Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Philosophy of Crikey

When writing these little blogs, I try to stick to the amusing stuff. I mean, with all of the crap in the world (and certainly on the Internet) to make folks sad, scared, angry (even if it's righteous indignation) - why not stick to subjects that incite laughter instead?

However.

This morning, Crikey and I had a brief, yet profound, exchange (the beauty of it, naturally, is that he has no idea it was profound).

When I first heard of Steve Irwin, I was in college. Which essentially meant that I recognized the new catchphrases of "oh isn't she a BEAUTY" and "CRIKEY!" - but had neither the time nor the inclination to watch his show (or any others - didn't even watch "Friends" until around it's 3rd or 4th season). So while I found the man endearing (if insane!), he wasn't a big part of my life.

In 2006, Crikey started kindergarten. I remember being both shocked and grateful when I learned of Steve Irwin's death. Shocked, since he seemed invincible and grateful because he passed quickly and not as a result of a crocodile run-in.

When his memorial service aired, Mena and I had just sat down with some wine. At the time, neither she nor I were fans, per se, and really stumbled onto the program almost by accident. We watched because we liked him and to pay our respects. I'm not sure if Mena had any idea of how important this moment was - I certainly didn't. It really is a beautiful thing when Life hands us accidents like these.

As we watched, I remember being deeply moved - though not neccessarily by how sad everyone was at the loss. What I found so much more amazing was the fact that these people were showing their love and appreciation for the man by showing, of all things, a blooper reel. That stuck with me - that in the middle of this tragedy, there was laughter, genuine laughter. Also, that this humor didn't feel out of place at all, and I couldn't help but think that this guy must have been Something Else for this to be his memorial.

After that, watching the Croc Hunter re-runs became a nightly ritual at our home - after dinner, we'd all sit down and watch Stevo. It was great fun for us (no matter how stressful our day had been, we could lose ourselves in the energy, adventure and sheer enthusiasm of this lovable nutjob) and if the kids got something out of watching it, more the better. As neither of my boys had yet shown a real interest in live action entertainment (animation, Muppets and CGI still reigned supreme), my expectations on that front were quite low. Was I in for a shock.

Looking back, I find it interesting that within mere weeks of the service, we were referring to the man as "Steve" or "Stevo" - as though he was a person we knew (rather than a celebrity - those folks who require more specific one word names, like JimHenson, JoaquinPhoenix and IngridBergman). That Kermit, despite his inherent shyness (to say nothing of the autism) was saying "crikey!" when expressing surprise. Now that I think of it, it wasn't just Steve - the boy would talk about Terri, Bindi, Brian and Wes as though they were part of his social circle - and Mena and I fell right into that practice along with him.

It took us several months to work up the nerve to tell Crikey that Stevo had died. He's a pretty sensitive guy; I was genuinely worried that he'd be so sad about the news that he'd no longer be able to enjoy Steve's work and I didn't want to ruin that source of joy for him.

I remember how sad the little guy was - though not for the reasons I expected. Most 7 year olds, I think, would have been sad that his hero was gone or that there would be no more shows or movies to watch. Now, Crikey was aware of that - but to him, that wasn't the point. He wasn't even worried about the crocs, since "Brian-o and Wes'll take care of them". What he found heartbreaking was thinking about the folks left at Austrailia Zoo - especially Bindi (to whom he could most relate) and Bob Irwin, Steve's father, since "it's much worse for a dad to lose his son."

Every parent knows (or should know) how wonderful his/her child is. One of the perks of parenthood is the occassional glimpse of the adult that is developing from the little monkey s/he is raising. Sometimes it's how the sense of humor is developing, or what talents s/he possesses (math, baseball, art). For me, by FAR, the best part of parenthood is when I get an inkling of something beyond the gifts - when what is sensed is how the gifts are going to be used.

Crikey recently had a school project that required him to write a page on what change he wants to make in the world. At first he was stuck. So I pointed out that many people make a difference with their careers - what kind of career did he want? Still stuck - it hit me then how little he thinks of the future, being quite content in the present, thank you very much (more good advice from him!) - so....

ME: Well, would you like to be, maybe, like Stevo?
CRIKEY: (blinking in surprise) What?
ME: You could choose to work with wildlife - you love animals, and your personality is a lot like Stevo's. You'd probably like having a job like his.
CRIKEY: (eyes widening) I could be like STEVO?
ME: Sure you could.
CRIKEY: I could save animals like HIM?

I sat there, waiting for him to process that.

CRIKEY: So, if I work like Stevo, then I'll be helping the animals like he did, so even though he's gone, he's not?

While shopping for stocking stuffers, I found the Steve Irwin Memorial Tribute. I didn't really think Crikey would want to watch it - but he'd like that the money went to the Wildlife Warriors, so I bought it for him. He and I discussed what was on it, and while he liked having it, he agreed that it would be too sad to watch.

When we get up unusually early, we watch DVDs in the morning before school - usually something easy to turn off (like a concert). Today, Crikey brought me the Memorial Tribute.

CRIKEY: Could we watch this?
ME: Are you sure? It's pretty sad.
CRIKEY: Only parts, mom. The rest is happy, like Stevo likes it.

I think it's quite possible that without ever watching it, Crikey got the point of that memorial, and of course Steve Irwin, better than I did.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mommy and 'Da Cave Troll

My husband and I are huge Lord of the Rings fans. We've read the books - we downloaded sneak peek trailers for the movies (which we saw on each opening night). We brutally dissected the travesty of a trainwreck that was the "climax" of The Two Towers. We have two sets of the DVDs - the theater release and extended versions (both bought at the first possible moment).

And, as I've previously written, we have two kids... two kids who, at the time, were quite young (almost 3 years and 1 year old respectively) when the first film went to DVD.

Understandably, Marshall and I were concerned about the violence and general scariness of these movies with regard to our kids. Not that we were planning on letting the boys watch with us - we simply knew that we'd be watching them, a LOT, and if one of the boys has a nightmare, comes out to the living room for comfort, and sees some fiesty, mud covered Uruk-hai throttling a bitty little orc to death or the 800 lbs spider attacking our cute little hobbit hero - well, instead of one nightmare, now he'll have two.

So I had this brilliant idea. I would take the "making of" made for T.V. specials (where they show the actors putting on orc make up and the CGI people creating the fantasy monsters) and watch them with the boys. I'd just have it on in the background - say, on Mopping Day - and would ever so casually comment on (draw their attention to) the necessary parts of these specials. That way, though they were (obviously) still not permitted to watch the movies themselves (not that they cared at 3 and 1), they wouldn't be shocked and horrified if they were to stumble upon our viewings. (The specials in question are on Disc 2 of the theater release DVD set of Fellowship)

So far, so good. Turns out, these two specials became well loved - requested right along with Elmopalooza and Muppet Treasure Island. Here I am, thinking I've hit the jackpot - something I have to watch hundreds of times - but NOT want to stick my head into the oven to avoid. I am a GENIUS.

This takes us through to Crikey's 7th summer. Now the boys are 10 and 7 , Marshall's in Iraq - and Crikey actually has friends who've seen all THREE movies - the times, they are a-changing.

Now, I've never been one to care about peer pressure (my peers or that of my kids'). Beyond that, Crikey is a sensitive chap. He gets misty-eyed at very mild things. He is, in the very best sense of the word, a tender soul.

Before we go any furthur, I need to share a bit about Mopping Day. Kermit and I have crazy allergies. I am a neat freak who lives with a man whose own mother warned me could "make a mess in an empty room" and his offspring. These two charming lads are wonderful in many ways, and are like me in many ways. Neatness and hygiene are NOT dominant genes, apparantly. This drives me bonkers.

We have, as a family, come to an uneasy truce. I clean when they're not home - and I do not give them too hard of a time about what could easily turn into a hovel rather than a house. For their part, they pick up their crap (without complaint) when I do point it out...and Mopping Day Is Sacred. On Mopping Day:

Thou shall not walk on the floors without removing thine outer footwear.

Thou shall not eat in any of the upstairs rooms (the kitchen and dining room are upstairs).

Thou shall not disturb the upstairs in any fashion until it is time to go to bed, and even then, it is only to bathe, put on CLEAN pajamas and go to bed.

This, my friends, is Mopping Day. It is so well known, that the boys' teachers know about it. My friends schedule prospective playdates around it. Adults who visit our house are scared to come over on Mopping Day. My friends keep their phone calls short and sweet on Mopping Day because they know I'm furiously scrubbing something.

Essentially, Mopping Day is the hygienic "CTL-ALT-DEL" that restores my peace of mind on a weekly basis. As I am not mild-mannered, all who know me at least respect the value of Mopping Day as it affects their lives.

Back to LOTR. Crikey had been on me to watch it ("I'm much bigger now; I can handle it; Joey's seen it!" lalalala). No dice. 7, I thought, was still too young.

I don't really know how it happened - but I came into the living room one afternoon to find Crikey watching The Fellowship of the Ring (to this day, he claims supernatural beings found the DVD, put it in the player, sat him on the couch and forced him to watch). He was still in the Shire (the first half hour, for those who haven't seen the film).

Did I turn it off and send him to his room? Uncharacteristicly, I did not. It hit me that, as Forbidden Fruit go, the mother of eventual teenage boys has bigger fish to fry (or fruit to hide). I sat down to watch it with him. This way, we could talk through the scary parts, and I could remind him of how the special effects were created as the situation dictated.

Pursuit of the Black Riders? No problem ("mom, do you rememeber 'dat 'dey used 15 yards of material to make 'dose costumes?"). Black Riders as wispy, white ghosty looking things when Frodo puts on the Ring? Not even a sweat ("remember Peter Jackson wanted 'dem to look like 'dey've been sucking lemons for years and years?").

Mena (who had come for a visit while Doug was still gone) walks into the room, raises her eyebrows at me, understands the situation, and sits with us.

And then we get to Moria. Underground kingdom of the dwarves, deserted by them and infested with orcs. Orcs on the screen? Not too bad ("yeah mom, you're right, those are JUST ACTORS with MASKS.")

But then. The Cave Troll.

Crikey became a deer in headlights. His eyes were enormous (even more than usual) and fixated. His expression - frozen. Never before had I seen a clearer dipiction of "HO.LY.CRAP." on the child's face.

This surprised me, since the Cave Troll was in the T.V. special. Anyway. Same routine.

ME: "Are Cave Trolls real?"
CRIKEY: "no."
ME: "What did they use to make it?"
CRIKEY: "computers."
ME: "Can a Cave Troll come to the house?"
CRIKEY: "no mom"

All this time, his body didn't move, his eyes never wavered from the screen and his voice was really, REALLY quiet. Crap. He knew the right answers - but he was NOT convinced of them. I was at a complete loss and already envisioning the many nights to come...oh, it wasn't going to be pretty...poor little monkey...

However, in this darkest of moments, Mena saved the situation.

MENA: "Crikey, what would happen if a Cave Troll came to the house on Mopping Day?"

The transformation was immediate. With a jerk of his head to address his aunt, with an expression that has not been seen on a face so young and innocent since the first "WHAT'CHOO TALKIN' 'BOUT, WILLIS?!?!?!" he pronounced, yes, pronounced:

"OH. MOMMY WOULD NEVER LET A CAVE TROLL ON HER CLEAN FLOORS WIT' HIS BIG DIRTY FEET!!!!!!!!"

This realization had, he relaxed. We enjoyed the rest of the film and not one nightmare ensued.

All was well with the world. All because of Mopping Day. And Aunt Mena.