Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time To Hit "Pause"

It’s Saturday night and we’re on the babysitter’s dime, supposed to be escaping like a single couple with no responsibilities; (pay no attention to the cell phone in my coat pocket on vibrate). Instead I’m stranded in the back seat of a complete stranger’s SUV with three-year-old twins I just met, who are bouncing out of their car seats. We were supposed to be going out on a date; (I can TOO still call it that after nine years of marriage, because there is no expiration date on the word.)

Why am I paying a babysitter so I can watch the children of strangers? My dear husband, whom I affectionately call “Milk Man,” (for reasons involving his diligence in bringing home dairy products), saw someone stranded in the middle of the road. This someone’s car ran out of gas. I thought Milk Man was the only one in the universe who had that happen to him, but apparently, there is another man whose gas gage is broken, and we just found him. What luck. Now I'm watching the stranger drive away in my car, sitting in my seat, with my husband, to get gas. I think I’m jealous.

“Are you the teacher?” asks the boy twin in the fuzzy sweater. He has tight curly hair like the runner up on the first season of American Idol whose name is now a Trivial Pursuit question. Apparently, this boy loves to sing too, (about poop). “No," I say, shutting the car door because it’s getting cold. “I’m just a mommy.” The twin sister is amazed. “That’s your job, just MOMMY?” She’s chewing the strings on her pink coat. “Pretty much,” I shrug, not expecting to need a copy of my resume to supervise preschoolers for a few minutes. “Oh,” they say in unison, then grow quiet.

Milk Man and the stranger pull up with gas. The dad sticks his head in the window and asks, “How were they?” I tell him his kids are beautiful and adorable. He laughs. “Spend a whole day wit em,” is his response. I’m thinking this man is a dumb ass. I look down at the floor of his car so he can't read my expression. I climb back into the passenger seat of my own vehicle, ready AGAIN to go out to dinner.

After pouring the gas into the stranger's car, Milk Man stands back, watching it not start. I sigh. "I think you need a jump," he yells. Both men look up at me, and I know what’s coming. Next I’m back in the SUV with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, as the men drive off to an auto shop to borrow jumper cables. “I have two bedrooms,” shouts the girl. “My green one is in my daddy’s house and my pink Dora bedroom is in my grandma’s house.” “Wow” I say. Meanwhile, I have to start directing traffic. Dozens of cars operated by oblivious, speeding drivers talking on cell phones, buzz around the stuck SUV. I stick my head in the window to ask the kids how they are doing. They’re playing "tickle."

The men return with cables. I get into the back again with the children, and shut the car door, as my husband and the stranger try to start it. “Where’s mommy?” I whisper-ask the kids. The little girl leans toward my ear, like she has a great secret. “Daddy was yelling at Mommy again, so she went to grandma’s house.” I look over at the twin brother. He’s shaking his head in grave agreement. “Oh,” I say, upset for them. “That’s very hard for you.” They both nod, and stare off into space.

The car is running now and the stranger thanks us. I say goodbye to the kids and walk away. When I look back they’re still waving, and I feel compelled to bless them secretly, and thank God for my good husband, whom I love so much.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

At least you got a good story out of it. Really, it breaks my heart when I get these stories from the poor innocent children in broken homes. I wonder why did they tell their story to me? And I think maybe so I can pray for them, or so they can feel heard, or so I can be reminded to feel grateful, or maybe all of the above.

Loren Christie said...

Yup. The whole encounter lasted only about a half hour, but for some reason I was very moved by those kids, and they kind of haunted me after that.

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