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Joe is the youngest of five, in an Irish-Catholic family from Detroit. I am the oldest of two, half Jewish, from the suburbs of New York by way of Connecticut and Ann Arbor.

His family intimidates the hell out of me.

When Joe was growing up, he had to eat exactly what his mother cooked. Every night. Sometimes he got to choose what kind of canned vegetable they would have with dinner. As a child I frequently ate cereal for dinner, because that’s what I wanted, although we ate most of our meals at Zingerman’s deli.

Last Saturday we went to Joe’s sister’s house, because his oldest sister, Kitty, was visiting from her home in Alaska.

We had pasta for dinner because his brother-in-law was carb-loading in preparation for a half-marathon the next day. He’s also the CEO of some company. His wife, Joe’s sister, is the CFO of a different company.
The other brother-in-law was wearing a hat with the name of his rugby team. His wife, another of Joe’s sisters, also plays rugby. She also played on the Detroit team of the only national women’s football league in history.
His 10-year-old niece, a competitive gymnast, was gearing up for a meet.

I should point out that Kitty, in her fifties, is a professional ski instructor who recently battled cancer and walked to the hospital for her chemotherapy.

As for Elliot and myself, the latest additions to the family? He had a sore throat, and we had to cut the evening short because I developed a bad case of diarrhea.

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Today after I picked Elliot up from school, he asked me: “Have you ever heard the story of King Midas?”

“Yeah, I have,” I said. “Did you hear it at school?”

“It’s in the reading corner.”

“Did you like the story?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he said.

“Did you get what the moral of the story was?”

He thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s the lesson that King Midas learned?”

“Oh! Yeah! Never listen to spirits when they ask you if you want to make a wish.”

“That’s a good one,” I said. “But what else?”

“Umm, don’t wish that you can turn things into gold!”

“That’s good, you’re getting there,” I said. “Why don’t you want to wish you could turn things into gold?”

“Oh! Yeah! That’s the lesson! Don’t hold your daughter’s hand when you’ve wished you could turn everything you touch into gold and it came true! Because then you’ll turn your daughter into gold!”

“What about don’t be greedy?” I asked.

“Huh,” he paused. “No, I don’t necessarily see that.”

Tonight, as I was cutting Elliot’s toenails, I discovered a tiny pebble that had been lodged under one of them. I flicked it into the sink.

“What if that was a magic pebble?” he asked.

“Do you think it was a magic pebble?”

“I think it was,” he said.

“So what do you think is going to happen?”

“The whole house is magic now.” He turned his head away from me and whispered, “House! I wish for sixty six tongues!”

This morning Elliot told me that he’d like to start taking karate again. I told him I thought that would be fine, but also that I think that we should get him into a team sport that he can play in school. Here is what he said:

“Maybe. But the thing is, my strengths are really more things like robots, technology, the body, math, albegra… alge… algebra. That kind of thing. I’m just not really interested in standing around in a field playing basketball. I’m not that kind of guy. I have better things to do with my strengths.”

The argument is pretty air-tight. Except for that basketball being played in a field part. We’ll have to set that one straight before some 5’11” second-grader does.

Me: Hey! Nice work, senor!

Elliot: Hmm… Spanish. Let’s try to talk in English, just for this morning, okay?

——–

Me: We’re going to go to the seed store.

Elliot: Downtown Home and Garden? That’s the opposite of my jam.