It wasn’t the first time I saw one of the twins behave as if they’d just been hit upside the head with a hot iron. They take turns, those two. Usually Nicky begins with his crumpled little Macaulay Culkin face into a full on writhe-and-whine, and once he’s completed his task of making everyone in the immediate orbit wince, Cody takes over the duties. It happened the night before, at Buca Di Beppo, when we were first seated at our table and they took turns throwing the flatware at nearby diners. Then it was play-under-the-table time, rendering any semblance of conversation or just a normal chow-down as unlikely as OJ fitting that damned glove on his hand in front of the jury. After being forced to sit in their chairs, it was full-on belly flop time and the screams played happy havoc with the strains of That’s Amore on the restaurant soundtrack.
I’m not great around kids. I run out of things to say. Brandon, the 2 ½ year old twins’ older brother, was terrific, however, and he’s learned to be quiet in the middle of the chaos, a lesson I hope will serve him well as an adult. At ten years old, he is whip smart, a tad shy, and he’s emotionally developed enough to understand the underlying dynamics at play in my relationship with Billy. He loved Billy, too.
They all refer to me as “uncle,” a true gift as being an only child, my uncledom was thwarted from the gate. We went to all of the museums, Chris and Becky and the kids and me, and we went on the monument walk. An enterprising podiatrist should set up shop at the end of the damned thing but it was as fun as all get out.
On Saturday, Joe joined the family when we went to the National Zoo, folding seamlessly into the family patter, and taking the children’s decibel level with a knowing shrug. I found the zoo to be depressing in its execution and in its necessity. The old school bars that caged the elephants, one of God’s most gracious creatures, nearly made me cry although that threshold was inches away for most of the family’s visit.
Being with Chris, knowing how much he loved and respected his Uncle Billy, and being with that familial speech pattern was all I needed. I probably won’t see them again until Thanksgiving but in the meantime, Billy’s other nephew, Matt, is about to have a baby boy. And guess what they’re naming him?