There’s this old film called Planet of the Apes. It stars a guy named Charleton Heston – he plays this astronaut that goes into outer space and crash lands on this strange planet, which he soon discovers is filled with intellectual primates – talking moneys. There are still humans on the planet but they’ve been bred like cattle and they don’t / can’t speak – basically the monkeys and the men have switched spots in the hierarchy of society.
So Charleton Heston decides that he better play dumb and not say anything – he’ll just blend in with these wild humans and pretend to be one of them until he can figure a way out of this mess. Well, one thing leads to another and pretty soon, Hes finds himself in a pickle whereby he’s been caught in a net and is hanging in the city square and these apes are all standing around him poking him and prodding him with sticks, just being cruel. Now, this next bit is classic – a legendary line. The drums on the soundtrack swell and Hes suddenly blurts out, “Get your paws off me you damn, dirty APE“. And there’s just this moment of complete awe and wonder where everyone is trying to figure out how this man is talking. The fact that this creature, this human is saying words blew everyone away.
I had a similar situation happen to me recently. Granted, I wasn’t dangling in a net, surrounded by monkeys and I wasn’t stranded on a planet filled with spear wielding chimps but the end effect was certainly the same.
I was kneeling on the bathroom floor, giving the both of you a bath. You each splish-splash around for a bit; you’re enthralled with the running water and you take turns putting your hands under the faucet. Quinn sticks her finger in the conditioner bottle and tastes it. She can’t tell if she likes it or not so tries a little more. Rory pulls the plug in the tub and looks at it and then laughs and puts it back (when Rory has successfully drained the tub, we know bath time is over). You each play with foam letters – you bite them and try to pull them out of each other’s mouths. You fill up buckets of water and you try to lift them to your face and drink…..but you usually end up drowning yourself and gasping instead, then repeat.
I watch you and I talk to you and I stick the foam letters to the side of the tub, trying to form letters even though we have a lack of vowels. I stick the letter ‘Q’ to Quinn and I say, “QUINN….QUINN. Q IS FOR QUINN” and I stick the red letter ‘R” to Rory and I say, “Ro-ree….Ro-ree”. I reach up onto the window sill where we keep a little machine (a Christmas gift from your Aunt Katie?) that blows bubbles everywhere. I push the big yellow button and I say, “Bubble…..Buh-ble” and the two of you stare at the soapy storm coming down on you and you’re both transfixed. You each try to reach out and touch the glassy orbs but they pop like….well….they pop like bubbles.
I say, “Bubbles. Yay, bubbles!” and you both laugh and then, suddenly, it just comes out.
Quinn says, “Bubble”.
Hold the phone.
I need a minute to process this……
…..did that baby just talk?? That baby isn’t supposed to talk….it’s just a baby!
Hesitantly, like a fearful ape, I say, “Yes. Yes, that’s right! Buh-ble…”
And the female baby repeats it again….and again…..and again. And now she just walks around the house saying it like a deadly omen.
Now that the doors are open, I’m trying to teach you various words and phrases like, “Yo”, “Dude” and “Yo, Dude”. Your mom and I keep calling your milk “leche” but I don’t really know why….I mean, I know that leche is Spanish for milk but I don’t know why we started doing that…we just thought it was funny, I guess. I hope you always call milk leche, though. The way some people call it POP instead of SODA.
Rory, you’re not speaking yet but you are just getting BIG. You’ve got these mitts; HOLY SMOKES! You like to throw balls and wrestle hardcore; off the top rope, ladder match, cage fight style. You do this new thing where you come over to us while we’re laying down and you straddle our stomachs and then start bouncing up and down just as hard as you can, slamming your butt into our guts and laughing. I’ve started calling you The Tickler and I pretend that you’re interrogating me while you do it. I say things like, “NO! NO! Don’t bring in The Tickler! NO! I’ll never talk! You can’t make me! I’m not stoolie! I’m no stool pigeon! I’ll never tell ya where the money’s at!” and then I manage to take control of the situation and I throw you into the air and jump on top of you and tickle you and say, “Now it’s my turn to make you talk! You’ll talk! They all talk! Tell me where the gold’s at!” and you just laugh and laugh until you’re out of breath and this process goes back and forth a few times until we play a new game.
That said, I had a few ribs out of place last week. I woke up Saturday morning and was having difficulty getting out of bed. Your mom called several chiropractors / masseurs for me but everyone was closed on the weekend….so it’d have to wait until Monday. Well, come Monday, my chiropracter (Dr. Jorge) told me that I’d knocked a few ribs out of place. When I asked how, he told me that it could be caused by sneezing too hard….in your sleep…..and for some reason I found this slightly embarrassing. LIke, the fact that I actually blew out my ribs by sneezing too hard. WHAT?
So over the weekend while I’m suffering through my day, I decided to lie down on the floor in your bedroom only to realize……that I couldn’t get back up….and your mom and Uncle Jarod were both gone!!! And just as I’m trying to gather my senses and figure out a game plan, who should begin strolling over to me……but The Tickler. “No…..No. Rory….No. Stay back. Be gentle”. You take a couple steps forward and you giggle. You are a sicko. You are a vigilante bent on revenge for unknown crimes. You are…..insidious.
You take a few more steps towards me, “No. No. Please.” and a few more, “Gentle, buddy. Gentle with Daddy” and then you charge and everything goes into slow motion. Drool is flying from your lips, suspended in time and space. Your bare feet are slapping the wooden floor like wet meat hitting the pavement. Your menacing voice echoes off the walls like an oncoming freight train……no…….like a death rattle.
You leap. You lunge. I shut my eyes and just pray to God that I’m knocked unconscious by the pain.
KER-THWUMP! You slam into my chest and you laugh and you begin to beat me mercilessly and without reason and I just go limp, hoping it will all be over soon.
Eventually you leave, off to find your next victim or plot your next conspiracy, I suppose. I sit in the room alone, probably bleeding internally, struggling to get up. I grab Quinn’s crib and I pull myself up and I see your toys and I see your little clothes and I get sad…..because I know it will all be over soon.