Sunday, January 15, 2006
The Weturn of Wunca Wob
This particular focus group was the 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son of my oldest sister Kathy. Their names are Morgan and Michael Sizemore, and I will always look back fondly as to how Morgan has addressed me up till now: as Wunca Wob.
“Wunca Wob!” she would say as she invited me to kneel on the floor and play Roll the Big Red Plastic Ball Across the Floor, either for sport or perhaps just exhibition, I’m not sure. About 15 second later, when that became less interesting, she would call out, “Wunca Wob, c’mea!”* and invite me to come play with toy cars, or maybe her dolls.
She would say “Wunca Wob!” when the family had a present to give me and she was entrusted with the honor of presenting it. She would call “Wunca Wob?” in a tone of confusion bordering on betrayal when I had the gall to nap on Saturday afternoons recovering from a week’s work, rather than fulfill my constantly-paying-attention-to-Morgan duties. Sometimes, she would call it out for no apparent reason.
“Wunca Wob!” she would say.
At this juncture, since she had said these two words no less than three dozen times since I had arrived at their home in Alabama or she to our home in Tennessee, I would reply “Yes, Morgan?” in voice betraying slight exasperation.
“You scawy,” she would reply.
I single Morgan out because her little brother Michael only recently began talking, and the few times he has addressed me it sounded more like a single word, perhaps a solitary syllable: “Uncrob” or something similar. My middle sister Betsey has three daughters, but lives in Miami, so I have seen little of them and they almost, or literally none of me.
But in the eyes of Morgan and Michael my standing has been colossal, built up by our occasional visits to Birmingham or theirs to Paris. The last time I saw them was this past Fourth of July, when Kathy brought the younglings and we drove to Murray to watch the fireworks, not realizing we had placed our lawn chairs beside a dead cat until it was far, far too late.
“What wong with the kitty?” Morgan asked, more than once.
“The kitty died, Morgan,” I would say. “Stay away from the kitty.”
“Why?” she would ask.
“Because touching dead animals can make you sick,” I would say.
“Why?” she would continue to probe, exposing the shameful shortcomings of my original explanation.
So, I would filibuster. “Because…hey, who wants a horsey ride?!” And I, a 200-pound 25-year-old seeking a master’s degree in English writing/rhetoric, would transform before the eyes of onlookers into a kind of four-legged creature genetically designed to please children while wearing a polo shirt. Naturally, Michael would also want on, and I would indulge the both of them for as long as two-and-a-half minutes. This is the maximum length of time I could sustain them both before one of them would fall off, begin to cry and all attention duties would instantly transition back to Kathy.
Now that I’m in Korea, I miss this. I really miss this because I don’t know what I’ll be coming back to, even if I choose not to renew my one-year teaching contract, which expires in September. Morgan and Michael are the progeny of a doctor and a highly attentive mother, and children are expected to know so much so quickly now days. Whose to say what they’re learning while I’m gone and how much they’ll grow. They might even, I shudder to think, learn how to pronounce the “r” sound.
My return may start pleasantly enough when I go to visit them in their new home in Chattanooga, and greet them by getting down on my knees, smiling extra big and saying, “Hey guys, remember me, Uncle Rob?” only to have Morgan reply: “Indeed, your avuncular contributions are not forgotten.”
“However, I must say this current conduct is most ungentlemanly.”
I mean, look at how much progress she’s already made. Four years ago, Morgan was just a protrusion in my sister’s belly, while three years ago she was a hairless, weightless creature who would stare off into space while I held her and muttered, “Fine, don’t look me when I talk to you, you’re just like every other female!”
Considering where she came from, I think “You scawy” is real progress. By the time I return, I may not be “Wunca Wob” any more; I’ll just be Person No. 3,000,000,079 to shake my head and mutter, “They grow up so fast.”
*“Uncle Rob, come here” is how I always translated this phrase, but you need not be limited to my interpretation.
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