Spending time with my son over the past week, he said something to me that lingered: "I've picked up a lot of your mannerisms over the years."
I thought about all the things I have seen and heard, over the years, that he might have been referring. The first thing I remembered was how, after years of hearing me answer the phone, I heard him answer a call with my own odd inflection: "Mmmm-yello." Since I had borrowed this from Frank Bonner portraying Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati, I felt as though my job as a conduit through which popular culture could pass was being done effectively. How else would this sound from a seventies sitcom find its way to to his head in the twenty-first century?
I asked him what he felt was a gift from my generation to his, and he replied, "You know how when you burp, you say 'burp?' I do that too."
I could have been more proud.
That's when I started thinking in a little bigger picture: My son had appropriated one of my odd bits of business, which is something I could relate to, since that's something I have been doing with the sounds around me for my entire life. If something got a laugh, I made a note of it and incorporated it into my big catalog of fun. Upon further review, I recognized the absurd number of noises, songs and stories I got from my father. Maybe not absurd, but comforting.
This is what I began to consider about my relationship with my son. All those jokes and ancillary silliness, my son had been listening. To what else had he paid attention? He has a deep and abiding respect for others, and a passion for helping others. Did I do that? It would be awesome to me to think that I did, in that big book of nature versus nurture. I would like to imagine that I had some hand in the character that was built with my wife's help. And the rest of the world that comes pouring in every day. Or maybe he was genetically engineered to announce his gastric distress onomatopoetically.
Hard to imagine that I could be more proud either way. Which, in itself, is funny enough to continue passing down this silliness.