Perfectly Awful

Perfectly Awful

“Carrie! Tommy! You aren’t sitting on a stone wall in your nice clothes, are you?”

The children jumped down off the wall and looked at their clothes. “We’re still clean,” Tommy called.

“Mommy is so weird. A stone wall is now like a monster,” Carrie said.

Blanche heard her. “Really? If we’re going out for dinner, sitting on a wall is a pain. You now look grubby.”

“We like the way we look. Can’t you?” asked Carrie.

Blanche had had it. She was brushing her hair furiously.

“Mommy, your hair looks nice. When are we going?”

Willing herself to use a calm voice, Blanche replied, “When Daddy comes in. His train is a bit late.” Then she lost it again. “Hands off the door jambs, please!”

Carrie took Tommy’s hand. “Let’s go upstairs and color till Daddy gets here.”

“Color?” Blanche raised her voice. “Really? Trying to keep you semi-clean has become a full time job. Can’t you just be still? I just cleaned your rooms.”

Tommy’s face brightened. “Hey, I hear Daddy’s car. Let’s go see him,”

“Daddy!” the children called.

“Don’t jump on him!” Blanche barked.

“Hi Daddy! We’re happy to see you. Mommy says the grass got new seeds so we have to walk on the bricks.”

“Hi Carrie. Hi Tommy.” Ray stooped to hug each child. “You look all ready for a happy time.”

“Ray, please. The lawn!” Blanche sounded exasperated.

Quickly Ray scooted off the edge of the lawn. Patting his children’s dark heads, he asked with a smile, “Is it butterfly eyelash soup or crocodile sliders for dinner?”

Blanche pursed her lips and rolled her eyes as the children burst into laughter.

“Daddy, I love you.” Tommy’s eyes were shining.

“Me too,” Carrie added, hugging his suit jacket.

“Carrie, Daddy’s jacket doesn’t need another wrinkle.” Blanche turned to her husband. “Ray, let’s not go inside and make a new mess. Let’s just go.”

“Okay, Blanche. That sounds good. “

“Wipe your feet before you get in the car children,” Blanche reminded them.

Carrie helped Tommy with his seat belt and then did her own. She smiled at her father in the rear view mirror and he winked.

“Thank you for helping Tommy, Carrie.” Ray said.

“Oh yeah, Carrie, thanks,” Tommy echoed.

“Is it such a monumental feat for a sister to help her brother with his seat belt?” Blanche asked argumentatively.

“The little things we do to help each other make a big difference,” Ray answered mildly. “Carrie and Tommy do these little things and I appreciate them.”

“Well, Ray why don’t we thank ants for staying off of our porch floor? Should we thank flowers for blooming now?”

“Ants and flowers aren’t children, Blanche. What’s the problem?”

A leaden silence filled the car. Tommy reached for Carrie’s hand, which was already instinctively reaching to find his.

Blanche continued to shake her head in disbelief over the recognition the children’s little acts received.

As they waited for a red light to turn green, Tommy said, “I’m happy we’re going out for dinner. I love thinking about nice times we are going to have, all day.”

“I do too, Tommy,” Ray said gently.

“Me too,” Carrie added softly.

Even Blanche nodded. They turned into the familiar driveway of The Snuggery.

Carrie put her whole six year old being into her voice. “Please be happy now Mommy! Tommy and I are trying hard. We are trying to be nice and not be messy. Daddy is so good and kind. Please try to be happy.” Carrie’s voice cracked through the beginning of tears.

Tommy softly squeezed Carrie’s hand. He was thrilled that Carrie let their mother know how they had been feeling.

Opening her car door, Blanche looked at the children with surprise, and then comprehension. “I guess I have been perfectly awful lately. I will try to be nicer.”

“Let’s all have our favorite things to eat,” Ray said emphatically. He put his arms around his family as they walked into the restaurant.

Anne Martine Cook has 39 years experience teaching nursery school children.