Blue in the Face

19 Jun

Today started with the summer camp sprint:  feeding, dressing, sunscreening, toothbrushing, and lunch packing for my 5 year-old son, then loading him and his brothers in the van, collecting a few more five year-olds from the neighborhood and ferrying the whole caboodle to to camp.  Mind awash in a tide of to-do’s, I raced back home with my 8 and 9 year-old sons to try and pull the house together before I needed to get myself ready for work.  

On my way in the door my cell phone rang:  a sister-in-law calling long distance to catch up.  I simultaneously shoveled my long-forgotten breakfast in my mouth and tidied the kitchen, while also oohing and aahing about my 4 month-old nephew being weaned from the breast and rolling over for the first time, and admonishing my older sons in silent and emphatic sign language to turn off the TV and get their Summer Bridge workbook pages done.

 Just then the house phone pealed and my 8 year-old pounced on it.  It was my next door neighbor looking for food coloring.  “TELL HER TO COME OVER” I mouthed with exaggeration.  Still on the cell phone, I scooted a chair across the kitchen and climbed on top of it. Straining on my tip toes, I attempted to fish some food coloring out of the tallest cabinet in our kitchen, where the cake decorating supplies are kept out of reach of little sugar-seeking hands.  

My neighbor’s subsequent knock at the door made the dog go ballistic– did I mention he currently sports one of those humiliating cones around his neck, courtesy of an unexplainable weeping sore the size of a silver dollar on his fore head?– and he charged the front door, bashing into furniture and barking to break the sound barrier, until his shock collar jolted him into an agitated submission.  At this point the noise and barrage of distractions assaulting me were starting to make my brain hurt.  

My my sister-in-law chattered on in my ear while I waved at my neighbor, pointing at the phone and mouthing “LONG DISTANCE” to indicate the reason I was rudely refusing to come to the door to greet her.  Meanwhile all I found as I rummaged around the unreachable cupboard was a few tubes of colored writing gel that were so old I couldn’t remember ever buying them.  

I dumped the odd assortment into my son’s waiting hands and gave him a push towards my neighbor at the door.  I could hear their muffled exchange and the front door closing.  A moment passed, and my son returned to the kitchen, still holding all of the edible tubes of goo.  “Didn’t she want them?”  I mouthed to my son.  “No, she just wanted the regular drops of food coloring…” he mumbled, trying to avert his face.  His evasive maneuver registered on my maternal radar.  As the mother of three boys, I am always on the alert for insurgent activity.  

I fixed him in my gaze and immediately determined the cause of his behavior and the extent of the infraction.  Disgustedly I whispered for him to throw the rest of the tubes of gel into the trash.  “Why?!” my son asked, incredulous at his normally frugal mother’s wastefulness.  

“Because no one wants to eat decorating gel that you’ve sucked out of the tube, William.”  

“I DIDN’T” he protested… with bright blue lips and tongue.  

Then, realizing that somehow he’d been caught, he slowly started towards the garbage can.  But before he threw the tainted tubes away, he paused and looked at me, a bit awestruck.  His thoughts were written across his face– as if with blue decorating gel– “How did she know?”

Sometimes I wonder if he thinks I have magical powers.

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