Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finding My Story 3: Toilet-Training Pterodactyls

Reading yesterday's post, thinking about Mom, one of the things that strikes me is the weight of disapproval she dealt with her entire life. Looking at things that way, it's a familiar dynamic. I was always conscious of the people who were basically members of her fan club, but she must have felt some of the judgment directed at her.

But she did the best she could, kept progressing and growing throughout her life, tried as hard as she could to adhere to her own moral code even at personal cost. Her self-indulgence was obvious, but her self-discipline was not. She didn't care to advertise that part of herself, at least not to me. Just did her own thing her own way, head down and quietly plowing forward.

There's at least one specific trait I got from her. It's something I admire in others and resent and regret in myself -- the inability to live by rules contrary to one's own. It's a condition that occasionally requires sacrifice and effort. In my case, I think part of it comes from social confusion, part of it comes from self-will. Looking at my parents and siblings, I ain't the only one. It started early, the night Dad found a pterodactyl on the toilet.

(This story was told to me several times by both parents. "We thought it was normal.")

So they're starting to get an idea how pterodactyls reproduced... you aren't familiar with the questions around pterodactyl reproduction? Okay, quick version.

Pterodactyls were the first group of flying vertebrate animals we know of. They're regarded as archosaurs, which makes them close relatives of both crocodilians and dinosaurs. And right now, they seem to have reproduced in a very different fashion than birds.

The pattern in birds is nest-building, parental care, etc. However, birds vary widely in the amount of care they need as infants. In pterodactyls, there's currently speculation that they laid eggs with leathery shells in moist, hidden spots, and left them to hatch on their own. The hatchlings emerged ready to hunt and fly right from the eggshell. Independent.

After bringing me home, my parents settled into a routine where they'd put me in a crib in the living room at night and then go sleep in their bedroom.

This worked well. They were usually able to sleep through the night. But by the time I was a few months old -- I wish I had a number -- the pattern had settled into something a little different.

Rather than finding me in my crib at night, they'd get up and find my empty diaper in the crib, and my naked froggy body underneath the crib. It would have been summer by now, so I can see how they might be casual about this.

"They really are little monkeys," my mother would have said. "He can climb before he can crawl. How fascinating!"

"I can't believe he holds it in all night," Dad would have said. "That diaper is dry, and so is the floor. This is indeed a mystery."

One night he got up to pee. I imagine he was still a little groggy from the night before, possibly a little hungover. Shuffles through the dark, not wanting to move too precipitously. Opens the bathroom door, and feels the cold hand of the uncanny settle on his heart.

Something white and bony crouches, arms and legs sprawled over the toilet seat. It lifts its head, meets his gaze with expressionless black slits and croaks irritably.

He screams.

It's me. His little pterodactyl.

1 comment:

EFKelley said...

One of the primary reasons I don't have kids is that I wouldn't be able to resist running behavioral and developmental experiments on them.