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The Guy Chronicles

A Holiday Harvest of Household Aromas

November 22, 2000|Chris Erskine

It is Thanksgiving in the suburbs, and we are here measuring the harvest, breathing deep the fireplace smoke and the steer manure. In Southern California, it's a Thanksgiving tradition to spread the grass with steer manure, in hopes of a better frontyard come spring. Because fine lawns and good children are a suburb's only crops.

"You should have more kids," my friend Paul says.


"You should have a couple," he says.

"It's not easy having a baby with me," I tell him.

"You're young," my friend Paul says. "And your wife is even younger."

I explain to him how difficult it is to have a baby with me. First, there's the act of conception, which with me can take three days to a week, not including drinks and dinner.


Then there's the extra-long pregnancy, up to 24 months, followed by a difficult birth. One of our girls was pushing 8 pounds when she was born. Nope, it's not easy having a baby with me.

Then there are the sleepless nights to look forward to and the 4 o'clock feedings and the ear infections. If you've never had a baby, you should know they come with ear infections.

And rashes. And crud up their noses that looks like moldy nuclear waste.

If you survive the first year, you will see them become toddlers. If you've never had children, you should know that when they become toddlers, they will always run to you with their arms wide open, wearing little Gap overalls and new shoes that your wife just bought them--sturdy shoes, because that's what the child-rearing books all recommend.

And when you pick up your toddler, when you sweep him into your arms like Superman, he will then accidentally kick you in the groin with his hard new shoes that you just paid for. Welcome to parenthood, that little kick tells you. If you ever have children, consider wearing a cup.

"What's wrong with Daddy?" someone will ask.

"He'll be fine," your wife will say, having watched you get kicked in the midsection like this for two or three kids now.

"His eyes, they're all watery and stuff," some kid will note.

"He's just happy," your wife will explain. "Your dad's just happy to be home."

If you're thinking of having children, you should know that they won't stay pups long, that they'll grow fast--faster than you'd ever imagine, and soon they will learn to read and memorize commercials and ask for everything they see.

"Dad, know what I want for Christmas?" the little girl asks.

"Everything," I say.

"An Easy Bake Oven," the little girl says.

"We already have an oven," I tell her.

"We do?"

"Yeah, it's very easy," I say. "Your mother uses it every holiday."

"She does?"

"Well, at least at Christmas," I say.

"I want an Easy Bake Oven," the little girl says anyway.

If you're thinking of having children, you should know that the general rule for children is, "If I see it, I want it." And it is your job as a parent to prevent them from getting everything they want.

In fact, if you're fortunate enough to be able to provide them with everything they want, it is even more important that you not get them everything they want.

Children should go wanting. At least for a few things. It gives them a reason to grow up and get jobs.



"Can I get a bunny?" the boy asks.

If you're thinking of having kids, here's something else you should know. They are always trying to expand the farm. Rabbits. Hamsters. Frogs. Lizards.

They will go to the pet store and buy little creatures with the life expectancy of bread--36 hours at the most--then hold funerals and backyard burials when the creature quickly passes away.

After the funeral, your children will buy more creatures to comfort them in their grief.

It's like this whole pet ecosystem that kids create, never-ending and smelly. Very smelly.

Soon, their bedroom carpet will smell like low tide, full of goldfish food and hamster dandruff. If you vacuum it, you will bring these items to the surface, upsetting the pet ecosystem and creating entire new spectrums of human allergies.



"I need more crickets," my lovely and patient older daughter says.


"To feed the frog," my daughter says.

My theory is that kids buy these pets to hide their own smells, so that their mothers can't get mad at them over their smelly rooms because, really, it's not them, it's that stinking hamster cage or gerbil condominium or whatever they're using to house gerbils these days. That's just a theory. My theory of smell.

"No, you're not getting a rabbit," I tell the boy.

"I don't want a rabbit," he says.

"You don't?"

"I want a bunny," he says.

"Oh, that changes everything," I say.

"Dad, I want one," he says.

"They smell," I tell him.

"But it's a good smell," the boy says.

Which brings us back to manure. Thanksgiving. Manure. Children. Fireplace smoke. Big, messy homecomings and kitchens full of family. American traditions--all of them a little smelly.

But maybe, as the boy says, it's a good smell.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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