Monday, December 17, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Cookies and I have been taking a break. I didn’t want to do it, but sometimes, for the sake of a the relationship, you have to agree to step back and spend some time apart from each other if you’re ever going to be able to move forward harmoniously.

It had come to my attention that maybe, just maybe, I’d been taking Cookies for granted. So now, like the production of your favorite television show, we’re on hiatus.

This epiphany came a few weekends back after the kids and I ate not one but two packages of red holiday Oreos in less than a twenty-four hour period.  The last package I’d bought that Friday night – Brady and I had snagged three packages at the grocery store as part of our impulse shopping – was gone by Monday. Surprisingly, it wasn’t me who hammered out the last bag, but my son.

Any time cookies go missing from the pantry or my wife’s secret hiding spot, the finger is always pointed in my direction, that is, unless I’m the one doing the pointing, and the only reason I’d be doing the pointing is if someone disobeys Dad’s Cookie Rule #1: don’t bother leaving me a cookie package with only two cookies; the punishment will be the same as if you’d eaten the last of the cookies, so you may as well get your money’s worth. Kacie, being the caring soul that she is, doesn’t subscribe to that ideology and is always sure to leave just enough to be able to say “But I left some for you!” but not enough to really, truly enjoy. Brady, on the other hand, operates under the notion that if one is going to complain about not being left any cookies, then one should have beaten him to the punch and eaten them all one’s self. That’s how my wife knew, after interrogating me about the cookies’ mysterious disappearance, that the only other possible culprit was Junior.

She sat across the table from Brady, a bright light shining from behind her so that he could not see her face. His hands were bound to the table by cuffs, restricting his movement. “Did you eat the Oreos?” she asked Brady.

“No,” he said.



“Then who did?” she asked, slamming her hand down on the table in front of her, propelling her body upward, launching her face within inches of his.

“A ghost,” he said without flinching. This kid was a new breed of operative, trained to remain cool under pressure.

I giggled. Traci looked my direction, daring me to laugh again. I didn’t dare.

“Ghosts aren’t real,” she said.

“Neither were the Oreos.” He smiled, knowing he’d stumped his captor.

I excused myself to the bathroom, where, after shutting the door, I proceeded to laugh my butt off. Did I feel guilty for bailing on my wife? Not one bit. In fact, my lack of presence in our living room was a sign of solidarity in parenting, because laughing in front of Brady would only encourage his orneriness, whereas laughing to the point of tears privately allowed me to spare him from getting into further trouble from his mother for laughing with me. Leaving also afforded me the chance to have a very matter-of-fact conversation between me and my reflection in the mirror in which I’d said “You, sir, make the best kids ever. Job well done.”

Later that night, after my son copped to wiping out The Last of the Oreos – I wonder who will play me in the movie for this family spoofed rendition of James Fenimore Cooper’s famous novel? – I thought about how it is some things can control us so completely, or alternatively prevent us from being able to control ourselves. There’s no question I like my family. I like baseball. But I love Cookies, which is why I had to hit pause on our relationship.

A lot, though, has happened in the time since Cookies and I went our separate ways. I’ve been working seven days a week, hoping to preoccupy my mind by focusing more on my job. Two days ago I finally graduated college, which didn’t seem like such a great accomplishment without Cookies there to celebrate with. 

Even during an impromptu celebration/we-may-as-well-grab-something-to-eat-while-we’re-here-at-the-mall-shopping dinner with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cookies. I tried to avoid eye contact with Cookies, but even then could still taste its chewy texture, its plump chocolate chips, and its perfect balance of white and chocolate icing smothered on top in thick, zigzaggy lines. My wife encouraged me to succumb to my inner desires, but I refused; Cookies and I had been apart so long, the last few days that separated us were merely going to be a formality at that point - my twenty-eight days of rehab were almost over and I was not going to let my anxiousness ruin everything we’d been working towards.

With this being the holiday season, I know that, for many, this is a time of family gathering and presents. For some there’s a deeper meaning to the nostalgia, a reason for the season. For others, it’s nothing more than a paid day off work at a time when work can be overly demanding. But this year, for me, the Christmas will take on a whole new meaning: it’s when my love and I will be reunited…and it’s going to feel so good. 

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