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Man of the House by Chris Erskine

That frisky fall feeling

Counting his blessings, and being thankful for sweater weather.

October 11, 2008|Chris Erskine

IT'S RAINING steadily -- in the key of B flat -- the drops pinging against the windows and burping down the downspouts. Honestly, I don't know how much more of this winter weather I can take.

"What's that sound?" the little guy asks.

"A nor'easter," I say.

"Dad, we live in L.A.," says the little girl.

"We do?"

Love the rain. Without fail, the first real rain of the year comes just after I clean the skylight or wash both cars. For dads with a God complex -- and that's more than a few -- washing the skylight is a surefire way to take complete control of the nation's weather systems.

"I think," says Posh, with a shiver, "that I'll put a fire in the fireplace."

Spreads heat everywhere she goes, that woman. Bad enough she's started wearing sweaters again, in broad daylight, with children around.

She's my Bond girl. My muse. My very best pal. When she puts on a sweater and starts a fire in the fireplace, it's almost more romance than I can accommodate.

"What do you want for dinner?" she asks.

Yarn. That sweater. You.

"How 'bout hamburgers?" Posh purrs.

"I was going to say that," I say.

Or, we could go down to the local Oktoberfest, if this crummy weather ever lets up. I swear, I've been stuck in the house now for almost two hours.

Naturally, I'm starting to go a little stir-crazy. I have Miss October romping around in her Gap sweater, lighting fires she can't put out. And I've got the little guy draped over my shoulders like a human scarf, begging me -- puleeeeeease? -- to roughhouse.

You might not realize this -- or maybe you do -- but about half the time I write, I either have a kid on my lap or another kid with his hand in my pocket, frisking me for cash. Does it show up in the writing? I'm sure you had the vague sense that something was a little off. Well, that's just part of it.

The other day, I starting thinking I might have this West Nile virus. Or, in my case, Midwest Nile virus, a high fever and deep lethargy that comes from following the Cubs for almost half a century.

Every five years, along comes another malady that has to do with Americans being fatigued. For a while, everyone had Epstein-Barr, which was similar but not the same as Lyme disease (yeah, right, a deer tick turned you into Sleeping Beauty).

Now it's West Nile we're supposed to worry about, and, frankly, I suspect that the drug companies are all behind this somehow, creating "diseases" for what is really just a chronic and common condition: getting older.

It doesn't help that every year, our days start earlier and last longer. Or that the family home -- our refuge, our Ft. Apache -- seems more vulnerable than ever before.

Lately, when Posh walks past, she either yawns or sighs, sometimes both. Me, if I were any more nocturnal, I'd be a raccoon.

But that's OK. I don't need any help counting my blessings. I've got 10 fingers and 10 or more toes, and that human scarf across my shoulders has a bunch more.

It's October, after all, and we are rich with playoff games and the lush sounds of marching bands. They're offering bratwurst omelets down at the local diner and beer by the bootful at the nearby street fair (make mine a double).

We are blessed, too, to have gotten our soccer match in today, beating the rain by only a couple of hours. As every parent of a 5-year-old knows, if you don't "run the children" daily, they become cranky and a threat to the very house they live in. Big termites.

Our soccer team today was extra-frisky, turbo-charged by the fall chill. It was 40 degrees cooler than the week before, and all the moms were wearing sweaters, which I'll confess made it tough to concentrate on my little team's latest game plan: total domination.

Unfortunately, our opponents (the Blue Sharks) had the same game plan: total domination. It was a tight tussle -- back and forth, forth and back, to and fro.

Thing is, 5-year-olds have no idea when a soccer game actually begins or ends. For them, the contest starts the second their little shoes hit the scraggly turf.

Today, they ran before the ref blew the whistle and after he blew the whistle and for 30 minutes after the game ended. Like little retrievers, they ran and ran, celebrating the wonderful fall air, with an energy level their parents can only envy and admire.

I say go for it, you little princes. Run like a raindrop.

For, soon enough you'll be tired too, just like us. I give you 30 to 40 years, max.

--

Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com. For more of his columns, see latimes.com/erskine.

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