Monday, July 18, 2011

A little time with Ethan

Jake’s been taking center stage in the blog for a while now (what with the autism and all), and Ethan wants me to remind you folks that he exists, too.

So here are a few more snippets of life with Ethan. Enjoy him. (I do.)

Ethan, Summer 2011
The other night Ethan complained to me "My life is boring right now."

"What? Why?" I asked, slightly stunned, what with the fun camp and many friends and all.

"Well, there's nothing going on in my life. I kind of like Gogos, but not THAT much... There’s nothing I'm REALLY into right now”

Ahhhh, I see, life without an overriding obsession feels… different... lesser.

I suggested to him that maybe it was time to take up a real life hobby that could grow with him - like a musical instrument, instead of him outgrowing - like all his Japanimation toy obsessions: Power Rangers, Bakugan, Pokemon, Beyblades… and now Gogos Crazy Bones…

"No, Mom, I just need a new THING to be into."

Well, at least it's not girls. Yet.

(Also, just so you know, this conversation took place, of course, while he was on the toilet, just before bedtime. Once a bathroom conversationalist, always a bathroom conversationalist.)


At bedtime the other night Ethan got the giggles -- this is, unfortunately, a not uncommon occurrence. He gets these funny ideas, and well, they make him laugh. Not the most conducive to sleep, now, is that? 

Ethan. My budding insomniac night owl child.  (Sigh.)

So, this time the “funny thought” ran along the lines of “wouldn’t it be soooo funny to have a boy and name him Muriel? Or Betsy, or Isabel.” Somehow naming of the inappropriate variety is a big theme for Ethan, and a frequent source of mirth.  (As all gender reversals are, too, come to think of it.)

He was going on and on, suggesting girlier and girlier names as possible candidates for “Worst. Boy. Name. Ever.” I was trying to put the kibosh on this, to shush him up, both to help him calm down enough to sleep and so as not to wake Jacob with his chortling.

But then I couldn’t help myself.

“Well, you know there’s that famous song about A Boy Named Sue…”

Ethan didn’t. He wanted to know all about it.

I told him a tiny bit about Johnny Cash and the song; just a tease, really, enough to intrigue him. And then I told him I would find it on You Tube for him the next day and play it for him ONLY if he quieted down and went to sleep right away.

It worked.

The next day, when he came home from camp, I had it all cued up, waiting for him, keeping my word. I played it; we got to the end.

And his reaction?

"That’s just WEIRD, mom."

And then the thousand questions, about the song... "Why did he leave his family... and why does he want his son to be a fighter... and why did he want to kill his Dad... and why would ANYBODY name a boy Sue and... ?"

And the singer... "Why is he the man in black... and why is he playing in a prison... and why is his voice so low and... ?"

And a part of me wanted to say "It's just a song, Ethan."

Except it isn't. It's a part of our heritage now, our mythic landscape.

And Johnny is one of the Great Beings who have walked among us (although of course he was also just a man; someone's son, father, husband, brother, grandfather).

And you know who wrote it, right?


Last night I attempted to explain the mechanics of humor to Ethan. All about how to tell a joke and what makes a joke funny or not. Not easy stuff to quantify.

It started with a discussion of swimming at camp, he talked about learning the backstroke, which led to my telling him that old chestnut of a joke from the classic lexicon:

"Waiter what’s this fly doing in my soup?"

“The backstroke, sir.”

(cue rimshot)

He then wanted to hear more waiter jokes – so I told him the “Who wanted the clean glass?” joke and then started in on other “classic” jokes, like the “... walks into a bar" formulation.

Silly me, after much pleading I finally told him my favorite walks-into-a-bar joke. Which, unfortunately involves a certain knowledge of existential philosophy. It begins "Descartes walks into a bar..."*

Have you ever tried explaining existentialism to a nearly 9 year old?  (Yeah, me neither.)

And then we ended up talking about how certain variations on the chicken-crossing-the-road are funny and some are not.  And why.

When I said “and then, when you deliver the punch line, you have to drop it in just right”? He thought that was hysterical.

He had never heard the term and got very distracted and entertained by the idea of ACTUALLY punching someone while telling a joke.


I guess he is still a not-yet-quite-nine year-old boy after all.


And those are all the tales of Ethan I have to tell... today.

You know there will be more soon.

Because Ethan keeps being Ethan.

And that?

Is entertainment.

*Oh, you want to hear the Descartes joke? Really? OK. It's short, sweet, a little absurd, definitely goofy (and I love it):

Descartes walks into a bar.

Pulls up a stool, sits down.

He starts chatting with the other folks at the bar.

The bartender is getting impatient, asks him: "So, buddy, are you going to order a drink?"

Descartes answers: "I think not."

And promptly disappears.

(cue rimshot)

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