In the mid-70s, before I came along, my parents owned a souvenir store in Lake Tahoe full of keychains, bumper stickers, and dice. The one thing it didn’t have was customers and the store closed. They kept some of the nicer merchandise so that by the time I was six, I had my choice of two dozen Elton John t-shirts.
Each night, at 7:45, the “Time to get ready for bed” call went out and Jean, Jake, and I raced down the hall to pick out our favorite of dad’s T-shirts. We pushed each other at the sink as we pretended to brush our teeth and tried to extend our awake time minutes beyond our 8:00 bedtime. Mom filled up our pink plastic water cups, I swallowed a little bit of mouthwash and we all ran to bed as we heard dad’s feet begin down the hallway.
I jumped on my waterbed and tried to keep the waves going as mom kissed me goodnight. Jean and Jake flopped around, too, trying to emulate me. But we stopped and were quiet when dad walked in. He sat on the edge of my bed and we took final sips of water. And he began.
“Jimmy, Jeannene, and Jacob were playing hide-and-seek, and daddy was it. They were looking for the perfect hiding spot as daddy was counting in the distance, ‘two, three, four…’ They saw the bush in the corner of the yard and knew that they could fit behind it, but dad was too big. They ran for the corner and squeezed and shoved themselves behind the bush, but just as dad was getting to ten, Puddles came over and started sniffing the corner.
“Dad was saying, ‘Ready or not, here I come,’ as Jake pulled Puddles behind the bush too. Dad looked in the treehouse, ‘Nope, no one’s up there,’ he said. Puddles started digging behind the bush. ‘I better go look in the corner,’ dad said.
“The kids heard dad coming and Jimmy tried to keep Puddles from digging, but she was going faster and faster and the hole was getting deeper and deeper. Dad said, ‘I hear something’ as he was almost to the corner, but Puddles was digging too quickly. She disappeared into the hole and Jacob, not wanting to lose Puddles, grabbed her tail and fell into the hole, too. And Jean grabbed Jake’s foot and Jimmy grabbed Jean’s foot. And they fell deeper and deeper into the hole.
“Down and down they went, like on a giant slide. And then the slide was gone and they were falling faster and faster and then…
“Oh, look at the time, 8:00 already.”
We whined for him to finish. “Please dad, what happened!”
“Nah, get some rest,” he said giving us forehead kisses where all we felt was beard and mustache.
And he left to go watch Cheers or St. Elsewhere.
Zach’s got a strict bedtime: 8:00. He finishes his last bottle and we toss him in the crib with his stuffed blue dog which Kris calls Dos Tum and I call Puddles. We say a verse and sing a hymn. He makes it about halfway through the hymn before he rolls over and falls asleep.
It’ll be nice when he’s older. I’ve got lots of stories to tell him. Lots of stories with no endings.