I sat in the kitchen eating cereal when my seven year-old son reared up and let me have it.
"Dad, did they have cars when you were a kid?"
"Are you joking?" I asked.
I looked at Gabriel. He was not joking and stared at me with a mixture of intense curiosity and mild pity. I recognized the look because my neighbors make the same face when I work in the yard without a shirt.
Honestly, the question irritated me. My first impulse was to irritably lash out at my son because he dared suggest that I was born prior to the widespread adoption of cars. My second and more rational impulse steered me toward educating my son about my childhood. Because rational responses tend to be boring, I discarded this option.
I decided to go all Clay Jenkinson on my son.
For those who don't know, Clay Jenkinson is a humanities scholar with a syndicated radio show who makes his living by impersonating Thomas Jefferson and other notable historical figures. According his Web site, Clay Jenkinson is "one of the most sought after humanities scholars in the United States". I like that his Web site says this - because it always seems that everyone concentrates on the illegal immigrant problem and almost no one is doing anything about the widespread proliferation of humanities scholars.
"Good Day, Citizen," I said to Gabriel.
To his credit, Gabriel turned to walk away immediately. I stopped him with a patriarchal hand on his shoulder.
"Though I cannot pretend to understand anything but the barest principles of your internal combustion engine and your "motor cars"...
Gabriel looked panicked.
"...I do feel that I can illuminate the effect of mechanical vehicles on the gentleman farmer and his place in a republic."
I think my gambit worked. The next time my son blindsides me with a question like that, though, I'm gonna let loose with the "Full Jenkinson". I can't give you all of the details, but it definitely includes wigs, man stockings and one of my childhood friends impersonating John Adams.