It was a beautiful bright Memorial Day evening when we drove out of Seward. We waved to our friends out the windows of our crowded car with shirtless arms happily turning on the air conditioner and eating ice cream in the fresh summer heat.
But as the drive went on, the sun descended in the sky to a flickering candle and dark clouds rolled over our heads like the closing lid on a fishing cooler. I watched in the rearview mirror as dark clouds descended over my children’s angelic demeanor as well. So, we plummeted out of the mountains and into Girdwood with all three children wailing in the backseat. We were a paper dragon in a Chinese street party trailing a never ending braid of exploding fireworks in our backseat. The gas station at Girdwood was especially busy. We trundled in off the highway and were greeted by a sea of worn out travelers that parted to allow us entry, their faces concerned that some tragic accident had taken place within our tiny weeping sedan.
We parked in the back and our car immediately popped open like a warm tube of croissants. Loud, screaming, uncomfortable croissants, badly in need of a bathroom.
While Andrea nestled and calmed the baby, I took a daughter in each hand and quickly started with them towards the door of the gas station. On the way, Clara complained about how cold she was in her sleeveless travel shirt. She shook her free hand at the sky and made repeatedly clear that she didn’t like it when it was cold. She wanted to go back to Seward where it was warm.
“But aren’t you the little girl that is always singing: ‘The cold never bothered me anyway!’”, I asked, shuffling my feet slightly as I sang the line. I was hoping the reminder of the Disney song they are constantly singing would buy us the time we needed to get to the bathroom in such a way that doesn’t get me suspected of kidnapping.
The distraction worked. Both of my children stopped crying at the mention of Frozen.
But Clara sighed in exasperation and quickly replied, “Dad. That’s just a song. No one actually likes it when it’s cold. That girl is just pretend.”
I was silent and smiled to myself. I would gladly accept defeat in this fake argument if it meant some peace.
As we rounded the corner and hurried through the door of the gas station, I heard Clara quietly grumble to herself, “And you really shouldn’t watch so many movies like that, Dad. It makes you say too many silly things all the time.” I chuckled to myself and dismissed the urge to punt her into a corn nuts display. As I maneuvered the children through the shop, diverting their attentions as best as possible away from the candy bars and brightly packaged potato chips, I had to agree with her.
I am almost definitely the way I am today as a direct result of watching too much Frozen. But it’s not just Frozen. It is entire blanket of delicate princess related media we are exposed to that creates the goofy dads with their straight faced dad jokes and silly songs. It is the soup of radioactive chaos billowing out of piles of frilly dresses and blaring children’s’ sing-a-long songs. Maxed volume drowning out crying babies and whiny “she hit me!”s. We sing about rowing our boats and smile, ignoring the storm. We defy the challenges of life wielding the only weapon we have available to us: Pure inexhaustible goofiness. Our brains just seek something that can shut it all out. We need some levity to shield us from the horrors of this war. We enter the life as grown men, normal and ordinary, holding a sweet purple baby aloft. And within a matter of years, we emerge contorted and deformed, with button up collared shirts, repeating cartoon movie quotes and making faces no grown man should at babies, any babies, the mere mention of babies. We make comments and our daughters groan in embarrassment, and this is how we live. That is how we survive.
On our way out the door, we excused ourselves, and squeezed past a man valiantly trying to convince his young daughter to help him carry an arm load of hot dogs to the checkout counter. We shared a knowing glance and a nod of mutual respect.
I fastened the girls back into the car and we were ready for another two hours of exhausted tears.