Beneath the slide, in full view of anyone who may be around, Indy pulls down her pants and shouts, "I have to pee in the snow!"
I admit this is my fault.
Back in February, we found ourselves caught at this same little neighborhood park with nature calling and only nature to receive the offering. It was too cold. There were knee high banks of snow all around, the bathroom door was locked for the season, and no other visitors were at the park.
Rather than running home or asking Indy to hold it, I took her over between a snow bank and the locked bathroom, and supported her weight while she squatted and. . . you know.
Peed in the snow.
Now it is March, the snow is nearly melted, and there is one sweet and quiet mother at the park with her sweet and quiet freshly walking boy, and Indy is offering them both a full view of her jaybird naked rump.
I can't see the mom's face, but I really hope she laughed. Wouldn't you have laughed?
I laugh. I call Indy to me. "Mom! I have to pee in the snow!"
I call her again and she comes. We go to the bathroom and Indy opens the door. It isn't locked. But its confines are dark and cavernous. Propping the door open with one foot, I call to Ayla to come with us, hear my voice echo, am reminded of a terrible story, grab Indy's hood to keep her safe from the boogeyman lurking in the dark bathroom.
Ayla won't come over to us. The bathroom looks dubious and stinks. There is no light.
"Come on, mom," says my little Alpha. She holds my hand. I walk her, or she walks me, over to the now shrunken embankment that has been the receptacle of Indy's bodily functions before. Indy squats over the scrim of ice and I support her weight. She leans into me as she stands up.
"I like peeing in the snow," she sighs happily.
Play resumes. The girls mostly ignore sweet quiet toddler boy. I feel like a character from an Austen movie, enjoying the chirping of birds in the weak but warming sun. Just when it is time to leave, loud toddler girl and her loud and baby-voiced mom appear over the summit. The girls all flock together. Mom steers her strollered baby over to my bench and sits next to me. She begins to chat in that way moms sometimes do, where they are chatting to their baby but also chatting to you.
"Would you wike some widdle toys? Yeah? Yeah? You want your favowite toys? I would like it better for you to use your widdle toys that get out of your stroller? Yes I would? Yes I would?"
I have no grace and no patience for this sort of behavior. I am terrible in these situations, with these well-meaning, if silly, women. Either talk to me or don't. I don't really give a dandelion fluff what you babble at your widdle baby. Plus, I am not a baby-talker. I have always spoken to my children more or less like I speak to adults. Can baby-talkers and non-baby-talkers even get along?
I am rescued by Ayla calling for a push on the swing. Other mom, with her preschool teacher's voice and her bubbly babbleness, follows us over. She begins to tell me about her fertility issues, her sister's lack of fertility issues, why her kids are so close together, how she helped her sister survive three boys under three. She speaks brightly and she is very nice, but she is just silly. Have I described her to you properly? She probably is a very good mother. She probably makes crafts with her children instead of writing or reading at the table while her children craft. I wonder if she speaks that way to her husband. I feel uncomfortable. She is giddy and babyish and overly enthusiastic. I am tired and a little cranky. It is past nap and I have spent all my money. I am eager to get my children home because Noah is at home and it's time for his shift with the girls and my shift off. I have a date with an iced mocha with whip and the new Louise Erdrich. I tell this sweet excitable bouncing curls woman we have to go.
As we drive off, I feel the guilt. I imagine another world, in which I had remained open to this woman, as I have promised myself to be (more open to new people and situations). I imagine us exchanging numbers, arranging playdates, stopping over for coffee. I can see her home, it must have light blue country decor, she must wear tourist sweatshirts and scrunchies, she'd probably bake lemon bars. She'd be very kind and accommodating. She is almost certainly conservative Christian. Is she sad that I left? Does she feel hurt? Have I disappointed her, ruined her afternoon? Will she speak to quiet toddler mom instead?
What is wrong with me? Do other people worry these things? Would she read Louise Erdrich? Would she let her toddler pee in the snow? Probably not. She probably had a port-o-potty hidden there among the trappings of her extremely efficient stroller, which proved, in the ten minutes we were together, to hold towels for the wet slides, and snacks.
"Mom. You should have brought us snacks like Abby's mommy." Ayla informs me.
I get home. There is my husband, whom I love, who smiles and is happy to let me leave the girls and take Louise and high tail it out of there. Later he will eat the thank you steak I bought him and make the girls dinner and pour us beers. One of us will bathe the girls and one of us will read to them. I might talk about Erdrich or Kate Braestrup and Noah might talk about what he wants to cook next, or brew, or learn to do, or learn. The outside world will fade away. We will sit in bed and enjoy the comfort of one another's predictable presence. And we will know we are home.