Things are getting weird around here.
And not just because Nate’s been wearing a snorkeling mask and snorkel around the house. Or because Sam’s been addressing strangers as “cookie.” Or that Sam just gave his first ever eye-roll during one of Nate’s lectures. It was a lecture about snorkeling.
But weirder still is Nate’s devotion to his “guys.” Nate and Sam both have a squad of stuffed animals. Sam’s is a rotating cast, depending on his mood and which ones are available.
I don’t know if that has any implications for his future relationships or not. I mean, I’m not looking ahead to his life partnership yet, but I am concerned for his preschool posse next year. The barriers between those cliques are tough to break down and bridges burned are almost impossible to rebuild when you’re two and three years old.
The bond between Nate’s squad, on the other hand, is thick. Like blood brothers. In fact, according to Nate, his three guys actually make up a family. Blanket and Big Monkey are married and apparently, they’ve spawned an offspring, Little Monkey.
I guess those primate genes are pretty strong.
Anyway, according to Nate, May 30th is Little Monkey’s birthday. So we celebrated. Ok, we tried to celebrate. I had some leftover birthday cake in the freezer, that I had coincidentally taken out to thaw that morning. I was sick of it taking up space in the freezer, hogging valuable real estate that could be reserved for Sam’s Eggo waffles. So, it sat in an aluminum tin inside a Ziploc bag on the counter all afternoon.
When Nate told me—proudly—that it was Little Monkey’s birthday, I said, “Great, we’ll have cake!”
And Nate said, “What present did you buy for him?”
“Listen,” I said, “He’s a stuffed animal. He’s lucky to get a cake.”
Nate was content with this, and he spent the rest of the day talking with Sam about cake and caressing Little Monkey, telling him how proud he is of him and that he can’t believe he’s two years old already.
Here’s an important plot point that I’ve skipped: the cake didn’t have icing on it. I considered making homemade icing for a quick minute, even Googling a simple recipe, but then thought better of it. “They consume plenty of sugar as it is,” I thought to myself.
After dinner, Nate and Sam practically fell over each other racing back into the kitchen to get some cake.
“What’s this?” Nate said, curling up his top lip with skepticism. “Is this the cake? Where’s the icing?”
“Oh, this kind of cake doesn’t have icing,” I explained.
“No icing!” Sam practically fainted in disbelief, like Lord Cornwallis realizing the rebels were about to win independence from the crown.
“But Little Monkey loves icing! This is the worse birthday he’s ever had!” Nate folded his arms, clasping each tricep, lowered his chin to his chest and pouted his bottom lip. His brown eyes pierced through to my soul from across the room.
I actually felt guilty for a moment. I ruined Little Monkey’s birthday! What kind of mother am I? He’ll be in therapy for years!
But that moment quickly passed when I remembered that he’s a stuffed animal. Not only that, but he’s barely the size of a tennis ball.
Regardless, I felt like I had knowingly misled Nate and Sam with promises of cake. They’re kids—their cake experiences all involve frosting and sprinkles and boxed cake mixes.
Anyway, I’ll fast forward through the rest of the guilt trip Nate laid on me. Even tucking him into bed later that night, he leaned over, gave Little Monkey a squeeze and said, “I love you so much, Little Monkey. I’m sorry my mom didn’t give you presents or a cake for your birthday.”
Obviously—partly because of guilt but also partly because I was curious to see what would happen—I made icing the following afternoon and Nate and Sam helped me frost the cake. At dinner, Nate plopped Little Monkey on an extra chair that he had dragged to the table and doted over him the entire meal, even engaging him in conversation. And yes, we had birthday candles, and sang Happy Birthday, and Little Monkey wore a button—bigger than his actual body—that said “Birthday boy.”
Tighe took videos on his phone and sent Snapchats to Little Monkey’s closest friends and family. It was the most pleasant meal we’ve ever had together and the closest we’ve ever felt as a family.
Then, shortly after dinner, Nate started to complain that his stomach hurt.
“Drink water!” I ordered, “Probably too much sugar…”
At bedtime, he repeated his complaint, and I asked him if he needed to poop.
“I do!” he declared.
Exhausted, I sat on the end of his bed, cradling a weary Sam in my lap, and listening to Nate orate as he sat on the toilet in the adjoining bathroom. He gets really chatty when he’s pooping. Also when he’s eating. And playing. And when he first wakes up. And when he’s about to fall asleep. And when he’s nervous. And pretty much always.
“…George. And Aiman. And if my wife has another one, Dave.” He was planning his future family. He’d clearly thought about this before.
“Aiman. That’s an interesting name. Where’d you hear that?”
“I read about it. Online.” He tilted his head to the side and rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling, like he was sharing a little known piece of trivia. All this as explosive noises were echoing in the toilet
“Really? What exactly did you read?”
“That Aiman was a boy and now he’s a grown-up. And I said, ‘Lightbulb! I like that name!’” At the word ‘lightbulb,’ he flashed his hands wide open, like jazz hands, and hopped down from the toilet. “Mom? Wipe me, please?”
“Huh. You really read about it online?”
“Yep.” Cocking his head and shifting one eye up at me as he dried his hands, “That’s the truth!”
An hour and a half later, Tighe and I were safely on the couch finishing an episode of House of Cards. Some people hate spoilers, so I won’t tell you which episode, but we’re somewhere in Season 4. Anyway, just as my mind was creating a Venn diagram between House of Cards and HBO’s Veep, the credits flashed onto the screen.
And one of the first names that popped up: Aiman Humaideh. Assistant director.
Aiman? Yep, things are getting really weird around here.