It’s No Picnic

I rolled over in bed this morning to find Lex smiling down at me in her mischievous way. It’s a look that tells me that she is up to something but has also decided to put off telling me what it is until we’ve fooled around a bit first.

I have no complaints about her strategy. None at all.

Just as my heart has decided to stop hammering in my chest, there was an equally pounding knock on our bedroom door. Lex slipped from under me and started stalking toward the sound.

“Psst! Lex!  Your robe!” I tossed it to her and she shoved her arms in it, then tugged it in place.  See, I had no reason to be grumpy about the kids interrupting things, but Lex was still…she was, uh, less inclined to accept an interruption. She took a deep breath and tied her bathrobe and pulled the door open to see who was there.

“Momma? It’s picnic day!”

“Picnic? What?” Lex turned back to me and shrugged her shoulders.  I thought for a minute and suddenly remembered that I’d volunteered us to accompany Mel’s class to the state park to see the buffalo and have a picnic.

I ducked under the covers to pull my tee-shirt and sleep shorts back on before climbing out of bed.  Our not-so-little ones were becoming too observant on their own. No point in painting them a picture by getting out of bed naked.  The last time I tried that was before we got Eddie. Mel saw me naked and immediately tugged on Lex’s robe to see if she was naked, too.  It only got worse from that point on.  I don’t think that I stopped blushing for a week. Lex, my hero, figured out a way to explain things that seemed right and natural to our little inquisitor while making sure that she understood that this was something only parents were allowed to do.

Still, she looked at us sideways for a while.  She had that same look on her face when she reminded us that the class trip was today and that we needed to go.

We assured Melanie that we were going to have her to school on time and that she could go downstairs and have cereal with Lorrie. I could hear Martha downstairs. Thank goodness that she remembered that I’d asked her to watch Eddie today.  I could hear her chatter with Lorrie and her welcoming Mel to the breakfast table. I could picture the happy expressions on my kids’ faces to have their beloved “Mada” to themselves.  She’d even come upstairs earlier and retrieved Eddie and he was happily singing to himself about “orsies and frucks”.

Lex closed the door behind Mel and slowly slipped her robe off.  The look she gave me was enough for me to instantly shed my night clothes and attack her before she even reached the bed.

“Wait, honey!” My libido was warring with my maternal side and I was quickly forgetting why Mel had interrupted us in the first place. “Lex, baby…” It’s a good thing we get up early on the ranch.  We didn’t have to get the kids to school for another hour.

For a couple whose been together since 1999, you’d think that we could tone it down a bit when needed. Heh!  We held hands all the way into town and then told the kids to go on in and we’d follow.  Lex parked the Expedition in a far parking space in the school lot and as soon as the engine was switched off, she started kissing the daylights out of me while my hands insisted that her buttons needed undoing.

The school bell rang and drew us back to the present.

We grudgingly arranged our clothes and headed to the school office to sign in.  The school bus was waiting, so after receiving our instructions from Mel’s teacher, we hopped aboard the bus and found our assigned seats.

The kids filed on and started chattering away while their teacher spoke to the bus driver and then took her seat. Once we were underway, Mel turned around and sweetly said, “Hi, Mommy.”

“Hi, Mel.”

“Hi, Momma.”

“Hi, Mel.”

Mel’s seatmate looked puzzled for a moment until her light bulb went on in her mind. “You have to mommies, right?”

Mel, the literal one, replied, “No. I have one Mommy and one Momma. See?”

The girl looked at Mel as if she had just explained our family dynamics to her in Greek, but settled down and turned her attention back to the teacher who was trying to distract the kids from the long ride with some children’s songs.

Janis Marshall, one of the other parents, caught my eye and her expression surprised me. It wasn’t a disapproving look, it was more of a, “Please don’t make me explain this to my kids,” expression.  I know that expression. I’ve used that expression on my own face when I just knew another uncomfortable conversation was about to be had with the kids.

After way too many rounds of “The Wheels On the Bus” and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, we finally arrived at the state park. One of the rangers met us at the bus and acted as tour guide for the youngsters.

The hour before lunch was spent walking up to the pens where the local vet was examining some of animals and the ranger telling the eight year olds how the buffalo came to live in the state park.  They were told that after lunch, they’d go to a petting area where a new calf would be brought to them to see up close.

Lunch bags and juice cartons were retrieved and passed out to the kids. Mel, thankfully, was used to a ranching life, and so nothing really fazed her when it came to the animals and their bi-products. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the rest of the class who were raised in town.

It got to be a sort of chain reaction. One kid would retch, the next kid would follow, it was a nauseating domino effect that left Mel as the only child standing.  When even Mrs. Marshall and their teacher, Mrs. Kelly, turned green, the ranger suggested that they walk back to the ranger station where the children could be hosed down and sit under a cool air conditioner for a while.

Once they’d been rinsed off, the kids sat cross-legged on the cool linoleum floor and sipped on sodas to settle their stomachs. Mel’s seatmate was one of the first to recover. She spotted us talking quietly in the corner with her teacher and asked again, “So why do you have two mommies?”

Mel explained it to her, proudly and effectively. The children who were sitting by them listened and nodded their heads without a single complaint and asked thoughtful questions that Melanie happily answered.

We saw Mrs. Marshall approaching us and wondered what kind of reaction she was going to have to our daughter’s explanation of her family’s makeup.

“I could learn a lot from your daughter.” She took my hand and shook it gently.  “You’ve instilled in your child pride in herself, in her family, her home, even her pet goat she was just telling the children about. “

“Thanks,” Lex began. “We’re proud of our family, too.  And the children know they’re loved.”

“Oh, I can tell that.”

The air shifted suddenly and my mommy hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.  Our little orator had gone off in another direction and the few words I could make out were, “only Mommies can do that.”




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