The Chocolate Chip Banana Waffles
Binny’s skateboarding heroes watched over her as she slept. A good night’s sleep softened Binny’s frustration and anger. But just a little.
Although Julie Jordan worked just as hard during the summer as she did during the rest of the year, for the rest of the family the summer stretched like an endless lazy weekend. Since Jay was able to work from home, he was left in charge of the Jordan children’s summer activities which were few. Once each summer there was a day trip to the nearby islands for blackberry picking, but the only other treks out of the neighborhood were pilgrimages to the cineplexes downtown to take in every last summer blockbuster, or the periodic mandated chess camp.
Chess camp was usually at the urging of Binny’s mother. Julie Jordan desperately wanted her kids to love chess the way she did. Jay had played against Julie in the first years of their marriage, but after it became clear he was an infinite distance from beating Julie, he kind of gave up. Julie’s competitiveness wouldn’t allow her to throw a game or two to keep Jay’s interest. She reasoned that letting him win wouldn’t teach him the right skills anyway. She was right. But ultimately what Jay learned was that playing chess with Julie was just not very much fun.
Zach didn’t mind chess camp, and while the kids complained about taking the ferry to the islands, they all loved Jay’s blackberry cobbler, made from the massive amounts of blackberries they would bring home from their trips. Cassie especially loved these expeditions Her purple smile would last for days until the fruit finally ran out.
Jay was not much of an outdoor person or athlete, preferring the couch to his 20-year-old still nearly mint condition bicycle. And while he claimed he wanted the kids to be more active, Jay’s efforts to get them to play outside usually stopped after a couple of ineffective requests. As a result, for the bulk of the summer, the kids were on their own. And the Jordan kids mostly liked it that way.
Binny easily surpassed her father’s athleticism with her newfound passion – skateboarding. For all of his half-hearted attempts to get her to pick up an outdoor activity, skateboarding wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Jay wasn’t particularly excited at the thought of his ten-year-old daughter speeding down the Madrona hillside on four wheels and a plank, unable to stop for oncoming traffic.
But with her mother’s support, and countless promises to wear her helmet, skate only on flat surfaces, and go sloooooooow, Jay relented and bought Binny a skateboard. A few short months later, Binny was on her fourth skateboard, having promised Jay repeatedly that she would take better care of the latest replacement, and that the demise of the prior three boards was not a result of her trying dangerous stunts. Jay suspected that Binny wasn’t telling the entire truth, and yet he relented. He liked to picture Binny as he’d drawn her, zipping about Madrona with little wings sprouting from her helmet, and a trail of smoke from her back wheels.
It was the sun that finally woke Binny up. Jay, Zach, and Cassie were already awake. Binny’s rage and frustration from the previous night took a lot of energy to maintain and demanded a large amount of sleep to keep charged. Rubbing her eyes, Binny smiled at the thought that summer vacation had begun only recently, and this day was hers. But first things first.
Binny grabbed some relatively clean seeming clothes off the floor and changed into them. Many of the shelves in her closet where her clothes actually belonged, remained empty, unsure of their purpose.
Binny was about to head downstairs to quell the rumbling in her stomach when she remembered to check on the mirror that her sister had swiped the day before. Binny backtracked into her room and to her bookshelf where the mirror had a place of honor – still there. It occurred to Binny that she should move the place of honor to a higher shelf that Cassie couldn’t reach, but there would be time for security improvements later. She was getting really hungry now, and something in the house smelled especially delicious.
Taking the steps two at a time, Binny reached the first floor. Binny galloped past her brother who was lying on the living room rug, intently focused on his videogame. Cassie was already engrossed in yet another TV show. This was the one starring the girl who was secretly a rock star. Binny, and Zach wouldn’t admit to liking the show, but they could often be found slumped on the couch watching slack jawed along with Cassie.
“Hey Binana.” Jay greeted Binny jovially as she entered the kitchen. He looked particularly pleased with himself.
“I don’t like it when you call me that.” Binny’s surliness from the previous evening started to resurface in her voice.
There was a glint in Jay’s eyes as he continued to ‘play with fire’. “But sweetie, it’s banana, but combined with you.”
“Yeah, I got that.” Binny was starting to rev up again. “And I TELL you that I don’t LIKE it every time you call me that NAME.”
Jay cooed sweetly, “But this time is different, this time I’m using that nickname as a way to notify you of the delicious chocolate chip banana waffles I’ve made in your honor.”
“If Cassie and Zach ate some then you didn’t make them in my honor,” grouched Binny, casually eyeing the waffles, trying to hide her interest from her father.
“Beanie Baby?” Jay offered.
“I like that one even less.” Binny spied the waffles longingly out of the corner of her eye.
“You know it’s not exactly easy coming up with nicknames for Binah.” Jay placed a quartet of waffles on a clean plate and paused looking at his daughter. “Would you like some waffles darling?”
“You and Mom named me, so you can blame yourself for that. And as for the waffles,” she added not terribly convincingly, “I’m not really that hungry.” The only thing stronger than Binny’s hunger was her sense of justice. Her father’s teasing didn’t sit well with her after his shameful inaction the previous night during dinner.
“Good point. Can I make a peace offering of these waffles? Everyone else has already had their fill, so you’d really be doing me a big favor by eating them. I’d hate to just throw them in the trash.” Binny’s eyes told Jay all he needed to know as they tracked the waffle plate carefully.
“Doesn’t Mom want some?” Binny made an effort to sound casual.
“Your mother’s still asleep, and you know she wouldn’t eat these anyway. They’re too ‘healthy.’” Jay raised his eyebrows as he said the word ‘healthy’. He started walking the plate towards Binny. “She doesn’t share our love for chocolate chip banana waffles. Crazy, I know.” Jay’s face squinched up in mock confusion.
Binny paused, knowing she’d been had: “Well, only because I don’t want them to go to waste.” Binny grabbed the plate before Jay had a chance to place it in front of her and started tearing at the waffles with her fork.
Jay spun a chair around, sat facing his daughter, and smiled as he watched her eat. In his relationship with his eldest daughter, he would count her enjoyment of the waffles as a medium-sized victory. “Are they good?” He already knew the answer.
“They’re really good.” Binny said, but it came out more like “Bear billy khood” as the mouth full of waffles made it somewhat difficult for her to speak clearly. Jay just kept smiling.
Towards the end of her second helping, Binny seemed to slow down enough to catch her breath and be able to respond to Jay’s comments.
“So ‘Binny’ is still okay, right?” Jay returned them to the topic of nicknames.
“It’s the one I dislike the least.” Binny responded, the waffles dampening her anger as well as her hunger.
“It means ‘understanding’ you know. Your name. Binah. ‘Understanding’,” Jay repeated, hoping it might somehow impart the gift of patience and perspective to his temperamental daughter.
“Yes, you’ve told me that a thousand times. I know what it means.” Binny responded by rote. “What I don’t un-der-STAND is how you let Cassie and Zach get away with everything, and I’m always the one getting in trouble.”
Jay couldn’t help but smile at Binny’s relentless sense of justice. It was hard to tell these days when Binny would act like a normal ten-year-old and when she would get one of those flashes of insight that was mature beyond her years. For the moment, Jay knew he had better erase his smile before Binny interpreted it as a lack of seriousness on his part. “I know you had a hard night. And I’m sorry you felt like I wasn’t there for you.” Jay offered earnestly.
“But they were being incredible jerks. It’s just not fair. Zach kept calling me a dumbass and LYING about it, and Cassie keeps going into my room to take stuff.”
“I know. I know. In life, there is no fair. Things just are.” Jay looked for a moment as if his eyes might well up, but then the moment passed. “I’m not okay with either of those things. But you need to understand, that you erupting at them, screaming like a lunatic, does not help when I’m trying to get everyone through dinner in a relatively peaceful fashion. I don’t have the time or energy to settle every dispute. And frankly, I just wanted you to stop yelling.”
Binny wasn’t having any of Jay’s excuses. “Well sometimes I don’t like the way things JUST ARE!” Binny mimicked Jay’s intonation on the last two words and then continued, “Maybe you’d have more time to stop Zach and Cassie from being incredibly mean to me if Mom was here to help you.” Binny punctuated her statement by raising her eyebrows to indicate her point had been made. And irrefutably so.
“Binny, how many times do I have to remind you? Your mother and I are superheroes. It keeps us incredibly busy. Raising the three of you along with saving the world, is no small set of responsibilities. And besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned fighting evil, it’s that you can’t solve every problem in the world. Even when it seems like you have the power to do so. Sometimes people have to figure stuff out for themselves.”
Binny knew that Jay’s story was patently ridiculous. But Binny also knew just as well that there was no arguing with Jay on the premise that he and her mother led secret double lives as superheroes. It was his favorite fiction. But still, Binny couldn’t resist pushing back on his silly notion. “You’re not superheroes. There’s no such thing as superheroes. And you’re not even super parents. If you were, you’d do your JOB and stop your kids from misbehaving.”
“What I’m trying to say Binny, is that even with all my powers – parenting or otherwise – I don’t know if I can fix that for you completely. I can’t stop you from misbehaving, so what makes you think I can stop your brother and sister?” Jay reasoned.
“I don’t need superheroes for parents. Just actual parents who actually care.” Binny had lost interest in her food and was now putting her main energy into making her case to her father.
Jay smiled a bittersweet smile. He was stinging a little from Binny’s accusation but tried not to let it show. “Of course we care. And I suppose I could yell at your brother and sister and maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn’t. But in life honey, you are going to encounter people who mess with your stuff, call you names, lie about what they did, and maybe even worse.” Jay paused looking for some glimmer of understanding in his daughter’s face.
“No matter how powerful I may or may not be,” Jay winked in a rare acknowledgement that he may not in fact actually have superpowers, “you can’t spend your life waiting for everyone to behave the way they should. You’ve got to solve your own problems at some point despite the obstacles that other people put in your way. Be your own hero.” Jay reached across the table to hold Binny’s hands in his to emphasize the importance of his message.
Trying to be a little more conciliatory towards his daughter, Jay offered “Look, I think you’re right. Your mother and I have been distracted lately and are probably not giving you guys the attention you need. I’m sorry for that. And so is your mother. We’ll work on it.” Jay paused, lost in his own thoughts for a moment before he continued, “Sometimes I wonder if the reason you kids fight in the first place is just to get more of our attention.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Do not change the channel! Stop it!” Cassie’s screech could be heard loud and clear coming from the other room.
Jay raised his eyebrows as if to say “exactly”. He and Binny shared a giggle as the screams escalated from the room next door. With things mostly mended with Binny, Jay paused for a moment shaking his head to himself and gathering up his energy to deal with the next crisis.
“I thought you were going to try and stay out of it and let everyone solve their own problems.” Binny teased her father, her eyes sarcastic.
“I said I would try. I may be a superhero but I’m not perfect.” Jay struck a pose, putting his hands to the top of his button down shirt as if to undo it revealing his superhero tights underneath.
Frowning a little, Binny offered “you don’t need to be a hero. Just go be a parent.” Binny seemed to feel that with her judgment rendered, the conversation was now over and started tackling the remainder of the waffles.
Jay decided this was as good as he was going to get from Binny that morning and headed into the fray developing between his other two children.