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."