Back with the family circus

I'M home from college for a couple of days, so my dad asked me to write his column, you know, like I sometimes used to when I lived at home. Dad says good writing skills are really vital to today's college student.

"Duh, Dad," I say.

"Duh?" he says.

"Yeah, that's Shakespeare," I say. "Duh."

My dad, I think he's had a bad week. First, he discovered that unleaded gasoline now costs more than that merlot he likes.

Then some appeals court changed the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, which really ticked him off. He's not even a super religious guy, but it still made him mad, eliminating all that stuff about God.

"Nice timing," he says. "Maybe next week they can change the colors of the American flag."

Then he and mom got into this big argument about Mister Rogers. Yep, Mister Rogers. I ask you: Who else could get in an argument about Mister Rogers?

My mom was going on and on about how Mister Rogers was television's Norman Rockwell or something, and my dad all of a sudden goes, "But how come you never saw his wife?"

"Because it was a TV show?" I ask.

"You're missing the point," says my dad.

My dopey brother comes in and asks what they're arguing about, and Dad asks him how come you never saw Mister Rogers' wife.

"Beats me," my brother says. "Hey, Mom, how come you never saw Mrs. Rogers?"

"They lived separately," my dad butts in. "It was a unique but satisfying arrangement."

And they wonder why I don't come home so much anymore.

Then my mom asks how Mister Rogers' sweaters stayed so clean if there was no Mrs. Rogers.

And how he always knew where his slippers were, right there in the closet, where most men would never find them.

"You know, you might be right about Mrs. Rogers," my dad finally says. "I think she was just a night person."

That's what he says. Seriously! Like they're talking about real people.

I swear, when you get married, I'm pretty sure the minister confiscates your brain. Right there at the altar.

"Mister Rogers was like Santa Claus," my little sister says.

"I'm really going to miss him," says Mom.

"And his wife," says my dad.

Believe me, going away to college really gives you some perspective on how nuts your family is.

You think the great monarchies of Europe were kind of creepy, and then you come home for the weekend and listen to your parents argue for two hours about how long to grill the halibut. Now that's creepy.

By the way, did you know that my mom and dad had another baby? Another baby, at their age? Who's next, Adam and Eve? I can just hear Eve: "Sure, let's have another kid. What's one more?"

I swear, my parents can't even handle the kids they already have, but now they have another one.

In my sociology class, they say people like that feel beaten down by society with no real options, so that's why they keep having kids.

"When it comes to babies, there are lots of causes," my dad tries to explain.

"You mean, besides sex?" I say.

"Mom, they're talking about sex!" yells my little sister.

Well, I think somebody should. It's like a poster for Unplanned Parenthood around here.

Everywhere you look there are bottles and diapers and stuff. Burp rags. Everywhere, little white burp rags. Dad calls them "our flags of surrender."

"What's that mean, Daddy?" my little sister asks.

"It means we've lost," he says, waving a burp cloth.

All night long, Mom and Dad wander the living room like some old, bent Bedouin couple, looking for the one pacifier -- one! -- and trying to get the baby to stop crying.

"What's wrong now?" my dad asks.

"I lost the pacifier again," my mom moans.

"Could we get, like, two pacifiers?" I ask.

"Maybe we could rent one," mumbles my dad, which I guess was a joke but you're never really sure with him.

Yep, we have one pacifier. There are, seriously, like 15 baseball bats in the garage. A hundred soccer balls. Seriously. And they buy the baby one 99-cent pacifier?

"They grow out of 'em," my dad explains when I ask about having one pacifier.


"When they turn about 20," he says. "Seriously."


Chris Erskine's column is published Wednesdays. He can be reached at

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