Admittedly, I am a wimp when it comes to parenting solo. So, the second I know that Chris will be working late my mind starts spinning. I make plans…outings…distractions. Things that are intended to occupy me and the kids in his absence. Because, basically, I am afraid to be home alone. Inevitably, these “outings” lead to a great deal of self-loathing.
Take the carnival at our local Catholic church. Tonight was one of those rare Wednesday nights when Chris had to work. I got home from the office chipper and genuinely excited to see the kids. Maisy had been away for a few days so she seems actually glad to see me too–she even gives me a quasi-hug.
“Hey Guys!” I announce a little too enthusiastically.
Sam literally sighs out loud as if to say “Whatever it is Mom…no. No thanks. Please don’t.”
I ignore him and barrel on. “How about we all go to the CARNIVAL?”
Haddie squeals with delight. Sam’s shoulders make a visible slide. Maisy shrugs indifferently.
“GREAT! It is unanimous!” Let’s go kids!! Recall, the last time I displayed enthusiasm about a family outing, I nearly needed to be hospitalized for intravenous fluids.
It is a spectacular early summer night…perfect for carnival enjoyment.
We walk from the parking lot to the entry laughing and poking fun at each other. Hadley eyes the ferris wheel and nearly faints….she then takes off in a sprint.
At the ticket window, I review my options. I can buy a few tickets for a few bucks or a few more tickets for a bit more. Then, there is the “band.” Ride everything for $20!
“Three bands please!” Kids are adorned with their paper bracelets and I am down $60. It has been 1 minute.
Around the bend there are balloon animals being made: FREE! I knew I LOVED carnivals! Good, wholesome fun for so little!
Hadley chooses a monkey. The balloon artist smiles and twists. With every squeak the balloon makes, my teeth grit and my blood pressure rises. She hands Haddie her monkey complete with a yellow balloon banana. I drop a bill into her tip jar with a flourish. That “free” balloon just cost $5 –but Haddie clutches it happily.
On to dinner. Here is where the love/hate thing starts: I love that food, then hate myself for eating it.
Sausage, burger, two orders of fries, one diet coke and one sprite later…$17.00.
We ride Himalyan ( I swear it is the same exact ride from Morey’s Pier in Wildwood circa 1980.) Our hearts drop (along with a few unrestrainable profanities) on Pharoah’s Fury.
After a few rides, I find myself wondering if being a sociopath is in the “ride operator” job description. I swear one guy nearly spit his dentures at me for trying to sneak Haddie onto a ride she was too small for. I was actually a bit frightened as he glared in my direction.
Never mind. It is getting late. Let’s have dessert. Hadley LOVES “fennel” cake. We don’t have the heart to correct her. $5.00 plunked down.
The deep fried dough is covered in powdered sugar. It is scaldingly hot so I tell Haddie to do one more ride before trying to eat it. Naturally I “hold” it for her.
Digression: I love working in the same town where we live. We genuinely enjoy running into our patients out and about. Last week, I overheard one of Chris’ patients running to her little friend ” Hey! Wanna come see a REAL LIVE DOCTOR?? He’s over there…he’s MY Dr. Meyer!” Chris swooned. I laughed at how naive a 7 year old can be–clearly she has not seen his ridiculous sunglasses.
Once in a while though, I would give anything for a little anonymity. Like—when I am carrying around a funnel cake…alone.
In the time it takes Gravitron to finish spinning, I have been seen by four patients and several friends and acquaintences. One eyes me and my drippy plate.
“I am not eating this…I am just holding it….for my daughter..it was too hot…she’s right there ….on that ride….she’ll tell you…I wouldn’t dare eat this gross thing….” He smiles knowingly and walks away.
Hadley is satisfied with her carnival experience. She snatches her funnel cake and we head home. I shake my head at all those people who saw me with that stinkin’ plate…they will just have to believe that I did not eat the funnel cake…I was merely a guardian.
It is not until an hour later when I am brushing my teeth that the true self hatred sets in. Bottom right incisor: gigantic green bell pepper fragment …evidence of the sausage and pepper sandwich I devoured hours before. There is no telling how many people I grinned widely at over the two hours we were at the carnival.
But, even worse: there on my top left lip and cheek is an unmistakeable smudge of fine white powder. Chris doesn’t need to turn. He is watching me in the mirror. He knows full well my perfected art: deny until that IS the reality. He can barely suppress his laugh:
“Good funnel cake hon?”