FTT #39

Through the shadows of a winter evening, Isaiah the eight-year-old crept down the hallway.  He flashed past the kitchen door and ooched, ninja-like, around through the dining room.  Sneakily sneaking, he eased up behind his father and– “HAAAA!” he cried, “Good night!”

His father didn’t flinch.  “Trying to surprise me, boy?”  Isaiah admitted that this was in fact his intention.  “Well, do you know why I never shaved my head?”  Isaiah admitted that he in fact did not.  “Because I don’t want you to see the eyes in the back!”

Isaiah giggled:  “You don’t have four eyes!”

“Oh yes, I do,” replied his father, taking off his glasses and gesturing:  “One, two, three, four.”  While Isaiah was still objecting, his father added, “And I have ears on both sides of my head, too!”

“You DO NOT!” shouted Isaiah, laughing out loud.

So I showed him.

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FTT #38

I learned today that one of the students in WCC’s first class showed up not knowing that this was a new College.  “So, where are the buildings–and the other students?”  The College website had stock photos of smiling students on its website, and this incoming freshman had assumed that the smiling people were real students.

It all ended happily:  the student graduated and loves the education she received.  But I can only imagine it was a big shock that first day!

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FTT #37

Our eldest, Bernadette the twelve-year-old, has reached the stage of truly nurturing and shepherding her youngest siblings.  She cares for them, and she bosses them around, and in general plays the role of a second mother.

And so Teresa the five-year-old stopped in front of her today and began, “Mama?”  Then she blinked and tried again:  “I mean, Papa?”  And then blinked and tried again:  “I mean, Bernadette?”

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FTT #36

Tonight witnessed the annual Quis Quid game at WCC.  It is an all-school quiz game for which the students are divided into Poets, Philosophers, and Cowboys to compete for the Throne of Wisdom.  Teachers judge the teams’ answers to quiz questions, and they are horribly unfair judges:  even if they have no idea of the correct answer themselves, they judge yay or nay based on bribes, whim, or amusement.

When I interviewed here at the College, my first night on campus fell during the Quis Quid game.  They pressed me into service as a judge, and I remember vividly when a “question” under the category of “body” was posed to a student team:  “Levitate.”  That simple, just a single-word imperative.  And the team that “levitated” (however they chose to interpret the word) best in the judges’ (horribly unfair) opinion won the round.

I left Quis Quid early tonight, as the Poets and the Cowboys were competing for best answer to the question, “What is the theological significance of the fact that an equilateral triangle is constructed using two circles?”

A candidate for the presidency of WCC was in attendance tonight.  It’s his first night on campus; I feel for him, but at least he wasn’t pressed into service as a judge.  As I slid into a seat behind him he turned to introduce himself.  “Nice to meet you,” I said–then glancing up at the students, dressed in outlandish costumes, one with fake tatoos up his naked arms (tell me they’re fake!), another with a huge, puffy wig waving raucously, others going “Greek” in bedsheets–“and, um, welcome to WCC.”

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FTT #35

So my nephew Joseph (three years old) was at his grandparents’ house when he discovered a pair of heavy-duty ear protectors.  He put them over his ears and immediately intuited their purpose:

“HA!” he cried, running triumphantly through the living room, “Now you can’t hear me!”

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FTT #34

My sister Sarah called today and asked about Tina and the chocolates–she had sent Tina an enormous box of high-quality chocolates as a belated birthday present.  To make them last, my wife and I decided to give the chocolates to Tina only as a reward for a visit to #2 Potty Lane.

Just recently, as it happens, Tina looked up from her play and said, quite randomly, “Papa, my chocolates are from Sarah.”

So I was able to report both the good news and the bad news.  The good news is that Tina–though only three years old–definitely associates the chocolates with her aunt Sarah.  The downside is, she tends to think of the chocolates–and thus of Aunt Sarah–in connection with a particular constrictive feeling in the lower abdomen.

But Sarah was cool with that.  As a long-distance aunt, she’s takin’ what she gets.

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FTT #33

Teresa the five-year-old lost her first tooth yesterday.  Jacinta had warned me that the kids were falling apart this week, but really I had no idea things had gone so far.

Tonight Teresa tucked her tooth under her pillow, safely encased in a plastic box, waiting for the tooth fairy to come and replace it for money.  “Mama,” she asked, “is there really such a thing as the tooth fairy?”

“What do you think?” Mama evaded.

Regina the all-knowing seven-year-old leaped in to save us from the unpleasant necessity of popping a bubble:  “No, I think that Mama or Papa comes in and takes the tooth,” she said.  And at that moment, a new way came to me of working past the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy with a single, all-purpose scholastic distinction:  an sit versus quid sit, “whether it exists” versus “what sort of thing is it?”

You see, Teresa’s questions was, formally at least, a question of an sit, “whether it exists.”  And to that I could honestly reply, “Yes, it exists.”  But Regina’s reply jumped to the level of quid sit, “What sort of thing is it?”  She was confusing two different questions. Yes, the tooth fairy exists.  But no, the tooth fairy is not the sort of thing that shimmers through walls or revives when people clap their hands.  As a parent, I could keep answering the first question until they became clever enough to ask the second.

And if my kids said to me later, “You lied to me.  You’re a liar,” I could reply:  No, I’m a thomist!  To which they could reply, “No, St. Thomas was a Dominican, and you’re speaking like a Jesuit.”

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FTT #32

Tina, moaning, found me in the hallway.  “Paapaa!  Regina’s being mean!”  I try to stay neutral in these things, so I don’t respond.

“Paaaaapaaaa!” Tina insists.  “Regina’s pinching me when I pinch Teresa!”

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FTT #31

The College sponsored a lecture tonight by Fr. Kevin Fitzgerald, a bioethics expert from the University of Georgetown.  Fr. Fitzgerald has both a doctoral degree in molecular biology and a doctoral degree in bioethics, so back in Austria where I went to school he would be Herr Fater Doctor Doctor Fitzgerald.

His talk was about ethics and genetic research.  Since I was asked to introduce the speaker, my mind turned to what I know about genetic medicine.  Which is nothing, really, but I did recall a ramshackle old building a few miles north of Lander topped by this ominous sign: GENE CHOPPING.

The kids have asked me, What goes on in there?

I don’t really know.  All you can see out front are a bunch of old cars.

Fr. Fitzgerald’s talk was not only wonderfully enlightening but also funny.  My favorite part on the humor front was when he described how scientists can cause a human liver to grow inside a sheep–and not just a human liver, but the exact liver of a specific human being.  Then, he explained, you could take this sheep home and have it wandering around in the back yard with your liver in it.  You party hard, drink all you want, and when your liver fails then they wheel you into the emergency room, together with your sheep, and a few hours later you come out with a brand new liver–and a wool coat!

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FTT #30

So yesterday was a wash.  A stressful event at the end of the day deleted all memory of humor, and I lost a day from the 365.  That puts me two full posts behind pace for the year, but I hope to catch up.

Catching up will require some strategy, given the difficulties of finding non-confidential, non-Tina funny events.  Technique #2 for finding such content:  Make it happen.  Do funny things.  This could be the start of a goofy trajectory in my life, but extreme situations call for extreme solutions.

So today, a colleague typed “A Couple of Things” into the subject line of an e-mail and then accidentally hit the send button, thus firing his missive off into the world with no content at all.  Snooping about for the FTT, I put “Nothing at all” in the subject line of a blank e-mail and zapped it back to the aforementioned colleague.

So which is funnier, the deed done or the fact that I’m so desperate?

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