I thought the post was writing itself. I saw the headline as if it were the lead story on an old time newspaper. The paperboys would cry out on every corner,
“BEST PLAY DATE EVER! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
THAT’S RIGHT – BEST PLAY DATE EVER!
FRONT PAGE STORY!”
I mean honestly, I was sure of it.
S was all kinds of excited to ride home in the convertible, so we’d already scored. Brooke seemed to be pushing past the cloud of anxiety that had descended on her just before pick-up time. Everything at home was teed up and ready to go.
I’d spent nearly an hour in the Arts and Crafts store – much of it staring at, agonizing over, analyzing and re-analyzing the best possible combination of fuse beads and pattern plates. Fuse beads are their favorite activity together, I’d been told. Brooke LOVES them. Heaven knows enough fuse-beaded animals have come home with Brooke to have proved the point many times over. So fuse beads it was. Eight differently shaped plates were set out on the kitchen counter for them to choose from – a horse, a butterfly, a girl, a flower, you get the idea – along with a bucket containing two thousand beads of various colors.
I’d added in a second project as a back-up. On deck we had Model Magic pendants to design and cords to turn them into necklaces. I won’t bother to get into my turmoil at the store when I realized that I really have no idea what second graders are into. All of Brooke’s favorite characters come from the old Noggin, which billed itself as ‘preschool on TV’. I knew that her favorites would have long since been outgrown by S, but it seemed that every project that might be accessible to Brooke had some kind of character theme. So what’s cool – or if not cool than at least socially acceptable – to seven year-old girls these days? Cinderella? Fairy princesses? Hannah Montana? I finally gave up and found the only thing in the store that was character-less.
The snacks were ready. Despite the fact that our house is stocked to the gills, I’d stopped off in search of BEST PLAY DATE EVER! snacks. Awaiting our arrival were Brownie Bites and not really but sort of home-made chocolate chip cookies.
And the ride home was magical. I mean it.
So can you blame me for hearing the strains of the paperboy hawking his wares?
Brooke was fading at first. It was to be expected. Camp is a long day of keeping herself together. It takes its toll, and the car ride home is usually purposefully quiet. But if there’s one thing I know my girl loves, it’s a chance to tell her series of jokes. So as the mistress of ceremonies (or at the very least the driver), I asked S if she had any favorite jokes.
“Ooh, I do!” she said happily. “Hey, Brooke, why did the cow cross the road?”
I loved, loved, loved the fact that she addressed the question to Brooke and not to me.
Brooke yelled her response.
“To go to the moooooooovies!”
I cringed. Brooke had stolen her punch line.
“That’s a good one, S!” I said, moving right along. “Brooke, can you tell her one of your favorites? Does she know the one about the bees?”
Brooke started right in.
“What do bees take to school?”
S answered her with a sing-song, “The school buzz!!”
S had stolen her punch line! No one cared! This just kept getting better. They were both laughing.
Brooke kept going. She has a script of jokes that came from a Hoops and Yoyo talking birthday card that Julie gave Katie last year. We hear it at least three times a day, often far, far more.
Aw, what’s the matter? You need a tissue?
Dwayne the bath tub, gettin all swoonie. (Yes it’s supposed to be ‘pruny’, but she heard it as swoonie and nothing can convince her otherwise – more of that to come.)
Hey, what do cows work for?
Moooooooolah, I get it.
That’s it, I’m out of jokes, excuse me of cereal. (The ‘real’ line is ‘that’s my A material’ but she couldn’t care less.)
I cringed just a little. Had S already heard this run? If so, how many times?
But as soon as Brooke got to the last line, S joined in.
SHE JOINED IN.
I nearly busted at the seams as TOGETHER, two little voices said, ‘Excuse me of cereal,’ and then dissolved into giggles. My smile must have wrapped three times around my head. S said, “Brooke ALWAYS says that!” She was still laughing as they launched into it together again. “Excuse me of cereal!” She added, “She’s funny.”
And you know what? Maybe I’ll just end the story right there. Maybe we’ll just stick to the kid on the corner shouting, “BEST PLAY DATE EVER!” and go with it. I mean, the rest of it wasn’t bad, after all; it just wasn’t easy.
It was more like completely exhausting.
The fuse beads were a great idea until they weren’t. Brooke put four beads – yes FOUR beads – on her horse-shaped plate and then decided she was done. S, however was determined to finish the butterfly that she’d started. Which, you know kind of makes sense because the whole point was to actually make something.
Before I realized that Brooke had lost the thread, I’d walked into the next room, trying hard not to hover. ‘These kids play together every single day,’ I thought, ‘so give them some room to play’. Room to play was room for Brooke to wander off and leave S alone at the table. Apparently she hadn’t gotten the memo that S was there to see HER and she’d decided to go play alone in her room.
I’d wrangled her back with the promise of a second snack and a different activity. While S diligently worked on her fuse beads (you know, the activity that Brooke LOVES), Brooke did everything in her power to escape. She went to the bathroom. TWICE. She wandered upstairs. THREE TIMES. She asked if she could play computer. SEVENTEEN TIMES. Finally little S said, ‘It’s all right. You can just let her go.” And I did. Because S was hell-bent on finishing what I had now come to think of as her &^%& butterfly, and keeping Brooke at the table was no longer fun for anyone involved. So I sat with S, picking through TWO THOUSAND fuse beads to find her the EXACT colors that she wanted – not THAT shade of green, THIS shade of green – and oh my God, there are eight shades of green in here and three of them look EXACTLY the &*%$ing same!
Katie had come home somewhere in the middle of all of this with Luau. She’d grabbed a plate of her own and was beading quietly at the end of the table. As S and I worked, I said, “Hey, Katie, S has some great jokes!”
S was happy to share them. And then to tell Katie how funny it is that Brooke has her jokes that she tells and how she likes to say, “Excuse me of cereal.” She giggled as she said it and I nearly hugged her.
Katie was suddenly too cool for school. She nearly hissed as she said, “It’s NOT ‘excuse me of cereal,’ it’s ‘That’s my A material.’ That’s from MY birthday card.’
I took a deep breath, trying to contain my anger. Or hurt. or embarrassment. Just trying to contain. I shook my head slowly at Katie. On some level, she understood because she stopped talking. I tried to smile as S handed back the ‘wrong’ green beads. Oops, sorry, S. Did I pick the wrong &*%$ing green again? Silly me!
The rest was, well … it was. Brooke wandered off a lot more than she didn’t, but S didn’t seem to mind much. There was one set of tears. Katie set up a ‘don’t touch the ground course’ in the basement, which had us end on a high enough note that everyone was begging for more time when S’s mom came to pick her up. We promised another play date next week and S asked if Brooke could come to their house.
I was grateful for the invitation and we’ll be there next week with bells on. I’m just hoping that a week is enough time to recover before we do it all over again. Cause, um, honestly? I’m tired.