The e-mail from my brother Keir read, “There are supposed to be some really cool Kamasutra temples in Khajuraho. Robyn and I have always wanted to see them. Would that be too much for the boys?”
This was last March, when Pat’s and my financial world started caving in and India seemed way in the distant, who-can-think-that-far-ahead, future. I’ve heard that extreme stress can cause a kind of splintering in the brain. Some events can be put in a mental shoebox alongside, say, the time your joke about your thong misfired with your elderly boss, and stashed under the metaphoric bed in the bedroom of your mind. This is what happened to the India trip. I answered e-mails from my brother, but India was under the bed.
That’s why I replied to his e-mail, “Go ahead and book. It’ll be fine” without even googling Khajuraho, or ancient temples, or “At what age is it appropriate to see hundreds of graphic Kamasutra penis sculptures hanging off of temples all over town?”
In truth, I thought that there would only be a couple of temples, that the sculptures would be INSIDE, and that Keir and Robyn take the boys and their four-year-old daughter, Zoe, on a walk while Pat and I explored the ancient wonders INSIDE. I didn’t know that anywhere you spit in Khajuraho you hit a lingam or a yoni.
I am now more relieved than ever that Pat took our eldest, Spencer, on a camping trip this summer to explain to him the nuts and bolts of nuts and bolts. When Pat first proposed the trip to me, I imagined the two of them on a nature walk, spying some animals, and Pat naturally segueing into “the talk”. Not so. Apparently, Pat brought along a book and launched into his lecture as soon as the tent was staked.
“It turns out he knew almost everything but the main thing,” Pat told me when they returned. He was in the kitchen unpacking the cooler.
“Did he say anything while you were explaining it?”
“Not really,” Pat said, putting soda cans into the refrigerator.
“Was he uncomfortable?”
“He definitely looked like he wanted to be someplace else.”
“And when you were finished explaining everything, did he have any questions?” I asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“He just looked at me for a second and said, ‘Insert?’”
“I’m with Spence, the word you used was ‘insert’?”
“What? You prefer ‘thrust’?”
“There’s got to be something in between ‘insert’ and ‘thrust’,” I countered. “’Insert’ sounds so cold -- like you’re mailing a letter.”
“’Push’, maybe?” Pat shut the refrigerator door.
“You see, this is why I wanted to talk about terminology,” I said. A couple of months before that, I had asked Pat what kind of language he was planning on using for “the talk”. He shrugged, then, and said, “Um. Language? Let’s see…hmmm. I’ll say, ‘Son, when your bitch git horny, you just smack that sweet ass down and git to woik.’” We both laughed so hard that we forgot to discuss terminology.
Pat closed the lid of the cooler, “I could have said, ‘slot’, I guess.”
“OK, never mind,” I said. “It’s done. We don’t have to rehash your choices.”
“That’s big of you.”
“So after you finished talking, did he have any questions?”
“Um. Not really. He just thought for a second and then asked me why I couldn’t have told him all of this at home.”
Of course he did, I thought. Spencer is the most reasonable child I’ve ever known. I can already see the man inside the boy. Just recently, Murphy said to Spence, “If you give me one of your gumi bears, I’ll be your best friend.” Spence barely skipped a beat in replying, “I already am your best friend.”
I am not as reasonable as my son. I am impulsive and prone to making life-changing decisions with very little information. Going with my gut has almost always worked for me. When I travel, I’ve learned to say “yes” to everything. The food. A local’s invitation. The stranger’s recommendation. I’ve been burned a few times. But, more often, “yes” has taken me farther than my dreams. It is what took me to the Sahara and the Ukraine. It is what got me onto a tiny prop plane, flying to a Panamanian island no bigger than a football field (later, my brother, Keir, admitted to me that those planes “go down all the time").
It’s true that I wasn’t entirely conscious when I e-mailed my brother that visiting the Kamasutra temples would be fine. But I said “yes” out of a lifetime of habit. Why would I want to miss anything?
I don’t know how many of the sculptures the children will actually see in Khajuraho. If they do see a few, however, I hope that Murphy accepts them as depictions of people having a lot of fun, naked. And I hope that Spencer’s reasonableness will prevail and that he’ll simply store the information away for another day. Barring that, he can always stash it under his bed.