Only twice in our two decades together has my wife lost her sense of humor -- our wedding day and right now, with a month-old baby in her arms and a burp rag on her shoulder.
Sleepless. Exhausted from worrying over his every breath. When he eventually begins to snooze, she sets him down gently, then tiptoes to the other room to cough, so as not to awaken him. Not once has this worked.
"What time did he go to bed last night?" the little girl asks.
"He didn't," she says.
"Not at all?"
After 30 days and 30 nights, it has drained her of her laughter, the one thing we have left in common anymore besides the same children and some old Van Morrison albums.
"I'll make you coffee," I offer.
"I already made coffee," she says.
"You did? For me? Where?" I say excitedly.
"Don't start," she says.
"I'll take the baby," I say.
"Here," she says.
So I take the baby from her weary arms. He screams. I scream. He belches. I belch. Already, he's been a bad influence on me.
To calm him, I tell him about my plans for his future. Nothing too ambitious. Modest stuff. How we'd like him to pitch lefty. Or righty. Or both.
"That way, you can pitch twice as long," I tell him.
"He should pitch lefty," the baby's older brother says.
"That's what I'm telling him," I say.
I also tell the baby how he needs to learn to hold doors for rich widows. To root for the underdog. To hate the Mets and the well-dressed people who hang out in the owners' box. To save for a rainy day. To beware of redheads.
He looks at me expecting more.
"That's about it," I tell him.
"Really?" he wonders.
"I'll take him back now," my wife says.
"I think he just peed in my lap," I say.
Two parents. One baby. Put your money on the kid.
"When are we taking the tree down?" the boy asks.
"The Christmas tree."
This may finally be the Christmas where the tree doesn't come down. Or maybe we'll get so hungry we'll eventually just eat it. There's an idea: an edible Christmas. Edible wreaths. Edible garland. Tinsel, sweet as licorice.
Instead of hauling the Christmas decorations out of the house each January, we'd just eat them at halftime of the 49er game.
"What's for dinner?" I'd ask.
"Santa," my wife would say. "And that elf that looks like Jerry Lewis."
An edible tree would give us time for all the exciting events to come this January. The auto show. The playoffs. Getting in the school routine again. Boy, did the kids ever need to get back to school.
"I think there's a UFO over the house," the 11-year-old says one morning.
"I'm not kidding," she says.
The kids were cooped up for so long over this holiday vacation that they began to hallucinate. They are like a submarine crew too long together at sea. A sitcom cast in its sixth season. Eventually, something has to give.
On Sunday, one of them actually said "please" and "thank you." Another took out the trash without being bribed or threatened. I've begun to worry about their mental well-being.
"Why would a UFO come here?" the little girl asks.
"Costco," says her brother.
"And a better way of life," I say.
Windy as it's been, it seems unlikely a UFO is hovering over our house. The power's out so the house appears abandoned and there are tree limbs everywhere. The yard could use a drink.
Plus, how coincidental would it be for the UFO to pick us? That would mean one alien life form is studying another alien life form.
Imagine their frustration, driving a million light years only to end up studying us while we put away the Christmas decorations. Imagine explaining that to the bosses back at the lab.
"What are they doing now?" the boss would ask.
"There's a guy hugging a shrub inside his house," the UFO would report.
"Inside the dwelling?"
"Yes," the UFO commander would say. "He's either attempting to mate with it or remove it from the house."
"What's all that screaming?"
"A seed pod," the UFO guy would say.
"A newborn baby?"
"Yes. And he appears to be in charge."