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Homer Simpson in my lap

We were double-booked.

For Christmas, we gave three tickets to the TobyMac, Jeremy Camp, and Matthew West concert to Sam. It was going to be on February 21, 2008. My husband and I were going to take him.

Then one morning, a few days before the concert, Aidan pulled a pink paper out of her backpack and gave it to me. There was exciting news. The fourth and fifth grade music show was coming! Be there! On Thursday, February 21, 2008! Look nice!

We decided for reasons much too complicated to explore here that I would go to the school concert and my husband would take the two oldest boys to have their eardrums pummeled. He was feeling worse than me, so it seemed cruel to send him to a school gym with Aidan and the three youngest kids.

Aidan, Tommy, Joel, Beatrix, and I arrived at the appointed time. Aidan left us to join her class. The little ones and I settled in our seats. I chose seats near the back corner of the gym. Thankfully, I had the foresight to put Beatrix in her stroller. I told Tommy and Joel they needed to act like gentlemen. They complained about not being able to see, and I explained it was okay. We were there to listen with our ears, not watch.

The fourth and fifth graders snaked into the gym in a seemingly endless line. Aidan was in the front row, but I shouldn’t have mentioned I could see her. Joel demanded to see.

I stood up, holding him, pointing her out: “See? She’s in the blue dress. In the front. She just waved!” He shook his head no, he didn’t see her.

“Look, Joel. Right there. In the front.” I waved at her again. The music started and I sat down, pulling Joel onto my lap.

Meanwhile, Beatrix was becoming frustrated with the stroller. I handed a used Target gift card from my purse to her. She held it in her mouth.

The first song ended and the gym thundered with parental and grand-parental and auntal and uncal applause.

There is a thin moment in between when applause ends and the next song begins. This is when Joel chose to shout out, in full four-year-old boy force, “BO-RING!”

Heads turned.

“Joel!” I hissed through a queasy smile, “That was rude! There will be no ice cream after this, mister!”

“It’s boring.” He answered, simply.

Thankfully, he seemed to accept his fate after that. He would be assaulted by boring Songs of American Folk Culture in exchange for something from Sonic’s fantastically deep dessert menu.

My attention turned to Beatrix. She was growing unhappier by each note. I kept diving into my purse, which was in the stroller’s big basket. I gave her all the non-credit cards in my purse. I forked over the pack of Orbit Mint Mojito gum to her, which she emptied and ripped. I offered her sippy cup to her, but it had water and not beloved and bedrinkable milk. She started thrashing. I could tell she was tired.

I slid Joel off my lap and unbuckled Beatrix. She smiled and tried to wiggle free. I put her down and led her to the back of the gym, where she found a small purple ball. Tommy and Joel followed me. I asked them to go back to their seats, which were only a few rows up. Tommy returned, but Joel was reluctant. While I was talking to Joel, Beatrix made a break for the front. I ran to scoop her up, which inspired her final meltdown of the night.

She shrieked. And shrieked. The back door of the gym was open. I pulled the stroller and the boys out the door, strapped her in, and we walked away. We were on the dark side of the building on a February night. It was cold. “My coat!” Joel remembered. I told him to walk back to get it. Then I noticed we still had the purple ball, so I threw it at the open door. It went in. Three hundred points for me.

Joel rejoined our shivering little band of misery. I buttoned his coat. Tommy was stone silent, as he had been all evening. We walked around to the front doors and went inside to wait. The concert ended. Beatrix was happy and chatty.

We met Aidan in her classroom.

“I heard Beatrix!” she said.

At every school concert, there is The Toddler. This time, she was ours.

Next time? I’m going to have my eardrums blasted to the middle of my brain at the other concert. It’s less painful.

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