The date was October 1, and we were trying to get out of town.
Not right away, which was good as I hadn’t packed for anyone. But in the afternoon, leaving town was the plan.
But things had to be done first.
School, for one.
Packing for people to go in separate directions.
So we began with school. It was early – I felt confident that I could accomplish all that the day needed. There were hours ahead of me! I had this.
After school, we drove to Target to get necessaries for our journeys. Ali needed to pick out a birthday present for her best friend, as she would be attending her spend-the-night birthday party while we were gone. And I needed things – because who doesn’t need things at Target?
No one. That’s who.
I’d grabbed half the things when my calendar on my phone beeped naggingly.
I didn’t remember having plans.
Then again, I didn’t remember the last time I’d checked my calendar, either.
I looked at the reminder. Children’s Theatre! We had a field trip starting in half an hour and I had completely forgotten about it. We’d missed the last play due to a nasty cold virus we’d passed around our family for two weeks – I could not stomach flushing another $21 of theatre investment.
So I sped up.
“Mommy! Why are you walking so fast?”
“We can’t keep up with you!!”
I grabbed a gift bag for the present, ran through the book aisle looking for the set Ali wanted to get her friend to no avail, sprinted to the checkout, and paid. No present – I would worry about that teensy detail later.
Miraculously, the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line next door hadn’t cranked up to its usual lunchtime frenzy yet, so I got the kids some chicken and sped downtown to adequately provide my children culture and sophistication.
Somehow, we made it to the play, The Reluctant Dragon, with 15 minutes to spare. Most likely because I key in every calendar entry 30 minutes early to plan on the fact that I will not look at my calendar, but whatever.
That 15 minutes gave my children ample time to be impatient, antsy, and far too wiggly for the theatre.
And then, right as the play began, Noah began to cough. Except not a cough – it was the juicy tuberculosis-meets-croup cough he’d had on and off for a month, in fact the very same cough that prevented us from attending the last Children’s Theatre play.
He did not sound uncontagious in the least.
And we were sitting on the second row.
I am positive that he coughed right on The Reluctant Dragon himself at some point, which might (rightfully) make him reluctant to act in children’s plays in the future.
On one side, I had friends. I whispered apologetically that he wasn’t contagious – he just couldn’t shake the cough.
On Noah’s other side, far out of my whisper-reach, were strangers. And the child closest to Noah was leaning on his mother to get as far away from Noah’s nasty lungs as possible.
The cough continued, without stopping, and becoming more urgent, throughout the entire play. The entire play which I did not watch but instead spent strategizing and restrategizing how I could get him out of the theatre without disturbing other people, but to no avail. We were solidly locked in. And there were no intermissions or breaks in the action during which it would be acceptable for me to cross in front of someone.
Could I jump over the row of chairs in front of me, which were all empty, to escape that way?
I was wearing a sundress. There was zero possible way to accomplish that awkward escape without showing my underthings to The Reluctant Dragon.
(Who, incidentally, had a very disturbing underthing problem of his own going on, as his costume was clearly designed for those not sitting on the second row.)
As I tried to not stare at the Dragon’s leggings-as-pants barely made PG-13 by a shimmering thongish covering of dragon scales, I willed the play to end so I could get my child out of this harrowing cough situation.
After approximately 2,357 coughs, they took their bows.
But then there was Q&A with the audience. And again zero ways for me to escape (gracefully.)
Noah sounded at this point as if he was certainly dying of a medieval plague that might have wiped out even the most reluctant of dragons.
Finally finally FINALLY, the questions ended. I pushed my children down the aisle and up the stairs, smushing them into the crowds of parents and children leaving the theatre, attempting to get out before anything worse occurred.
Except that I failed.
Because at that moment, as we were on the carpeted stairs amidst hoards of people, Noah’s cough reached the apex of its theatrical act.
And he phlegm-vomited a pile of ooze right on the stairs.
In half a second my mind went through all the contents of my purse. Did I have anything to clean this up??
I did not.
Except for maybe a feminine product but mopping up a pile of phlegm with a tampon did not seem like it would abate my humiliation one tiny bit.
Meanwhile, the hoards were pressing into us from every side – we had to move or risk theatre trampling.
I apologized in general to all of the people that had been pressing into my little brood at that moment and…I walked up those steps.
The guilt of leaving a pile of phlegm on the stairs beat my brow all day. THIS is the way I repay the arts? THIS is the kind of person I am?
Oh, the horror.
A truly good person would have tamponed that little mess right off the floor.
But I stuffed my humiliation and remembered that I had to get my family out of town. I raced to the bookstore for that present. As Ali browsed, I fretted. I had not planned on the oh-so-pleasurable theater outing when I thought I had plenty of time, and I still had 100% of our packing to accomplish. Ali took her time picking out books, then decided at the last minute that she’d rather get her friend a Lego set – something we could have easily grabbed during our Target sprint.
But no matter.
We drove home, Noah having zero traces of a cough OF COURSE, and I packed in a frenzy. I now only had an hour until Chris was to be home and we were to leave.
As I was packing the very last thing (I hoped), my neighbor and her two kids stopped by. Then my other neighbors saw that we were having a party and they walked over. And I found myself, a mere half hour before it was time to leave town, with a playdate at my house for six kids and three adults.
Because why not? I mean my son had only just phlegmed all over The Arts.
Chris drove up, the neighbors scattered, and we left.
And I managed to relax my shoulders sometime around the state line.