“Yes, sweetheart,” you answer, glancing up from FanGraphs.
“Daddy, what was 1990 like?”
You study her for a bit, searching her eyes for sarcasm. Is she old enough to have developed sarcasm by now? You’ve forgotten your Piaget, or at least the first chapter of Piaget your father-in-law gave you during your wife’s pregnancy. There was a timeline in there, a schedule for everything: vomiting, crawling, speaking, tying shoes, sarcasm, refusing to sit next to you in movie theaters. She seems sincere, looking up at you with those big brown eyes and that milk mustache. But she’s gotten good at being sincere, at looking earnest when she has to. You wish you knew how she did it, not because you want her to stop, but because you wish you could learn. You’ve raised her too well, and someday she’ll see what a fraud you are.
You sip your coffee, cold, and fold down the cover of your laptop. How could you explain? 1990 was Saturday morning soccer games on cold fall days, orange wedges and shin guards and swollen knees. It was walking home from the bus unsupervised, tiptoeing on curbs and avoiding cracks in the pavement. It was summer afternoons watching television shows you didn’t like because there were only ten channels, Dialing for Dollars, a nation’s temporary obsession with non-alcoholic beer, of Hypercolor shirts and Wayne’s World and Vanilla Ice, and unilateral American world power. It was the inability to look up answers to questions on the Internet, and a time when a list of pop culture references wasn’t a substitute for humor.
“Daddy,” she says, impatience creeping into her voice.
You rise, take her hand and lead her into the garage. You pull back the folding chairs, the free movie posters you got when you worked at the movie theater the summer after high school, the art that you can’t throw out but that your wife won’t allow you publicly demonstrate that you own. Beneath it is the glint of plastic gold frame, and you pull it out of the pile like Excalibur.
“This,” you whisper, “is 1990, honey.”
After a respectful pause, she asks: “Can I have some cantaloupe, Daddy?”
“I don’t see why not,” you answer, sliding the picture back in its place. “What’s the capital of Wyoming?”
“Cheyenne!” she giggles, and scampers into the kitchen.
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