Yesterday, I decided to venture out of the house, avec les peanuts, to a place other than the Starbucks drive-thru. I settled on the park because I thought it would be a soft landing, and my sous chef considers the swings to be a sort of mobile Garden of Eden. It was about four in the afternoon when we set off, so instead of driving across town to the park, I instead went to the local elementary school. They have a great playground where we take the sous chef in the summer and on weekends. Upon our arrival, as I lumbered toward the play structures, I noticed there were quite a few children running around on the equipment. I quickly checked to make sure that the baby-friendly bucket swings were available, and indeed they were, so onward we pushed. I deposited the sous chef in her bucket of joy and proceeded to pat myself on the back for my successful outing.
Suddenly I got kind of a strange feeling, as if I was being watched. The children, of which there were about 25, all approximately eight years old, and being small arbiters of subtlety, were gaping at us (many open-mouthed.) I looked down to make sure I had buttoned up my shirt after Hazel’s third lunch and found I was decent–a relief to be sure. So what was the problem, I wondered? Why were these little mongrels staring? Hadn’t they ever seen a bedraggled mother and two wee ones before? Perhaps they can’t believe how amazing I look for having birthed a baby mere weeks ago, I thought. Then I remembered that they are eight years old and when they look at me they see only one thing: old mommy lady.
Then, from behind the play structure, I saw emerge a woman about my age with a look of very little authority. And then it dawned on me: she was a teacher. This wasn’t some random assembly of twenty-five children, all roughly the same age (I thought that was kind of weird.) This was some sort of organized recess. In other words, school was still in session and I was hanging out on the playground like an idiot.
At the precise moment I put all of this together, a young boy (clearly an alpha boy, judging from his artfully popped collar) approached me, football in hand, and sneered,
“Why are you here?”
Somewhere inside of me I could hear my grandfather urging me to reply “because my taxes pay for this playground!” But instead of schooling this young brute on the realities of Illinois tax rates, I chose to ignore him and instead gave a chipper, “time to go!” to my sous chef.
This, of course, prompted a total toddler meltdown. With one hand I dragged my screaming sous chef to the car and with the other I carried my screaming newborn in the car seat.
Now, on my epic journey back to our car, I noticed that the playground butts up against a residential neighborhood. On passing a lovely chain link fence, my sous chef halted her tantrum long enough to say, “ooh a doddy.” I followed her gaze and saw the mangiest of mutts accompanied by a shirtless gentleman, drinking an Oldstyle, and leering at our small party of three. I thought for a moment that this seems like the sort of person who the criminal courts do not allow to live within 50 miles of an elementary school, yet here he was, clearly having somehow eluded the system. I quickly brushed this thought away and told myself not to cast suspicion on this shirtless man. After all, some might say that a haggard woman with a stained, barely buttoned shirt and two screaming children at a school playground during recess is suspicious, but we all know it’s quite innocent.
Back in the car my devastated sous chef’s puffy eyes and moans of, “moh seengs, mommy!” tugged at my heartstrings enough that I drove across town to another, public, not associated with a school, park, where much fun was had by one.
And that, my friends, is why I’m never leaving the house again.