As we discuss what we should make for dinner, I realize a grocery run is needed. Jake offers to do the shopping trip, and while I write up a short list, I also issue instructions. I want Jake to go to a specific store; not our usual grocery store, but to the Harris Teeter down the road.
“Go ahead and grab my ATM card out of my wallet,” I say, ” but I need you to go to the Harris Teeter—”
“The hairy titties?” Asks Riley.
“Really?” I ask Riley. “Really?”
Riley grins, and I sigh, shake my head, and begin again.
“As I was saying, do not go to the hairy titties, Jake—”
“No, ” he assures me, ” I wasn’t planning to go to the hairy titties.”
“Good. Good.” Jake and I nod in agreement. Hairy titties are out. “But, if you would go to the HARRIS TEETER–”
“The hairy testes?’ Asks Matt.
I close my eyes for a moment, and then continue, ” If you could go to the grocery store–”
“The hairy testes, Jake,” clarifies Riley.
“Would you STOP with the hairy testes, please?” I ask my younger sons. I’m trying not to laugh and, like predators, I’m sure they sense my weakness.
“Well, Mom,” Riley explains, “that’s not really gonna be up to me. I mean, that’s kinda what puberty does.” He and Matt are grinning from ear to ear, nodding in agreement. Yes, This is true. Hairy testes will not be up to them.
Jake is biting back a smile, and his upper body shakes with the laughter he’s holding in. I can’t look at him or I’ll start laughing, too.
This is one of the greatest joys and most difficult challenges of parenting Riley. He finds humor in almost anything. Year after year, I’ve received phone calls from his teachers which begin, “I love Riley, and I really enjoy him, but…” The “but” is inevitably followed by a request that I talk to Riley about curtailing his comedic comments while in class. I’ve had many conversations with Ri about time and place; about using his powers for good and not evil.
And as Matt’s sense of humor has matured, he’s become Riley’s partner in crime. Recently they’ve mastered the two-pronged assault: one riffing off the other, each providing fuel for his brother’s fire, perfecting their A, B, A, B rhythm. Riley plants the seeds, and Matt cheerfully helps bring that crop to harvest. I’m just happy they’re cooperating.
The two of them are waiting politely for me to continue. I glare at them, and they smile, sweetly.
I hold my hand up like a stop sign, and blurt out the rest of my instructions to Jake, ” If you go to the Harris Teeter, they have big bags of Scott’s mulch on sale, and I’d love it if you could get as much as you can fit in the trunk of your car, ok?”
“YOU’RE GOING TO MULCH THE HAIRY TESTES?” Matt is shocked. “That’s GROSS! You’re not mulching my testes, lady!”
Riley slowly shakes his head from side to side. He’s disappointed in the kind of woman he just realized I am. A testes mulcher.
An image of my front flowerbed filled with mulched, hairy testes flashes through my mind, and I’m lost.
“Would you two stop?!” I laugh, ” Just stop it! No more hairy testes!”
“I haven’t even started my hairy testes yet, Mom, ” says Matt, and adds matter-of-factly, “that’s probably going to happen in middle school.”
“No,” says Riley, “Highschool. We hit puberty late in this family.”
Jake takes the list, and heads for the door. “I’ll get as much mulch as I can, ” he assures me.
As he leaves, Riley calls out, “Don’t forget the hairy titties, Jake!”