Sweet Bee

The tribe of three marched through the woods, crunching leaves underfoot, hitting trees with sticks and reuniting acorns with their tops or “fingerhats.”

It would be hard to not hear the group, even though Little Legs periodically turned around with a finger held up to his lips.

“Shhhh….” He hushed his brother and mother who walked silently behind him, “deer might be sleeping.”

The trio emerged from the trees with bits of leaves in their hair and burrs on their pants, but otherwise unscathed from the potentially dangerous trip into Nature.

Of note, everything feels dangerous to the anxious/neurotic parent: grocery stores, backyards, stairs, uncut grapes and hotdogs, the list goes on and on.

“Let’s take a break here,” Mama said.

There was a flat rock wide enough for three behinds to rest on it, although, she knew that the chance of three behinds resting there for longer than a minute was slim to none.

Little Legs squatted down to draw on the rock with his hitting stick. Mama stretched out her legs and began the laborious process of picking burrs from her pants. Baby Brother dug into a pile of leaves, pushing the debris to the side as he went deeper towards the earth. He was a natural digger with strong hands and a need to make holes, he was in his element.

“Baa…baa…” he exclaimed in a higher pitch that made his mother take notice.

“What did you find?” Mama asked.

Baby Brother held his finger out and smiled at the buzzing yellow jacket that he had beefriended.

The social wasp buzzed comfortably on the end of the boy’s finger, exchanging curious looks and bee to boy, boy to bee noises.

Mama, who did not understand their language, screamed and reacted with a quick and well-placed flick, sending his friend backwards into the air and into oblivion, for all she cared.

“Bee,” Baby Brother exclaimed proudly, unaware of his brush with danger.

He stared at the empty end of his finger/bee-launch pad and then at his mother, in disbeelief, that his striped friend was suddenly missing.

“Easy come, easy go, Sweet Bee Boy,” Mama said with a twinge of regret at the interrupted friendship that was quickly replaced with a much greater sense of relief at not dealing with the pain and swelling of a sting.

Cowboy Dentist

Little Legs watched Minnie Mouse on the screen on the wall, while reclined on a green, plastic covered chair with a paper towel clipped to his shirt.  He was quite pleased with the situation. He had just eaten all the pink, cake flavored toothpaste from the dental hygienist’s silver toothpaste nub and was watching cartoons before noon.

Life was pretty good.

I corralled Baby Brother in the corner and watched the patient revel in his excellent fortune. He smacked his lips and turned around in search of more toothpaste.  

“Ok, Doctor Too Tall is going to take a quick peek in your mouth,” the hygienist explained.

“Where is Doctor X?” I asked.

“She got a job offer that she couldn’t refuse,” she whispered.  

“Howdy, partner,” Doctor Too Tall (and loud) swaggered into the cubical.

The cowboy-dentist wore jeans with a crease down the center of each leg, white from being re-ironed after every wash. I imagined he was the kind of man who also insisted that his underwear was ironed, folded, and shelved, instead of tossed into a pile and shoved into a drawer.

Doctor Too Tall leaned down and pulled Little Legs’ mouth out to one side. He poked at his teeth with a shiny, mirrored instrument until Little Legs clamped his jaws shut with a “humph” of finality. As far as Little Legs was concerned, the peek-show was over.

“How do his back teeth look, Doc?” I asked, distracting Baby Brother with a sample toothbrush.

On a nightly basis, we wrangled with the boy to brush his teeth. It was logical that a few were missed in the wrestling match, especially the hard-to-reach ones. Out of sight, out of mind.  

“Well, it is hard to tell which is why he should be with a pediatric dentist.”

I felt like the words were knocked out of my mouth, I was temporarily speechless.

“We like coming here because its only a few minutes from our house,” I ventured weakly, trying to make peace.

 “And that’s the difference between doing the easy thing and the right thing.”

With that, he breezed out.

Not another word was mentioned.

He was off to rope a horse and some bedside manner.   

Haircut Day

I gathered the ragamuffins close to me as we walked across the parking lot. It was haircut day and Little Legs happily skipped along, certain that he was about to get a lollypop. Baby Brother, on the other hand, was very unhappy about missing his morning nap and increased the volume of his screams the closer we got to the entrance.

At the door, we were greeted by a woman who was no less than seven feet tall. Her bleach blonde hair was piled into a messy bun on top of her head, adding another three inches to her already impressive height.

“Happy Halloween, boys.”

“What’s your phone number?” the very tall woman asked, the only information required to check-in.

She hunted and pecked out the numbers, one by one.

“Ok, I see we’ve had Little Legs here before,” she peered down as Little Legs reached up for the bowl of Dum-dums on the counter.

“Karen is going to take you,” she said, sliding the bowl back from the edge with a throaty, barmaid laugh.

“I’m done with kids for today, I got mine off to school and I’ve been marinating ever since.”

I glanced down at my watch; it was only a few minutes after 10. Two hours of marinade should be enough to tenderize even the toughest bird. I assumed she needed a little more time and sauce to reach that sweet spot. We simply were not there, yet.  

Instantly, I felt grateful for Karen, whom I had never met, but would be handling the scissors that the still-marinating, very tall woman would not be using in my sons’ hair.

Until Karen emerged from the back of the salon.

She grabbed a slip of paper from the register and held it out to me with hands that shook like leaves in the breeze.

“This look right?” she asked.

 It was our information, so I nodded.

“Let’s get started,” she said.  

She held out a shaky, crooked pinky to Little Legs; he wrapped his fingers around it and walked to her chair to get another unique, impossible to repeat, haircut.

“You’re next, Baby Brother,” I whispered.

The Freedom Run

The boys were securely fastened into the stroller, happily slurping down the melting juice from their popsicles.

We looked left and right before crossing the busy road to enter the quiet neighborhood where we liked to walk in the evenings.  

It was the first, and often the only time, we had to talk about the day without someone *ahem* (Baby Brother) crying because someone else *ahem* (Little Legs) stole his toy or pushed him down or bit him or was in the process of doing something dangerous that required immediate intervention.

The sky was dark with heavy clouds and wind that whipped through the Bradford pear trees in the neighbor’s yard. I cringed as I watched the tops of their trees bend and shake, remembering last year’s wind gusts that snapped several of the pear trees in half.

“All done,” Little Legs held out a red-stained wooden stick and waved it back and forth.

There was an implied threat, if the popsicle stick was not grabbed quickly, the litter bug would toss it onto the ground. He was teaching Baby Brother to do the same; monkey see, monkey do.

“Got it,” I said, snatching it from his fingers and falling back in-step with Daddy Longlegs.

“Come hold my gooey hand,” Little Legs requested, holding a small, sticky hand to me.

“Mommy and Daddy are talking right now,” I politely declined his request.

“Please,” he begged, “hold my gooey hand.”  

Daddy Longlegs and I laughed; it was easy to decide not to hold his gooey hand.

Little Legs gave us a mean look with a harrumph, turned forward, and settled in for the ride; while Baby Brother hung one arm over the side of his stroller seat and watched the passing scenery, still thoughtfully working on his frozen treat.  

We walked on in companionable quiet, breathing in the cool fall and smelling wet leaves, when we heard a familiar jingle of two metal dog tags knocking against one another. We heard paws pounding the pavement and the clattering of gravel as a spray of tiny rocks was sent out from either side of the running animal.

It was our naughty dog, escaping down the road after us, a blur of black fur and slobber. She was oblivious to the busy road she just blindly crossed or the invisible fence that was supposed to be keeping her safe. She smiled with all of her sharp, white teeth as she ran towards us, thrilled with the reward of her risk in making a run for it.

Little Legs shouted, “Coco! Its Coco!”

Baby Brother yelled, “Dog, dog, dog.”

They were like sailors on a ship, wildly pointing and waving, spotting a whale for the first time, instead of two little boys seeing the same dog they just left behind eight minutes earlier. As for Coco, she grinned from floppy ear to floppy ear at being with her her gang, again.

Her freedom run was worth it, to be with her furever family, fur now, anyways.    

Standing on a stool

The boys ran to the water exhibit, drawn like moths to the light. Little Legs grabbed a green boat and began to cruise it along the length of the tub with revving engine sounds. He cozied up next to a little boy who was appropriately covered with a yellow, rubber smock. The boat experienced turbulence which created a few small, shirt-soaking waves. Luckily, Captain L. Legs was at the helm and guided the vessel through the storm and back to safety in the harbor.

The boy in a smock watched wide eyed until I guided the seafaring folk a few steps away. Only then was the boy able to regain the use of his limbs and continue splashing his overly involved parents who breathed audible sighs of relief when we moved. Meanwhile, Baby Brother gripped the side of the table and tried to pull himself up to watch the action. He slipped and fell, got back up and tried again and again.

“Let me give you a boost,” I offered and picked up Baby Brother.

He squealed in a way that made another mother raise an eyebrow and pucker her lips in is-this-an-abduction-situation kind of way. Baby Brother kicked and wiggled his way back down to the ground where he resumed his efforts to watch the water activities on his own, without success. I tried not to take it personally, but these attempts at independence/thwarted love did sometimes sting.

“If only there was another stool around here,” I said casting my semi-hurt feelings aside and looking left and right.

I got down on one knee and checked under the table where I saw more than a few sets of big and little legs and feet.

A particularly large shoe was planted firmly on the ground, while the other was hiked up on a tiny, red stool of the perfect height for Baby Brother to see over the edge. The owner of the leg continued to stand on the stool, oblivious to the need of a child who continued to jump and fall, right next to him.  

The reality that existed in the face of his phone was more interesting that the one at his feet. I sincerely hoped for a second that he would lose his balance and fall into the water for a cool and refreshing wake-up call back to the real world, also thus relinquishing his hold on the stool.

Nothing happened, despite my unwell-wishes, and so we went onto the next station of hands-on learning, germ sharing and parents secretly judging one another.  

A Ghost Story

It was the middle of the night in a bedroom with eerie shadows, cast from a small nightlight plugged into the wall.  

A rustling of the sheets and the sound of whimpering drew Daddy Longlegs from the depths of his sleep.

Through the haze of broken sleep, he peered around the dark room and gasped.

There was a three-foot tall presence, shrouded in white, standing at the end of the bed, waving its arms in wild desperation.

The presence shouted in a familiar voice, “Help, get me out of here.”

Oh god, it’s a… Daddy Longlegs did not finish his thought.

Just as he was about to admit to an otherworldly visitation or the loss of his sanity, the sheet fell off with the mystery of the encounter.

Little Legs was left standing, a still sleeping boy-not-ghost, who got stuck under the sheet and was now freed to curl up and return to his unencumbered sleep.

Some people walk in their sleep, while others talk. Our son haunts our dreams.

To be clear, like most ghost stories, this is a retelling.

My head was tucked safely under a pillow whilst this haunting took place.  

Battery Drain

I pulled my legs in and shut the last car door.

“Phew…” I exhaled dramatically, “I think we can finally go.”

Daddy Longlegs shook his head and managed to withhold his thoughts on the joys and benefits of waiting.

“Go, Daddy, go!” Little Legs shouted.

He swung his feet back and forth, kicking the seat in front of him, landing each word with a bang.

Daddy Longlegs ignored the chaos of the vehicle to depress the glowing red, ignition button.

Click, click, click, click.

The keyless entry was a novelty of this newish car that felt strange and as void of meaning as holding an e-reader instead of book. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the process of sliding a key into the ignition of a car and bringing it to life until I was just another keyless button pusher.

Daddy Longlegs pushed the button again, assuming he somehow did it wrong the first time.

Click, click, click, click.

The button did not produce the expected revving of the engine, instead, we heard clicking.

“That doesn’t sound right,” Daddy Longlegs said and tried the button again.

Click, click, click, click.

“That seems like a bad sign,” I said, summoning my inner mechanic psychic.

“Dat sounds weely, weely bad,” the peanut gallery chimed in from the back.

Meanwhile, Baby Brother was impatiently waiting for vroom, vroom, confined to his car seat, bored and without snacks.

“Go Daddy,” Little Legs yelled. 

Baby Brother started to cry, “Mama, mama, mama.”

“Are you sure you didn’t leave the car on yesterday?”

“Of course, not.”

Tension built as quickly as hope for the car starting dwindled.

If I had left the dumb keyless car on, I would never admit it.

As far as I was concerned, it was the dreaded, parasitic battery drain.

#hondaproblems #nottakingresponsibility #innocentuntilprovenguiltybutmaybeididit

 Honda’s Underpowered Battery is Subject to Parasitic Drains (hondaproblems.com)

Sneak Attack

“Oh, and one more thing,” Barb said distractedly as she rifled through a file.

“It would be great if you would come in on that Saturday to help out.”

Interesting, the date of discussion was in two weeks. And as far as Rachel was concerned, there was nothing great about working on a Saturday.

“I don’t think so,” Rachel responded after a second of hesitation in which she considered the possibility of a joyful termination from the position.

“You don’t think so?” Barb repeated, suddenly paying attention.

Barb’s eyebrows and voice lifted at the same time. She looked up at the small woman standing in front of her, purse slung over her shoulder and shoes pointed toward the door.

“Ok, see you next Tuesday,” Rachel said with a wave.

 Barb, too flabbergasted to respond, waved back in confusion, certain that Rachel’s next day was not Tuesday.

The Meeting

Once we returned to the office, I typed up a quick thank you note for the meeting.

My coworker had attended with me, arriving late and full of extraneous information and stories. She rattled an empty Starbucks cup back and forth as an endless flow of words gushed from her mouth. I focused on controlling the furrowing of my brow and the contorting of my mouth, forcing my face into a mask of pleasantness.

Inside, I begged and screamed for her silence but would settle for any amount of professionalism. Why are we talking about your retirement plan 20 years from now?

Yet, on she went oversharing and underlistening.  

As I was about to curb her enthusiasm, our host began to follow in the same pattern, explaining her life course and interests and hobbies. They clicked in a soulmate kind of way that left me behind on a different plane of existence.

Within a few minutes of sending the thank you email, our original host responded with a request for my coworker’s email and for what I am sure to follow will be a lifelong friendship, job offer or invite to dinner and drinks.

I have been ruminating over this interaction and found the following things to be true.

Meetings start late here. They require small talk to move forward. Professionalism is optional. And perhaps most interesting, I was envious for my colleague’s ease in quickly slipping from a professional to a personal relationship, and making a real connection, while I remained buttoned up, sharing and receiving next to nothing.

Was this style of communication living fearlessly or recklessly?

There is a thin line between the personal and professional world, separated by carefully curated boundaries, meant to protect and support those of us who must go back and forth between the two.

For me, it is a thin line that I am not ready to start straddling.

Jumping to conclusions

Lunch was almost over.

I tore the last bit of Baby Brother’s sandwich into two smaller pieces while finishing my own sticky mess of a peanut butter and honey sandwich when I noticed Little Legs slipping from the table.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Down here,” a puny voice said.

I stood up to peek around Baby Brother, happily sucking the honey and peanut butter from the bread, to see Little Legs resting his head on the seat of his chair. He pulled a red wax cheese wrapper from one side of the chair to the other, like a lethargic cat toying with a dead mouse.

“Just playing,” he explained with his cheek squished out under the weight of his head, as a most convenient pillow.

“Are you tired?”

“No,” he replied without looking up.

“Are you sick?”

“No,” he repeated as he dragged the wrapper in a zig-zag across the seat of the chair.

He clearly was both, sick and tired, which was confirmed when he drove his dump truck to bed, climbed up over the edge and went to sleep without a single request for nap-time water, a trip to the potty, or more cars to keep him company.

I couldn’t think beyond the next two hours and wondered if Covid had finally come calling.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-in-babies-and-children/art-20484405