Tag Archive for Overheard Preller

OVERHEARD: “Burrrrrp. Oh, yeah.”

That would be my daughter, Maggie, as she leaves the room.

Like a jet plane with a trail of exhaust.

The burp was bad enough. Well, I don’t really think so. I sort of like that Maggie enjoys a good burp. She’s like a guy that way. It does, however, drive Lisa a little crazy. As far as I can tell, my wife does not release gas of any kind, ever. At least not publicly. No farts, no burps.

One day, I’m sure, she’s just going to float off into the sky like a helium balloon.

So, okay, Maggie burped. It happens. But it was what came next that’s so wonderfully my daughter. “Oh yeah,” she said, taking pleasure and satisfaction in the good belch.

Lisa looked me like it was my fault, shook her head. So I called after Maggie with something like, “Say ‘Excuse me,’ please.” Just to let Lisa know that I was on the ball and I was keeping standards sky high. But Maggie was gone, off the grab another late-night bowl of cereal (she eats constantly).

I have to admit it. I like that my sixth-grade daughter burps. But let’s keep it between us.

Oh, one more thing. Another little habit of Maggie’s, which I attribute to middle school awkwardness, is she now sabotages every photograph we try to take. She’s lovely and beautiful and we have tons of great pictures. But not from the past year.

First, here’s some sweet ones. I have to confess, I’m home working today while Lisa and the kids are off for a couple days, skiing and having fun. I miss them.

Nowadays, alas, this is what we get. A nice father-daughter shot, ruined by . . . the face.

OVERHEARD: “I guess science is my favorite class — I just wish it wasn’t so serious.”

Lisa had asked Maggie, grade 6, about her classes and received the above reply. Which at first struck me as a hilarious thing to say about science. It was like saying, I don’t know, math should be funnier. Social studies, sillier!

But then I realized she might be onto something. When we think of our science teachers, most of them are dry, dull, strict. This is science, this is important: this is serious business!

And in fairness, it often is, kids can get hurt, things might explode.

But then there are those rare science teachers — and scientists like Bill Nye, on television — who bring the joy of discovery into the process. Or should I say, keep the joy. The wonder.

They find the fun and the funny. Like a child with a new toy, figuring out what makes it go. Discovering the awesomeness of it all.

On Facebook I “liked” a site called, “I Love F***ing Science.” I’ve always regretted the F***ing in that title because it makes it harder for me to share with others, especially anyone who might read my books.

This post reflects a few things I’ve picked up from there, and other places.

Just trying to bring the fun, Maggie. I’m glad you like science.

Overheard: “Hey, Dad, when I’m 18, I want to get a tattoo of a cat on my stomach.” (Parenting a Middle Schooler, pt. 3)

I am sitting in the living room in early evening, reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Maggie, my 6th-grader, is doing handstands not five feet away — because that is what Maggie does these days, continual handstands. Every day, all day.

Maggie: “When I’m 18, I want to get a tattoo of a cat on my stomach.”

Dad: “Oh?”

Maggie: “Yeah, except I want my belly button to be the cat’s butt.”

Dad: “Is that so?”

Maggie: “Wait, I’ll draw you a picture!”

And she does.

Overheard: “Do I Have to Wear Nice Shoes?”

My 7th-grade son is getting ready to attend his friend Ethan’s bar mitzvah. So in addition to the new black pants, the belt, and the ironed, pinstriped shirt, I have to do that dad thing where I tie his tie in front of the mirror. I notice that his hair is combed to perfection. So I get the knot just right, tighten it up, check the length, that’s good, button down the collar — there you go, my handsome devil, you’re good to go.

He calls to me from the mud room, “Do I have to wear nice shoes?

Overheard: “He’s Another Guy Trying to Put the Screws Into Me.”

That would be the voice of Grandpa Sal, my wife’s mother’s father. A man convinced that everywhere he turned somebody was trying “to put the screws into him.” Chiselers were out to rip him off, con him, cheat him in some way, and Grandpa Sal was onto them all. He knew their tricks, what was what and who was who — and no, he wasn’t going to pay $400 to that son of a bitch mechanic down at Exxon.

I met Grandpa Sal late in his life, and didn’t get to spend much time with him before he died over a decade ago, but I always enjoyed his astonishing, impromptu visits. Sal lived alone in Albany and drove a beat-up Ford, only because they never take away driving licenses in New York State. You can be deaf, blind, and bonkers, with blood spurting from your ears, and Motor Vehicles will rubber stamp your license and send you back on the road. “Drive safely!

Sal never called; he just showed up at random times. There he was on the stoop, pushing the doorbell, blinking behind large glasses, wisps of hair growing from his enormous, legendary ears. He’d explain he was out grocery shopping, figured he’d swing by. Over coffee,  the conversation would inevitably turn to some bastard who was trying to put the screws into him. I loved it every time Sal used that phrase, and usually felt sorry for the poor guy who crossed Grandpa Sal.

One thing he did on at least two different occasions:

Time to depart, Sal’d rise, hug my wife, Lisa, because he was crazy about her. He’s shake my hand with the approval only an old man can bestow, and head to the door. Almost as an afterthought, Sal reached into the pocket of his rumpled jacket and pull out a half-pound of sliced ham. He’d picked it up at the deli and wanted us to have it, he explained. Here, for you. Sal slapped it into my hands — it wasn’t in a shopping bag, just the damp clear plastic wrap you got at the deli counter — and I’d stammer, “Wow, um, ham! That’s so . . . thoughtful . . . of you. We’ll, like, definitely make sandwiches.” Turning to Lisa, smiling, “Right, honey?”

Grandpa Sal always came with a gift. He knew we were the Good Guys. Because never once did we try to put the screws into him.