You Break It, You’ve Already Bought It

A couple of weekends ago, Holly and I visited some friends in Little Rocky. David is in med school; he and his wife live in a small and well put together house that made Holly and I rethink our beige walls. Our trip back included a conversation about the difference between “homey” and “homely” and a final word on which we atmosphere we had created. It was the last one.

There was a craft fair in the hallways of my workplace. Ozone offices out of the Jones Center, a large complex of sporting gyms and community classrooms. On Friday, we lost several half hours of productivity because a few of the Ozone directors invested five dollars in handmade marshmellow shooters. If you weren’t with them, you were against them, apparently.

During a break from work I passed by an unfinished furniture booth. My first thought was, “If I buy something, Holly will be so surprised -” but my second thought was, “-at how bad of a job I did picking out furniture.” So instead I took her the next day to pick for herself.

Holly doesn’t trust me to haggle. When we were in Turkey together, I tried to impress her by buying scarves at a discount. Unfortunately, I mixed up the terms “five lira” and “fifty lira” and ended up paying WAY too much. So on Saturday we just paid the man his money and walked away with a nice pine wood entry table.

We made it as far as the door before, in a fit of horrific miscommunication, we juggled and dropped the table. The sound of wood on concrete broke my heart – one of the table corners was smashed and a leg cracked down its length. Both of us stood there, silently cursing, as another couple passed by. They were a young married pair like ourselves and carried the exact same table; their grip tighten as they passed us and I felt their pity.

“This could happen to anybody,” I called after them. “Pine’s a very soft wood.”

The damage was discouraging. We put it in the back of the car and tried not to think about it.

I am not crafty. I spent a year on maintenance and proved that I was only useful for jobs that called for a heavy hand. Items that called for intricacy were not my forte. However, that afternoon Holly and I went about repairing the table and staining it. I used wholly too much wood glue and unnecessary zip ties to put it back together.

I had no idea what I was doing.

We took turns staining the table over a few days, recovering our mistakes. And in the end, it turned out pretty well. Now we just have to teach our cat to stay away from it.

The flowers were because there is no “I’m Sorry For Dropping Your Table” Hallmark section.

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A Single Story

Every Wednesday morning, the male Ozone directors have a bible study. We’re moving through Luke at a respectable clip. This morning was Jesus as boy and John the Baptist, and we met at Wes’s house.

Like me, Wes is new this year. We’re similar in age and both married, but Wes has two kids. It amazes me that at a commensurate age, had things gone slightly different, I’m capable of having two children. There are days I barely tolerate my cat. I have puncture wounds on both my thighs. I will declaw her myself with a corkscrew, I think.

We did well for the first hour. We covered much ground, including the episode where boy Jesus is Home Alone‘d in Jerusalem during Passover, which was great because  I’ve never really understood what the story meant.

Wes and Esther

We drank something that I described as “apple cider without the apples” before Wes corrected me with, “That’s because it’s called cider.” But around eight when Wes’s two year old girl Esther came out, our efficiency plummeted.

Esther is very cute. You probably know someone like her. Wes had to define precocious for me but as it turns out, she is that. During the John the Baptist section, Scott, our boss, began to play 52 card pick up with Esther. He would drop cards, one by one, and she would pick them up and hand them back. Eventually, she said what is probably every human’s first complete sentence, “I do,” and began to drop the cards herself.

Ricky and Red Shirt

Ricky and Red Shirt

My friend Ricky took a card from her. Ricky is capable of great impressions and I think that vocal coordination is tied to his small digit dexterity. He’s great with his hands; he could be quite a magician, if he liked magic.

As a trick for Esther, he pretended to eat the card, making a loud chomping noise – “NOM NOM NOM” – and hiding it in his hand. Then, with a “BURP,” he tossed it on his lap, as if upchucked. Esther laughed and clapped and Ricky did the trick several times before she finally said, “I do.”

Esther then began to actually eat the cards, one by one, as Ricky’s goofy face melted into panic. Paralyzed, all Ricky could do was take the cards out of her mouth as she replaced the last one. They passed cards from mouth to hand several times before Ricky showed her the trick.

“You see,” he said. “I’m not really eating it. It’s in my hand.”

“I do,” she responded. Then she ate another one.

Finally Wes took Esther into her room to correct her bad behavior. She was obviously unhappy about being removed, but more so Ricky wore a face of shame and guilt. We others eyed him peripherally, not wanting to draw attention to the matter.

“I didn’t mean to,” he announced before he started picking up cards again. “She’s just so precocious.”

Alumni Status

This weekend was the third Legacy Weekend that my old fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi put on, and the first Weekend that the alums took seriously. To cap it off, we were invited to dine with our descendants.

When I was on the executive board, I divided all the pledges into four houses named after the four major founding fathers. I bet you can’t guess which fantasy series that followed a heroic boy wizard I was reading at the time. Now, a few years later, the system has grown. Alumni were supposed to lunch with their particular house. The problem is, the system was never retroactive. Only four alumni knew which house they belonged to, and that’s because these were named after them.

So instead the rest of us just picked the best restaurant offered. During the meal I asked a pledge what house he belonged to. Responding with confusion, he told me it was Cooper. “Cooper,” I announced to the rest of the table. “We’re in House Cooper.”

Many brothers came in. Statistically, each American time zone was represented, but it was a bit misleading. Most are still Central. At lunch, we spoiled many a secret accidentally as we spoke too loudly about our memories. Most stories were followed by a disclaimer aimed at the current pledges, like “The new BYX takes that much more seriously,” or “There’s a No-Nudity clause now.”

As many that came, most did not. A quick survey of the alumni would’ve seen that mostly all of us were on the executive board at some point. We lamented the old faces that didn’t come back, the figures of legend whom we taught the pledges to quote. I had a mental grocery list and would request older and older stories through lunch about mythic fraternity brothers who had become adjectives and verbs. Most likely they would’ve ruined the fun if they had come – they could not live up to their names.

For instance: Luke Porter was an ex-defensive end for the Razorbacks who started modeling business suits for a thirty-something store when he was nineteen. He shaved twice a day. Once, the army hired him to put on a uniform and stand behind a recruiter on campus for a day. He looks like a lumberjack action hero.

Everyone had a Luke Porter story. He said many silly things. As we passed his memory around, I spoke up about my recruitment. BYX used to (and still does) take potentials to an ice hockey rink to play broomball. It’s supposed to be a time of bonding between members and possible pledges. Instead, during my year we played a rough and physical game of members versus pledges. The first member on the ice: Luke Porter. He tore his shirt and made a snow angel bare-chested. Then, the only time I touched the ball, he checked me into the glass and I got a nose full of chest hair. It was like he didn’t want me to join.

A few years later, at the bachelor’s table of a brother’s wedding reception I retold that story. Luke was there. When the table looked to him to respond, he said, “This guy! I love this guy!”