MAN OF THE HOUSE

Yard work? Sure, after his nap

No, not the toddler. It may be only 9 a.m. but Dad needs some rest before he tills the soil.

The social contract that I've established with this toddler is that he follows me wherever I go and behaves exactly the way I behave. If I sneeze explosively, as dads often do, he is to sneeze the same way. If I wink at the cashier at the garden center, he is to wink as well. He's not so much my mirror image as a walking, talking mulligan. A human do-over. We waddle off on a Saturday morning like two ducks headed for a pond.

"Let's get some pumpkin seeds," I say as we load up the shopping cart at the garden center.

"How about morning glories?" he asks.

"Glories are good," I say, grabbing a pack of blue ones.

He sits in the metal basket, encouraging me as I shop, affirming my every choice. It's spring, even if the sun hasn't noticed yet. Time to sink our fingers into God's good earth.

"Radishes?" I ask.

"Why not?" the baby says.

We go to Blockbuster on Friday nights and can't find a thing we really like. But on Saturday mornings, here at the garden center, we want everything we see.

Cucumbers. Peppers. 'Early Girl' tomatoes. We pick up a pack of each.

Squash. Eggplant. Sweet corn. Fire up the tractor, Ma. The soil is calling.

Back home, the baby and I make a plan. Herbs here. Tomatoes over there. Hula-skirt grass over by the steps. We approach the job with a fisherman's optimism. For what is life without promise? What is spring without seed?

"Anticipation is everything," I tell the baby.

"It is?" the baby asks.

"Without hope, we have nothing," I explain.

"We don't?"

"Trust me," I say.

With much work ahead, we take a nap. Men of action need their sleep. Even superheroes get a little drowsy after major triumphs.

"But it's 9 a.m." my wife notes.

"We've been up since 7," I explain.

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