We are counting down the hours until school begins. The clocks have become suddenly sluggish and hesitant. Time has thickened and pooled on the ground. By the time a second passes, it’s been sitting around at room temperature for so long that it stinks of mildew and rot.
The kids – my darling whirlwinds of electricity and light and bright wind – are all elbows and teeth and hot tempers. They erupt at the slightest provocation, requiring an epic intervention on my part – typically involving high-level negotiations and arms-reduction deals. I should work for the friggin’ UN. I have, for example, had to intervene in the case of:
- He’s looking at me funny.
- She used that voice.
- She’s on my side.
- It isn’t his turn.
- She hit my invisible friend.
- He’s singing again.
- She said I look like a cartoon character.
- His breath smells like cheese.
- She said my hair looks like cheese.
- She called me a piece of cheese.
- He won’t play wolves with me.
- She won’t run a race with me.
- He’s breathing my air.
- She looked at my stuff.
- He’s thinking too loud.
- This family is weird. Can I go to boarding school?
Yes, yes, for the love of god yes. I’ll help you pack.
(Author’s note: I did not say that out loud.)
So I took them to the water, and it was magnificent. What is it about spending time at the sun-drenched lake that transforms a bunch of children who, just a few minutes before, were at eachother’s throats, and turns them into a slippery school of happy fish, playing and splashing and spurting sweetness into the air?
I swam with them for about an hour, but that was enough for me. I hauled myself onto the beach blanket and watched them through the slick of sun on the water. They had swum out to the far buoys and were balancing on the chain that connects each bobbing red orb to the other. They stood on the chain, held their balance for a moment or two, and fell, screeching into the water. After repeating this approximately nine million times, they settled themselves in on the chain, balancing on their butts and letting their toes float up to the surface of the water, and gabbing about god knows what.
So I took a picture. On my phone. (I know, the quality is terrible and my phone sucks. What?) Because of the brightness, I couldn’t even see the dang picture I took, so after trying to shade it with my hand and then my hat and then my whole body, I draped a towel over my head and tried to see if any of the shots were any good.
And they saw.
“O. M. G.” my oldest said, her voice pealing over the water and the sand. Over the grass and the road and the hillside and the whole world. “Is that…..no! No, it couldn’t be! That isn’t my mother, is it? With a towel over her head?”
“I refuse to believe it,” the ten year old said – astonishingly louder than her sister. “That can’t be our mother – our mother – in public with a towel over her head.”
“In public! I ask you!”
“It must be someone else.”
(it should be noted here how very very loud these children were. The entire beach had stopped what they were doing to watch them. Children stopped playing. Teenaged couples stopped flirting. Mothers stopped slathering their babes with sunblock. Cars swerved to a stop and pedestrians froze in their tracks. I think people in Texas might have heard them.)
“It has to be someone else. I mean, if my mother – my mother – was in public with a towel over her head, I might have some kind of psychological break.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I might stop getting good grades.”
“Oh, forget the grades. You might have to drop out of school. If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I might get into a fist fight. With fists.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I might joyride a car.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I might have to start a gang.”
“Only one gang? I’d start four.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I’d tattoo ‘I Love Republicans’ on my butt.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I’d join the army.”
“If my mother was in public with a towel over her head, I’d join a cult.”
“I’d pierce my eyebrow.”
“I’d destroy a car with a baseball bat.”
“I’d date a tattoo artist.”
“I’d never leave the house again.”
“I’d drop out of school. And then I’d go back, just so I could drop out again.”
“FINE,” I hollered. I threw the towel onto the ground. “HAPPY NOW?”
They sat in the water, hovering just under the surface, their wrinkly toes wiggling in the waves. They were all slicked hair and akimbo limbs and dripping grins.
“Oh,” they said. “What makes you think we were talking about you?”
Seven more days until school, folks. Seven long days. Will I stay sane until then?