I realized over this winter break that all of our parents are crazy. And, in turn, that they have made us all crazy in some way or another. I mean, how else do you explain a university that has the world’s largest gymnasium, third-largest library, and Toad’s all within a block of each other?
I’ve spent some time lately considering some of the formative experiences of my youth, and they all point to one thing: My parents are nuts, and they really, really liked screwing with my brother and me.
I don’t know if they realized that every tiny thing they did to me had an effect on the young adult that I am today. Everything from my slouch to my sense of humor is derived from the two of them, and I don’t know whether to hate them or love them for it. All I do know is that when I have kids, they’re gonna have a really hilarious childhood.
Watch out Greenwich — the Rovzar kids are coming, and they’re going to be armed with gin and passive aggression.
Take the year that my parents dressed my brother and I up as Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy for Halloween.
I was Ann.
They dressed me up in some overalls with bright freckles and a Day-Glo red wig with Jheri curls. I bet this was a riot for them. “Look!” they must have yelled to their friends, “Doesn’t little Chrissy look so good in drag?” Then everyone laughed and had some cocaine and Grape Nuts, or whatever parents did in the ’80s.
Or how about when I tried out for baseball? I only hit the ball once in AAA, and when it happened I was so stunned that I watched it roll away and didn’t even run for a base. My father had carefully trained me, throughout my childhood, to be a right fielder, and that was the height of my athletic goals. He wouldn’t let me quit baseball. “Someday, Chris, you’re going to be the next Jose Canseco.” Apparently, he was convinced I was destined to become Cuban, abuse steroids, and be a designated hitter. Of course, only two of those came true.
And anyway, who trains to be a right fielder? It’s the most talentless position in the most unathletic of sports. Once, a ball bounced off of Jose Canseco’s head and over the back wall of the field, turning an easy out into a home run. This was clearly my destiny.
Why don’t you just write “ASPIRING HOMO” on the back of my uniform?
I only ended up picking dandelions and spinning around in the field for three years. The rest of the team had to coordinate plays so that the balls never came near me.
How things have changed.
My parents were also all about disillusionment. No naivete for the Rovzar boys. I remember every Easter we had an Easter egg hunt in the yard, but since everybody in our town was Christian, the holiday became highly competitive. Parents would fashion rabbit-shaped shoes and leave Easter Bunny tracks in the yard, or leave notes and Tiffany bracelets for their children on Easter morning. I remember Jeremy Cluchey actually saw the Easter Bunny with his own two eyes, stumbling around on a Sunday morning in his yard with a basket full of eggs and a Bloody Mary.
But my parents would have none of that. Spoiling us in that way would clearly ruin us. My brother and I complained and whined that we never saw the bunny, year after year, until finally, they took action. I remember this as if it were yesterday —
I woke up on Easter morning when I was six years old to find my parents standing over my bed, with huge smiles on their faces.
“Christopher, someone was here last night and they left something for you! Go wake up your brother.”
So I ran to my brother’s room and got him, and we both ran to our living room, chanting “Easter Bunny! Easter Bunny!”
Then we froze.
The scene in front of us was ghastly.
The front door had clearly been violently slammed shut, and caught in it was the severed portion of a human leg, from the knee down.
It was wearing khaki pants and a sneaker and a sock.
“Somebody tried to rob the house last night but we slammed the door on him and chopped off his leg!” my parents screamed.
My brother claims that this is when I pooped my pants. I maintain that was a different story.
Needless to say, we were horrified. We let out tiny screams. The terror lasted for only a few seconds, before our parents burst out laughing. It turned out that, after all of our entreaties about the Easter Bunny, they had gone to a novelty store and bought a fake human leg to scare the crap out of us. We never complained about a holiday again.
As much as I want to resent my parents for messing with my head when I was young, I actually really appreciate it. Some parents made their children play violin seven hours a day. Others sent their kids to gifted and talented programs after school. My parents never said anything when we stole their alcohol — they just stole it back.
Hey, we’re all at Yale right?
So I’ve decided that I’m destined to be crazy like my parents, and I’m going to mess with my kids. It will make them tough, and it will make them funny — two of the best qualities a kid can have. And everybody knows that funny kids are smart. I mean, Condoleeza Rice? A laugh riot as a child. And Stephen Hawking? Don’t even get me started. n