The Hess Report

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Not everything has to be cynical or nasty. Demonstrated:

On the Fourth of July, we had a small picnic at our house that, despite a torrential downpour in the third hour, was much fun. My parents were in attendance from their every-growing, ever-nicer compound in central Pennsylvania. After the guests left and the festive detritus cleared away, we waited for darkness. You can see the local fireworks directly from my back yard; even better from the incline in front of my neighbor’s house. So we (Joy, myself, Maddie, my Mom and Dad, but not Lucy who wanted to be put to bed early so she would be asleep when the Boomers came) walked across the yards and watched fireworks.

Joy and I agreed that they were generally uninspiring this year, but Maddie thought they were great, so that was something. When they finished I mentioned that it was at this time last year and in this very location that we had found a toad hopping around, that Maddie chased around until she lost track of it in the dark. As we walked back to our house, I noticed something small, moving in fits and starts on the pavement. It was our Patriotic Toad! Or one of his/her descendents! We couldn’t believe it. Maddie was thrilled beyond words, and I must admit that I thought it was pretty cool, too. And lest you rational naysayers want to poop on my good time, that is the ONLY toad I’ve seen here all year. All last year, too. Doesn’t prove anything, but… but… but he’s my Patriotic Toad.

So, overall, a great Fourth. My parents spent the night, which the kids always love, and we’ve been known to like a bit, too. The next day we go out for breakfast at The Original Pancake House. If anything ever happens to Joy, I’m only remarrying someone who is made entirely of pancakes. That is how much I love pancakes. I had the Hawaiian pancakes, which are five big jacks with shredded pineapple baked into them. You get this sort of marmaladey citrus syrup. It’s… reallyyyy…… aalrrlllll…

Sorry. They’re really good. So are the chocolate ship, the cocoanut, and the blueberry, all of which I’ve had. The omelets are these deep-dish baked things. The orange juice is only and always fresh-squeezed and it’s so pulpy that people routinely order a glass of it to chew. The only problem with the place is that the silly bastards aren’t open for dinner. Okay, so I’ve gone on about pancakes for too long. Next topic.

Afterward, we went to the Waterfront, which is a really nice way to spend a couple of hours. The waterfront is the temporary home to several of the fiberglass dinosaurs of Dinomite Days, which commissioned artists to design and decorate dinosaur statues in Pittsburgh-themed motifs. As we walked past one of the ubiquitous teenage jewelry havens, Joy jokingly suggested to Maddie that she get her ears pierced, much the same way we facetiously offer her coffee on Saturday mornings.

To our surprise, she said Yes. Joy looked at me, and I was like, Why not? So in we went. Lucy thought the whole thing was really cool and was talking about how she wanted to have hers done, which wasn’t going to happen under any circumstances. The clerk actually didn’t want to pierce Maddie’s ears by herself. They like to have two people on hand for kids her age so they can do both ears at once, before the kid freaks. So, we left, promising to come back in two hours, when another clerk would be able to assist. But YOU try getting a five year old to wait two hours for anything, let alone such an anticipated event as ear piercing.

About forty-five minutes later we were back, and Maddie insisted that she could do it. Joy and I both know that on the pain scale, ear piercing is pretty low. And we told her so. As Maddie has had to have blood drawn fairly frequently because of her thyroid (or, more specifically, the lack thereof), early on we adopted a policy of complete truth about anticipated pain. If your kid only ever has to get one shot, it might be worth it to lie, then play dumb when it hurts. But when they’re getting stuck with any regularity, you’re better off giving it to them straight.

And so she sat there, trusting our word that it would be a small pinch, then done. She was nervous but ready. She took a good deep breath and let it out. I told her “look at me,” which she did. Good concentration. Then, BAM! I could tell from the look in her eyes that it really hurt. Tears were running down her face, and she was saying “it burns… it burns…” But she held it together. The clerk set up for the next one. Maddie looked at me again. She knew it would hurt, but she sat perfectly still. BAM. All done. We wiped her tears, and a minute later she was grinning.

Good girl. Sometimes good things or things that you really want are worth some pain. Some people don’t get that during the course of their entire lives. Once again, good girl.

My Dad told me that later, Lucy came up to him, unsolicited, and informed him that she would not be getting her ears pierced. Fair enough. I’m sure she’ll be up for Hess family tattoos in a couple of years, though.

Nothing horrible. No one screaming or acting stupid. Just a great, great weekend. See. Not everything has to be cynical or nasty.

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