I put the kids in pull-ups and dress Quinn in her jammies before chasing Rory down, pinning him to the ground and wrestling him into his footies. He screams and laughs and swats at me the entire time while I do impressions of Macho Man Randy Savage and say, “I’m gonna come at ya from the top rope! And I’m gonna give you the elbow! And I’m gonna drop you to the mat, see! I’m gonna pin you down for the big ah-1-ah-2-and-ah-3-count! The ref is going to ring that bell and I, NOT YOU, will be the reigning Heavy Weight Cham-peen of the World!” and Rory stands up, clothed in black and white stripes and points at me and says, “………..NO!” and then me, in my regular voice, I say, “Roar, you gotta work the crowd a little more. They came for a show.”
Quinn jumps on my back and I spin her around my body like a swing dancer, dropping her onto the wood floor. I grab her by the feet and say ONE-TWO-THREEEEE! and then I push her as hard as I can, sending her sliding across the room. Rory shouts, “MY TURN!” and lies down. I say ONE-TWO-THREEEEE!” and I slide him as hard as I can even though he only travels about half the distance since he weighs about twice as much.
Quinn comes back, Rory comes back, Quinn comes back, Rory comes back, Quinn comes back, Rory lies down and points under the couch and says, “I put that there,” and I say, “What’s that?” and he says, “Look. I put that there,” and I lie down on the floor and stare under the couch. I see a bunch of dirt, a couple of toys, an old string cheese wrapper and a container of sour cream.
I say, “You, uh… which one did you put under there?” and he says, “Blue one,” which, of course, is referring to the sour cream and I say, “When did you do this?” and he says, “Don’t know.” I shudder at the thought of what could be inside the container. I grab the lid and pull it out, leaving a streak of wetness in its wake. Jade gags and says, “Just throw it away,” but I say, “No… we should look. We need to look. We need…. to know… what’s in here,” and she says, “No. No we don’t,” but I say, “Could still be good,” and then I rip the cap off and wish I hadn’t.
Rory says, “Is that gross?” and I say, “Yes. Very,” and I throw it away.
When I come back Rory is playing with Clementine and I sit down and then briefly look away to watch Quinn when he suddenly screams and starts weeping with such force that I’m certain Clementine has finally bit him. I look. No blood. Clementine slowly walks away (human emotions make her very uncomfortable). I say, “What’s wrong?” and Rory says, “AAAAHHHH!” and I say, “Did you poke yourself in the eye?” and Rory says, “NOOOOOO!” and I say, “What happened?” and Rory says, “CLEMENTINE….. LICKED……MY EYE!” and sure enough, his eye is all red and irritated from the dog’s rough tongue.
I say, “It’s okay. She was probably just trying to drink your tears. They keep her young”.
I push Rory across the floor again and I push Quinn across the floor again and then Rory lies down but says, “DON’T THROW ME IN THE FAN!” (referring to a box fan on the floor with no cover and spinning blades exposed) and I say, “Uh…. okay….” and I wind up to slide him but he twists his head at the last moment to look at the fan and then his whole body sort of follows suit and he just kind of rolls instead of rocketing out and I say, “You can’t turn your head when I’m doing this – you have to – you have to just stare at the ceiling,” and he says, “No…… no….. don’t throw me in the fan,” and I say, “Rory. Why would I throw you in the fan?” and he says, “No…..” and I say, “Besides, even if I WANTED to throw you in the fan-” and Quinn lies down in front of me as I say, “I couldn’t. Watch, I’ll even try to throw Quinn in the fan – I can’t push you guys that far,” and then Quinn is standing up and saying, “No! No! Dad, no! Don’t push me into the fan!” and I say, “I’m… okay, I’m sorry I said that. I’m not going to push you into the fan. I was just making a point that if I wanted to, I probably couldn’t – or rather – couldn’t. Watch. Quinn, lie down.”
She does so and I say, “ONE! TWO! THR–” and she tilts her head to look at the fan and I stop because I’m just going to send her rolling head over heels if she does that and she says, “Dad?” and I say, “Yes, Quinn?” and she says, “Don’t throw me into the fan.”
I stand up and say, “It’s bedtime. Let’s get outta here,” and Rory runs into the kitchen and opens the fridge and says, “I want this,” and he holds out a bag of small peppers. I open the bag and hand it to him, watching as he examines each color in turn, finally settling on a fat orange one. “THIS one,” he squeals, handing me the bag back before running off. Quinn enters the kitchen, stares at Rory with his pepper, stares at me holding the bag of peppers and I’m of course expecting her to ask for one so I sort of freeze but instead she just runs off.
I zip up the bag, open the fridge and put them back… just as she runs back in all alone and says, “Dad! I want a pepper!” and so I pull the bag back out and open it up and hand it to her and she examines each color in turn before fixating on a specific red one and then vanishing into her bedroom where I follow closely behind.
Inside, I tell them to get in bed and that we’re going to say our prayers and then read a book and they both get very excited about prayers when we’re going to read a book afterwards so they curl in very close to me and repeat everything I say with equal measures of earnest and enthusiasm.
After prayers are over I read a story about The Bernstein Bears trying to find a place to have a picnic while constantly being plagued by garbage trucks, school children, mosquitoes, rain, lightening and locomotives. At the end, in case you were wondering, they have a picnic at their kitchen table. Full circle.
I close the book and say, “THE” and both children in unison shout, “END!” and then I pick up Quinn’s cabbage patch doll and I cradle it in my arms and I say, “Shhh…. shhhh,” and I bounce it up and down and rock it back and forth and say, “Baby wants to sleep. Are you both ready for the new baby?” and I say, “Rory, do you want to hold the baby?” and he says, “Yeah,” and so I hand it to him and he cradles it and says, “Shhh…” and then throws the baby at Quinn and I say, “We probably shouldn’t do that.” Then, while I pick up the doll and begin to cradle it again, Rory strikes out at it and I wonder if this is going to be a recurring theme over the next few weeks.
I hand the doll back to Quinn and I grab Rory and say, “I’ll cradle you!” but he’s not very happy about it and starts screaming and thrashing about so I just start chewing on his ear and he starts laughing and hides under his blankets. I give Quinn eye kisses (left eye to left eye, right eye to right eye, butterfly kisses) nose kisses, (nose to nose, eskimo kisses) and then kiss kisses and then do the same to Rory before turning their music box on and saying goodnight and walking away.
For the next 30 minutes I sit in the living room, rubbing Jade’s back while we watch Parenthood and listen to the gentle noises of the children not sleeping. Eventually, I stand up and walk back into their bedroom to find them both sitting on the floor playing with toys. They both scurry under the covers like gophers but, instead of instructing them, I kick off my boots and lie down, curling them both close to me, Rory at my side, snuggled in the crook of my arm and Quinn on my chest, listening to my heart.
I rub their backs and I think, “This is it. We’re in the final stretch now.”
And, like the finale of a great drama, it is the perfect way to end things.