On Wednesdays, the kids have swimming lessons. In itself, this is not so different than millions of other families in the first world. We drive the 6 or 7 minute route over to a beautiful gym, have dinner at the cafe and then the kids swim. But yesterday our lives were apparently shattered and we fell into a dimensional void that shoved us into third world misery. At least, so I was told. Over and over again. But I am getting ahead of the story.
We drove over and had dinner as usual, but this time my wife needed to leave to attend an appointment, leaving the kids and me to walk home. This was not a surprise but planned and also something that we’ve done before. Daylight savings time has left the sun still in the sky for our walk home so we shouldn’t even be threatened by zombies or vampires. I would long for the company of the undead before reaching home, believe me. The kids were reminded at dinner that we would be walking home and the wheels started to turn in their heads. The only thing that saved me from a barrage of questions was the arrival of swim lessons. After the lessons, we stepped out the doors of the gym into a slight west wind. I’d prepared and told the kids to bring boots, winter coats, gloves etc. In my rush to get out of the house, I brought none of these. The complaints began before the end of the parking lot. “Why didn’t we bring another car, Dad?” We only have one, if you didn’t notice. “Why can’t we call a cab, Dad?” Are you so spoiled that you can’t walk a few blocks? “This is terrible. We should have stayed at home.” Blah blah blah.
Crossing the road into an adjacent parking lot, I start to notice that the slight wind is rather chilly on the ears. There is only one small parking lot to cross before some wind breaks, I can make this. The suggestion that one of the kids should carry the swim bag is met with looks of horror. “Carry the swim bag? Me? But it’s soooooo heavy. How can I hold your hand? I don’t wannna.” Halfway across this parking lot, the kids start to list previously unknown injuries that are troubling them. How can I be so crass as to ignore their suffering? Have I no heart? Apparently not, since I keep walking despite the fact that I am accompanied by tragically and mysteriously crippled offspring. Learning that I am heartless and cruel, my kids attempt a new tactic to express their discontent. They begin to weave across the sidewalk, cutting in front of each other and then slowing down. This causes the following child to trip on the feet of the leading child. This proves to be a great way to irritate each other since they can both be victims at the same time. “He stepped on me!!!” “She’s walking too slow. I hate her!” They try this on me but I’ve learned how to avoid the cut and stop tactic long ago. It does not however help me to maintain my cool demeanor. My own sense of being so far from home, so cold and so alone has been building exponentially. I’m starting to think that the Donner party didn’t eat the weak but killed the complainers just as a way to stay sane. If my hands weren’t so numb, I’d be searching for some sort of weapon. The wind is now cutting through my body and since I am walking north, I’m sure I can feel it going in my left ear and out my right one. I’m convinced I’m brainless since no one with any intelligence could have thought this walk a good idea.
I hate when I pass my destination and then need to loop back due to roadways so I insist we walk across the local soccer field to keep more of a straight path to the house. This announcement is met with exclamations that I am not just departing from the side walk but from the proper to the profane. “What will happen if someone sees us?” What? Oh No! We’re walking in a public place. How will we ever prove that we’re part of the public? Oh quick everyone, start to worry. For God’s sake. The bizarre act of taking a public path between main roads pushes Milo over the edge. Complaining of his mysteriously injured ankle and the fact that he is freezing to death, he collapses dramatically on to the sidewalk. As I step over his prone form, I mutter “Great way to warm up, Stupid. Lay down on the icy cold cement. I guess you’ll die.” Apparently, hypothermia has caused him to forget that I am heartless and cruel so a demonstration was in order. As we approach the house, the spectre of my wife having beaten us home and sitting in front of a warm fire while we drag our frozen, exhausted, near dead bodies across the suburban tundra gets the kids’ blood up. They rush the front door, maniacally pounding their mittened fingers into the door bell. I am completely blocked from unlocking the door. I don’t care anymore and use my size to thrust through to the front. I open the door and stumble mercifully into the warm house. My frostbitten fingers fumble at the kettle in search of boiling water before I’ve even taken off my coat. The kids race up the stairs to watch TV until their brains are as numb as their bodies. I fall in to a chair at the counter and bless the universe for my simple cup of tea.