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Parents don’t realize the culture shock nonparents are subjected to when they encounter other peoples’ children.
I experienced one such shock recently, courtesy of my five-year-old niece.
My husband Brian and I have been married for thirteen years. We do not have children of our own, and I was ripe for a calamity.
It all started because of gymnastics. My eldest niece, Callie, is an avid gymnast, and Brian and I traveled to a nearby town to join our family and watch her compete in a gymnastics meet.
After several hours of being wedged between Brian and my sister, foolish woman that I am, I agreed to take my youngest niece Nicole for a walk around the event center.
Our walk started out well enough. It was when I had the brilliant idea to visit the restroom that things became very awkward for an old-nonparent like me.
Nicole assured me she could manage in a stall all by herself. Relieved that my auntly-duties didn’t require more of me, I took the stall next to her.
“Boy, Aunt Nora,” she said loudly, “you really had to go.”
I could hear the sniggers of other adults in the bathroom.
“Yes, Nicole,” I replied dryly and willed those laughing to choke on their giggles.
“I’m going to the potty all by myself,” she told me proudly.
“Yes, yes, very good.” I tried to hush her telepathically and tried harder to ignore the laughter that was steadily growing.
“Oh, no!” she suddenly shouted. “I’ve got to go number two!”
I failed to see the emergency, but prayed fervently that she would stop talking. The upside is the laughter died down. Either they’d fled at this announcement, or my wish of their imminent demise had been fulfilled by a benevolent genie.
“It’s too big!” She persisted so loudly that I was sure she could be heard three rooms away, over the blaring music accompanying a gymnast’s floor routine.
“You have to help me!” She wailed in a three-alarm call of distress.
Nope. My duties as an aunt don’t go that far.
“Never mind,” she suddenly announced in conjunction with the telltale sound that her “business” was concluded.
I cannot describe my relief. She’d conquered this battle all on her own without so much as moral support from me. Better still, we could get out of that bathroom!
We fled to our seats, me with a red face and Nicole calmly, as though nothing embarrassing had just happened. I related the experience to my sister.
“Eh,” she shrugged when I expressed my horror over the mortifying experience.
She failed to see my embarrassment. She was just glad Nicole had willingly agreed to use the bathroom. As far as she was concerned, it was potty training progress.
“That’s one thing kids and the childless have in common,” I thought, “Parents will never understand our struggle!”
“Pray for me,” my text message to by fest friend Lexie started. “I’m in a small town in Mississippi where they’ve never heard of yoga, brunch, or saki.”
I’m not usually snotty about small southern towns. Quite the opposite. I grew up in the south and love small town charm. But as you’ll soon see, I had reasons, life threatening reasons.
“WHAT?” she replied. “Sounds like a horror movie. What are you doing there?”
“Funeral,” I replied. Not my own, but it felt imminent.
I explained that we were in the town where my husband Brian’s grandfather had lived for many years. We were here to lay him to rest in the place he called home.
“It’s worse than a horror movie,” I went on. “How am I going to drink a mimosa for brunch tomorrow?” (Tomorrow being Sunday.) I was being overly dramatic to emphasis my point. I’ve survived most Sundays of my life without mimosas.
“With your pinky up! How else would you drink a mimosa?” she retorted. She’s known me for a long time. She requires no explanation for my sense of humor, not even when she encounters it in a text message.
“I’m in a ‘four star’ restaurant where the walls are cinder block, the ceiling is wood paneling, and the vegetables are French fries and hush puppies,” I told her.
I don’t even like vegetables, but I developed the somewhat passable discipline of eating greens a few years ago. While I don’t enjoy most veggies, I do miss the way I feel when I don’t eat them. The green onions in the hush puppies weren’t cutting it.
Getting old isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be when I was a kid.
Her responding text read, “BAHAHAHAHA!” I was glad one of us was enjoying this. “Then your mimosa should be exchanged for moonshine made by an old man named Junior.”
“That would actually make things better. This restaurant is dry. Luckily, my hotel room is not.”
Brian and I once made the mistake of traveling a long way only to spend a night in a dry county. We didn’t realize that was still a thing. Now, we travel prepared.
“Dry of liquor = dry of personality. That’s why Junior is a millionaire.” I didn’t know this Junior she kept on about, but I was beginning to think I should meet him. A millionaire who can brew his own stash? I have a few single friends who’d like to know a guy like that.
Sadly, the “dinner” rendered me incapable of enjoying adult libations. It’s a good thing I kept the lid firmly on the bottle. I woke the next morning sweating grease.
I roused Brian out of bed and insisted we drive thirty miles away for breakfast. I wanted to be in a town that had heard of vegetables other than potatoes.
My heart health needed spinach and I was relieved when we found a small restaurant that served breakfast omelets complete with vegetables.
Sadly, there were no mimosas.
I couldn’t move.
A dead weight held me immobile and refused to let me out of a supine position. I wriggled, desperate to break free. Though I could shift my own weight from side to side, I could not dislodge the mass that imprisoned me.
I poked my husband Brian in the ribs.
“Would you get the cat off my leg?” I asked him. “I can’t get out of bed.”
“He’s eight pounds,” my pre-coffee husband grumbled.
“Yeah, but watch.”
Brian sat up, annoyed but cooperative.
I shifted my left leg rapidly from side to side. Seti, who was plastered to my thigh, hunkered lower. His center of gravity shifted with mine. We moved as one despite my best efforts to render us two.
“If he gets any closer to me, we’re going to fuse at the molecular level,” I said. “He’s like a cat-shaped tumor.”
Brian reached across me and shoved at the cat. The little black feline didn’t budge. I tried bouncing up and down. The only emotion Seti betrayed was the slightest flick of his tail.
“It’s like gravity works differently,” Brian said half in awe, half in jest.
Driven by the need we all have upon first rising in the mornings, a certain growing pressure was making me desperate.
With a mighty heave, I shoved my hand under the cat’s belly. (It was harder than you might think since we were nearly fused.)
Seti stood abruptly, jumped off the bed and shot a feline curse word my direction. Years of living with cats has rendered me immune to their snarky vocabulary.
I turned on my side and tried to rise. A sudden, sharp stab in my low back made me gasp in pain.
“What’s wrong?” Brian moved toward me in alarm.
“Something touched a nerve in my low back,” I interrupted myself with a sudden new horror. “Oh, God! No, no, no!”
“What?” Brian was more alarmed.
“I’m going to sneeze!”
I could feel the sneeze building. When it arrived, it would rush to my low back and leap on the errant nerve with golf cleats. I figured that if I was lucky, I had just enough time to die before the sneeze impaled me.
I pinched my nose and the sneeze subsided. Relief on behalf of my back mingled with annoyance at an unsatisfied sneeze.
Cranky, I gingerly tried to rise, and found that though cat-free, I was still unable to stand.
“What now?” Brian asked.
“I finally got the oppressive little cat off me, and thanks to my back, I still can’t move,” I told him.
He grinned. “You went from having a dead weight to being a dead weight?”
I swore my best feline swear word.