Sunday, July 02, 2006

My parents are cool

When I was the age of piƱata parties and first-time sleepovers, my parents were cool. Not for normal reasons, like letting me spend the night at friend's houses on weeknights or granting me my wish of a white rabbit creatively named Bunny.

No, they were cool for other reasons entirely.

For one, my mom could cook. (And, coincidentally, still can.) I used to love to eat at friends' houses because it was the only time I ever ate pizza or hot dogs. My friends loved to eat at my house because it was the only time they ever ate things they couldn't pronounce.

At my request, my mother cooked lobster every year for my birthday. The cool part? She let me call the neighborhood boys over to listen to the live lobsters' last squeals as they dropped into pots of boiling water. And for this, I was the most popular girl on the street. We watched, fascinated, as the grey shells flushed pink in the hot pot. To this day, I can still remember the sound of a dying lobster.

"Hey Emily, when's your mom cooking lobster again?"

Yup, my parents were cool.

While my mother occupied herself in the kitchen, my father occupied himself with a few rather unusual hobbies. Normal fatherly things we might have shared - maybe kicking a soccer ball or watching the Cowboys on a lazy Sunday afternoon - were never a part of my childhood. Ask my dad how to play a game of golf and you might as well have asked him how to read the Rosetta Stone. Instead, he was explaining HAM radio magazines or we were in the park learning what dials on the metal detector returned the best results, given the terrain.

Sometimes, if my friends and I were really good, he'd let us look at the latest animal he'd trapped in his cage in the backyard, and maybe even let us poke it a little bit. The cage was a medium-sized contraption, a perfect fit for a can of tuna and small animals like possums, racoons, skunks, and the neighborhood cat. And as anyone who has ever met my dad knows well, he has quite an affinity for cats. (Well, at least the ones that taste like chicken.) Okay, maybe not, but I do think he enjoyed (perhaps a little more than is healthy) catching the local cats in his cage and releasing them a mile or two from home. The rest of us feigned ignorance as the missing posters went up around the neighborhood.

Things were hunky-dory until a skunk unexpectedly showed up in the cage. A skunk with working stink glands, I might add. Having had an unfortunate skunk experience previously that year (somehow our garage ended up smelling like skunk for months) my father had a different plan this time. He elicited the help of a neighbor down the street, and before sunrise one morning they bagged the whole cage (skunk included) in a black garbage bag to take it to the end of the road where the pavement met dirt.

That's when the unplanned part started.

They never counted on encountering an early-morning jogger who gave them a frightened look and crossed to the other side of the street upon seeing two men carrying a black plastic bag and a gun down the street in the middle of suburban San Antonio.

The orginial idea was for my dad to open the cage door, and the neighbor to shoot the skunk as it ran out. The problem was the skunk didn't want to come out. It had grown accustomed to confinement, or perhaps suspected its imminent fate. So it took considerable poking and prodding, but the skunk finally slunk out to meet the firing squad.

Which missed. Twice. Three times.

My dad grabbed the gun and finished the job.

What they had tried so hard to avoid happened instantly. Almost as a dying attempt at regaining some dignity, the skunk released all of its stench simultaneous with its last breath.

I mean, how many kids' parents get sprayed by skunk? That was definitely cool.