Getting him out of the car is like getting a cat into a bath. All arms and legs splayed, hooking the door, wailing, me tugging at his waist and invoking Jesus Christ again. He wants to bring fistfuls of lego. I say no because he inevitably leaves it behind and then there's more wailing, splaying, hooking, tugging, Jesus Christing.
I give up. We storm away from the car, him smug with his fistfuls, me swearing that I'm never buying any more because in our house you can open any drawer, closet, fridge, laundry, cupboard and an avalanche of lego buries you up to your neck. No more. The impressiveness of my compromise is impeded by the three-year-old stuck to my leg, the hobbled leg that I drag along behind like a hunchback bell-ringer or the assistant to a vampire. When the door opens and the beautiful mother says "Hello!" in her beautiful way I growl "Yeah" and we all spill inside but only after I threaten to sell Evan at the Save-Easy on the shelf where they put rotten vegetables at 30% off.
There are some mothers there that I don't know but venting takes priority over the usual So-Nice-To-Meet-You-And-By-The-Way-I-Totally-Dig-Every-Moment-Of-This facade. I kick off my boots and try, failing, to shake Ben off my leg. He wails.
"OH MY GOD I HATE THE RINK" is how it starts. The crotch of my pants is on its way to my knees. Never mind that. "We go there and it's an hour except every minute is an hour so really it feels like sixty hours and you're freezing cold and your butt is numb and Ben doesn't want to be there so he just runs around and I don't want to run, I just want to shiver and Evan's out there in the middle of the ice just standing there and goofing off with his friends and the teachers are useless because they're all high school students and so we're all just standing there for an hour except when Evan has to pee and this crazy hockey dad yells at his kid to GET BACK ON THE ICE NOT LIKE THAT OTHER KID THAT 'HAS TO PEE' and I have to carry him to the bathroom and his skates are knocking against my calfbones and he pees and then he goes out to stand at centre ice again and they play Barney the whole time and it makes me want to stick forks in my eyeballs and next time I'm going to remember to bring forks with me and oh my god hockey can suck me because I HATE THE RINK."
"Uhh. Oh." Another beautiful mother looks at me, attempting empathy, but underneath it I can see that she's kind of horrified.
By the end of the day I'm not saying much and then it comes to me and I sink. I don't think I like this as much as they like this.
Let's say it's true. Let's say I love my kids but I don't wear the mantle of motherhood as well as you, or her, or that other woman. Say I don't do well with any kind of lack of solitude, especially when I'm feeling like I need to write. Not that other mothers don't need solitude. Everyone needs solitude. I just think there's some kind of threshold and I think mine is lower and I think that's why my kids know who Jesus Christ is. A thief of car keys and a nocturnal leprechaun who sprinkles lego along the bare-footed path to the bathroom.
Say it feels, some days, like a zoo that plays Barney on an endless loop. A zoo where the keepers all have scraggly toenails that poke holes through their socks and they run up and down the paths crack-crack-cracking plastic lightsabres against the cage bars and screeching MAMA WANNA CUT OFFA MAH TOOOOES! A-MO KETCHUP! MO KETCHUP!
So what? So that's how it feels, some days. Alright. Plenty of days, that's how it feels.
He sniffs me again, this time my arm. Then my neck, another, deep and long followed by a sigh that is, to be truthful, kinda pervy.
"I'm sorry, Evan."
"Sometimes mommies and daddies need a time out, love. Sometimes mommies and daddies get tired and scared and hungry and they have a tantrum and they need a time out and a hug."
"I'm sorry I yelled at you, Evan."
"You smell like dandelions and..." (sniffs) "...daffodils and..." (sniffs) "You don't smell like cow plops. I like how you don't smell like cow plops."
We giggle together, tangled up on the couch, and I wonder who taught him cow plops. I wonder what Freud thought about cow plops. I wonder what my son will remember. I hope he'll remember this. This, and not that.
I know I've said this before and you've said no no no but whenever I get sinky I have to say it again. Having a dead kid is hard. The experience of mothering both real-live children as well as a formless gypsy is pretty much a guy standing there with a gun to your head and he's snarling BE SERENE. BE GRATEFUL. NOW.
I have to mean it. I have to mean it. I have to mean it every second every minute every day every month every year my god every second I have to mean it more than anybody else JESUS CHRIST MY FOOT.
(guy with gun cracks the butt of it against my skull, continuing education)
Feed me, my keeper. Scrips and scraps and I don't care what. I will do tricks and I will give you your show and I will gobble it up and I'll thank you for it.
Devotion in chosen captivity, for they chuck me one fish and then two, and I leap.