“I can’t eat this, momma,” Saige holds up the apple from her lunch box and smiles a wide, front-toothless smile. Exhaust, bone-white in the sub-freezing air, drifts over the back of the Suburban, parked on a small snow bank outside of the elementary school. Garrett is supposed to be getting his boots from his classroom, but I can see out the back window, through the lazy car smoke, that he’s been waylaid by the game of king of the snow mountain. My heated seat bakes my buns while our breath freezes on the inside of the windows.
The inside. Never in my worst nightmares did I ever imagine living where breath freezes to ice on the inside of cars.
It’s shower night and I’m already dreading the effort required and plotting the glass of wine that will see me through the assembly line of soap, rinse, dry, lotion, teeth, nails. When I had children, I never thought about nails. You don’t think about the maintenance of so many little bodies not your own. It’s been five days since they last bathed. Yes, five. Stop judging; we’ve already discussed judging and it’s freezing, so they don’t get dirty. All the dirt is frozen. Our sweat is frozen inside our pores. I hate shower nights, but I cannot skip it tonight. Butts eventually smell, no matter how frozen. It’s a fact.
I look forward to the start of swimming lessons at the end of the month because, as far as I’m concerned, that counts as twice weekly bathing.
The radio announcer mentions Martin Luther King Day and Quinn pipes in his high, sweet tones: “I know that gwuy. We leawrned about him in school. He changed the rules so brown people could go in restauwants.”
“He did. With a lot of other people. They worked hard to change the rules and give everyone equal rights. And now we have a brown guy for president of the whole country.”
“Yeah. It wasn’t fair. Before that gwuy, Saige couldn’t go in a restauwant.” Restaurants are very important places in my children’s lives, something like entering a place of worship. Forget voting rights. You bastards can’t keep people out of restaurants. Where they serve french fries and individual pizzas that are all mine, no sharing, right mom? That’s not fair.
It’s that simple. My mother went to high school when segregation was the law of the land and her five year old grandson shakes his head, amazed that anyone could conceive of being unfair over brown skin. It’s astonishing and sad, beautiful and ugly. How we change. How quickly it’s written off as history. I hope my grandchildren shake their heads in dismayed astonishment over the rights denied to gay people. I hope it’s ancient history. I hope some of us gwuys change the rules.
Garrett’s red hair pops into the side window and he fumbles at the handle with his be-mittened hand. He has his boots. With Garrett, the acquiring of his goal on any given errand is always fifty/fifty. I hear his seat belt buckle snap. It is finally time to go home. I close my eyes in brief thanksgiving that there is no hockey tonight. There was a time when I mocked parents who threw their tiny toddlers out on the ice in full Wayne Gretzky gear. When I said things like ice time at 6:00 a.m., you’ve got to be effing kidding me. A time before Matt had boys.
Never (seriously, never ever) say never. I give you a brief video of me eating my words, while sitting on the butt-numbingly cold bleachers of the ice rink. Yum. Pass the salt.