We were running late because I'd taken the boys to see friends of ours play at the Celebration of Cultures in Centennial Park--a festival that might as well have been called the Celebration of So Many Cars & So Not Any Parking Spaces, because we drove around (and around and around and AROUND) for 40 minutes and missed all but two songs in the set.
When we went to say hello to the guys in the band afterwards, one of the stage hands rolled his eyes and said, "Um, can you make this quick because we've got this thing called TIME we're dealing with?"
I'm sorry, angry little man moving microphones around. Were you talking to ME? About TIME? And your lack thereof?
If you weren't so "Busy" and "Important", I might ask you to elaborate on this new and exciting “TIME” concept, because the only world I'm familiar with is one in which I LUXURIATE IN THE WARM GLOW OF HAVING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO AND NOWHERE TO BE. AND IT TASTES LIKE CHOCOLATE.
So there was that.
And then getting OUT of our parking spot at the festival involved a complicated series of 41-point turns, and the inadvertent relocation of a huge orange traffic cone, and a small bout of cursing aimed at some passersby who were pointing and snickering at my ridiculous attempt to GET THROUGH LIFE.
So, I wasn't in the most sparkly mood. And I still had to buy a birthday gift for this little girl, and (in case I didn't mention it) we were running LATE.
I knew exactly what I wanted to get her, and I knew that getting it would take twice as long if the boys were running around boyhandling everything, so I parked in front of the neighborhood gift shop/ice cream parlor, told the boys I'd be right back, and locked the doors. It was the first time I've left them in the car alone, but I figured it was okay. I could see the car from the front of the store. There were parents and kids eating ice cream on the porch. I ran in, grabbed the gift, set it on the counter, took out my wallet, and just as I was poking my head out to check on the boys, a tall and angry Good Samaritan, stormed in.
"Are those your kids in that car out there?" he asked.
"Yes. I can see them. They're fine."
"Did you know your windows are up?"
I was confused. Did he mean my windows were down? So someone could snatch the kids? Or they could climb out?
"One of your kids is crying and they both look really HOT!" he said, globules of disgust dripping off his tongue.
I told the store owner I'd be right back and ran out to the car. Gus was a little teary. Because, he told me, "That weird man looked in our windows and was writing down our license plate number."
Thank you, Good Samaritan, for all you do.
I dragged the boys into the store, muttering to myself about self-righteous do-gooders, and then when I went to finish paying I realized I no longer had my wallet.
And thus began my meltdown.
I looked at the store owner, tears starting to burn at the back of my eyes.
"It was just ... I just ... did you see me? I took out two twenty-dollar bills, and then that GUY, and then, you saw me with my little pink wallet and my money, right?"
"No, but I believe that you had it," she said. "Don't worry. I believe you."
The way she said it was as if she sensed my impending insanity and was trying to assure me that I still EXIST.
CAN YOU SEE ME?
YES. I CAN SEE YOU.
I dumped the contents of my purse onto a chair. Nothing. (Well, not nothing. There was lip gloss, a camera, my notebook, a pen, a baggy of baby wipes, hand-sanitizer, two crayons, my Kindle and a pair of Cookie Monster briefs. But no wallet). The store owner offered to watch the boys while I ran out to the car, where I found my wallet wedged next to Patrick's car seat.
But it was too late.
I was crazy.
I was a bad, stupid, crazy, wallet-losing, kid-leaving mother who routinely makes irresponsible choices that will psychologically and irreparably damage her children.
I began to ugly cry.
"Why is EVERYONE in the world so JUDGMENTAL?" I sobbed to this poor woman. "I was JUST trying to buy a BIRTHDAY present and not be LAY-HAY-AAAAAAAAATE.
"It's okay," she soothed. "I'm a mother, too. Some people are just busy-bodies. Don't you even worry about it ..."
She handed me the wrapped gift.
"Let's go find that man and tell him what a jerk he is for making us cry," Gus said.
It sounded like a solid strategy to me, but (as I might have mentioned--did I mention?) we were RUNNING LATE.
At home, Gus hopped out of the car and ran inside to tell Larry that "Mommy is crying because this crazy man tried to get in our car and look at our license plate."
"What?" Larry asked. "What happened?"
I told Gus to go watch something loud on television, and I shut the bedroom door.
"WHAT HAPPENED?" I shrieked. "This !#%&^%$# $^&#*$^Q# insinuated that it was #$^&*#^$&#Q! and I !&$^&*^#$ hate people in this ^&%^#&%$^&! self-righteous $#%^@%*! town I swear to God I was gone for two !#%^&!%#! minutes. MY KIDS ARE HOT? HOT!!! My !$%^!&#%$!# ass they're hot, you %^&%$^&!%$^%# asshole ASSFACE mc'$%^&^!%^&$#% ASS NUT. IT'S !@$%^$#!# OCTOBER, YOU #$^&$HOLE! I'M WEARING A $%^#@&%$ SWEATER. GOD! PEOPLE ARE SO %^!&%#$^&#%4 judgmental! I can't LIVE LIKE THIS! With all these !%$^&#$%^!#% judgmental ^$@&#^$*&s walking around my own neighborhood JUDGING WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?"
"It's a little funny."
"It's not funny! IT'S HORRIBLE! LOOK AT THE WORLD WE LIVE IN! With its horrible, judgmental people! I didn't even tell you about the microphone guy ..."
I told him about the microphone guy.
"Asshole," Larry said. "Do you want me to take the boys to the party and you can meet us there later?"
"No! Then everyone will KNOW what a mess I am.""Why?"
"BECAUSE I'LL BE LATE."