We were sitting at dinner. Chuck was still at work and so it was just the four of us (myself, Everett, Junior and Cam), as it is so many nights. Too many nights.
Everett was taking forever to eat his egg noodles--egg noodles I had hand-picked from my homemade chicken noodle soup because he is my picky eater and yes, I coddle him. The boy can make one bite last for hours. He slowly puts the food in his mouth, tucks it in his cheek and gets distracted by something on the table and bam, dinnertime has gone from 5:45-8 p.m. and he's still working on the same damn bite.
Watching him eat is painful.
I was short. I was tired. I was all the things we become when we are one person managing a fleet of children and all we really want to do is go the fuck to bed.
"Everett!" I said. "By the time you finish that noodle you'll be 100!"
"Seriously. You'll be blind as a bat and your brother will have to help you get the last of the noodle into your mouth!"
"And I'll be up in Heaven and I'll high five God and we'll say, 'He did it! He finally did it!' "
"Don't say things like that!" Junior cried. "Don't!" He started to cry.
"Honey," I said, "if Everett is 100, I'd be like, 150. It's ok."
"No, I don't want to talk about it," he cried. "I don't want to think about you in Heaven!"
He was falling to pieces. My usually composed 8 year old was distraught over the thought of me being dead someday (of course, hello, Mom). I had to act fast.
I did some kind of half-laugh, half-chortle jump into the air to distract him and as I did, I snorted up a small piece of celery that had been in my mouth.
"Junior!" I cried. "I have celery stuck up my nose!"
Everyone burst out laughing, but the truth is that the damn thing was STUCK. And it stung. My ears watered and my nostrils burned. I blew my nose and tried to dislodge it, but the celery chunk was up in my sinus cavity. I got an awful, panicky feeling.
"I can't get it out!" I cried. They all sat and stared. "It's really stuck, guys."
Junior got me some tissues.
"Blow!" he told me.
I blew. I tried to sneeze. I blew again and hopped around the kitchen.
Finally--FINALLY--I managed a kind of sneeze-snort-cough-choke and the thing came flying out of my mouth. It landed on the floor and as we all watched, the dog casually left her food bowl, walked over and ate it off the floor.
"Dad's never going to believe this," Junior said. He hugged me and ran into the living room. Cam threw his bottle onto the floor and Everett went back to working his way through his noodle.
I stood there, flummoxed. This is what children do: they suck you into a hurricane of tears and laughter and craziness and then they spit you out and skip off.
Everett made a little squeaking noise. He looked like a little turtle to me. "You can go play if you want," I told him. "Let's set the noodle free." He hugged me too.
I picked up Cam and brought him into the living room, where we all sat.
Waiting for Chuck.