Beware Uncle Gene
I frighten small children.
It’s not something I necessarily mean to do, more like an instinctive thing that I can’t appear to control.
I came to this understanding over the weekend as sister Terri and bro-in-law Rob arrived in town (from Seattle or thereabouts) with two small children, Libby and Phoebe. They are aged 10.5 and 5.5, respectively. (I would say “ten” and “five” but I was notified of the “and-a-half” by the children, who would be upset if I failed to include it.) Apparently, seeing me was a source of some trepidation for these two.
I don’t know why; I’ve known them all of their lives, although in fairness Phoebe might only remember me vaguely given her age; I don’t recall being particularly heinous. Libby does have nightmares about me, but I’m told this has to do with my hair and the fact that it is turning white. Which makes perfect sense.* Libby has read Beating Up Daddy; maybe she’s been sharing it with her sister and something in there makes me terrifying, I don’t know.
Bugaboo Creek tree monsters
Last evening, after spending the afternoon at the Boston Museum of Science, the family–being the aforementioned Terri, Rob, Libby and Phoebe, plus mom, plus my wife Deb, and our nearly-adult-enough-to-evict kids Becky and Tim–went to Bugaboo Creek for dinner. This is a place that is known for pretending to be Canadian, for having passable steaks, and for its talking decorations.
Mounted fish, moose heads, bear heads, and deer heads adorn the walls, and every now and then one of them will start talking. It’s silly and stupid and mildly amusing, although if I was Phoebe’s age I’d probably find it sort of disturbing.
Speaking of Phoebe: in the lobby of the place is a pine tree with eyes and a mouth. In the halcyon days of our youth this tree would talk to the people waiting to be seated. Nowadays the benches are arranged to prevent anybody from getting near the tree, and it is no longer communicating. So this conversation happened when Terri entered the lobby:
Terri: Where’s my tree? What happened to my tree?
Me: They had to block it off. It was eating small children.
Phoebe: (quietly) really…?
Terri: Oh, okay, that makes sense.
Hostess: Your table is ready.
I totally forgot about this exchange until about a half an hour later when daughter Becky, from across the table, said, “Daddy, did you tell Phoebe the tree eats children?”
…I sort of do know why I frighten small children.
* * *
* The white-hair thing does makes sense. I look like my father, he had white hair, and he died a few years back. Libby is old enough to remember all of this.