I was at a bridal shower when it happened. Mainly thrilled after eight years of either being pregnant or nursing to be headed for “something just for me” in sandals that matched my blouse and underneath that blouse a bra without those lumps at the top of the cups (from those hook snaps for a nurser's easy access). Even had a fresh layer of nailpolish over the months old toe-job to hide the chips.
My cell phone rang twice, the girls making fun of me for even thinking of answering it during the two hours away from my husband. “He can handle it,” they laughed and prodded me to set my phone down on a thumping speaker and then handed me a fresh mimosa. I ate the decorative m & ms on the table nervously as I listened to the other women, speaking of their jobs, their children launched, all the while I’m trying not to appear desperate for conversation, wondering if I too should be taking up triathlon when my youngest starts kindergarten except for that terror I have of swimming in open water while others mow over me, and the fact that my ovaries sting so much I puke when I run more than a quarter mile. So ok, I could maybe do a relay and ride the bike. If I can remember how to get my bike shoes out of those snazzy snap-on lollipop pedals without falling over and breaking a hip.
When I finally left the bridal shower tanked up on couscous with pomegranate seeds and tiny wedges of fig and called my husband, he sounded as panicked as I do every day at 5:02 when I call him to ask him why he’s not home yet, the kids in the background shrieking.
“You won’t believe it, T,” he said. “Some lady called the cops on me.”
“Didn’t you guys ride bikes?” I asked.
Yes, and no. Getting back into the truck after the bike ride, the middle son decided he wanted to sit next to his Dad in the front seat. My husband stood firm, no, and after five minutes of trying to explain why, and my son screaming irrationally, my husband did a fairly sane thing: he left the screamer in the truck and took the 3-year old and 8-year old and sat in the field next to the truck, about 20 feet away to wait it out. He could see my son and my son could see his father. Drawn by the sound of our crying child, a woman sallied over to the truck with her cell phone in hand and said, “Is that child crying?!” My husband said, “Yes, he’s having a tantrum.” She then walked over to the license plate and started punching in numbers. “You’re not calling the cops, are you?” my exasperated husband asked. She ignored him. “Do you have children?” he said, to her retreating back. She continued walking away.
So my husband waited—and sure enough, the cop car drove up ten minutes later. (Why drive off and get pulled over somewhere downtown? he told me). The lady cop asked to speak to our son who by then was no longer crying and asked him if he was ok, and then said, “Hey, do you know why your Dad wants you in the back seat? It’s the safest place for you to ride.” She gave all three kids junior cop stickers and went on her way.
What the cell-phone wielding non-parental observer didn’t realize or couldn’t possibly know was the kids were hot and thirsty. That if you put a three-year old, an eight-year old and a forty-two-year old father in a king cab with a screaming six-year old, things get real hairy real fast.
Two days later, I got my turn with passing judgment. I pulled up in a parking lot on my way to the bookstore, high noon, probably 92 degrees out. The windows of the car next to me were cracked a couple of inches and a large black dog crawled up to the passenger seat, with, I exaggerate not, at least a six incher of drool hanging off his tongue and some froth around his nose. I actually flashed on the woman who called the police on my husband and thought, I can’t jump to conclusions here. But as I locked up my car and started to walk away, I thought, shoot, I have a cup of water in the car, maybe I should just give it to the dog. I did a U-turn, but before I could open the door to my car, a woman walked over to me.
“Yes,” she said defensively before I could say anything, “that’s my dog and he’s only been alone in that car for three minutes. He’s fine.”
“Ok,” I said, “sure, I know things aren’t always what they seem...” and I tried to relay the story of my husband and our son, but I trailed off when I realized she was still standing there defensively. Sure, I thought, maybe that dog always drools like that. Who knows? You just can’t possibly know what transpired even two minutes before you come on any scene or know for sure the source of froth on a dog’s nose.