Writing at my desk the other morning, I heard the chop-chop-chop of a kitchen knife. It was Atticus, slicing bananas and strawberries. The cutting was followed by the shoveling of ice cubes, then a loud and sustained crunch as the Vitamix kicked on. I listened while the machine roared into fifth gear.
Good job, son! Independence! That’s what it’s all about! I thought to myself.
The machine revved and whirred, just like it usually does, but then the hum morphed into something different. I wondered for a moment if my 13-year-old had substituted marbles for blueberries.
“Mom! I think there’s something wrong with the blender.”
The call for help was from one smoothie person to another. In our house, half of the locals are always slurping mushed up raspberries and coconut water. I often find the evidence abandoned in a cup holder in the car, a fossilized footnote after a delicious medley of fruit, or so I’m told. My younger son Levon shakes his head at it all. He prefers a breakfast bar or a glazed donut. Personally, I stick with a butter croissant. After letting the crescent delicacy sit in the microwave for twenty-six seconds, I’m practically transported to France. Plus, there’s little mess. Any crumbs can be blamed on the dog or one of the boys.
From the decibel of Atticus’s exclamation, I knew this emergency wasn’t a five-alarm fire. All parents learn to decipher tone from a distance, and instinct told me there was no blood or broken bones. Plus, he hadn’t yelled for me. I honored his request for his mother by staying put at my desk, sipping my coffee, and taking another bite of my Parisian bread.
Twenty minutes later, I had forgotten about the commotion when an email popped up on my computer: Your order from Vitamix is awaiting shipment. Total cost: $146.87.
I got up from my desk so quickly, the dog started barking. He thought I was initiating some bizarre game. But this was much more serious. With the seconds ticking away, I told myself if I worked fast enough, I could cancel the order and get our money back. I ran to the kitchen, looking for the wounded machine. Upon examination, everything looked fine until I wiggled the base of the appliance. Even a non-smoothie guy could tell the thing was busted. Trying to steady my hands after three cups of coffee, I peeled back the protective rubber and removed the six screws. It was up to me to do triage and resuscitate the Vitamix. I fiddled with it a bit more, pulling and tugging. I didn’t know what I was doing. As the pieces piled up on the countertop, Dawn came in.
“It needs a new drive socket.”
“Yeah, that’s what she said.”
“The woman on YouTube,” Dawn replied.
“I saw the email. $146.87 for a new gear? That’s ridiculous.”
She gave me a look, which helped me understand that we were going to fix the Vitamix – or at least, I was, since I’m the one who works the tools in our house. At that moment, Levon came into the kitchen for another bar. He watched me poking at the dead machine.
“What’s wrong with it, Dad?”
“It’s broken,” I said.
“I’m sure you can fix it. Just YouTube it.”
My phone chirped with an alert from the corporate office: Your order has shipped.
Three days later, thanks to express shipping, the parts arrived. With my laptop next to me, I watched some guy named Fred walk me through the transplant, and voila, we were back to making smoothies.
Later that week, I spent two and a half hours helping my dad tackle a Tascam portable recorder, so he could record his old-time music at the farmer’s market. As we sat at the kitchen table, a backyard professor from Milwaukee walked us through the buttons. Gone are the days when you need the kid from two towns over to share his go-cart plans. I tell my boys this is a gift. What we want to learn isn’t limited by the other fellas in the neighborhood, or our buddies at school, or what we can find in the manual. If you want to figure it out, you can.
Recent YouTube tutorials include cleaning sunroof drains, adjusting the belt on the John Deere, installing landscape lighting, and setting up Atticus’s first iPhone. We can hit pause and watch the instructors over and over again – or until the toilet stops running. Levon watched a video on how to catch carp with a can of corn; Atticus mastered cleaning his pocket knives with olive oil and compressed air. We’re always studying and learning, trying to make the sourdough taste better, the Jeep ride a little smoother, or the dog smell better. It’s a constant search for knowledge.
I re-listened to an interview recently with Paul McCartney where he shares the story of a bus ride across town with John Lennon. The fledgling songwriting team was on a musical quest to unearth the mysterious B7 chord, so they went hunting for the one guy they knew who had it. Today, there aren’t many mysteries left in the world, and secret guitar chords don’t exist, but I tell the boys to be like John and Paul: When you want an answer, chase it down, grab it! And I do the same thing.
As I’m writing this, the Vitamix revs up once again.
“Dad, I made you a smoothie!” Atticus calls out.
“Thanks,” I respond. I think it will go perfectly with my croissant.