It was quite a T-day at the old homestead off Mack Street in White Hall (The Observer’s correspondent writes).

“What in the heck happened to the old junior high? All those ramps where I used to do my death-defying stunts on my Honda Spree are gone ...

“It’s weird. The population is hitting 4,000-plus. There’s a Fred’s there now, for Pete’s sake. No longer is the city a nook for the Pine Bluff Arsenal employees. The Dog House restaurant has moved a couple of times. Is the old Big Banjo Pizza really a saloon now? No Tastee Freeze or Irish Maid Donuts on the outskirts. No Jean Joint.

“But still, my lovable, quirky relatives that defy what is considered the American norm.

“My step-nephew of 11 years old was jamming on a CD Walkman. We’re talking JAMMING. Eyes screwed tight and lips scrunched up in concentration on the beats contained within. What music was allowing this pre-teen with Little Lord Fauntleroy curls to bop his head, shuffle his feet and shine with perspiration dribbled onto his forehead? I’m thinking Chesney or 50 Cent or you know ... what the kids these days are listenin’ to ...

“It was The BeeGees Greatest Hits. It was tight. I approve. I should’ve known by the way he was using his walk.

“The crowning moment was my Mom unveiling her brand new John Deere ridin’ mower, complete with a little place to put her Diet Rite with a straw and her radio. She walked outside the patio with her JD hat and T-shirt, proclaiming proudly, ‘I got these free with the mower!’ ”

Two of The Observer’s colleagues recently came up lucky in the great fertility lottery and got pregnant. The announcements of the forthcoming happy events has given us more than a few moments of horror/joy recently.

It’s not that being a new parent is all that bad. It’s just that it’s utterly, utterly terrifying. The Observer remembers vividly the first time we strapped junior into the family sedan after leaving the hospital. Maybe we were jacked up a little too high on maternity ward coffee, but there for one second as the buckles clicked on the car seat we believed — actually believed — that someone would rush out of the hospital and put a stop to the idea of fumble-fingered ol’ us absconding with a tiny, helpless infant.

The Observer had managed to screw up the assembly of the kid’s crib so thoroughly that it was pretty much a deathtrap — and that was before we had to disassemble it yet again to make it fit through the nursery room door. Giving The Observer a baby was like sticking a Ming vase in a Cub Scout’s bicycle basket, blindfolding him, and saying “Have a nice trip to Paducah!” before lending a mighty push.

Slowly, the fear is replaced by something else: the desire to club over the head, quite forcefully, any person who offers advice on child-rearing. The best thing anybody ever told us on the subject is: Nothing works for every kid, or for every parent. Offering child-rearing advice is something akin to a bulldozer mechanic trying to offer tips on the care and feeding of that new Ferrari you just bought. It might be somewhat useful, but it’s never going to be completely right.

That said, let me offer at least these two bits of advice:

1. Tell them you love them. Read to them, even if they don’t understand. Bring along sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. Carry wet wipes. Feel your way through the early years and know that nobody ever gets it right — that there is no right. Stop every once in a while and just marvel at your child. Their lives, to them, are infinite, stretching out to the horizon like a garden where every leaf might hide a silver coin. Every once in awhile, you get to catch a glimpse of your own life through eyes that don’t know anything about death or pain. That makes it all worth it.

2. Onion tea: This is an old remedy come down from the mountains with The Observer’s hillbilly ancestors: Take half a white or yellow onion, dice it and boil it. Strain the liquid off, cool to room temperature, and serve it up in a bottle. Junior sometimes had breath that could have balded the Wolfman, but a couple sips of this stuff stilled his colic like nothing doing.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • The Arkansas Traveler

    The Observer gets letters from folks, either directly or through the grapevine. Recently, somebody forwarded us one written by a former schoolteacher, writing to her granddaughter, who is a new student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Grand Old Flag

    The Observer, like nearly everyone else with access to an internet connection, routinely sees our personal lighthouse battered by Hurricane Outrage, which — on a planet where billions of people struggle to find water and a crumb of daily bread — seems more like a tempest in a teapot inside a series of other, progressively larger teapots the longer we weather it.
    • Sep 1, 2016

Most Shared

  • Industrial hemp pilot program coming soon to Arkansas

    One of the booths at this week's Ark-La-Tex Medical Cannabis Expo was hosted by the Arkansas Hemp Association, a trade group founded to promote and expand non-intoxicating industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in the state. AHA Vice President Jeremy Fisher said the first licenses to grow experimental plots of hemp in the state should be issued by the Arkansas State Plant Board next spring.

Latest in The Observer

  • 18

    The day this issue hits the streets this week is Junior's 18th birthday, if you can believe it. The Observer surely can't. All the long years we've known that baby and boy and now man have slipped past in less time, it seemed, than it takes to wipe a tear from the cheek.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • Lucky to be dumb

    When The Observer and a few friends picked up the Ford Escape with a tent on top after landing in Iceland, the renter called our plan "bold."
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • Year one

    The Observer is a bit late with this, but we felt we needed to say something about passing a year in Trump's America.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation