We stood looking at the dinosaur for quite awhile. As parents of children ages 7 and 3, we are more than a little familiar with dinosaurs. In fact, our home has become somewhat of a haven for dinosaurs, an impressive assortment of velociraptors, pterodactyls, T Rex’s — we got ‘em all, even a battle-scarred triceratops that my son sometimes sneaks into bed at night. If the dinosaurs are all freed from toy basket confinement at once, his living quarters more nearly resembles Jurassic Park than a bedroom.
Still, the creature before us now is something else entirely. Standing two and half feet tall, “Spike” is able not only to walk — stampede is a better word, I suppose — he is also able to rise on two legs, throw back his massive head, and bellow full-throated roars skyward, shaking his head with rage, as if he knows his kind will soon be extinct and available only as action figures in a box store near you.
I picture him in my son’s bedroom, the other dinosaurs cowering beneath the bed, or trying to blend in with the stuffed animals. I know that my wife is about to speak, and I know what she is going to say, so when she says it, I’m ready.
“There’s just no way. We don’t have room for that. That dinosaur would have to have his OWN room. You cannot be serious.”
“Well, I’m not getting it for him. Santa Claus is. He said he wanted a big green dinosaur, and this is a big green dinosaur. Just look at him. There is no way we can leave him here.”
And I have the trump card, which she knows I am going to play, so I go ahead and play it.
“And you KNOW he is going to just love Spike. Can you imagine his face on Christmas morning?”
She can, and that is the end of that. Within minutes, we are stuffing Spike into the back of the van. I couldn’t shake the vague notion that my wife thought I might actually want Spike more than my son would, that he would be just fine with a big green dinosaur half Spike’s size, which would, in fact, still qualify as big, especially compared to his fellows back in Jack’s bedroom.
No way, I told myself. It’s about the kids. I’m an adult now, and have put childish things away. Then, the night after Christmas, we went over to my brother’s house for dinner. He has three boys in the same age range as our kids, and among other gifts, they had received a Nintendo Wii game. We spent probably an hour or two bowling, boxing, playing tennis and baseball, even golf. The kids kept wanting to horn in, but we told them they would get a turn soon.
“Now this is what you’ve really got to see,” my brother said, pulling out a game called “Rock Band.” This game includes a guitar, a drum kit, and a microphone, and the idea is that you and your friends play along to great rock and roll songs, and the more accurately you play along, the higher your score. If you fail to keep up adequately, you get “booted” out of the band.
Within seconds, I had the guitar strapped on, while my brother, who briefly fronted a band called Eastern Thunder back when mullets were considered hip and we were both capable of growing them, took the microphone. Our brother-in-law, a truck driver who was once a mechanic in the military, manned the drums. Quite possibly the most unlikely band ever assembled, we nonetheless stumbled through the tutorial before I announced us “ready for a gig,” and my brother promptly cued up “Roxanne,” by The Police.
I would like to report that we were naturals, that our wives were drawn in from the dining room to gasp in amazement at us — which they did, in fact, though not for the reasons we might have preferred. I made it half way through the song before getting booted, but my bandmates made it all the way through.
“Totally awesome!” I exclaimed when the song was over. I had become Jeff Spicoli from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.”
We crapped out on Bon Jovi, which is just as well, but we got through a Clash song cleanly enough to get a few approving nods from the audience.
“Hey, that was pretty good,” said my mom. My mom. Rock on!
Then I got a wild hair.
“Hey, I wanna sing,” I said. “Let’s do ‘Roxanne’ again.”
So with my brother now on guitar, we got completely through “Roxanne,” and then did a Nirvana song for an encore, getting through that one as well. I looked at my individual score for singing, which was 97 out of 100. It was without question the most gratifying moment of my entire life.
OK, it was not THE most gratifying moment of my entire life. But it’s up there somewhere. I cannot recall being more pleased by any score I ever made in graduate school. Then again, I didn’t grow up dreaming of writing an ace paper on Edmund Spenser, but I did play air guitar to “Don’t Fear The Reaper” about 10,000 times in front of my bedroom mirror, dreaming of thousands of screaming fans just beyond the mirror there.
“That was really good, honey,” my wife said. My first groupie!
“But you can’t have one, OK?”
It’s just as well, really. By the time I get good enough to make it through a Ramones song, my kids will be old enough to be embarrassed by this spectacle, which would kind of burst my rock and roll bubble, if you feel me. It’s about them, after all, as I keep reminding my wife.