The close proximity of apples

On December 12th, 2003, our second son, for whom I’ve changed nicknames a few times before finally settling on Mini-Me, was born. I remember that we’d just gotten a bare dusting of snow, the kind that hides in your brown winter grass like cotton, and that it was sunny. The kind of December sunny that goes a long way toward preventing the bone-numbing chill that occasionally sneaks in around here. Beyond that, I honestly don’t remember too much about the labor.

I do very vividly remember getting to the hospital, though. The births of each of our four children were special and different in their own way, and they’re all a pretty good story. But none have the kind of panic and drama that accompanied the birth of Mini-Me. I was in a job interview half an hour away from the Puddinette when I found out she was having real contractions and ended up doing the sitcom-style high-speed dash to the pregnant woman after ditching the HR guy. I detailed the entire event, of course.

And yes, of course I got the job.

So what did we do for Mini-Me’s seventh birthday? Well, unfortunately, circumstances and weather prevented us from doing anything too exciting. We had a great party last weekend for him and his older brother, who recently had a birthday of his own. But with the specter of Snow-Pocalypse 2010 bearing down on us, we decided to let him make the traditional Birthday Dinner Special Request last night instead of today. Clearly there was a cake of his choosing as well.

After the cake, Puddinpop and Mini-Me got to play in their first hockey games, respectively, as part of the instructional league they’re in. Obviously it wasn’t anything as exciting as skating on the Cyclones’s ice, but it was the first time they had a chance to really line up, chase a puck, and try to score against another “team”.

As I watched Mini-Me skate around the ice, I realized he wasn’t too terribly invested in the idea of trying to score a goal or prevent one. He did a good job of staying on his skates (rather than face-first) and largely followed the beehive of kids whacking at the puck, but he was always a few steps behind and I could tell clearly that his mind was somewhere else.

I had to smile to myself, watching him skating around absently. The fact of the matter is that the boys are playing hockey this year only because they asked me if they could. I know I might come across as the type of self-serving dad that would make his kids practice night and day to become the hotshots of the chess club to make up for his own youthful chess failings, but really, I’m not That Guy. I’ll never make any of the young ‘uns play anything unless they specifically tell me they want to.

The thing is that Mini-Me became attached to the idea of playing hockey last year because the poor child aspires to be Just Like Me. I play hockey, so he thought he should play hockey. It’s the same reason he puts hot sauce on his oyster crackers at Skyline.

The irony is that although he’ll never know it, the reason he doesn’t care very much when he takes the ice is because he’s already almost exactly like me. When I was kid, you couldn’t pay me to watch a football game, I’d complain every time the Reds game pre-empted my nightly TV watching plan, and I only ever played wiffleball when my older brother pressed me into service because they needed an extra player.

Already at a mere seven years old, it’s apparent to anyone who knows both of us that my second son is very deserving of his most recent nickname. He’s careful to avoid hurting others, always wants to know what’s going on, is intent on understanding how things work, is driven by his imagination, and tries very, very hard not to let anyone know when something’s hurt him.

He is completely, unquestionably my son.

We came home from hockey and I spent the late afternoon helping Mini-Me assemble the (roughly) 67,000 piece Lego airplane set he’d gotten for his birthday. He was delighted, and honestly, put the thing together himself with almost no help from me.

As for hockey, someday I’ll tell him how my first (and only) attempt at playing for a YMCA soccer team went. I did a lot of leaning against the goal.

Eventually he’ll realize that he doesn’t need to try to be like me; he’s already struck the bull’s eye of that target, dead center. Whether good or bad, he’s one apple that certainly didn’t fall far from the tree.

Happy Birthday, dude, it makes me terribly proud to look at you and see a smaller version of myself looking back (often with a sarcastic comment). I dearly hope that all of your wishes will come true!


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