Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
My wife is the Charlie Brown of banana pickers. She always picks the sorriest looking bananas. I don’t know if she feels sorry for them or there’s something she just doesn’t understand about bananas but she always picks the craziest looking bananas.
I offered my five year old son a banana this morning when he came downstairs to get ready for school. It was the last one. And there was a reason it was the last one. It looked like every other banana’s great grandfather. I’d tried giving it to the three year old a few minutes earlier and she backed away all wide eyed with her hands up to fend me off like I was brandishing a weapon. I didn’t want the banana to go to waste so when my five year old came down the stairs I practically jumped on him.
“Here’s your banana” I told him as he was approaching the pop tarts.
“No way,” he said, as if he’d prepared for me.
I insisted it was fine but he said it looked “crazy.”
It’s not “crazy” I assured him and unpeeled it, showing a perfectly fine banana. He took an intrigued step forward and then looked at me to make sure that I wasn’t playing a trick on him.
“OK,” he reluctantly said and took the banana.
My eight year old daughter then came down the stairs, still rubbing her eyes.
“Say the Act of Contrition,” I demanded before I even said good morning. Now, before you think I’m a crazy lunatic you must know that tonight was her first reconciliation. A big night. So I’m not a crazy lunatic, just a regular kind of fathery type lunatic who’s been studying the Act of Contrition to the point where at night we all dream about how heartily sorry we all are. “Just say the Act of Contrition,” I said. “One last time and I’ll never ask again.”
The three year old walked into the kitchen saying, “Oh my gosh I am hardly sorry for having upended thee…”
The eight year old just pointed at her as if this were all the evidence she needed that I’d crossed a line somewhere. She saw the boy eating a banana and asked if there were any bananas left. The three year old heard this turn in the conversation and ran out of the room before she even got to detesting her just punishments.
The entire car ride to school the girls joked about how long it would take for the eight year old to recount all her sins in confession. They asked her if she was planning on bringing her sleeping bag or a night light and they gladly reminded her of any forays into sin that may have slipped her mind these past eight years. If they forgot something it wasn’t for lack of trying because they were still remembering ugly incidents as they walked into school.
Around noon the phone rang. My son was sick. Not just a little sick. During nap time he spray vomited the story rug and three or four napping children around him. Even the school secretary/nurse seemed horrified by the amount of vomit that came out of my little boy. Linda Blair was mentioned.
When I picked him up he was sitting there ashen faced in the church pew the school stuck in the secretary’s office as a bench. The three year old and I signed him out and we got into the van. About halfway home he power vomited the floor of the van. Now this was a clever feat considering I’d given him a bucket but he managed to avoid it with sickening grace. The three year old held her nose but couldn’t seem to look away.
When he was done he asked if I knew why he was sick. I pulled my head in from outside the window where I was craning to get some fresh air. I suggested it may have been that everyone of his sisters had thrown up at some point during the past week but he thought differently. “I think it was the banana Dad,” he said. “I told you it looked crazy.”
I knew it was my fault. The three year old locked eyes with me accusatorily in the rearview while still holding her nose as if that were all the evidence she needed that she’d narrowly avoided banana-itis.
So when we got home I laid the boy on the couch and my three year old got him an ice pack from the freezer because according to her any malady simply needs an ice pack for a full recovery.
I cleaned out the van. You ever try to get vomit out of a seat buckle? Seriously. Have you? If you have and were successful call me because I’m still working out the logistics. I’m thinking I may have to make a Home Depot run for tools.
So after I cleaned out the van it was time to pick up the girls. As they got in, the 11 year old looked at me, crinkled her nose and said, “Why does it smell like Lysol, meatballs, and throwup in here?
I told her I could explain the Lysol and the throw-up. The nine year old added that the school served meatballs for lunch and I guess that explained what was probably lodged in the seat belt pretty well.
About halfway home, the 11 year old yelped that she forgot a book so I turned around and we went back, got the book, came home, started homework, checked homework, practiced spelling, got everyone showered and bathed, ate dinner and made it to my eight year old’s first reconciliation by 7 p.m. All this while occasionally holding the bucket for the five year old. Who definitely had the meatballs.
I was impressed with myself until we met my lovely wife at Church. I can always tell from her expression when somebody’s clothes don’t match. She never says anything outright but I can tell that something doesn’t match by the way she looks them over and over again as if I’d dressed them in grass skirts and viking helmets.
My wife and the three oldest girls went into the church. I actually started considering bringing the boy and the three year old into the back pew just so I could watch my daughter’s first reconciliation but the boy needed the bucket so back we went to the van. I felt terrible because I’d always been there for the other girls.
We stopped at a local drug store to pick up a card. The man at the counter asked my son if this card was for him. He said that it was for his sister and that his three older sisters were all at Church. And he was sick and he held up his bucket to prove it.
“You have five kids!” laughed the clerk. “No offense but better you than me.”
“I guess so,” I told him.
“Your house must be crazy like all the time,” he said.
“Nah,” I said. “Only when we’re in it.”
And we left. When my eight year old came home she said her first penance went perfectly. The girls asked her if she felt different and she said she felt happier. We gave her a card and she hugged us. The other two girls were saying they felt a little silly going to Confession because they’d been there the week before and they hadn’t really had time to have many sins. I told them that I could’ve reminded them of a few. They just looked at me like the three year old had looked at the banana.
My eight year old then said excitedly that it was just a few weeks until her first Holy Communion. My five year old lifted his head off the couch and said, “does that mean you won’t sit with me in the pew when they all go up for Communion?”
“Yeah,” she said proudly. “I’m going to receive the Eucharist.”
My five year old said, “I’m happy for you that you’re going to receive Communion but I’m going to miss you in the pew.”
That killed me. Sometimes you forget how sensitive they are. The girls all went up to bed. About twenty minutes later the boy fell asleep on the couch so I lifted him up and put him in my bed because he was sick. As I laid him down he opened his eyes a bit and said, “Dad?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“When she goes up to receive Communion does that mean I’m in charge of the pew and (the three year old) has to do what I say?”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes it does.”
He smiled, closed his eyes and dreamed his little Mussolini-esque dreams of his future tyrannical reign over the pew.
I couldn’t help but think that this life we’ve made for ourselves may look a bit crazy. But if you’re willing to just take a closer look, to peel it back a bit, everything’s just fine on the inside. We’re bananas.