Monday, April 26, 2010

Jed Reports: Parley's Daddy Date

Parley got it in his head early in the day to hit the Playland at McDonald’s. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to spend my evening sitting at some grimy table watching my son mingle with all the germs of Provo on loosely padded toys. But despite my better efforts, there was no talking him out of it.

The Playland was what you’d expect. Crowded, noisy, kinda smelly. I’d say you have to hand it to McD’s for renovating the East Bay restaurant, but they did that last year and I used up all my spare words of admiration back then. Sorry if you weren’t around to hear it.

But Parley loves it in there and he had some plans: hit the piano slide, jump on the huge guitar, climb to the top of the seated Ron McDonald statue and regroup from there. But his statue climb attracted the attention of a ratty little dude who fancied himself the ruler of the roost. He barked at Parley to get down. My guess is his mother, who sat a few feet away, had made him come down from the statue before we arrived, and seeing Parley achieve his own thwarted ambition with impunity was just too much for his little person to take.

Parley just stared at the child below him, pacing angry circles, hollering insults and barbed threats. It didn’t help matters that the child looked, for all the world, like a monkey, and to see him beating his chest and pulling his hair out had to have been quite a sight from Parley’s perch. I had to glance at the boy’s mother, wondering if she might step in. Maybe ask him to stop threatening that really cute kid in the Red Sox cap, his eyes as big as walnuts and his nose saddled with cinnamon freckles.

Soon the monkey left and Parley slid off the clown’s shoulders and ran over to join the other kids on some filthy toy or another. But the monkey had his eye on my boy and he pushed his way through the bruised arms and legs and up into his face. He got right up in his grill, their noses touching. He said something I couldn’t hear over the din of delirious children and nonsensical Top 40 radio.  

And then he reached up and knocked Parley’s beloved Red Sox cap off his head and onto the floor.

27 years ago, if Parley’s dad found himself in a Playland with a bully, he would have considered the trip a loss. He would have extracted himself and cowered at some table with his equally non-confrontational father. If the bully had knocked his hat on the floor he would have waited until the coast was clear before retrieving it—if he thought the bully wouldn’t mind.

Parley, so unlike his father, who had born the indignity of being hassled by a perfect stranger with quiet resolve, finally lost it when the kid knocked his hat off. Then his face turned the color of a ripe peach, and his command rang out over the heads of the children: Don’t EVER do that to me!

And he wound up and punched the kid in the head.

(He totally would have punched him in the head, but the monkey got lucky and ducked his fist. But Parley swung for his head. Just behind his ear.)

We talked over dinner about fighting. We ran down the list of things it was okay to fight for, people it was okay to defend: Hazel and Mom come first.  I praised him again for his instinct that time he took on the nurse at the clinic when Hazel was getting her shots. He was ready to tear that place apart and some poor gal took it in the teeth while trying to restrain him. I tried to define, for the 70th time, the difference between a doctor and a bully, but I told him he was right to want to protect her. He seemed to get it.

He had ketchup smeared across his face from a few misguided fries. His freckles have been taking in the new sun and they were positively jumping off his cheeks. We ate terrible food and talked about fighting and Lightening McQueen and a dream he had that involved both. I kinda think he made up the dream while we were sitting there because it featured French fries in a prominent role.

And the whole time we were together that night, I never saw him eat a single boogie.


Sarah Burgoyne said...

Don't you just love it when your children stand up for themselves!? As diehard Sox fans I'd like to think that the Burgoyne girls would punch a kid in the head if their hats were knocked of their heads :)

emily k. smith said...

It doesn't get much cuter than Parley. Good for him for standing up to the monkey. I don't care for monkeys - they are super creepy.

nhsphoto said...

great story, jed. i hate mcdonald's playland. it's the top hangout for jerk kids and neglectful parents. i'm sure i've about punched a few kids there myself. :)

ali said...

oh jed. i could read your writing every day of the week!

I felt like I was there with you!

Zach and Codi said...

Love it. That's all I have to say.

Kim said...

I, too, felt like I was right there with you. I love your writing. And just so you know, I would have gotten that little rotten kid to come and play with me in the ball pit. Then I would have held him under, way under, where all the vomit and diarrhea germs flourish. I know, I am evil. My loyalty belongs to the Wells.

Still feeling a little guilty for Celine. Kevin says that she's hot. Ewwww.

Teachinfourth said...

Whoa, a rumble in the Mickey D's Playland; and just when you started to think that someplace was really safe...

Jen said...

your playland sounds ultra cool. Someday Parley will love reading this!

Shana said...

Nice work, Jed. He is perfect.

jesse said...

Playland is a great place to drop off your kids when you have errands to run or just need some alone time with your spouse. Jed, I wonder how many time you thought about punching my lights out but couldn't muster up the courage to do it? Sorry again.