Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them
Growing up, I was a rebellious kid, but what kid isn't? I fled home at sixteen, self-willed and dying to escape the suffocation of my parents' detailed affections. These affections were manifested in a concern for my well-being that bordered on the pathological (so thought my teenage mind). Through most of my twenties, I kept my distance from them except for essential, obligatory contact. But then, once I started to get a sense of myself and who I actually might be, the veil lifted and I began to see my parents for the wise, down-to-earth, funny and downright cool people I suspect they've always been. Better late than never, we became pals.
Accompanying this new incarnation of our relationship was a realization that as I was getting older, I was getting strangely serious about everything. Meanwhile, they were heading in the opposite direction — becoming lighter, playful, even child-like. It's ironic that watching them is teaching me how not to be such an adult all the time. In that spirit of play, yesterday was designed as Surprise Day for them. My only instructions were: be ready at 9 AM, and pack a sweater.
Our first stop is Niagara Falls, which my parents can't get enough of. I've been to the Falls so many times that if I never breathe its mist again, it will be too soon. (I've always enjoyed the acidic Oscar Wilde line about it being "only the second disappointment of the standard honeymoon.") But it's a crisp and bracing day, the black rocks are flashing with liquid light, and an international kite festival is underway a few feet from the water's roar. Every last Niagara Falls cliché seems to fall away for a couple of hours.
Next: lunch at a nice Indian restaurant. (Dad: So, this was your surprise, an Indian restaurant? Me: But I thought it would have been the last thing you would've expected...never mind.)
Mom unwraps her gift, a music mix CD that kicks off with Gwen Stefani's "Cool", my mom's current favorite song of all-time.
Dad unwraps his, a hefty hardcover volume of Dennis The Menace. Along with Charles Schulz and R.K. Laxman, Hank Ketcham is worshipped in our household.
Last stop, a surprise movie: My parents are asked to avert their eyes from the marquee as we enter the theater. My mom peeks, of course. We take our seats among an army of giggling children. The movie is Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. It turns out to be fabulous fun, and a good time is had by all the kids in the room, us included.