Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Thursday, October 12

Secret Origins: The Encased Hippopotamus

When I was eight, my father took my sister and me to the Field Museum, Chicago’s Museum of Natural History. We were going through the dioramas of African mammals and we saw the encased hippopotamus.

‘Isn’t he a funny looking animal,’ my father said, ‘'he just looks like a big pig, but he’s actually one of the most vicious animals in Africa. More people are killed by hippos than any other animal. They will charge even at a Jeep.

This was important. It was the first time I realized that I knew more about a subject than my father did. I realized that he had confused an hippopotamus with a rhinoceros. I did not feel dizzy or nauseous. I stared at the glass encased hippopotamus and let my eyes change focus from it to the glass’s reflection of my father’s face as he went on talking about the hippo.

I straightened my back a little and thought about how this changed everything. I had convinced my mother to leave the Catholic Church several years earlier—perhaps a story for another time. By the time I was three, I had open contempt for the notion of Santa. But it had not occurred to me to question my father’s reliability. He was certainly real enough anyway and seemed to know quite a bit about many things. This was the moment, with my gaze continuing to oscillate between the hippopotamus and the glass reflection of my father, I began crafting my wings.

I had no idea at the time how waxen they were.


Blogger Erik writes:

As an aside, for those of you who don't already know, my father was right. Click on the period after the word jeep for details.


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

wow... it took me until i was at least 14 to realize i was smarter than my parents...

I really want to hear how you talked your mom out of church.


Blogger dan writes:

My mom put up no fuss about santa. I think I was almost five when I got fed up with the charade and said matter-of-factly "Mom, there's no santa for real, is there." She just said "nope" and that was that.

I'm often reminded that I am smarter than my dad when he uses the word "acrossed" when he means to say "across".


Blogger Nick writes:

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. ~Mark Twain


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

I was going to offer a link to your father being right, but you beat me to the punch once again. Foiled.


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