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Stupid Uncle Tricks
My first major experience as an uncle was when my older brother let me take his three-year-old daughter, Eva, to the Bronx Zoo. Not having been to the zoo in years, I got off at the wrong stop and found myself carrying the little girl on my shoulders as we wandered around the Bronx. “Are we lost, Uncle Tommy?” she asked. “Yes,” I admitted. “Why?” she asked, as little girls do. “Because your Uncle Tommy was stupid,” I replied. That gave her a big laugh, and she delighted in telling others – non-maliciously but matter-of-factly, even proudly – that her uncle “got us lost because he was stupid.”
I had encounters with my other nieces as years went by: I surprised Xanthe and Helena one year with a DVD of TV’s old Adventures of Superman, which their father, Peter said they’d never enjoy. He admitted his error, however, when the two of them couldn’t get enough of the Man of Steel (Xanthe pumped me with unanswerable questions like, “Why doesn’t anyone recognize that Clark Kent is Superman?” I was tempted to say, “Because they’re stupid,” but refrained).
My niece, Zoe, took pleasure in my reading her Curious George. In doing that, I relieved my boredom with the tedious tale of that dopey monkey by giving the Man With the Yellow Hat a supercilious English accent and adding the phrase, “my little furry friend” to the end of his many speeches to Curious George. For me, though, the big unanswered question was why Curious George, so inquisitive about so many things, never wondered why the Man With the Yellow Hat had no name.
August 2, 2010