“You better not teach him anything questionable again, I don’t need any more dirty looks when dropping him at day care!”, warned Jules. – “What’s the point of having kids if you can’t teach them a couple of expletives?”, I said, despairingly. “Gabriel, it seems strip bars and underground poker games are out, we need to find something else to do”.
Our Lisbon hometown is no longer under lockdown but travelling is still a complicated affair, so we continue to write from home, using photographs from previous trips.
We were on the final leg of a trip that had taken us through Northern Spain, and it was now time for Gabriel and me to wander alone in Galicia while Jules attended some meetings. “Come on Gabriel, we’ll start with Vigo. There’s a statue of Jules Verne at the port, so we can apologise for pilfering his name and using it to write nonsense”.
Before we even got to the port, our attention was diverted to a contraption not even Jules Verne imagined: an automated car park. As we both marvelled at the robotic arm whisking our car away to its lair, I wondered where children get their passions from.
From their parents, perhaps? Indeed, Jules would have loved to see the giant parking robot as much as we did, but her interest for mechanical doohickeys falls well short of Gabriel’s obsession for all sorts of machinery. I have also tried to make him into the next Chris Froome, but the only thing he likes to do with his balance bike is to ring the bell.
As I put aside any hope of living my sunset years off my son’s cycling fortune, we left the automated car park and explored Vigo’s lesser landmarks. Once atop Vigo’s Fortress, we concocted a plan to disrupt Jules’ meetings. “Gabriel, we’ll send your mom a picture of you on top of this slab. With the right angle, it will seem like you’re perilously hanging off the ledge”.
Jules’ reply was unexpected but no less terrifying: “I’ll put you on diaper duty till the end of days if he loses his cap”. – “Gabriel, we’ll need to do better”, I said while snugging down his cap.
We got back to the car park, marvelled again at the giant robot, and drove south till we found the old international bridge that crosses over River Minho and onto Portugal. The handsome 19th century steel bridge – often mistakenly attributed to Eiffel because of the familiar lattice design – passes most of its days in solitude, as traffic now goes through a nearby bridge built in the 90s.
It was the perfect setting for further mischief. Like bygone smugglers, we crossed the bridge on foot. Once in the middle of the bridge, with one foot in Spain and one foot in Portugal, we sent Jules another message: “Gabriel lost his cap. We’re escaping the country to avoid diaper duty”.
“Which one of you two stooges came up with that plan?”, texted back Jules. “In any case, I hope the larger stooge is planning to change the diaper of the smaller stooge at the end of that bridge. If the latter comes back with a red bum, the former will suffer indescribable penances”.
– “Beach?”, proposed Gabriel after the diaper change.
We got there just as thick fog crawled from the sea, pushing away most beach goers. In the distance, we could just about make out jumping silhouettes. When we got closer, we saw they belonged to a few teenagers that had buried an exercise ball in the sand and were using it for Nadia Comăneci worthy flips.
I asked them if I could take pictures and crouched down to capture the action, with Gabriel providing not entirely useful assistance. One flip was quickly followed by another one, with each kid trying to upstage the previous jumper.
“Gabriel, one day you’ll want to try something similar”, I uttered mostly to myself. “Should we let you, in hopes that the skill and responsibility you will gain from it outweigh the risks?”. Getting to a dispassionate and rational decision did not seem too arduous, but then again family matters are never dispassionate and rarely rational.
Lacking a definitive answer, we continued our journey and found ourselves in a small fishing port, still being chased by the same thick fog that is ever so common along the Galician coastline.
“Gabriel, do you see that streetlight with all the dangling old shoes? Each pair is a kid that didn’t want to eat their soup…”. Before I could finish my ruse, a figure came out of the mist. – “I heard that!”, said Jules, who had seemingly finished her meetings early and had tracked us down.
– “Don’t worry, Gabriel has long learned to ignore half of what I say”, I countered. “Here, I’ll show you”. “Gabriel, will you eat your soup tonight?”. Gabriel hesitantly looked at the streetlight and then defiantly at us: – “No!”, he declared.
Alas, we will surely make countless mistakes along the way – which Gabriel will diligently list as a teenager – but one thing is certain: Three Stooges always trump two stooges.
PS: Teenaged Gabriel, if and when you read this blog, cut us at least some slack for not going through the hassle of updating its name to ‘Jules Verne Times Three’. Despite what your teachers will tell you, sometimes one plus one does indeed equal three.