Tacos for Dinner

Growing up in Indiana, I spent a good chunk of time in the family basement. It was the place where I was free to watch eight hours of "M*A*S*H," "Gilligan's Island" and "Barney Miller"; glug bottle after bottle of Coke; ingest entire tins of Planter's Cheese Balls; and occasionally do something productive, like teach myself how to play guitar.

One night--I don't remember how old I was (I never remember how old I was)--I lay on the basement couch marinating in a thick depressive stew. About what, I have no idea. These were most likely my Catholic grade school years. I might have been ruing the principal's new rule that no one could kick the kickball more than three feet off the ground. Or the fact that Meredith Anzelc liked John Seckinger and not me. Or the alarming number of Frank Burnses in the world (compared to the scarcity of Hawkeye Pierces).

At any rate, I was in the muck. I didn't want to do anything. I hated everything. And I couldn't imagine myself ever being in a good mood again.

Then a voice came down the stairs: "Time for dinner!" My weak reply: "What are we having?" And then the answer:


I can't describe the feeling that came over me at that moment without resorting to bald cliche. A fog lifting? Sure. Shafts of sunlight pouring through the window? That'll do. All the demons left. All the darkness turned to light. Everything old was born anew.

It was at that moment that I learned two valuable lessons: 1) No bad mood is ever permanent; and 2) I must not be the deepest pool in the backyard. (This has become an inside joke with Anne. If I'm ever down, she'll ask if I want tacos for dinner.)

Yesterday, I went to my clinic and found out that I have strep throat. This is not exactly a life-threatening illness. But after dinner, I quarantined myself upstairs while Anne watched James. Around 8:00, I was lying down, eyes closed, trying to sleep but unable. I pondered my impending career midlife crisis. I thought about all the things we still need to do in the basement. I remembered the recent car accident involving my father and sister that thankfully resulted in no serious injuries. I was generally feeling tired, sick, lost and overwhelmed.

Then I heard the sound of little footsteps climbing the stairs. They stopped, cautiously, several feet from the bed. I considered pretending to be asleep to preserve my solitude, but couldn't.

"Hi, James."
"Hi, Daddy. Which PJs are you rooting for?"

I won't bother to explain what that question means. It doesn't matter. Because I knew. I know. And everything that had been pulling me down at that moment, released. And when that happens, you feel like your body is floating. And nothing can get to you.

Tacos for dinner.


mike said…

Kids and funks. I used to climb up on my bed and look out the bedroom window. That world seemed so small and nothing would ever change.

Good to see your post...it was light a shaft of light on a gloomy ever-cloudy early winter day.
michael f. said…
Nice piece.
In my Catholic grade school days it was Chris Rettig who stole away (from me) the admiration of lovely Patty Larson.
Ah, Patty Larson. Of the lovely knee-high argyles!
I think you've hit on a universal memory among sensitive souls of our generation. Basement. TV. Unrequited attention. Brooding.
For me, however, the depression breaker was always pizza. I used to have a theory that no one could every be unhappy with a pizza in front of them. How could you be unhappy with a pizza in front of you?
m. f. said…
Maupin, you never call, you never write.
You're still depressed?
Marc Conklin said…
True, I think the non-depressive foodstuff of choice for me now is a pepperoni Tombstone pizza.
mike said…
I meant to say, "it was a shaft of light on a gloomy ever-cloudy early winter day." Apologies, but my editor is on vacation in Aruba.

And wonder of wonders, things did change and the world grew large.

Take care of that strep throat!
m.f. said…
Self-medicated yourself out of the funk, eh?
Vodka martini? Gin gimlet?
Anonymous said…
Tacos - short of fish tacos - are serious comfort food. And I'm guessing that "m.f." could use a little medication of the non-self prescribed kind. Maybe a thorazine chaser for that nasty case of bitter?
Aunt Christy said…
So did you pick some PJs and then he put on the other ones? Did Anne tell you that James said "That Sean sure can SLEEP!" when he came over on Friday? He's comedy gold.

Um...if I get strep, I'm killing you.

Happy New Year!
Marc Conklin said…
You know how he's obsessed with keeping score? (Like, we didn't see the end of the Vikings game because we went out to dinner, and when we got home, he insisted--even though I told him the final score--on SEEING the final score. So I had to pull it up on espn.com). Every night, he asks Anne and me which PJs do we think he's going to put on. This started as a game I invented to get him to put on his damn PJs. He closes the door and emerges five minutes later... always with the ones I picked so Anne loses. That has now morphed into, "Which PJs are you rooting for?"

P.S. The Sean sleeping line has now become a catch phrase at home. We'll be in the middle of lunch, and he'll crack up and say, "That Sean sure can sleep!"
mf. said…
Bitter? Where from do you get bitter?

I was just suggesting that alcohol is the adult version of tacos and pizza, and maybe a good stiff drink is what turned "depressed Mike"'s mood around.
Bee slippers said…
Got an iPhone for Christmas. My new fav thing to do? Bye bye shadowlands :)
The comment about James needing to see the Vikings score was priceless (and sooooooo Alek). He cheered for USC tonight because they were up by 17 when we turned it on. What kind of sports fan am I raising?!
Anyway thanks for the smiles after a tiring day. (and since there are no tacos handy perhaps a scotch and some Guitar Hero)
Marc Conklin said…
Welcome, Bee Slippers! For a good Scotch, may I recommend the 12 Year Cragganmore. I got it as a Christmas gift. James, too, only roots for the winning team. He changes his loyalty with every lead change, and seems baffled when I stick with one team. Tell me, which part of the brain does that relate to from a Nativist point of view? : )

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