I met B&B the summer before starting my junior year of college. I pegged him…correctly at the time…as a serious hottie, a great athlete, a smart guy, and an all-around obnoxious individual. We dated that August, and I returned to school in September, not sure whether he even knew what school that was. Or my last name.
The first night back at school, my roommate, Maria, and I are gussying up to head out to a party. Cue the Indigo Girls CD.
Maria: “So, what’s up with that guy you were seeing?”
Me: “Um, nothing, I guess. I don’t know what his deal is. I think he goes to school, but I’m not sure.”
Maria: “Does he have your number?”
Me: “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t think he’ll call anyway.”
Our conversation is interrupted by a knock on the door. Maria swings it open, expecting to find a fellow college classmate. Negative. All 6’2” of my summer fling are standing in the doorway.
Holy crap, what’s he doing here? How does he know where I go to school? Did I leave something in his car? I bet he’s here to return something I’ve left in his car.
Maria: Stepping to the side, “Beth, I think it’s for you.”
Me: Smiling awkwardly, “Um, hi!”
B&B: Intensely, “Can I talk to you for a minute? Out here in the hallway?”
Hmmm…this is mysterious. Well, I know he’s not going to tell me he’s pregnant, so that’s a relief.
I step out into the hallway, and look at him with expectant eyes.
Yowza. He’s super duper hot. I hope I’m not blushing. Goddamn this Irish skin. I hope he thinks I’m playing it cool. I do not feel like I am playing it cool, but I hope I at least appear to be playing it cool.
Me: “So, how did you find me?”
B&B: Smiling, but not a happy smile, “I have my ways.”
Mysterious indeed. Possibly borderline stalker.
Me: Clearing my throat, “So, why the house call?”
B&B: Defensive, “What, this isn’t a pleasant surprise?”
Me: “No. I mean it is. It’s a surprise. It’s pleasant, yes, but you arrive unannounced and pull me into the hallway; so I’m curious what your agenda is.”
B&B: “OK, I will get straight to the point. I know you considered me a fling. And I’m here to tell you that this right here” he moves his finger back and forth between the two of us, “this is not a fling. I can see that you and your roommate are getting ready to go out. So go out. Have a ball. But this is not a fling. And I will be back. Tomorrow. And we will go out.”
And he walks away. No goodbye. Nothing.
I don’t know whether I should feel flattered or violated.
Maria: “What was that all about?”
Me: “I don’t know. I guess he kinda likes me. He’s an extremely obnoxious person. I think he just ordered me to go out with him tomorrow.”
Maria: “Are you going to go?”
Me: “I guess so.”
Maria: “He’s really cute.”
Me: Agreeing, “Very bossy though. I don’t know how I feel about that.”
A few months later, my feelings about B&B have become clearer. Maria and I planned, with a few other friends, to study abroad for our 2nd semester of junior year. In Italy. Mom and Dad are completely on board. The plans are being made. The excitement is building. Everyone’s excitement. Everyone’s but mine. I am in love with the obnoxious summer fling. And I have no intention of missing 4 consecutive months of Houlihan’s dinners and movies in order to study in Italy. Without B&B.
Please rev up the time machine and take me back.
Clearly, I had no idea that B&B would have stalked me down in Italy, just like he’d done in Philadelphia. He’d have knocked on my European door and announced he was studying there for the semester as well. Or, at the very least, sleeping on the floor of our hostel.
So, Maria studies in Italy. And I stay in Philly. Yes, “Dumbest 20 year old girl on the planet” award goes to me.
When my best friend arrives home, several months later, she brings back a piece of Italy with her. She’d bought me a leather backpack. It is the most beautiful backpack I’ve ever seen, and the softest I’ve ever touched.
I still have that backpack. I missed the trip, but I keep the backpack. Still, almost 2 decades later, it smells like Italy to me. Yes, it smells overwhelmingly like leather. But it also smells like a fabulous loaf of fresh baked crusty bread. With a subtle bouquet of table wine. And a lingering smell of handmade pasta. I use my piece of Italy on special occasions. I’ve taken it to the hospital four times…once for each time I delivered a son. When I take it out of the attic, I look at it for a minute, and I smile.
I don’t stop to look at much for a minute, so when the Kenyan catches me doing just that, he calls me out.
Kenyan: “Mommy, why are you staring at that backpack and smiling?”
Me: “Because I love this backpack. Maria brought it home from Italy for me. I was supposed to go with her, but I was a fool in love, so I skipped the trip.”
Kenyan: “OK, but there’s not much funny about a backpack. No offense, but you just look kinda weird smiling at a bag for like 10 minutes. I thought we were in a hurry to take the Interrogator to the hospital?”
The Interrogator has broken his clavicle, and we need to hit the hospital for some X-rays. But he’s been walking around with the broken clavicle for 2 days already. An extra minute of my gazing at a bag isn’t going to make much difference.
Me: “Yep. Off we go. Give me your book, and I’ll put it in my backpack.”
Unsure how long we’ll be waiting in radiology, I pack enough that we’ll easily sustain ourselves for a solid week on one of the remote islands on which they dump a new cast of Survivor. All books are placed in my Italy bag. Cooler for drinks and fruit. Earth friendly grocery bags filled with snacks, a vast variety of coloring books, Mad Libs, crayons, sketching pad, and pencils. Electronics are charged. Extra AC adapters go into the bag just in case. And off we go to the local hospital. To wrack up more frequent flier miles.
In the car, I prep the kids about the importance of staying close to me in the hospital. Stranger danger and all of that fun stuff.
Me: “Do you boys remember what happened to Nemo when he swam away from his Dad?”
Waldorf: “Oh, God. How many times are you going to ask us that?”
Kenyan: “Alright, already, with the Nemo story.”
Verb: “YES! The big bad DIVER got Nemo! And he took him! And he put him in the tank!”
Interrogator: “Mom, does an X-ray hurt, Mom? Are they going to hurt me when they take my picture, Mom?”
Me: “Yes, the diver was a stranger who took Nemo from his Dad. Because Nemo wasn’t using his listening ears. Had he stayed close to his Dad, his Dad would have protected him from that bad diver. I want you to stay close to me, so that I can protect you. So, please use your listening ears. Especially you, Verb. No running ahead. And, no, Interrogator, an x ray doesn’t hurt.”
The Verb is notorious for running ahead. Sprinting, actually. And the Interrogator prefers to take his time. Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary when I’m with both of them. Do I remain with the lagging 6 year old? Or do I bust my ass to catch the 3 year old and sling him over my shoulder, turn back to the Interrogator, and walk with him while receiving concussion-inducing kicks to my head from his younger brother? Who couples the kicks with verbal assaults. I continue to try to work this one out on a daily basis.
Radiology is smooth sailing. They take us almost immediately. The girl at registration is very sweet and chatty.
Reception girl: Incredulous, “Wow, are they all yours?”
Me: Smiling, “Guilty.”
Reception girl: “4 boys?”
Me: Nodding, to her, “4 boys,” looking over my shoulder to the kids, “Waldorf, please let the Verb watch the game you’re playing. He’s strapped into that stroller and I’d prefer he stays there.”
Reception girl: “Did you find out what you were having when you were pregnant with them?”
Me: Nodding, “Yes, with 3 of the 4 of them. I thought my broken clavicle over there was a girl. Turns out he was not, “ looking over my shoulder to the kids, “Kenyan….Kenyan! Listen to me, Kenyan. Look at me with your eyeballs please so that I know that you’re listening. Thank you. Please move over one chair so that the Interrogator can sit there next to you.”
Interrogator: “I don’t want to sit, Mom. My arm hurts. I don’t want to get my picture taken, Mom. I don’t like it here. I don’t like the hospital, Mom. I’m hungry.”
Me: “I’m right here with you, buddy. And I promise it won’t hurt to have your picture taken. Waldorf…Waldorf! Please go into my leather backpack and get out the crackers for the Interrogator. He may have 6 since he’s 6 years old.”
The Verb makes a lunge for the crackers because he was born with a hollow leg. He misses because he’s harnessed into the stroller. Waldorf’s face morphs into the face I recognize as the teasing face.
Me: Hissing, “Waldorf, the Verb did not have a nap today. We all need to have extra patience with him. Please hand him 3 crackers because he’s 3 years old.”
Reception girl: “Can I have your license and insurance cards please?”
Me: Handing them over, “Sure, here they are.”
What a nice treat that she didn’t ask me the question that everyone asks me.
No sooner do I think it than she asks it.
Reception girl: Smiling, “So, are you going to try for a girl?”
Wow, you’re only the 3,249th person to ask me that question.
Me: Attempting, unsuccessfully, to smile, “I’m sufficiently overwhelmed with the 4 healthy boys I have. So, no.”
I am a fairly mouthy chick at times, and on occasion it’s gotten me into a pickle. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people ask me whether I’m going to attempt to get pregnant with a girl or whether I’m upset that none of my sons was born with a vagina. Last I checked, that’s nobody’s business. It reminds me of the time we were at a wedding when I was pregnant with the Interrogator. The kids were invited to the wedding, so we had Waldorf and the Kenyan with us.
Random old broad: “You’re pregnant again? When are you going to stop getting pregnant? 2 kids aren’t enough for you?”
Big, fat, obnoxious pregnant Me: “Nope. The sex is just too good. I can’t help myself.”
F YOU, old broad. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Just then, B&B arrives. It is nearing the end of his work day, and he knows I may need Fun Dad to save the day if the hospital proves crowded. He stays with the other 3 boys while I go with the Interrogator to get his X-rays taken. It takes all of 5 minutes. The Interrogator is a rock star.
Before we know it, we’re in the parking garage, prepared to drive home. And so begins the chorus of, “I want to go in Daddy’s car! No, I get to go in Daddy’s car! Me too! I said it first! You always go in Daddy’s car! It’s mine turn to go in Daddy’s car!” It’s Waldorf’s lucky day…he gets to drive home with Daddy. In a newer, cleaner vehicle that does not smell, at all times, like flatulence. I get three whiners, who are tired from a long day. And one of whom is very sore from carting around a broken bone for the past two days. Finally this poor kid is validated.
We are a block away from the hospital, and I am already tasting the wine that eagerly awaits me at home.
I will have two sips of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will savor the rest of the glass. Because this has been one LONG week.
Verb: Urgently, “I HAVE TO POOP! MOM, I HAVE TO GO POOP! RIGHT NOW, I HAVE TO POOP!”
I pull over immediately. B&B pulls alongside me. We roll down our windows.
Me: “The Verb has to go #2. I have the travel potty in the car. Give us a few minutes.”
I will have 5 sips of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will chug the rest of the glass.
Me: “Alright, Verby, let’s get you unbuckled. Please be very careful that you don’t step on Mommy’s beautiful bag from Italy. And please don’t step on this great big bag of snacks that I packed. Let’s get your pants down and get this show on the road.”
Verb: “NO! I want to pull mine pants down mineself!”
I will have one glass of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will pour myself another glass.
The Verb struggles with his pants. And I crack the windows because he’s gassing up a storm.
Interrogator: “Ew, Mom, ew, I smell gas. I hear gas, and I smell gas. And it smells bad. Verb, your gas smells bad.”
Oh, just wait until he takes a dump in this little potty, my good man. The tears will be streaming down your face once you catch a whiff of that.
The Verb finally gets his pants down. I get him situated on the potty. And he begins his conversation. Because he loves a little chit chat with his bowel movements.
Verb: “Mom, the Interrogator has a broken bone! And we go’d to the hospital for him to get his picture taken!”
Me: “Yes, we did, buddy.”
Verb: “And no bad diver taked me away from you, Mom. Cuz I had mine listening ears on, Mom. I do’d good listening.”
Me: “You certainly did have your listening ears on, big guy.”
Verb: Looking down, “Alright! I winned!! I did the biggest poopy ever! And I winned! And now, I’m gonna go pee.”
Me: “Well done, my boy. Then, we can drive home.”
What’s that noise? It sounds like splashing.
Me: “Interrogator? Did you spill your drink back there?”
Interrogator: “No, Mom. I didn’t spill.”
Me: “Kenyan, what about you? Did you spill your drink? I hear something. A liquid. A liquid hitting a solid.”
Kenyan: “Nope. I didn’t spill anything.”
Verb: Looking up from the travel potty, “Ooops. That was me, Mom. It was mine pee. It go’d all over your beautiful brown bag.”
Mother of all that is good and pure. My precious bag. My piece of Italy. The one item I’ve managed to keep from the evil clutches of my offspring. And my youngest child just whizzed all over it.
SNAP goes my patience.
I immediately exit the car. I walk straight to B&B’s car. He rolls down the window.
Me: “Please step out of your automobile. And take Waldorf with you. You will be driving my car, for the safety of all of your children, particularly the youngest one.”
B&B: Perplexed, “Sure. You OK?”
Me: Shaking my head, “No. That’s why I need to drive separately. Please.”
He and Waldorf swiftly exit his car. I slip into the driver’s seat, lock the doors and start my temper tantrum.
Me: To an empty car, “I will chug one bottle of wine. Then, I will lay down for a long winter’s nap.”
When we arrive home, B&B, aware of my woe, tends to my bag. Neither of us knows a thing about treating leather, so he blots it with a dry paper towel. And lays it in front of the heating vent to dry.
B&B: Enveloping me in a hug, “I’m sorry about your bag. I know you love that bag. One day we’ll get to Italy. Without these idiots. Just the two of us. And we’ll find you a beautiful bag like this one. And, I promise, no one will take a piss on it.”
Me: Voice muffled against his chest, “That sounds nice. A trip to Italy. Without kids. The bag. And the absence of pee.”
I look up and smile at my obnoxious summer fling. The same guy who arrived unannounced at my door step and mandated that I date him. The man who’s given me four beautiful sons. The one person who rarely makes it easy, but always keeps it interesting.
If ever I get to Italy, I’d be lucky to go with B&B.
Or George Clooney, but I think I’m too short for his taste.
So I put my piece of Italy, my reminder of the trip I never took…but hope to someday…back into the attic. It still smells like leather. And fresh baked crusty bread. I still smell the subtle bouquet of Italian red table wine. The fragrance of handmade pasta. And now, the slightest hint of my youngest son’s urine.
Could have been worse. He could have pooped on it.