Sunday, October 09, 2005

Parents: Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them

Growing up, I was a rebellious kid, but what kid isn't? I fled home at sixteen, self-willed and dying to escape the suffocation of my parents' detailed affections. These affections were manifested in a concern for my well-being that bordered on the pathological (so thought my teenage mind). Through most of my twenties, I kept my distance from them except for essential, obligatory contact. But then, once I started to get a sense of myself and who I actually might be, the veil lifted and I began to see my parents for the wise, down-to-earth, funny and downright cool people I suspect they've always been. Better late than never, we became pals.

Accompanying this new incarnation of our relationship was a realization that as I was getting older, I was getting strangely serious about everything. Meanwhile, they were heading in the opposite direction — becoming lighter, playful, even child-like. It's ironic that watching them is teaching me how not to be such an adult all the time. In that spirit of play, yesterday was designed as Surprise Day for them. My only instructions were: be ready at 9 AM, and pack a sweater.

  • Our first stop is Niagara Falls, which my parents can't get enough of. I've been to the Falls so many times that if I never breathe its mist again, it will be too soon. (I've always enjoyed the acidic Oscar Wilde line about it being "only the second disappointment of the standard honeymoon.") But it's a crisp and bracing day, the black rocks are flashing with liquid light, and an international kite festival is underway a few feet from the water's roar. Every last Niagara Falls cliché seems to fall away for a couple of hours.

  • Next: lunch at a nice Indian restaurant. (Dad: So, this was your surprise, an Indian restaurant? Me: But I thought it would have been the last thing you would've expected...never mind.)

  • Mom unwraps her gift, a music mix CD that kicks off with Gwen Stefani's "Cool", my mom's current favorite song of all-time.

  • Dad unwraps his, a hefty hardcover volume of Dennis The Menace. Along with Charles Schulz and R.K. Laxman, Hank Ketcham is worshipped in our household.

  • Last stop, a surprise movie: My parents are asked to avert their eyes from the marquee as we enter the theater. My mom peeks, of course. We take our seats among an army of giggling children. The movie is Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. It turns out to be fabulous fun, and a good time is had by all the kids in the room, us included.


Blogger Brian said...

Does the Dennis the Menace collection include the family vacation to the Grand Canyon? It was the Ketchum version of the 'graphic novel', one that I found when I was just a rugrat while rummaging through a stack of comics stored at my grandparents' cottage. Must have read through it a thousand times.

October 10, 2005 8:53 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian, I don't think this one includes the Grand Canyon vacation, but I remember that one, it's precious.
The one I gave my dad was volume 1 of a 25-volume series (!), each about 600 pages long. The series will be released over the next 11 years by (bless their kind souls) Fantagraphics. Here's a little piece on the series.

October 10, 2005 9:56 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh, and I've been gazing at the panels in the book, completely mesmerized by the artwork: the deceptively casual linework, ingenious panel design, the minimalism of his whole approach, and best of all--not a ruler in sight!

It takes me forever to read/look at a few panels, but my dad has been zipping through the book-- glancing at the image, quickly reading the caption, chuckling, and moving on briskly to the next page. I've been telling him to slow down and look and linger on each panel, but he says, "Ehh, I'll do that on my second run-through...the first time, it's the jokes that are most important." Can't argue with that.

October 10, 2005 10:07 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Might just have to pick up one of those volumes myself. A big fan growing up- the comic books, the Sunday Funnies, paper backs, Dairy Queen (always had a crush on the mom). I think the Grand Canyon was part of the Vacation Special series.

Haven't ever taken a close look at the drawing style, but next time I read the comic I'll be sure to do so!

October 10, 2005 10:00 PM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

Even though you couldn't spend your teenage life with your parents, you came around to understanding them later in your life and That's awesome. But some people have no choice but stay away. I for one, have lived with my parents for more than 20 years and I am moving for good. It's not that I don't like them. I love them and don't wanna disappoint them and that's why I am moving away.

October 15, 2005 10:53 AM  
Blogger girish said...

What you say makes sense, Rakesh. Good luck with your move to Toronto.

October 15, 2005 11:55 AM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

Thank you Girish

October 17, 2005 3:21 AM  

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