Coach showed up to Laddie's home swim meet last week just in time to see Laddie complete the last lap to the 500 freestyle individual event. Despite the fact that the 500 is a 20 lap race, Laddie typically finishes first. Coach hadn't witnessed this feat, and was trying to make it in time to cheer Laddie on.
Coach is currently refinishing the basement, so in order to buy him more time to work on this latest home improvement task I went to the meet early. Solo. I prepared all the fixings for a tasty taco dinner before I left. Mr. fix It's role in dinner involved building some tacos and throwing them on plates when the kids needed to eat. Eddie had plans to attend a high school basketball game during Laddies' meet, so all the kids needed to come with Coach to the meet, since the older kids wouldn't be home to babysit.
I texted Coach from the meet and tried to give him an idea of when Laddie might swim. I followed up an urgent text with another one offering a tip that there was a break in the action and he should be able to make it for the 500. I struggled to hide my disbelief that he didn't arrive prior to Laddie's last exhausting lap. 'You know how it goes,' Coach commented. He proceeded to mock the children's voices, 'I want another taco, I can't find my shoes, I'm not done eating yet,' etc. I do know how it goes, but I don't usually have the luxury of being on the flip side of late arrivals. Thankfully my trusty video camera captured the race, so anyone interested in watching six minutes of slow paced swimming with a somewhat close finish could tune in for the replay.
A few minutes later, Coach asked me if I had seen Tetonka. We glanced around the bleachers. Not there. I asked if maybe he followed Eddie into the basketball game in the gym. No, Coach was positive that he hadn't. Then he turned to Mini, 'Was Tetonka in the car?' I was startled by this line of questioning, but even more shocked at the response. 'No,' she replied with no hesitation. I thought she was messing with him, but then I asked the other kids. They were all confident that he wasn't in the car. How do you not know what kids are in the car before you reverse down the driveway? It's not as if having a surplus of kids is a new situation for us. Early on, we had our moments . . .
Eight years ago, about a week or two after Reggie arrived, Coach and I took the clan to Sunday mass. Getting out the door with five kids was a major undertaking. I worked hard to time it so that Reggie didn't demand to nurse during that one hour of public exposure. Fingers crossed. It was January. Dangerously cold. Arriving on time has never been our family's strong suit (I take most of the blame as I always try to accomplish just one more thing . . .), and with a newborn in tow we didn't stand a chance. Coach pulled up to the doors of church after mass had begun and we all bailed out. Prime seats in the back ten pews were unavailable. Of course. The usher escorted the four kids and I to a pew in front. 'Is Coach coming?' he whispered. I nodded, 'Parking the car.'
After the usher pointed in our direction, Coach slid into the pew. I noticed it right away. No baby. Now there were families at church who loved our babies. I turned to look in the back to see if someone we knew had 'borrowed' baby Reggie for a baby fix. No. I motioned to Coach, who was three kids away from me, by cradling an imaginary baby in my arms. My eyeballs bugged out and my eyebrows darted off my forehead in a catoonish-like inquiry position. He chuckled slightly, apparently thinking I was joking. I wasn't laughing. After his obligatory double take, he slid back out of the pew. It seemed like an hour before he returned. Baby carrier in tow. Imagine the rest of the congregation who was undoubtedly entertained after watching our little family drama unfold in the front pew of church.
When Reggie was six years old, I left the kids home while I raced off to grab a Pet-smart gift card for an animal rescue themed birthday party Eddie was invited to. Pulling into the driveway - gift card in hand, I motioned for the gang who were all playing outside to jump in the car. Eddie insisted that he not arrive late, so he practically threw the younger kids in the car from the driveway. We didn't get very far when I realized something was off. 'Is Reggie in the car?' A ten second search. No. I was less than a mile from home. Eddie lost it as I maneuvered the great white van into a u-turn. 'He'll be fine, just drop me off at the party first. I'm already late.' Reggie was in the basement (pre-xbox days), and was unaware that we had driven off.
I managed to drive all the way home from the kids' Catholic School a few years ago without Mini. At that school, kids bounded up to their parents when dismissed. Moms and dads parked and walked towards the front doors of the school until they found their youngsters. Mini walked with us towards the car, but somehow didn't make it inside the van. I was almost home, when I realized the chatting deficit. Eddie announced that he had seen her, but he waved to her because he thought she was going to a friend's house. In my world, 2nd graders don't arrange their own play dates. U-turn. Another mom was waiting with Mini in the parking lot. Fortunately it was a mom with a big family. Simply amused, not alarmed.
Flash back to the swim meet. Coach called home. Tetonka didn't even know the crew had exited the building. Home alone. Fortunately, Tetonka is 11 and can stay home alone for brief stretches of time. He claimed that he had run down in the basement to save his game on xbox (don't get me started on the evil component and energy-sucking black hole of video games). In reality he probably got sucked in again, and didn't make it upstairs when the happy bus was being loaded. Tetonka inquired how the big race had gone, and asked his Dad to congratulate Laddie for him . . . as if he was away at college and might not see Laddie for months. So our abandonment issues might not be as exciting as the Hollywood version, but I'm surprised that they keep cropping up.
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