The front room was a mess. A big mess. And I’d specifically told the five children not a half hour before not to throw everything around the room. I was just about to scold them when the phone rang.
Thus began the adventure.
I walked into the kitchen to get the phone and saw what I first thought was a pretty impressive pile of garbage teetering above the garbage can. But as I got closer I saw that it was much more than impressive. It was miraculous. The can was full and the children, instead of just getting a new bag or even just asking me to get a new bag, had precariously perched a heap of garbage at least two feet above the rim of the can in a way that science couldn’t explain. I considered calling Architectural Digest but figured they’d treat me as rudely as the Guinness people did when I called them about the purple stuff in my baby’s diaper. (She really hadn’t eaten anything purple)
Anyway, it was my wife on the phone and she does a little small talk and then she offhandedly asks if I was leaving soon.
? (insert silence here)
“The doctor!” she says.
“Uhhh…What doctor?” I cleverly retort.
She says that on the calendar it says the baby has an appointment at 3:45. I look on the calendar and there it is. And what makes it worse is that it’s in my own writing. It’s already 3:08 and it typically takes about 40 minutes to get there.
Hang up the phone, start screaming for children to get dressed, fill sippy cups with milk, pack diapers, tell everyone to get shoes (Mind you, that will be important later on), wrestle some children into coats, ask the nine year old to help wrestle others into coats, take the boy’s shirt off because it’s on inside out, sigh at the mess in the playroom which, once again, I’d specifically asked them not to make, hurdle baby who’s following me too closely, run outside to warm up the van, pick up an awful scent, change the baby because she stinks, wrap three scrunchies around my wrist to throw girl’s hair into ponytails, hurdle baby again, turn off the television, upstairs to turn off the bedroom lights, wet the baby’s hair to make her look not homeless (somewhat?), tell everyone to get in the van, put two plates in the sink, buckle the baby, and throw myself into the van.
3:13. Not too bad.
Look in rear view. Six year old in tears. Why? “Dad, everyone brought a stuffed animal but I forgot Puddles and now they’re going to play the whole ride and….”
I’m out of the van, running through the living room, grabbing Puddles by the ear (sorry Puddles), jumping into van, and tossing Puddles to a now whimpering six year old.
And we’re off. 3:14. Not too too bad. Yellow lights meant little. Speed limits meant less.
It’s 3:45 and I can see the buildings of the hospital over the trees. I’m congratulating myself silently for my excellent abilities to respond to a crisis when my nine year old says, “Uh, Dad.”
This is the kind of “Uh Dad” that precedes something she finds funny and I’ll find not so funny. I look in the rear view and she’s raising her eyebrows in a comical way. And then she drops the hammer. “Uh, I just noticed there’s a little snow on the ground and that’s why I’m thinking it might be helpful if the boy had shoes.”
(Reminder: talk to the nine year old about time and place for sarcasm)
“Uh, boy. Do you have your shoes on?”
? (Insert silence here)
“Where are your shoes?” I ask.
“I put them away,” he cleverly retorted.
“In the closet,” he says.
Now, to be clear he’s looking at me as if he deserves congratulations for putting his shoes away for the first time in his life. The girls in the back seat are guffawing, clapping and asking the boy if he thinks he’s Mowgli from The Jungle Book while I’m bending the steering wheel.
I’m still traveling along at 40 miles per hour. But I’m frozen. I simply don’t know what to do. I’m wondering if there’s a store nearby that sells children’s shoes. But let me tell you something. I don’t notice children’s shoe stores. I just don’t. If you told me I lived next door to a children’s shoe store I’d believe you. (Sadly, I know there’s a Wendy’s just up the road near a 7-11.)
So I pull into the parking lot, jump out and start rooting around the trunk for anything. I wouldn’t have cared if I’d found baby shoes or clown shoes. I would’ve settled for shoe boxes and some string.
And then there they were. Under the girl’s back bench was one blue beach shoe with orange stripes. You know, the kind of rubber shoe that kids wear on the beach. I stare at it. Shhh. I’m deciding if this will be noticeable to all the responsible parents in the waiting room. That’s right. A 40 year old man is deciding whether scuba gear is an appropriate clothing option for a doctor visit.
I root around some more and there’s the other one. I chalk it up to divine intervention rather than blaming myself for never cleaning out the van. I present them to the boy. “Yay. Shark shoes.” We called them shark shoes because during our summer trip to the beach the boy was afraid of sharks, mainly because the seven year old told him that three year old boys were an oft consumed delicacy to sharks. So I’d told him that sharks are allergic to these special “shark shoes” so they never come near.
So I put the shark shoes on the boy in the parking lot of the hospital and try to pull his pant legs down a little to cover them but then it just looked like he joined a gang so I pulled them back up.
Then the six year old volunteered to switch shoes because she thought the shark shoes looked kind of cool. The nine year old quickly said, “OoooKaay. It’s clear your fashion sense hasn’t kicked in yet.”
We walk into the doctor’s office at 4:11. We waited a half an hour and let me tell you something I’ve definitively proved. Shark shoes are very very noticeable. I watched each and every person see them on our way to the elevator, in the hallway, and in the waiting room. I think it was the orange stripe which surprisingly turned out to be brightly reflective under fluorescent lights. Here’s how it went: The responsible adults look at children, they look at the boy, they see the shark shoes, cover their eyes from the blinding orange reflective glare, and then look disapprovingly at me. I pretend not to notice as I’m pretending to read Ms. Magazine.
So the baby got two shots and I had to hold her down. Isn’t there someone else who can do that? Just have some thug nurse’s assistant come in, hold the child down, and then leave so you can come in as the conquering hero. I mean it’s a little confusing. Dad holds baby down while lady stabs baby in leg with needle and then Dad expects baby to hug Dad as consolation.
But anyway, when we return home I start making dinner but I take a moment and remember where I was when this whole thing started. The garbage is still teetering precariously two feet above the garbage can. It looks even more amazing to me now than when I left. I walk into the front room, call all the children in and point to the mess in the playroom.
Angry father: I thought I told you not to throw all those things all over the floor.
Innocent Six year old: We didn’t. We placed them.
Checkmated Father: Oh…
I walked over to the closet and there were the boy’s shoes. I thanked him for putting them away.