It all started with a teddy bear. Actually, it started with watching the morning news. I should have known better. I am not the sort that can handle reality before the sun. But for some reason, fate or whimsy, I tuned into the local station. Along with Obamacare panic, inauguration woes, and local robberies (one at a hotel disconcertingly close to our house…I know because I Google mapped it), they aired a piece from Florida about a girl who lost her teddy bear in an airport terminal in the aftermath of the Ft. Lauderdale shooting. This was not just any teddy bear. This was Rufus, given to the girl by her grandfather when she was a baby not long before his death. Luckily, the mom knew her stuff, and sent a desperate tweet, an internet call-to-arms. The ending? Airport officials tracked down the bear and reunited him with the girl the following day. I fought the tightness in my chest. I squinted and shook my head like a dog shedding water. It didn’t help. I cried at 5 a.m. alone in my kitchen. But they were happy tears. Something good could come out of something terrible. A symbol of love could last a decade, be lost, and found, and childhood preserved a bit longer.
This was my made-for-tv mindset going into the day. And that was my downfall. Part of the sentimental mumbo jumbo stemmed from the fact that all the kids were going to school and I would have a glorious few hours to myself after what felt like the winter break that broke the camel’s back. I was enjoying missing them in advance. And as is par for the course with me, I got too ambitious. We were all going to eat a nutritious breakfast, everyone would go to school, get happily worn out, come home to another nutritious meal, and then do it up right with a homemade cake. It would be a yellow cake, two layers, with chocolate whipped frosting. It would be our “back to reality” celebration cake.
The cake was ugly as sin. It was lopsided and the frosting came out clumpy, like it was hiding pebbles or poison. And I didn’t have enough to cover the sides. “But it doesn’t matter,” the sentimental version of myself whispered while chucking me playfully on the arm. “Messy is good”! “It was made with love!” “It’s the taste that counts!”
I should have known better. Read the signs and watched the weather vane for hints of an approaching storm. I was trying to live in the moment, but it was 6:30 at night and less than an hour before bedtime. This was not the moment to choose. Jonas, one-half of my two-year-old twin set, stood in front of me while I sat on the kitchen floor with plate and fork, took one bite, and began to cry. The untasted gob of cake hung from his open mouth until it fell to the floor in a slimy wad. According to Cora, the other half of the duo, every bite I tried to give her was either too big or too small or too much or not enough icing. I moved on to Charlie, my four-year-old. He licked one granule of icing off the fork and turned his nose, like an offended connoisseur.
I was done. Done with my children. Done with the day. Done with the idea of trying to do anything special. That girl and her teddy bear were an anomaly, or my family was the anomaly and I needed to learn it here and now. I sat on the floor and finished the uneaten slice of cake while everybody cried from the living room. And then I got up, put the mom poker face on and motored through the bedtime routine. I dried tears, gave hugs, and read the books.
And then I got over it. Someday I will learn I cannot piece our lives together in a series of Instagrammable moments. Someday I will learn that this is actually life…the crying and the best-laid plans. It is good, what they show me on a daily/hourly basis. Upheaval is necessary medicine for my personality type, even if now and then it makes me cry in the corner with my cake.
About the Author
Jamie Sumner is mom to a son with cerebral palsy and toddler twins. She writes with humor about infertility and special needs parenting on her blog, http:mom-gene.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.