The jacket hung in the hall closet all summer. It’s not like I needed it. Midwest summers range from hot and dry, to hot and humid, to I don’t want to live here anymore. There’s usually no need for a jacket.
But there was today.
I’ve always loved putting on a coat for the first time each winter. Sticking my hands in the pockets is like a birthday for someone who’s had awful birthdays. There are half-used tissues, pieces of gum stuck to wrappers and, if I’m lucky, enough loose change to buy something unhealthy from the vending machine at work.
When I was younger, my pockets would yield beer caps, movie ticket stubs and pieces of popcorn from those movies. Today I had – hmm, what’s this? Oh, a Little People toy. This is because I’m a parent.
A person’s life changes when they have children. I don’t mean the obvious changes, like stretch marks, stress headaches and lack of privacy on the toilet. I’m talking more unexpected sticky spots on the floor and less a good night’s sleep.
One basic change a parent experiences can be found on Google.
The latest search history for a single person:
• Restaurant menus.
• Photos of Jessica Alba in a bikini.
• How to smell nice when nervous.
My latest search history:
• Ways to hide vegetables in food.
• Photos of SpongeBob in bikini bottom.
• How to get Silly Putty out of pants.
Another is the mystery of the Things You Didn’t Know Were Lost. Life with a small child is a lot like living with a poltergeist. There are strange knockings in the house, objects often fly across the room for no apparent reason, and items disappear only to reappear in random and unexpected places.
However, it doesn’t always work this way.
Things you’ll always find:
• Cheerios, everywhere, even if you haven’t bought a box of Cheerios in 12 years. I’m firmly convinced Cheerios aren’t made by General Mills, they simply will themselves into existence in my couch cushions.
• Things you’re not looking for.
• A half-eaten petrified sandwich made with lunchmeat you bought two months ago.
• Something you told your child never to touch.
Things you’ll never find:
• One of your child’s shoes.
• Car keys.
• Your will to get out of bed – ever.
That’s not all.
I discovered a gold sticker on my lecture notes yesterday. I’m often confronted with the dilemma of being a grown man who wears glitter to work. Our 4-year-old relaxes after a hard day of preschool by stripping naked immediately after arriving home, then sitting on the couch. And by “immediately,” I mean immediately. My wife knows we’re home, not by the truck in the driveway or the sound of the television, but by the trail of clothing that starts at the front door.
I can’t say I blame her. Lounging naked on the couch watching TV does sound like a great way to relax. My wife would disagree, but in my defense I didn’t know the in-laws were visiting.
Jason’s newest book, “Chasing American Monsters: 251 Creatures, Cryptids, and Hairy Beasts,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.