it at all.