Sunday, November 4, 2012

Undaunted, or, The Backfire

Helen is contentedly eating her pink-dyed, flower-shaped, Sunday morning pancake when I discover the counter graffiti:

Mom: "He'en? What is the rule about markers on the counter?"

He'en: [pausing a mouthful of pancake with a guilty start] "Um . . . I'm sawwy?"

Mom: "I am sure you're sorry, but what is the rule?"

He'en: "No dwaw-een wifout assking."

Mom: "That's right. This is permanent marker. That means it's very hard to get off. After you eat your egg, you will help me scub it off."

He'en: [cheerfully, through a mouthful of egg] "O-kay!"

After a decent interval, He'en is installed with sponge, soap, and a mandate to scrub until the black mark disappears. She sets to.

He'en: [scrub scrub] "I yam skwubbing."

Mom: "Yes, you are."

He'en: [reflectively] "I am do-ween Miss Tina's wuhk."

Mom: "Well, Miss Tina's work is cleaning and tidying, and that is everyone's work, all the time. But she does the very best job of it."

He'en: [scrub scrub] "Whew. Diss is HAWD."

Mom: [with an unlaudable level of parental satisfaction] "That's right, it is hard.  Keep scrubbing."

He'en: [scrub scrub] "Whew. I am TYE-yud!"

Mom: [firmly] "That's right. And when you draw on counters, and places where you shouldn't, Mom and Miss Tina get tired because we have to work hard to clean it up."

He'en: [contrite] "Eye unna-Stan."

Mom: [inordinately pleased with the outcome of this object lesson] "Let me see . . . nope, no more is coming off. I will try Comet later. You can stop scrubbing now."

He'en: "Iss oh-kay. I will keep skwubbing."

Mom: "Okay, if you want to."

Time passes. I wash dishes. Scrubbing sounds and the occasional gasp of effort emanate from the other end of the kitchen. Until:

He'en: "Mom! Yook!"

She has worked up a half-inch layer of soapsuds and now waves the sponge as if she's conducting Ride of the Valkyries.

Mom: "Oh, that's very . . . um . . . don't throw soapsuds, honey."

He'en: "I haff made a Y! Two yines up, and one yine down!"

She points, then adds another little flourish with the sponge. Suds cascade off the counter and onto the floor.

Mom: "That's very nice. Um . . . the counter . . . could . . . oh, never mind . . ."

I throw a dishtowel on the floor in the general direction of the soapfest.
He'en: "Come see! I am vewwy fast, so you can' see me goin'!"

Mom: "Yes, that's a very nice Y."

Scrub scrub scrub scrub . . . scrub, scrub. Suds are now ghosting around the kitchen like snowflakes.

He'en:  [joyously] "Now I haff made an H! It goesss two up and one acwoss. Come see!"

Mom: "Come see your H?"

He'en: "Yes! Okay!  I am done wiff dis counter!"

Shedding a small flurry of soap bubbles, she slides off her stool and brandishes her sponge with a bright sparkly look. Suds and water run down her arm. They puddle on the floor. Her bathrobe arms are sodden. She never has looked more cheerful. I am certain that she has no recollection whatsoever that this delightful morning activity began as a punishment.

He'en: "Dat countah is ALL clean!  Now what else kin I skwub?"

Her lack of remorse powers her through the other two kitchen counters, the microwave, a set of cabinets, the front of the fridge, and the stepladder before her arm gets tired.

I am filing this one under "Father's Gene Pool."

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