Irony

Last weekend was the Ohio Environmental Food and Farm annual conference in Granville, Ohio, a liberal arts college town of fewer than 3000 souls. Nola was attending talks by radical, organic farmers, spouting such polemics as, “Why does the government think a Hostess Twinkee is safer for our children to eat than fresh milk from a cow?”. They were sharing secrets to skirting the draconian laws against transporting raw milk across state lines. Did you know that you cannot sell raw milk products in this country as food? However you can sell it as fish bait by the pound (Fish Bait Colby anyone?).

It was Valentine’s weekend, so I drove down the next day, Saturday, with the children, and we stayed at an very nice and expensive inn and had a very tasty and expensive meal with our very tired and bored children. Then on Sunday, while Nola was learning how to make 6 figures raising organic, market gardens, I was somewhere down the highway in Columbus with the children, searching for a toy train expo I vaguely remembered reading about on the internet before I left Indiana. I did not know where to find it. For the sake of $20/month, my cell phone could access the internet, but I’m too cheap for a service I would use twice a year. Instead, I was relying on vague memory and the kindness of strangers. We did not have much success.

And then we passed a sign for a Tim Horton’s.

Which was Very Exciting for a Canadaphile such as myself.

Tim Horton’s is a chain of doughnut shops (and field police stations) all across Canada that I had read about. I did not know they had expanded to the United States. Being a connoisseur of homemade cake doughnuts, I had always wanted to try one, and there it was with time to spare. For the full experience, we ignored the drive-through and parked in the empty lot. The children crunched the dessicated piles of snow in the parking lot under foot, and I ushered them through the glass doors.

How sad, then, to find the meager, synthetic, doughnut-like objects in the display case . My romantic idea that doughnuts from Canada would be hearty, over-sized fuel for surviving frigid winters evaporated in the plastic shiny glare of pastries designed by a corporate efficiency expert. Oh Canada! Are you so insecure that you must copy your southern neighbor in this too?

Rose and Samuel went straight for the frosted ones with neon green and pink sprinkles. The counter help waited patiently with smiles, and having taken their time, I was too embarrassed to back out (see? wouldn’t I make a good Canadian?). I got the children what they wanted and ordered a plain cake doughnut for myself. On a whim, I mentioned our train expo dilemma, and the woman behind the counter was kind enough to look up the event on the internet for me.

Later, sitting at the Formica tables, I watched my children press a spilled, green sprinkle on each finger tip and lick them off one by one. I thought of Dawn, half an hour away, surrounded by a few hundred organic farmers, all plotting the demise of the very genetically modified organisms I was eating, and how very much more she would have enjoyed rubbing the sweet, drywall-texture crumbs off her teeth with her tongue.

Solomon

I woke this morning to the sound of my younger child crying – the loud, indignant cry of justice deferred. The sun was up, had been long up, somewhere behind the aluminum foil clouds. Six inches of snow down, six more to go sometime today, and they called us last night to say school would be closed. With no particular haste, I rose and put on my robe and headed out to play Solomon.

There were already several shrines of plastic toys set up about the house, including an interesting collection of hair accessories on the bathroom floor. I found both children in the lake room. Having heard the creaking of the carpeted floor boards, they had not moved or made a sound but waited for me to arrive. Each was clutching a handful of pickup sticks. The stubborn, angry expressions on their faces betrayed occasional slips of fear, and I could see the thoughts in their head as clearly as cartoon bubbles – will my case be strong enough to support my righteous anger in the court of Papa?

Fortunately for them, I was already awake, and Dawn had remained asleep. I can play Solomon as well as any dad, but if either of our sleep has been interrupted, the baby would really be cut in two.

Patiently I listened to each tell me their side of the story.

“He tried to grab the pickup sticks from me and when I wouldn’t give them, he kicked me and tried to bite me….”

“They were MY pickup sticks and when I tried to get them back, she made an angry, scary face at me…”

A woeful tale of property rights, assault, and battery. Neither showed any marks other than the lines of indignation on their brows. One story was much longer than the other, and neither agreed on any point of fact other than the involvement of pickup sticks.

Thus spake Solomon, “One or both of my offspring is prevaricating. Thou shalt remain in thy separate chairs, neither speaking, nor reading, nor diverting thy attention. Thou shalt not look to the right, neither to the left, until that thy separate histories shall concur with one another, verily, unto the meanest detail.”

Then I went to the bathroom to start my day.

Five minutes later I was back, and my children were still in their seats, though now draped across them like discard clothing, but quiet and bored rather than fighting.

“Would anyone like to alter or improve their story?” I asked.

Rose, my delightful motor mouth, can’t resist the opportunity to tell a story. “Papa, I’m going to tell you the WHOLE story this time. Samuel and I were playing Wallace and Gromit, and I was knitting the afghan with the pickup sticks like Gromit, and …” The convoluted story unfolded and it became clear that Rose had been on her way to put the sticks away when Sam decided he wanted them and the ruckus ensued. When she finished, Sam agreed with everything Rose said, so we discussed what should have been said or done instead and then gave apologies all around.

“Now,” I continued, “I’m going out to shovel the driveway. Would you like to go play in the snow while I do that?”

“YES! YES! But … Papa, can we have breakfast first?”