Guest Blog: Paul Ellis: Careful Wishing


This isn’t at all what I imagined it would be.

The oldest of three boys, growing up tended to be fueled by testosterone.  It didn’t help that we were all alpha males. Oh, I’m sure more educated people will disagree with that last statement, but there wasn’t a one of us subservient to the others. It made discussions interesting … and physical. When I hit my teenage years, I used to dream of being in a house full of women. I’m sure it was the testosterone talking. Funny thing, did you know the first step to achieving a goal is to set it?

Flashing forward many years, I’m now married with three daughters. You know; goals and all. Our oldest spoiled us being very easy (comparatively) to raise. The middle daughter is our storm cloud, going on 13 years of colic. Our youngest is the closest in temperament to me; my own personal fulfillment of the mother’s curse. Allow me to explain.

When she was three, we moved back to Richmond from Charlottesville. It was a bit unsettling for the girls and we expected some acting out. We didn’t expect large enough.

One afternoon, my wife heard my oldest daughter pleading with our youngest.

“Put the scissors down, Samantha. Just put them down. No! Don’t! Samantha, stop! Nooooooooooo!”

My wife intervened at the wail. Those of us who are parents understand. Our presence isn’t needed until we hear water running, crockery breaking, or children wailing. She discovered that Samantha had been holding a lock of her hair in her hand with her safety scissors poised to snip it off, apparently waiting for someone to find her so she would have an audience. She sat motionless until her older sister was reaching for her, then she cut her hair about a quarter inch from her scalp. A goat would have left more.  According to my wife, the most unnerving thing was the wicked laugh Samantha used to signal the end of her performance.

Needless to say, my wife had words with her. She was told she was not to cut her hair ever again and she lost the privilege of having scissors. My wife took Samantha’s safety scissors and put them on top of the refrigerator. Samantha would only be able to use them under close supervision and *never* to cut her own hair!

I came home from work and walked into this, unawares.

“Do you know what your daughter did today?”

“Don’t you mean our daughter?”

“Oh no, this was all you, right down to the evil laugh. That’s so unnerving coming out of the mouth of a three year old.”

Important note: Your children will not only listen to everything you say and repeat it at the most inopportune moment, they are also excellent mimics and will ape your mannerisms in a fashion that will solidly identify you as their parent.

“*Sigh* Very well, what did _my_ child do?”

My wife proceeded to tell me, at some length. To be fair, it probably wouldn’t have gone on as long as it did, but I couldn’t stop smiling and snickering. That was apparently a “bad thing.”

“Did you find out why she cut her hair?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t. She cut it so short. And in the front. We’ll never be able to hide that. She looks like a freshly shorn Kewpie doll.”

“Don’t you think that’s important?”

“Of course I think that’s important. That’s why I’m telling you!”

“I meant don’t you think that it’s important we find out why she cut her hair?”

My wife looked at me as if I had suffered a head trauma.

“No, that doesn’t disturb me as much as that evil, little laugh of yours that she does. It’s disturbing that our baby laughs like a mad scientist, bent on world domination.”

I was a bit stung! I liked that laugh. We had bonded over it!

“Disturbing? Disturbing like that whole Kewpie doll image? How would you know about that? That’s disturbing; I think that laugh is endearing.”

“You would,” she sniffed and turned, dismissing my argument with a wave of her hand. To be fair, she had already dealt with the situation. But, my curiosity got the better of me.  I went to talk to Samantha.

“Sweetie, why did you cut your hair? Did you feel left out with the move? Does no one have time to play with you anymore?”

“I dunno.”

“I see. “ I said, clearly not seeing. “Are you mad at me or your mother?”

“No.”

“Hmmm. Are you mad at your sister?”

Samantha crossed her arms, stuck out her bottom lip and looked at the floor.

“Tole on me!”

“Well, yes sweetheart, she did. She didn’t want you to cut your beautiful hair and get in trouble.”

Samantha turned away from me.

“Snitch.”

“Samantha, look at me!” I said.

Samantha peered at me over one tiny shoulder, eyebrow raised. I recognized that look from the mirror and felt a stirring of pride. I shouldn’t have. I should have remembered what that look usually preceded.

“She was only trying to help you stay out of trouble. It’s not her fault that you cut your hair.”

Tears began welling in her eyes. I immediately shifted gears, discarding the need to find out what motivated the barbering.

“I’m not mad at you, sweetheart.” I said quickly, throwing my arms wide. “Come give me a hug.”

She ran into my arms and gave me the biggest hug ever! Sucker! At that point, I would have eaten glass to have avoided tears. I’m just appalled at how easily I was manipulated.

Things wound down and everyone went to bed.

The next morning, our oldest was the first down for breakfast. She had brushed her long hair until it gleamed. It also, unaccustomedly, waved at us.

“Sweetheart!” my wife exclaimed. “Why did you cut your hair?”

Our oldest daughter was mortified.

“What?” She said. “I didn’t cut anything!”

At the back of her head, about an inch from the crown, a lock of her hair was clearly missing. An investigation immediately ensued.

The missing lock was found in the middle daughter’s room, in her trashcan.

“Storm cloud,” I said. “Why did you cut your sister’s hair? Didn’t we have enough of this yesterday?”

“But, I didn’t, Daddy!” She replied. “I don’t even have scissors in my room!”

“Where are they?”

“I don’t know, but they were here yesterday!”

I had a sinking feeling. Samantha was our full on, interactive child. There was no way she would be missing her sister getting in trouble. Yet, she was no where to be seen. I went to her room and opened the door. There she was, playing on her bed.

“Samantha,” I began. “Do you know anything about your sister’s hair?”

“Nope!” She replied, with a huge, dimple-creating grin.

I saw Storm Cloud’s scissors on her desk.

“Samantha, why do you have your sister’s scissors?”

“Mommy took mine.”

“Yes, I know. But, why do you have your sister’s?”

She just looked at me, grinning.

“Snitch!” She said.

“Samantha, your mother told you, in no uncertain terms, never to cut anyone’s hair!”

“Nuh Uh! She tole me to not never cut *MY* hair.” She then uttered the evil laugh. It really was like she was planning to take over the world.

Somehow, that laughter made it my fault. I’m not sure how. At any rate, I brokered a deal. The eldest would not kill the youngest in exchange for the youngest never entering the eldest’s room again without permission. The middlest would not kill the youngest provided the youngest did not borrow from the middlest again without permission. My wife would keep the safety scissors until such time as the eldest’s hair had grown back sufficiently.

What did I get?

I got the knowledge that my three year old executed a commando style raid under cover of darkness, procured a weapon, retrieved a high value target, framed a sibling for the deed and returned to base undetected. She just missed the step of returning the weapon.  What did I get? I got the knowledge that at three, she would learn from this and execute a better plan of attack the next time. I got the knowledge that our lives had just become that much more interesting. I got the knowledge that I was awash in a sea of estrogen.

This isn’t at all what I imagined it would be, lo those many years ago; not at all. It’s better. Any day now my youngest and I are going to take over the world and we already have a good start.

We have the evil laugh down pat.

***

About Paul:

All of this started in 1977 and continued for about ten years. After I graduated, writing became something I stopped doing. Well, that I stopped doing for fun. For the next thirteen years or so, I did commercial copywriting for local radio and television stations; which was a lot of fun, but really didn’t pay the bills. So, I shifted careers and went into computer programming. 

Now, programming paid the bills as well as fed a certain creative side, so I was happy. Or at least I didn’t know I was unhappy. Fast forward to 2009; after a hiatus of about 21 years, this “condition” returned with a vengeance; this need to tell a story. As one might expect, I’ve lost all my writing mojo or perhaps I never actually had it in the first place. This is my attempt to reclaim my lost youth. Hmmm, that officially makes this a mid-life crisis. Groovy. 

It’s well and truly sad that this is my red Corvette. At least I still have my hair; no, wait; that’s not right either. In any event, here is one record of the journey; the paths taken to capture the art of crafting a fine tale. Now, how compelling my storytelling is, I leave as an exercise to the reader. 

Paul’s blog can be read here.

Advertisements

One thought on “Guest Blog: Paul Ellis: Careful Wishing

  1. Oh! The joys of having estrogenous homes. I grew up in one (you remember the three J’s, doncha?), but my own is much more balanced, with equal parts test versus est. On the subject of hair, however, it appears to be a universal constant that scissors and post-toddlers mix with only the direst of consequences. I would sympathize with you more if I weren’t rolling on the floor in gales of laughter.

    I always did admire your evil laugh. You have the best one, ever.

    Oh, and by the way, keep up the non-fiction writing as much as you can. It’s a pleasure to read!

    To Mel: Thanks for hosting a good friend’s work. I daydream of settling down on a small “leisure” farm in Richmond, too, but can’t imagine how I’d ever find the time to write, having worked on my grandma’s farm in my youth. So much to do!!

Comments are closed.