CHAPTER 5

The Wilsons Tackle Values

   

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Matt and Jen’s excitement about having cracked the code when it came to Trust & Respect evaporated when they began to discuss the next disappointing F-MOS result.

        Matt picked up the WFV card and began to study it. “I feel the same way about this as I did about Trust & Respect. How could the kids give us such a low rating on Values?” Then he added, hopefully, “Maybe it was a ranking.”

        “Focus, Matt,” Jen said. She grabbed a napkin, then continued. “Just like we shouldn’t take Trust & Respect for granted, we have to avoid doing the same thing with Values.”

        “Maybe I should have gone with the Papaya Whip.”

        Jen sighed and let this pass. “We should probably give the kids a choice between a clip and a lanyard during our daily Display-Your-Values! periods.”

        Matt was disappointed. “But lanyards are much cooler than clips!” he said.

        “That might be so,” Jen said, “but there’s a practical reason for going with a clip.”

        “What’s that?”

        “When Jess wears a lanyard while she practices her dance routines in the basement, she says that the card flops all around. Sometimes it even hits her in the eye.”

        “Oh,” Matt replied. “Maybe we should get one with a clip for Jess.”

        “Good idea, hon,” Jen said, patting his hand.

        Matt stared at the WFV card. “Maybe we should look at rewording some of these items. You know. Like we need to work on the F-MOS survey questions?”

        He placed the WFV card on the table so that they could both easily read it. “Let’s take ’em one at a time,” he said.

        “Fine,” Jen replied.

        Matt read aloud: “‘Value #1: Squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom.’ Sounds good to me. What do you think?”

        “Maybe it should say at instead of from,” said Jen.

        Matt said, “I agree,” although to be honest, he wasn’t really sure why. But he made a note of the change anyway.

        “Value #2: Trust: Wilson’s trust each other…”

        “I don’t want to talk about Trust anymore,” Jen said, waving Matt off with her hands. “At least not today.”

        “Fine with me,” Matt said.

        “Or Respect!” Jen interrupted. “I don’t want to talk about Respect anymore either.”

        “Okay,” Matt said, making a note. “That takes care of numbers 2 and 3. Now on to Value #4: ‘No eye-rolling when Grampy Wilson comes to visit and insists on watching Matlock.’”

        Jen had a thought. “Maybe it should say ‘No eye-rolling that Grampy Wilson can see when he comes to visit.’”

        Matt nodded. “You’re right. We don’t want to be unfair to the kids.”

        “I mean, they are kids, and kids are going to roll their eyes,” Jen said. “That’s what kids do!”

        “And the thing that matters is that Grampy Wilson not see it!”

        “Exactly!”

        Matt moved on to Wilson Family Value #5: “Love: And by love we’re not using a euphemism for trashy, smutty stuff, as in ‘a love scene in a movie.’ We mean, you know, the real kind of love.”

        “Maybe euphemism is too fancy a word,” Jen said. “Maybe we should use something else.”

        “Like what?”

        “I don’t know. Like, maybe, substitute?”

        “I like it. ‘Value #6: No calling your sister “Isadora.”’” Matt looked at Jen and said, “I gotta be honest. I’ve never really understood this one.”

        “Isadora Duncan?” Jen explained.

        It still didn’t register with Matt.

        “She was a very famous dancer? And Jess loves to dance??”

        A glimmer. “Wasn’t she the one who was on Jeopardy?”

        “Probably not, since she died like 100 years ago.”

        “No, no,” said Matt, brightening. “She was part of the Final Jeopardy question. Or I guess I should say ‘answer,’ not ‘question.’ If my memory is right, there was something odd about the way she died.”

        “Yes, there was,” Jen replied. “She always wore long, flowing scarves…”

        “And her scarf got caught in the spokes of a car wheel!”

        “Yes. That’s right,” Jen said, adding in a sing-song cadence, “Her scarf got caught in the spokes of a car wheel.”

        “And it broke her neck!” Matt said, triumphantly.

        “You sound like you’re happy that it happened?!”

        “No, no,” Matt recovered. “I just think that it’s kind of cool…well, not ‘cool’ actually. But interesting. And ironic! You’ve gotta admit that it’s ironic, don’t you?”

        There was a limit to Jen’s patience, and it had been reached.

        “And just how,” she asked, “is that ‘ironic’? Did Isadora Duncan design the open-spoked wheels that her scarf got caught in? And while she was working on the design, had she been repeatedly warned that people wearing long, flowing scarves might get them caught in the spokes, so that she might want to think about a closed-wheel design instead? Because as far as I can tell, that’s about the only way that ironic would apply here!!”

        Since he was not quite sure what had just hit him, Matt decided to focus on the WFV card. Or at least that’s what it looked like he was focusing on.

        “Maybe it isn’t such a good idea for Jess to be wearing a lanyard when she’s rehearsing,” he said. “You know, all those leaps and what-not. And the furnace has a fan to blow the hot air and all.”

        Jen decided it was time to move on to another, less depressing topic.

        “Value #7?” she prompted.

        “Yes, yes,” Matt said, sneaking a dab at his eyes with a napkin as he tried to shake the image of a lanyard-garroted Jess. “Value #7: Honesty: And by honesty we don’t mean when people say things like: ‘And I’m being perfectly honest when I say this …,’ since that implies that the other things that they say might not be honest. We mean, well, you knowHonesty. And we’re being perfectly honest when we say this! J

        “Should there really be a smiley face in the WFVs?”

        “I dunno. I kind of like it,” Matt replied. “Maybe it would be better if it read: ‘And we Wilsons are being perfectly honest when we say this!’?”

        “Yes!” Jen said. “That way it’s more personal!”

        “Done and done,” Matt said. “Value #8: No calling your brother ‘Junior.’”

        “Yeah, that’s a problem,” Jen said.

        “But he is a junior,” Matt replied, plaintively. “I kind of like it. Makes me kind of proud. I wonder why he doesn’t?”

        “Do you really want to know?”

        “Yes, I really want to know.”

        “He says,” Jen explained, treading lightly, “that it infantilizes him.”

        “Skipper said ‘infantilizes’?” Matt’s disappointment had turned to pride.

        “Yes, he did.”

        “Wow,” said Matt, prouder still. “Then maybe it’s okay to use euphemism in Value #5?”

        “I think substitute will do just fine. Let’s move on to number nine.”

        Matt read from the WFV card: “Value #9: Listening: And by listening we don’t mean simply the vibration of the ear drum that sends a signal to the auditory nerve that then transmits that signal to the brain that in turn translates it into the phenomenon we call ‘sound’we mean, you know, actually listening to the other person.”

        “Isn’t all of that talk about the ear and the brain a bit confusing?” Jen asked.

        “Maybe we should add a diagram?” Matt suggested.

        “Would there be room?”

        “There would be if we doubled the size of the card and then folded it in half.”

        Jen liked it. “Perfect!” she said.

        “Once again, done and done!” said Matt. “Time to move on to number ten.”

        Since this was the last Value on the WFV card, Matt used his best, most authoritative voice when he read it: “Value #10: No telling Nana Pepitone that her Cabbage and Penne Surprise isn’t as delicious as it used to be.”

        This time it was Jen’s turn to dab at her eyes with a napkin. “This one is important to me,” she said, her voice breaking ever so slightly. “My mother has cooked Cabbage and Penne Surprise ever since I can remember. She’s very, very proud of it.”

        Now it was Matt’s turn to do the hand-patting. “As well she should be,” he said.

        “And I’m very grateful to you for editing what Skipper had submitted when we were developing these Value statements,” said Jen, giving Matt a sincere, loving smile.

        “Well,” Matt said, “I just figured that ‘isn’t as delicious as it used to be’ was better than ‘sucks.’ You know, kind of like the ‘slutty’ thing on the other one.” Then he quickly added, “And it isn’t just a wordsmithing change. Your mother’s Cabbage and Penne Surprise doesn’t suck at all!”

        “Thanks, dear,” Jen said, with an even more loving smile. “You’re a real sweetie.”

        “You spelled that correctly in your head, didn’t you? You did mean sweetie and not sweatie?”

        It took an instant for Jen to get the joke. She laughed and said, “YesSWEE-tie!”

        “Back to work,” he said, quite pleased with himself about his little word-play. “Are there any changes we should make to this one?”

        Jen said, “Should we change it from a negative to a positive? So instead of saying don’t tell my mother that it’s not as delicious, maybe we could say, ‘Be sure to tell Nana Pepitone that her Cabbage and Penne Surprise is as delicious as ever.’?”

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        “I’m not so sure about that,” Matt said, pointing to WFV #5: Honesty.

        Jen nodded. “You’re right. But this one means so much to me.”

        Now Matt nodded. “I know it does. I think the way it’s worded now is just fine.”

        “Okay,” Jen said, adding mischievously, “Sweaty!”

        Matt played along. He held his arm up.

        “I don’t want to high five!” Jen said.

        “Who’s high-fiving?” Matt replied. “I’m just checking my underarms for stains!”

        Jen laughed. Then she grabbed a fistful of napkins and offered them to Matt. “Here,” she said, gesturing toward his left underarm. “You might need these.”

        They shared a laugh. A boisterous, loving laugh. A boisterous, loving, oblivious-as-ever laugh.



© Copyright 2015, by John Guaspari

 

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