The bathroom reader
Thursday, November 2, 2017
It was a normal Sunday in October.
The 22nd, to be exact. It was gorgeous out, but that's to be expected. October is the month of perfect weather. I know adults shouldn't have favorite colors and numbers and months, but mine are as follows: green, 8, October. I stole 8 from Matt. Evelyn and I both share green and, true to stereotype, Sophie loves pink and Theo's favorite hue is blue.
That day we went to the blue park, as the kids call it. We had spent the morning at a friend's house where they had climbed and jumped and swung for a solid hour and a half, maybe more. When you subject your children to apartment living, they become hyperactive when let loose in a real backyard. Evelyn, at eight years old, is starting to pick up on the fact that real families live in houses with dogs and their own recycling bins, while poor families live in apartments. But there are perks to apartment living. Besides the obvious things like less space equaling less stuff equaling less time managing and cleaning said stuff and space, there is the added benefit of more quality time with each other because we're always so, so close to one another. I've also become a pro at tip toeing and stealth drawer opening in early morning hours so as not to wake the kids a minute earlier than necessary. Lastly, our rental office has a hot chocolate machine. What's not to love?
Still, Evelyn keeps asking for her own room, complete with a desk for doing her homework. I usually point out to her that we have a perfectly capable and sturdy kitchen table, not to mention an island with four stools. If that doesn't fly, I remind her that mommy and daddy were barely legal and fully broke when we had her, so we are still playing catch up. I know I really need to stop griping about money though when she offers to pay for her own things at the store, but still, I suspect that is more out of desire to do the self checkout at Target more than anything else. Target is probably (definitely) the reason we never have money. I always end up with pink sweatshirts or floral kimonos or a wooden light up star to hang on the wall.
Target was actually our final destination that day, after visiting our friends, which was a last minute thing. I had originally told them we'd go to the park and then the store, but because we had played in our friend's backyard, I thought maybe they'd forget about the park. Nope. They had loaded their scooters and skateboard in the back of the car and were not about to let me off the hook. If I was going to be the type of parent who forced a two bedroom apartment existence on them, they'd surely be the type of kids to demand a park and a backyard in one day.
But it was, after all, October, so how could I complain? I brought a book and read sporadically between spotting someone on the bars and pushing someone on the swing. I'm the type of person who likes labels and schedules and structure, but I'm learning that life is not always neat and tidy. Sometimes, you've just gotta make it work with you've got. Sometimes I get an afternoon on the couch with a book and my feet in the sun and other times I get a sentence at a time at the park. Cry me a river, right? Feel free to roll your eyes. Anyway, I love Stephen King's advice in one of my favorite books (another favorite!), On Writing: "The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books—of course! But so are theatre lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone's favorite, the john." (p 145-46)
The bathroom really is the best place to read. I know this because I live in an apartment with three kids and sometimes I lock myself in there with my current read to get out of making everyone toast. It's calm and quiet and you're killing a few birds with one stone.
As our park time winded down, I found myself needing to use the facilities. I told the kids I'd be right back and headed to the public park bathroom. The front door was held open by a wedge, and the stall I chose was directly opposite that door, so I was able to see out of the crack in my stall door and out to the park. I saw my kids running towards the building with their skateboard and scooters, and as they got closer they started to slow down and whisper, as if they were trying to surprise someone. I realized they were trying to sneak into the bathroom to scare me. I watched Theo with a smile as he and his big helmet head crept into the stall opposite to mine.
I got up and opened my door and walked to the only other stall in the bathroom, feeling giddy and playful, anticipating Theo's face when I would jump up and hopefully scare his socks off. I paused for a second and then made the jump, grabbing the top of the stall so I could hold myself up longer and we could have a laugh together.
Except it wasn't Theo.
I really should've paused longer. That small voice in the back of my head was right—I should've looked under the stall before I jumped. Turns out Stephen King was spot on when he said everyone likes reading while on the toilet. Upon jumping the stall with a stupid grin on my face, I found an older lady sitting on the pot with a book in her lap.
"Oh my gosh I am SO SORRY. I thought you were my son."
Usually, leaving the park is a dreaded ordeal. Someone's shoe is off and everyone is whining and I give the two minute warning every five minutes for a half hour. This day was different. I speed walked out of that bathroom to find my kids, Theo included, positioned right outside the building in some bushes. They yelled "surprise!" and I kept on walking right past them, trying to contain my horror and amusement. They double timed it to keep up with me as I whispered to them my faux pas and hightailed it to the parking lot. They could see that if they weren't in our car in record time they'd be left at the park. The last thing I wanted was to have to make small talk at the sand pit. The poor woman! Me being the poor woman.
We sat in the safety of the car and laughed and said "oh my gosh" and I covered my face with my hands. The kids couldn't believe I did that. They loved it, thought it was the best thing ever.
As the waning October sun began to set we headed back to the comfort and familiarity of the picture clad walls and stained carpet of our little apartment—but not before a stop at Target, where I did not buy any kimonos.