Monday, November 29, 2004

Out of the mouths of babes

With any holiday function comes the potential challenge of having to justify your life to people you haven’t seen in months. Why am I still single? Why haven’t I bought a condo? Am I saving for retirement? Why don’t I have a job? Fortunately, I got that last one taken care of just in time for the holidays.

This year, as prepared as I was for the interrogation, I never anticipated its source: my four year old nephew, Adam.

I arrived at my parent’s house on Thanksgiving morning, arms filled with food and gifts. Okay, actually my arms were filled with an empty Starbucks cup and a basket full of dirty laundry, but I had fully intended on bringing gifts for everyone. I just fell behind.

After all the hugs and kisses were dispensed, and the rinse cycle began, I sat down at the kitchen table to talk to my youngest nephew. Adam was drinking some cranberry juice at the time, and was deeply focused on tracing his hand for a masterpiece entitled, “Turkey Hand.”

Not wanting to interrupt his genius, I just started drinking some wine (it was 11:22am, well past the 11:00am starting time) and filling my dad in on all the latest job stories. At one point, Adam looked away from his artwork and said, “Aunt Jenny, why are your teeth grey?”

I was a little thrown by the question, since I had only prepared pat answers to all the usual queries. To date, no one had ever asked me why my teeth were grey. Frankly, I am quite hopeful that no one ever asks me this question again. (For the record, my teeth are not grey, but are what my dentist calls a “nice, natural tone.”)

I explained to my nephew that what he was noticing was most likely the difference in color between my natural teeth and my bridgework. To illustrate my point, I grabbed his grape scented marker and drew a crude depiction of a dental bridge on the back of a napkin. This sparked a series of questions about why I have false teeth, if I needed a bridge because I didn’t brush my teeth, and if false teeth hurt.

Once I had explained all the ins and outs of cosmetic dentistry, he went back to drawing turkeys. Which then became black widows. Which were then eaten by dinosaurs.

Later, as we were getting ready to go outside for a walk, Adam looked up from his intense efforts at tucking his pants legs into his boots and said, “Aunt Jenny, how come you don’t have a son?”

“Uhh… I don’t know. I just haven’t been lucky like your mom and dad, yet.”

“Oh. I thought maybe it was because your eggs are so far past their expiration date that even the fertility clinic turned you down when you tried to sell them one to make some extra money while you were unemployed this summer.”

Wait. Now I wonder if maybe that last part was just in my head, because I don’t think Adam knows the phrase “fertility clinic” yet. Certainly not well enough to use it in context. And for the record, I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least a dozen or so eggs that haven’t expired yet, even if that lousy fertility clinic didn’t want them. “Must be under 30 years of age” – who made up that stupid rule?!

After our walk, we came back in and started to get cleaned up for Thanksgiving dinner. I was infinitely flattered when Adam requested that I sit next to him at the dinner table. As we were eating, Adam told me about a girl in his pre-school he has a crush on (Angela), what he hopes Santa will bring him for Christmas (army guys), and why his big brother wouldn’t let him play with his new Yu-Gi-Oh! cards (because he’s mean).

In between bites of sweet potatoes and turkey, Adam looked up at me and said, “Aunt Jenny, what are those lines on your head?”

“They’re called wrinkles, sweetie. People get them when they get old like me.”

“But my mommy doesn’t have any lines on her head.”

“Adam, that’s because your mommy sold her soul to the devil a few years ago in exchange for everlasting youth and beauty.”

Before I could finish my explanation of eternal damnation (with grape scented illustrations), Adam leapt out of his chair and ran to the bedroom in tears.

I don’t anticipate getting any questions about wrinkles next year.