Of course, my husband's to blame.
Downtown on a sleeting Saturday, I merely asked him to man our three, young children in a bookstore while I ducked into Athleta for a rash guard, hoping that this purchase would somehow conjure warmer weather. I allayed my guilt about abandoning my husband with our brood by reasoning that Barnes & Noble was one of the last places, aside from a library, where children and adults could still browse through books for hours unmolested. I didn’t actually mean for Jeff to buy the kids anything—certainly not anything that made any noise.
But our children must have pestered my husband long enough that he finally conceded defeat. Georgia, 6, selected “Fabulous Doodles”; her twin brother, Griffin, chose “Baseball’s Greatest Hitters.” Jeff, himself, must have been so engrossed in his own purchase—the “Baseball Prospectus 2013” he’s since been perusing each night in preparation for his upcoming fantasy draft—that Jane absconded with “Dora Rides to Bike Park,” replete with a shiny, red bell.
“You bought her a book with a bell?” I asked my husband when we met up again in the freezing rain.
“Don’t start,” Jeff said.
“Ching, ching,” went Jane, as we headed toward the restaurant.
The food at the upscale pizzeria was just as delightful as my husband and I remembered it being, when we used to visit the spot before we had kids. But the atmosphere wasn’t.
“Can we get a high chair?” I asked the hostess.
“I don’t like this strawberry sauce they put on this pizza,” Georgia said, wiping what was actually traditional marinara on her sleeve and shoving away her slice.
“Ching, ching!” went Jane.
When the bill arrived with peppermints, our children tore them open and popped them into their mouths. Their faces contorted in pain.
“Too spicy,” Griffin yelped, dropping the sticky candy straight from his lips to the table.
“I don’t like this treat!” Jane cried.
I swabbed chewed up bits from her cheeks with a cloth napkin, in between offering her sips of milk. “I want my Dora book,” Jane sobbed, and I unwillingly handed it over.
Trudging back to the car, we spotted several groups of drunken St. Patrick’s Day revelers. We were bundled against the cold in parkas and hats, while many of the inebriated coeds sported miniskirts and verdant T-shirts with slogans like, “Kiss me. I’m Irish!” One fellow stumbled, his green top hat falling askew.
“What on earth are those people doing?” Georgia asked.
“It’s a sort of St. Patrick’s Day parade,” I lied.
“Ching, ching!” went Jane.
On the ride home, her red bell echoed throughout the minivan.
“I think we should return that book,” Griffin said. “It’s not enjoyable at all. My book is quiet.”
“All you can do with my book is doodle,” Georgia added.
“I’m going to ring this bell at night!” Jane shouted in triumph.
And so, by god, she did.