The room was dark.
No one was talking.
Occasionally, a beep or a ping would start a war between siblings.
“You did that on purpose,” accused the girl.
“You set my house on fire,” lobbed the boy.
“It was an accident.”
“There are no accidents.”
Such are the pitfalls of weekends filled to overflowing with virtual entertainment.
“Let's go to a movie,” my husband chirped on this particular Saturday afternoon just as the kids were settling into their semi-weekly “School-has-taken-my-weekday-'Mindcrafting time'-and-sent-it-into-the-nether” computer games binge-fest.
And though he had given the order, it was up to me to rally the troops.
A roar went up from either end of the couch, where our two little potatoes had sprouted.
“Now?! We can't go now1 I'm not done building the super-mega-world out of emeralds and diamond armor, and I have to find all the sheep that got out of my Ultra Castle,” whined the boy.
“And I'm on the verge of finally getting a horse farm,” noted the girl, with exasperation.
“It'll all be there when we get back,” I say with utter certainty though I have no idea if the games have a pause button. “We're going to a movie, and that's final.”
The irony that we are swapping one static media experience for another on this fleetingly beautiful fall day isn't lost on me. But I am quiet as the kids snap shut the computers and shuffle around the room looking for their footwear.
Nor do I seem to care that I can't be bothered to sound at all enthused.
“How far is the theater?”
“What's the movie?”
“I don't know. Something rated PG. Ask your dad.”
They don't seem to want to open that can of worms, so they dodder around scanning the floor for sneakers instead. I should feel relieved there wasn't more of an argument. And do feel a temporary relief that they're not acting like an air-conditioned cinema is the entertainment equivalent of a dank and musty cellar, where people like us throw children who complain. But that relief is shortlived.
“Found one,” the girl says to the boy and tosses the rubber-soled shoe across the room, striking him in the ankle. “It's yours.”
“OWWWWW! You did that on purpose,” he hollers at me.
“Say you're sorry,” I holler at her.
“Sorry,” she hollers back at him and throws another shoe in his direction.
I just stand there … mouth agape … catching flies. (Literally: local farms are spreading manure on their fields and flies have ventured forth).
I'm not sure it can be made any more clear. We are a cliché.
We are just a camera crew and a laugh-track away from being a 70s-era made-for-syndication sitcom or direct-to-video movie.
You know, the kind of show where the child is smarter than the parent. And the parent spends the whole 22-minute episode cluelessly puttering around the house looking for her sunglasses, which have been on her head the whole time?
Or where the kids, accompanied by an eerie soundtrack and no parents, insist on going down into the dark, cobweb-garlanded basement during a power outage when there's a serial killer on the loose.
You can probably guess where each of us would be cast.
I'm envisioning a brunette Hope Davis playing me while a hologram of James Gandolfini stands in for my husband.
The kids, on the other hand, will have to be played by their Minecraft avatars.
Eventually, we make our way out the door and into the car. Seatbelts are fastened, and we ease out of the driveway in the direction of our destination.
Soon we'll be seated. Side by side, in the dark, not talking to each other. Again.
I wonder if we can take bets on which of us will spill the tub of popcorn?