“I have some news.”
Usually when you hear that line, you expect to hear about somebody’s stuff. New cars, old flames, flames-to-be. Important to listen to, but nothing too earthshaking. I wasn’t quite prepared for this bit of stuff. It was Dad’s stuff. See, he got an interesting Christmas present this year: a new child. My stepmother is pregnant.
Whoa! It’s strange, my father phoning to tell me he’s going to have another me, or another daughter, crawling the earth.
So, what’s my major malfunction? I should be happy for my pop and my stepmom, right? I am. No room for argument about that.
It’s the kid I’m a little worried about. I wish I could talk to the kid, to warn it. “Stay inside! Keep the curtains shut!”
Kid, here’s your nickel’s worth of free advice. Don’t spill Cap’n Crunch on it or anything.
Whatever year it is, I’m sure the world is still nasty and brutish. Insist on oral thermometers.
The world’s beautiful, too. That’s the eternal rub. Pay attention to the beautiful stuff, and the ugly stuff won’t work you over as badly.
Drink lots of Orange Crush. Eat lots of Pez. Get clear braces.
Read comic books. Be a hero.
Play pinball. Shoot pool.
Watch black-and-white movies.
Vote. It won’t matter, but it’ll make you feel better.
Try to keep your folks from getting divorced. It hurts a lot. And strangely enough, the hurt doesn’t fully go away.
Reread Dr. Seuss when you’re 21.
Always consult your sister for wardrobe advice. For a few years, you’ll have to wear clothes with ducks on them. She can’t do anything about that, but don’t worry. It’ll pass.
You probably will get stuck in Toughskins, though. Just make sure to pull them up once in a while when they fall down (and, yes, they will fall down) and get a cool pair of Air Barneys or something from your grandma and grandpa.
You’re getting a pretty cool mom. Watch out for your brother, though. He’s a wise ass. Worse, he’s a wise ass with a column.
Keep clear of Dad’s workboots. He used to like to hoof me in the butt with one when he was mad at me.
Don’t worry, though. You’re also getting the same Dad who made me little wooden toy cars for Christmas. Who brought me home my first pack of baseball cards. The same Dad who bought me my first guitar. And taught me how to pitch while refusing to show me a curve ball like other dads were doing.
Thanks to him, when I play guitar, I can still pick from the elbow.
Here’s something else to think about: Your dad’s getting a very rare opportunity. He’s getting to do a quantum leap back to when he had his first kid. That would be me.
He gets a clean slate. That’s a lot of responsibility for one guy. Don’t give him too much grief.
There’s a lot up in the air for you, kid. But, there’s one thing for sure.
Sometime, very soon I bet, you’re going to make me feel pretty old.