Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Climie Fisher “Love Changes (Everything)”
 Roachford “Family Man”
 Dana Dawson “3 Is Family”
 Village People “Milkshake”
 Wax “Bridge To Your Heart”
 Levi Stubbs “Feed Me (Git It)”
 Sly & The Family Stone “Family Affair”
 Alice Cooper “Teenage Frankenstein”
Okay so here’s the deal. The old ball and chain has popped out for one of her “after dinner walks” and, by my calculations, I’d say that gives us around twenty minutes to catch up on current events in the Frankenself household so let’s get down to beeswax shall we? First things first, while I may refer to my lovely bride as “the old ball and chain” or “her indoors” on occasion, I’d like to remind you that we’re very much in love and have been since pretty much the moment we first met. Indeed, it is frequently remarked that we make the perfect couple and it’s hard to argue that we weren’t, in fact, made for one another.
Thirteen months we’ve been together now and, while it hasn’t always been plain sailing, what relationship doesn’t have to endure choppy waters from time to time. She can be a real bitch when she wants to be and, fair’s fair, I guess I can be a bit of a bastard too when I’ve not had my eight hours. But somehow we make it work and there have been far too many uppers to overly concern myself with a vague smattering of accompanying downers.
At any rate, I’ve got no real cause for complaint as, by all accounts, Mrs. Frankenself is pretty much the perfect wife. She doesn’t raise objection when I sneak downstairs in the middle of the night for some “me time” even though she knows full well that it entails surfing for porn and tossing my junk like Oscar The Grouch at the Trash Can Olympics. In return, I endure her constant griping about my daily carbohydrate intake and cut her additional slack around the fourth week of the calendar month as I’m aware that menstrual cramps are no picnic and try my best to play the supportive husband role wherever applicable.
If one thing niggles me, then it would be her tendency to pass wind whilst sleeping and I find it curious that this didn’t arise until after we’d traded nuptials. However, my annoying habit is to leave my jagged toenail clippings scattered around like prizes, so it’s nothing a little give and take doesn’t see good. Besides, the make-up sex is extraordinary and I’ve never known a woman contort into the kinds of positions she does.
Which brings me to my reason for this little surreptitious conference. You see, coitus has been placed somewhat on the back-burner of late and it is shamefully over a month since we last got our jig on. It’s not that the attraction isn’t there, on the contrary, my neck bolts slacken every time she bends over to pick up the morning mail and I’ve got half a mind plus one and three-quarter testicles to make a thorough example of her right there on the front porch, in full view of the O’Gradys from number 46 no less. But there’s another reason why the passion has taken a sudden knock and it’s outside of either of our control and it happens to concern our collective remit.
Please allow me to pitch a quick poser. Have you ever heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet? Has Mr. Stork ever taken an unforeseen diversion into your neck of the woods just to drop off that “bundle of joy” we hear so much about? Has it ever taken sixteen stitches to repair your decimated vagina or, by the same token, have you ever watched your significant other sewn up like an American quilt before you and come over a tad queasy? You have? Then welcome to parenthood and keep your voice down as the little one only went down fifteen minutes ago and I’m up next on night patrol.
That’s right, we only went and did it. I fired off a few billion speculative young hopefuls, fully expecting every last one of them to burn up long before impact but one of the little rascals had legs with his tail and ran like Gump along the canal of destruction dodging falling meteors the whole way until it stumbled headlong into her ovarian firewall and promptly leapfrogged over.
Badda-Bing Badda-Bang, eye of newt and tail of frog, Mr. & Mrs. Frankenself I am thrilled to tell you that you’re going to be parents. Needless to say, my feeble “yay” went down like half a ton of stickle bricks, but I soon came round when the nurse presented us our very first scan photo. The miracle of having fashioned bona fide life from twelve minutes of labored copulation is something that compares to no other buzz in existence and, all in all, we were overjoyed at the wondrous news.
That said, it wasn’t all happy happy joy joy and surprise baby showers. Given that neither of us had seen this bulletin coming, there were a number of crucial decisions to be made and we weren’t sure where to begin when preparing ourselves for this life changing event. For starters, the nursery needed a fresh lick of emulsion and, since the sex of our baby had come back inconclusive, it wasn’t clear whether we should opt for pink or blue when decorating. Thus we decided on the neutral color green and left the rest up to chance.
Then there were the violent bouts of morning sickness, not to mention swollen ankles to contend with (think Dwayne Johnson’s neck measurements and you won’t be too far off) and Mrs. F took it all like the trooper she is it has to be said. However, for as much as we primed ourselves, neither one of us really knew what would be entailed and we booked ourselves in for a course of antenatal classes just to make sure we had the heads up on how this was destined to alter the dynamics of our relationship. Needless to say, one of us took these very seriously indeed, while I simply used it as an excuse to ogle all the other pregnant moms while they performed their stretches. But I did do my bit.
I think our greatest concern involved how our baby would turn out once the term was up as it seemed to be one big grey area to us. You see, both me and the wife were constructed from spare parts and were fortunate enough to have some say in our assembly, whereas the fruit of our loins was destined to reach us by way of natural conception. The decision is then taken out of your hands as it all boils down to leaving things to fate and praying that our little bundle of joy inherited both our looks and wasn’t a big fat disappointment.
Naturally every parent likes to think that their offspring is beautiful but this view isn’t necessarily shared by the wider community. We see what we wish to see and, heaven forbid, should the term fugly be applicable, then we’ll swear blind that it’s all down to inferior lighting or simply sour grapes. However things eventually turned out, one thing was for sure, we would love our child unconditionally and give it the very best start in life possible. Moreover, this would ultimately bring us even closer, or so we suspected at the time, somewhat foolishly I might add.
Forty weeks may seem like a long-assed haul, but the time shot past like Mo Farah on a downhill fun run and, before either one of us could announce ourselves ready, the day of reckoning arrived and it was all hands very much on deck. I say that where, if I’m being perfectly honest, the missus took care of the lion’s share of manual labor herself. But I was there to offer support wherever necessary, time those contractions, supply words of encouragement such as “for chrissakes, push woman”, and pass out cold the very second crowning commenced. Alas, this meant that I missed the joyous moment when the umbilical cord was severed, but I’m assured the midwife’s reaction went a little something like this – “Mr. & Mrs. Frankenself, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you’ve had a beautiful baby… erm… you’ve had a beautiful baby”.
It’s not exactly how I would have chosen to mark this momentous occasion and, had I not been flat on my back utterly bogarting the gas and air, then “It’s alive!” would have been far too tantalizing not to throw out there. But the most important thing was that mommy and daddy’s brave little trooper had been delivered without hitch. Life as we knew it was about to change forever and our responsibilities now laid with the half pint-sized sprog being rushed to the nearest incubator because his tiny lungs were struggling to cope with life on the outside.
While understandably jubilant, it wasn’t long before we received the first of many reality checks. For all the antenatal classes undertaken and parenting idiot’s guides perused, we had not the faintest idea what to do with our decidedly vocal fresh arrival once the hospital washed their hands of us. Little can prepare you for the very first diaper change and my primary action was to call a mechanic as it appeared as though Frankie Jr. had sprung an oil leak and of the most crude variety imaginable. Then there was the small matter of sussing out a workable shift pattern as it turns out that newborns are particularly light sleepers. The cramps I suffered through holding in flatulence for fear of waking the baby were excruciating and there was no epidural on hand to take the edge off my suffering. Thus I did so in uncomfortable silence.
Needless to say, both of us looked like death warmed up long before we could settle into any kind of rhythm, and tempers couldn’t help but fray as baptism doesn’t come much more fiery than the opening act of parenthood. Date night was taken straight off the table, as was bi-weekly coitus, and all our eggs were placed solely in the little one’s Moses basket. With our priorities all out of whack, our best bet was to muddle through the best we could, and crack this stubborn nut on the go. This was all mere gravy in theory but the thing about stumbling blocks is that they tend to show up when they see fit and care not whether your balance is off-kilter.
I’ve got blood curdling two words for you, one if you give the hyphen it’s props: breast-feeding. This was always likely to prove a bone of contention as she was still bitter over my outrageous selection when my surrogate father, Victor, was building me from the ground up. Her unselfish choice of Goldie Hawn’s dainty little dumplings were no match for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s towering terrordomes and the missus was determined to make me pay a princely sum for placing her in the shade with my own bodacious chest badgers. Bottom line, she flat refused to express a solitary quart of creamy lactose and it was left instead to yours truly to come up with any ambrosial goodness.
Have you ever suffered from sore nipples? Was it a nice little picnic down by the lake? Of course it wasn’t, it was hell on earth and you bloody well know it. Part of me was desperate for Frankie Jr. to show an indifference to my particular brand of dairy but, regrettably, he latched on like Daniel Baldwin at a family fundraiser and damn near sucked me bone dry. Another quick poser while we’re talking double jeopardy – Do you happen to remember an eighties movie called Lifeforce? Here, please allow me to jog your memory and wipe a tear from my eye as I do.
I believe the correct word is ouchie and don’t even get me started on the ungovernable leakage every time feeding time loomed as these once perky pillows duly transformed into unsightly udders before my disbelieving eyes. What next? A mouthful of cud? Being relegated to the back garden on grazing duties? Renaming myself Clarence in a desperate attempt to hang out with Mickey, Donald and the cool crowd? And do you want to know what thanks I received for taking this one on that frightfully strong chin of mine? Zilch to the power of nada, although the maternity bra was admittedly rather novel.
My point being that it was only natural that this would place a certain level of strain on our relationship and we just had to suck it up, as sore a point as it was at this juncture. Given that breast-feeding duties fell under my jurisdiction, bonding was never a real issue, but the same could not be said for the missus as she struggled to come to terms with our lives being turned on their heads. Post-natal depression then reared its ugly head and her baby blues were mine too as I bore the very brunt of her bubbling vitriol. Meanwhile, poor Frankie Jr. was blissfully unaware that mommie dearest secretly fantasized about shoving his pointy little head down the garbage disposal chute the very moment my back was turned.
Six weeks or so this went on and I had no idea how to make things right between us as I was every bit as dog-tired and sussing shit out as we were going along just like she was. Mercifully, this period passed eventually and we began to settle into the closest we had found to anything like routine. Moreover, we started to learn where Frankie Jr’s looks came from and it seemed like a rather upstanding fifty-fifty split from where we were positioned. In case you haven’t read any of my previous journals, here’s a brief rundown of the sum of our baby’s parts from bow to stern presented by way of ingredient list for anyone looking to rustle up a suchlike dish.
Considering my bride had played Bonnie Tyler’s Greatest Hits to her baby bump throughout the nine-month term, it felt only right that her heart be the first item on the agenda. However, while Lisa Kudrow is unquestionably a smart cookie, she’s no Stephen Hawking thus daddy supplied any grey matter. It was way too early to enforce the mustache of Tom Atkins on one of such tender weeks, but the top crop of Ellen DeGeneres was certainly showing signs of coming through so it was strike two for mommy right there.
Eyes were the next prize and, once again, mother knew best as she’d have found it most suspicious if Zooey Deschanel’s glittering emerald peepers had been selected over her own lackluster orbs. Meanwhile, there were definitely shades of Yentyl with regards to the snout so Streisand picked up another win for Team Bride. However, I wasn’t about to lose by a landslide and it was fruitless for her to quibble against Ben Stiller’s ears proving beneficial in the long run and, alongside the chin of Sir Bruce of Campbell (another of daddy’s attributes), it was my parts that really tied the face together.
Of course, we still had to determine the sex of our infant and this threw up some rather unexpected intelligence as Frankie Jr. clearly batted for both Team Pink and Team Blue if you know what I’m saying. That is to say that he/she possessed both sets of genitalia and it would be a number of years before we could fathom out where the resemblance came from. Flip to reverse and there was unquestionably potential for a badonkadonk but we tried not to pay the tail end a great deal of mind as it invariably excised something godawful each time we did.
It’s no small feat working out whose legs have been replicated as babies are known for their chubby little shanks and ours was no exception. That said, they did boast a certain metallic sheen just like mommy’s which suggested that she was all set to romp home to triumph. I consoled myself in the knowledge that Frankie Jr.’s toes bore an uncanny resemblance to Bridget Fonda’s perfect pinkies and wore open toe sandals for a month to celebrate this closing victory. It didn’t take an abacus to figure out that results were inconclusive where genetics were concerned but the last thing I needed to be doing was making waves, after all, it was mommy’s womb that got trashed. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team or else a quiet life is little more than sky crust.
At any rate, there’s no point crying over spilled milk (and that’s still just as sore a point in case you were wondering). The most important thing was looking forward to the three-way future we would share, the life-affirming front crawl, proud primary baby steps, and those all-important first few syllables. All the unpleasantness of vaginal reconstructive surgery, sleepless days and nights, and throbbing mammalia pumps was now firmly in our slipstream and, for the first time, it started to feel like we were becoming a genuine family unit.
While Frankie Jr. comprised mostly his parents’ nuts and bolts, he/she certainly had a personality all of his/her own and this soon started to shine through once he/she began to find his/her feet. Sheesh. Anyways, it was encouraging to us that Frankie Jr.’s appetite was so insatiable and our little one proved a real chip off the old block by stating a preference for the rump of sewer rats (liquefied of course). Blighted rodents really aren’t that hard to come by in suburbia should you skip garbage day three weeks on the bounce and we even threw in some blended vagrant calves after the cold winter nights drew in and claimed another nomadic victim in the very next block.
When the first words arrived, it seemed most fitting that they be “feed me” but it was mildly disconcerting given that the vermin appeared to have caught wind of our treachery and were now scuttling away in their less and merry droves. Ordinarily cold-blooded murder isn’t something that either one of us would contemplate, but there comes a time when you must accept your responsibility as provider and cough up the chopped liver. Besides, homeless people smell funny and hobo stew is still a hearty broth at the end of the day. Granted, it’s no cowboy chili but I’m assured that would have led to stinky deposits so a handful of utterly expendable and relatively untraceable street urchins were okay in our book.
The problem was that Frankie Jr. was fast eating us out of neighborhood bums and would no longer accept anything but these choice cuts we were struggling to lay our hands on. Worse still, his/her temper was atrocious and this would only escalate further once the terrible twos approached so affirmative action needed to be taken and fast. After painstaking deliberation, we decided the only course of action was to book a two-week getaway, our first as a family and there seemed no more poetic a destination than that of his conception, the dazzling glitter gulch itself. Considering mommy and daddy had been growing increasingly distant of late, I figured it might provide us the ideal opportunity to rekindle our romance and my suggestion seemed like a hit all round so we packed our bags and headed off to Sin City the very next day.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out as we’d plan as Frankie Jr. was getting horribly out of control and would have digested a perfectly congenial air hostess had it not been for a dash of quick thinking on mother’s part. Leaping out of her seat and crying “there’s a bomb on the plane” may not have been her most shrewd decision and concluded with her being restrained by the on-board flight marshal and muzzled for the remainder of the journey, but our little girl/boy found it all highly amusing and giggled until it upgraded to hiccups, by which time we could bust out the finger puppets and prise those milk teeth away from the stewardess’ succulent hiney. Thank the heavens for children and their woefully short attention spans.
The bright lights of Las Vegas proved a resounding success and, against all conceivable odds, the three of us started to grow closer. We returned from our vacation rejuvenated and, in all my life, it was the closest I had ever come to feeling genuine contentment. I mean, that’s what it’s all ultimately about right? Falling in love and starting a family. No matter what the future held in store, I had succeeded in my quest to ascertain the true meaning of life and could therefore take pretty much anything that it decided to dish out with a considerable sense of personal pride. My newfound swagger worked wonders in the bedroom and suddenly my significant other began to find “The Frankster” irresistible once again. Better yet, Frankie Jr. was now of a suitable age to be left unsupervised through the night and we made the most of this opportunity while the going was good.
Things continued in the same encouraging vein until Frankie Jr.’s fifth birthday and we opted to throw an elaborate party to mark the occasion. This was to offer a stern test of how well he/she could integrate with other children of a similar age and all appeared to be going swimmingly until the entertainment showed up. We naturally presume that every kid loves a clown and the great Klutzy was certainly a hit with the majority of pint-sized revelers. However, the birthday boy/girl was far less than amused and relayed back its annoyance by chomping off poor Klutzy’s bright red hooter and all surrounding tissue when he leaned in with a “coochy coo”.
Naturally any parent only wishes to do their level best for their offspring and this latest outburst offered all the incentive we needed to enlist some outside help and patch up the sinking ship. The thought of enrolling a five-year-old in anger management sessions seemed ludicrous to us, but there was home help available in the shape of a well-respected local child psychologist named Tangina Mumford. After all, how are you ever going to know if you don’t at least try am I right? The theory appeared sound but, in practice, it was just another disaster waiting to happen the moment Ms. Mumford requested some “alone time” with her subject.
For as much as this latest episode left us both absolutely reeling, credit where it’s due, as Frankie Jr. managed to whittle our visitor down to her marrow in the time it would take a school of piranha to peel a banana. That said, we knew only too well that there would be repercussions as the agency would no doubt question her failure to show up for work the next day and all signs pointed to the Frankenself household as the final house call she had booked in that day. True to form, the authorities soon came sniffing about for clues, and it took our very best Vegas-themed poker faces to convince them there was nothing untoward going on. Once we’d been suitably grilled and they left us to our own devices once more, daddy took the executive decision of calling the dreaded family meeting to further discuss our options.
It seemed harsh to penalize our pride and joy when he/she could hardly have been expected to know better so the hard line approach wasn’t deemed necessary. However, the cold hard fact remained that we had to take the necessary precautions to ensure that our happy family wasn’t torn asunder. Relegating Frankie Jr. to the basement indefinitely may have felt a tad authoritarian but any responsible guardian is required to inform their child that some things are “for your own good” at some point, and the vote was 2 to 1 so it was off to the wine cellar for our rampant rug rat pending further notice.
The thing about kids is that they will rule the roost if you don’t put your foot down once in a while and remind them who’s the mommy and daddy in this three-string dynamic. Give them a solitary inch and next time they’ll demand a yard so, while our decree was undoubtedly harsh, it would ultimately benefit Frankie Jr. in the long run. For the record, that was eight years ago to this day, and I’m actually preparing to head down to the lower levels at this very moment for the obligatory birds and bees talk. I’m pleased to report that he/she appears to have calmed down considerably during this extended stint in the sin bin and, if things continue at their current rate of knots, then we’re seriously considering enrolling the apple of our eyes into the local academy. I’m sure they’ll soon whip him/her into shape.
So there you have it and, while the Frankenselfs may not appear your typical all-American family, the same applies here as does with anyone else struggling to raise an infant to the very best of their ability. We all make mistakes, social workers go missing all the time, and we’re only as functional a unit as any decisions taken allow. One thing is for certain – our love remains unconditional and the solvent that binds us is stronger now than ever so I’d argue until red in the face with anyone ho suggested marriage and parenthood to be a life sentence.
There may have been more troughs than peaks en route, but three cheers for a good old-fashioned happy ending. Now I really must check in the basement as our local handyman has been down there a mighty long time and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take three hours to service a boiler. And her indoors wonders why I break into a cold sweat every time she gets broody. A parent’s job is never done I’m telling you.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill