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They were doing so well.
So far, they’ve braved a two-hour trip in a car with windows they can’t see out of; they told me when they needed bathroom breaks; they ate well in an unfamiliar house, tag-teamed their catnaps in the car, and tolerated an unexpectedly long wait at the doctor’s office.
Now, at 4p.m., we head for a meeting with my editor to discuss a possible future project. We sit in the tiny cafeteria at the front of Dierbergs and wait. I try to find room in the booth for snack boxes of raisins spread on napkins, a giant bag of books and toys, my NEO, and the stack of napkins I’m using in place of Kleenex.
“Hi!” says my editor brightly. We do introductions, the kids show off their fast-dwindling stack of raisins, and the meeting begins.
Here’s what I had in mind.
Here’s what we already have. What do you think?
Yes, they do look awfully similar, don’t they?
Yes, picture books get expensive.
Nicholas runs out of raisins. I get out the crayons.
What about this idea? Or this one?
Can you clarify? I’m not sure I’m following, with my daughter pulling napkins out of the napkin holder on the table. I set it up on the ledge to get it out of reach.
Well, it could be a resource for children, to go with our adult series…
CRASH. The napkin holder attempts to gouge the Formica, entombing my daughter’s hand within the crater. A quick examination reveals no harm done. I push the napkin holder toward Nicholas, who seems pretty mellow on the other side of the table. Julianna tries to climb over me to get out of the booth. I keep talking, but I sound increasingly out of breath as my pregnant body tries and fails to keep up with the energy of 4 ½.
…books selling well… Distributors…preorders…
The gratifying sensation that attempts to puff up my insides implodes as my daughter climbs over the back of the booth and slips into the aisle. I do a quick cost-benefit analysis and decide to give her a short leash. She walks up to a deli worker on his break. He’s trying to read Facebook on his phone; she places a cute little hand on his leg and smiles adorably into his face. “I’m so sorry,” I say, leaping up to drag her back. I pull out three books from the bag. She rejects them in quick succession. Nicholas puts his raisin-crusted hand on my editor’s shoulder and leans in to say, “Batman!”
What about Ordinary Time? I pull two pages out of the coloring book and set the crayon box between the two of them. That could incorporate several of these ideas, don’t you think?
Yes, that sounds possible.
SCREAM. Julianna doesn’t WANT to color on a ripped-out page, she wants the BOOK.
I’m so sorry, they haven’t really had naps, they’re usually much better-behaved.
Oh, they’re fine. Now about this column…I think your point starts here, and I think that’s what you want to use for an opening.
Yes, that makes sense. Actually, I’m going on faith that it makes sense, because mostly what I know is that Julianna has climbed over the booth again. She makes a beeline for her interrupted conquest. This time she climbs up opposite him and places both arms on the table, giving him her winningest smile. I don’t know whether to be defeated by her charm or come down hard on her. I drag her back again. This time she screams the whole way.
Well, I think that about covers it.
Yes, thanks for being willing to drive up here…I can’t even imagine how they’d behave if we had to drive down to you today!
Oh, they’re fine.
We pack up the scattered books, crayons, toys and papers. I shove one bag over each shoulder and attempt to hold my children’s hands to walk out the door. Simultaneously, they pull that toddler trick where they simply refuse to stand up, so you’re faced with the dilemma of dragging them along by their arms, possibly dislocating shoulders in public, or you have to come up with some other method of discipline. Frankly, I’m not sure how we get to the car, because the instant they see where we’re headed, the screaming begins in earnest. Sweating, I somehow wrestle everyone and everything into place, lock restraints, and make it onto the highway.
Fifteen seconds later, blissful silence reigns in the back seat. At 5p.m., it is naptime at last.