Dark and stormy

before the geyser


A couple of weeks ago Emerson had two baby teeth pulled to make room in her mouth. Later that night we were expecting Liam’s twin, Seth, and his boyfriend, Matt, from LA. The next day their older brother, Hil, and Tara, and the kids were flying in from Brooklyn.

Emerson was brave and calm at the dentist. Keeping her sights set on the weekend fun ahead. The teeth came right out. She made the drive home with gauze in her mouth, and the bleeding was minimal. She had a bowl of lime Jello. So far, so good. A few hours later, just as Seth and Matt arrived, her mouth started bleeding a little so we put more gauze in and headed for a Vietnamese place for dinner.

But once we got to the restaurant, her mouth started bleeding A LOT worse. She had her hand over her mouth. When she pulled it away it was covered in blood. I changed the gauze but it quickly turned bright red again. I took her home while the guys ate. On the way there she said, “Am I going to be ok?” “Of course,” I said (though the amount of blood was beginning to freak me out). I told her to lay on the couch with her head back and bite down on more gauze. We got one side to stop bleeding, but the other side JUST. WOULDN’T. QUIT. This went on for two hours. Bloody gauze pack after bloody gauze pack. We had her bite down on a damp black tea bag. Liam called the dentist. Apply pressure with the gauze for 15 minutes non-stop she instructed. So we did, and thought we’d finally gotten it to stop. But Emerson got up to go to the bathroom and it started bleeding again.

It was getting late now, and my sweet smart daughter said through her bloody mouth, “This isn’t normal” and I had to agree with her. This was a Iot of blood for one little tooth hole. After calling the dentist again, it was decided we would meet back at her office. It was 10:45. She was in sweats and a t-shirt, and really nice to my kid, as she put some coagulate putty in her mouth. Then waited to assess the bloody baby-tooth hole. Making small talk she said this was the first time in 25 years she’d had to do this. What?! “You’re kidding me,” I said. She wasn’t. What a distinction. I guess she won’t forget us. But, believe me, I was glad we went.

Luckily, kids bounce back because it was a Sherman Bonanza weekend, and by the next afternoon Emerson was splashing in the pool. We had a good time: all three brothers together, late summer cousin time. We were at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in the pool and in a cabana, all of us taking turns going down a waterslide over and over. Mela and Emerson, born one week apart, got along like two peas in a pod. My sister-in-law Tara and I went thrift store shopping and scored some good dresses and reconnected. My nephew Marcello was bright, and feisty, and wearing seersucker pants with a gunslinger belt buckle.

Even though we hadn’t travelled anywhere this summer, it felt like a vacation for us. A much needed break in the usual action. We drank “Dark and Stormys” poolside to celebrate the good and well conclusion to last night’s bloody mouth fest. Resolved and toughened up. The tooth socket holding firm. Family bonds holding firm. Blood thicker than water, or rum, or something like that. The mood wasn’t dark and stormy at all. In fact, the bloody tooth, though not exactly life threatening got my attention. It was a reminder how happy I am to have these days together in the sun.

The Uh-uhs

For our time in Philly, we are staying in a place we have dubbed “the Circle House”.  It was found and rented by Liam’s twin brother, Seth, and is right off of Rittenhouse Square. It is modernist and geometric and an awesome place to spend a week. It has giant round windows, and a spiral staircase, and a minimal feel but within the structure of a traditional Philadelphia townhome.

Seth is with us, and we’ve spent time with Liam and Seth’s parents, and their older brother Hil, my sister-in-law Tara and my niece and nephew who drove down from Brooklyn.

Like a dogged anthropologist I have worked to try to understand the dynamics and complicated inner-workings of this tribe, yet still sometimes struggle with it after many years among them.

When Liam and Seth were little — pre-verbal really — they had a whole society they began creating out of their wooden toys. These people were called, “The Uh-uhs”.  The name came from hearing, “Uh-uh-uh, don’t touch that.”

The Uh-uhs, were little round connector pieces from tinker toys, Lincoln Log parts, square blocks, and a collection of various furniture knobs brought home from a factory by their father, Stephen. They had set personalities that both Seth and Liam had a clear understanding of.  It was a whole imaginary universe complete with many sub-sets.

For instance there was “Grammy” (which could be singular or the plural, “Grammies”).  A “Grammy” was not a grandmother. Grammy was a flat, large and wagon wheel shaped wood piece based loosely on their brother Hil.  There were also “Pocodots” which represented Seth and Liam.  Pocodots were mischievous and clever. There were “Twerps”; they were even tinier. Twerps were twins.  They probably came from a wooden game set. Two big round blocks represented the parents – Dwissy, the dad, and Delosi, the mom.  Delosi was really the boss and nice, but she also handed out the punishments. Dwissy bumbled around quizzically. The Twerps and/or the Pocodots were always gaming the system pranking Grammy.  You still with me?

The Uh-uhs were rooted in the twins childhood play and are still widely referenced to explain things in adulthood. For instance the Circle House where we are staying on vacation is clearly the work of Pocodots.

This twin-developed play evolved over time and included certain truths such as:  the larger the furniture knob, the stronger the Uh-uh (but also the more dim-witted). One unique furniture knob looked like a blue turban so they put him on top of one of the Pocodots and he became “Ingenious Pocodot”. The smallest, squeaky-voiced, Uh-uh was a little yellow knob that came off of Seth’s dresser and she was called “Little Tiny Ancestor” – the wisest one and also the leader.

There were Bunchys (sweet and placid Uh-uhs, and also a term of endearment), and Wee-wee Uh-uh’s (extremely timid in nature).

Deciphering the Uh-uhs is not unlike deciphering the Sherman clan. Except that the Uh-uhs are a simplification of personality traits and in many ways each member of the Sherman family is capable of magnification of behavior and qualities.  During our trip to Philadelphia among the extended family, there were moments of feeling like both a Wee-wee Uh-uh and an Ingenious Pocodot.  This is an incredibly contradictory, hard crowd of people to get all together in one place. To get them to all be civil to one another is trickier still.  There were moments of emotional side-stepping, and a couple of moments of acquiescence in the face of inflexibility (No, no, no let us rent a car) and I don’t want to name names but someone threw a hissy fit about finding a tick on their person which, upon close inspection, turned out to be a pimple.  And, Seth swears at one point I let out a snappy little, “Uh” (almost like a zap) to signal to Liam he was about to go too far at the dinner table. All in all, though, I think we would agree it was a terrific success. Most importantly, our own Little Tiny Ancestor got to spend time with her grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins and be among this side of her family. Plus the soft pretzels really can’t be beat.