“Should we just tell her?” my wife Kara whispered.
“Give her a minute,” I said.
Our dog raced in giant circles around the yard, stretching her legs after the four-hour drive. Our son Evan did the same, running through the waist-deep pachysandra, giggling. When we arrive at a destination these days, we fling open the car doors and things come flying out like we’re driving Pandora’s Box.
When my mom came out to greet us, we thought she’d immediately notice the “I’M GOING TO BE A BIG BROTHER” T-shirt that Evan was wearing, since we hadn’t yet told her the news. But after many anticlimactic minutes, we were about to give up.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” Kara said, and she headed down the walkway.
Just as I went to grab another duffel bag out of the car, my mom bent over and started reading Evan’s shirt out loud.
“I’m going to be a…..” she said, then her eyes did this thing like she was a rubber frog and someone just stomped on her butt.
She looked at me, mouth agape, and I nodded.
“Oh! OH! OOOOOH!” she yelled, and she clapped her hands over her head as she ran to hug each of us. Evan seemed excited, too, and he’ll probably remain that way until he learns what the word “share” means.
We had expected my dad to be home on that Friday afternoon as well, but he was still at work. Dad actually retired several years ago, and he stayed that way for about a week. Then he went back to work for the same company as a contractor, working a few days a week, which now means the days from Monday to Friday. To the untrained eye, retirement looks a lot like work. Somebody needs to give that man a ukulele and a hammock.
“I can’t wait to see how long it takes your dad to notice Evan’s shirt when he gets home,” Mom said.
I didn’t hold out much hope for Dad. He’s a wonderful person in every imaginable way, but he wouldn’t notice if Don King got a crew cut. He’s just not the kind of guy to pay attention to a thing like a toddler’s T-shirt. To be fair, toddler’s T-shirts don’t usually have much important to say, beyond letting you know that the wearer is a fan of dinosaurs and/or the Gap.
When Dad finally got home, he gave Evan a giant hug, said hello to everybody, then went back to his room to get changed.
“He didn’t notice,” Mom said.
A few minutes later, down in the basement, we kept giving Evan excuses to face his grandpa.
“Bring this puzzle to Grandpa,” we’d say.
“Oh, why thank you,” Grandpa would reply, helping Evan put the puzzle together without passing a glance at his shirt.
Mom frowned at me, and I could tell the clue-giving was about to begin. Subtlety, not practiced very often in my family, wasn’t doing the trick.
“What nice T-shirts you both have on,” Mom said, deciding to go the Big Bad Wolf route.
“Thanks,” Dad replied. He looked down at his Modesto Nuts minor-league baseball shirt that my sister had given him, and agreed that it was a fine shirt indeed.
Mom frowned again.
“Evan’s shirt is nice, too,” she said. Dad nodded, in complete agreement that navy blue looked nice on Evan.
“It’s a really nice shirt he has on,” Mom said.
Dad’s radar finally picked up something out of the ordinary, and he squared Evan’s shoulders so that he could get a good look.
I snapped a picture of Dad’s face in the exact moment that the words registered.
All the better to remember it with.
You can wish Mike Todd the best of luck at email@example.com.