Burlingame, Talking Fist, Goes to Time Out for Waking Baby Rainbow Cat
“You have to stay there too, Daddy, because he’s connected to your arm”
I was a little surprised to discover in the archives that I have mentioned Burlingame here before, because he’s such a niche character in the family canon. It is simultaneously totally predictable that he’s come up, though, because Burlingame plays such a huge part in the family lore of this household. Part Greek chorus, part court jester, Burlingame is the guy who, when Laurea and I say we shouldn’t have cheeseburgers, suggests we decamp post haste to the nearest Shake Shack.* Burlingame asks about your family while you’re in the bathroom. Burlingame is all id, no ego, a fount of pure annoyance. For a while, he played second fiddle to newborn Kina, who did plenty of annoying on her own, but he made a resurgence when she was around two years old and needed a companion she could vibe with. Many of the games she plays now include Burlingame—including “Don’t Wake Baby Rainbow Cat”, whose rules go as follows:
Baby Rainbow Cat (Kina) is sleeping.
If she wakes up, she will yell and scream and bother the neighbors.
She will also say the words “sweet potato”.
Whenever Burlingame hears the words “sweet potato”, he lets out a huge fart.
Burlingame hates to fart.
He will also go to time out.
Therefore, Burlingame should probably not wake Baby Rainbow Cat.
But he really, really, really wants to wake Baby Rainbow Cat. He cannot help himself.
My job in this game is to prevent Burlingame from waking Baby Rainbow Cat, to remind him that it is in his best interests for her not to be disturbed. The game requires several rounds of negotiation with Burlingame, all while Baby Rainbow Cat rests quietly on her bed. At a certain point, Burlingame seems to get it, and stands down. Then, seconds later—and completely in line with his core motivations—he hops onto Baby Rainbow Unicorn’s head; she wakes, screams, and yells “SWEET POTATO”; he farts, is totally mortified; she grabs him and takes him to time out. We have played “Don’t Wake Baby Rainbow Cat” for what feels like several hours this weekend, which means I have negotiated with my own personified fist on a dozens of occasions, have made a similar number of loud farting noises, and have been to time out more times than I can count. He and Kina are truly kindred spirits.
Burlingame’s early appearances in our pre-child life served to let each of us off the hook for our minor peccadilloes and vices. He is a scapegoat and a scamp. You can’t really be mad at a talking fist, and even if you do get mad at him, the worst you can dole out is literally a slap on the wrist. The punishment often fits the crime, because while we like mischief, it’s often Burlingame who gives it to us, and he can only get up to so much. When Kina was two, we taught her how to make her fist talk—gave her somebody to blame for the chaos, a scapegoat of her own; we call her Baby Burl. Kina’s figuring out how to best to use her. In no small way, it’s one of the proudest bits of parenting I’ve done. You got a problem with it? Talk to the hand.
What a joy it was to stumble on today’s Parade cover! Laurea and Kina worked together on this portrait of our recent stuffed unicorn friend, Cloisters. Kina drew the horn herself and adorned Cloisters with many stamps.
* Early on, at Shake Shack, before they introduced buzzers, I would give my name as “Burlingame”, both because you cannot possibly have two Burlingames in the same line for burgers, and also because I love to hear people call out “Burlingame”.