“Damn, this one’s been rescheduled to 10am. Need to call Willy and discuss the proposal for next year. Made a note of the groceries I need to get on the way home. Shit, forgot the agreement, must get it signed. What the hell is this? I had asked for a chart with the other two metrics, this one’s wrong. I’ve an hour before the meeting so perhaps I’ll re-jig the presentation then.”
Then I drink in the news feeds as I eat my breakfast which I do my best not to hastily prepare. Two years of gulping down substandard and overpriced meals at a hostel have instilled in me a fierce hatred for bad food and rushed eating. Tyke’s making conversation as I patiently “hmm” along, not really concentrating because I’m dividing my time between the news and a presentation. Occasionally I’ll turn to him and respond when his question merits it. I give him my full attention then but he knows he’s pushing the line because this breakfast-laptop thingy is sacred time for me. We usually spend fifteen minutes lazing together when we get up. We need to spend that time just waking up. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s like we’re cold-blooded and waiting for the sun’s rays to warm us. Once that’s over, it’s off to our schedules. He knows he has to brush his teeth, bathe and present himself at the dining table for breakfast. Before he gets ready I offer a menu of very basic choices: scrambled eggs and toast, omelets, oatmeal, boiled eggs. He chooses and leaves. When he’s back it should be ready at the table. That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway. I’m way too busy when he’s not, so he tries to steal a few minutes from me during the morning.
“Dad, did you know that the <dinosaur name unpronouneable by anyone over the age of six> has sharp claws that it uses to hunt smaller dinosaurs?” This is while I’m whisking the eggs for the omelet.
Mm-hmm? That’s interesting. Hmm. He chatters on and I interrupt with a gentle reminder that it’s getting late.
But we’re always late dad! That last word spoken with a gruffness meant to chide me.
I know dude, but you’ve got to get to school and me to the office, so go get ready and don’t hang around here.
He retreats to his room to get his clothes ready and I finish the omelet. Then I head back to the laptop as an impatient ping summons me. Meanwhile, someone’s shared an article about government incompetence. I read and seethe. My mind pursues a train of angry thoughts until I’m interrupted by another ping. Another artificially urgent matter at work to attend to. Someone who could’ve waited till nine am but won’t.
“The rex in t rex means king”
“Why. Are. You. Outside?!”
“I’m going dad”. Off he goes, once again.
“Thirty minutes! Look at the clock! When the small hand reaches 8, we should be out of the house”
Meanwhile my mind is a swirling melee of tragic news and unmet deadlines. Violated innocents and correlation coefficients. Police incompetence and NO it HAD To be Arial size twelve, ten isn’t acceptable! I look up and find tyke in the living room, sprawled on the floor cutting out something. It’s a color-by-numbers gingerbread man printout he brought home from school and proudly showed us. I get angry. This time my tone is strident and there are ultimatums. He gets up in a huff and stomps off to his room to change. I go to mine and lock the door behind me. I’m almost done getting ready when there’s a light shuffling sound. I look down and there’s a piece of paper stuck under the door. I pick it up and I break into the day’s first and only sincere ear-to-ear grin.
It’s the gingerbread man, divested of his size A4 trappings. Behind him, scrawled with heartbreaking sincerity – “I love you Dad. For you Dad”.
Good morning Worm your honour
The crown will plainly show The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature
This will not do
(The Trial, Pink Floyd)
That’s what a day usually feels like. Demands of stoicism from work and hysteria online. To show moderation is to display weakness, hesitation, an unsound mind. But the world around me shows cracks and signs of weakness all the time. Every audible snap delivered to me as a news report. There’s a lot to be angry about. And yet, in that minute of staring at the gingerbread man, all else ceased to exist and I allowed myself to be enveloped by that strange mixture of pride and gratitude that comes from being loved unconditionally.
That’s why he’ll always have the right to own a part of my day. Because he’s my gingerbread man.