Before I could put the car in park, he was unbuckling his seat belt. We were at Sonic where he is allowed to climb into the front seat with me and eat his burger. If it’s nice, I open the sunroof and it’s our own version of a picnic. We’ve been picnicking at Sonic since he was two and it’s kind of our thing that we do together, a time when we talk.
Going to Sonic with Sean is special for me because I went there every Tuesday for lunch when I was pregnant. I hosted a small Bible study at my house with four older ladies. Afterward we’d all pile into one car and go to Sonic and have lunch. They would fuss over me and give me advice. It was like having four moms which I really needed at the time since my own mother was three states away. Even at my advanced maternal age, I needed and craved mothering.
Later, when Sean was two and started a mother’s day out program, we’d go to Sonic after I picked him up. With just the two of us in the car, I’d discreetly reach over and turn on my little voice recorder while he chattered away. When I go back and listen to those conversations and hear that sweet baby voice it turns me into a big gloppy mess.
As we sat in the car waiting for our burgers, we watched the car hops whiz by on roller skates. I looked at him standing up on the passenger’s side, peering out the front window. Tall and skinny, his head almost touches the roof. But in my mind’s eye, I saw a little boy with long blond curly hair who couldn’t see over the dashboard.
I asked Sean if he remembered the time he spilled the blue coconut slush in my car. He said he did.
“Do you remember that I yelled at you?” I asked, wincing and hoping he didn’t.
“Yeah. I remember,” he stated as a matter of fact with no trace of lingering ill will. “I bumped it over on the seat.”
“Well, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really sorry. I wish I hadn’t yelled at you.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “You’re getting to be a better mom and I’m getting better at being more careful.”
“Well, just the same, I’m sorry,” I said again, not so much because he needed to hear it but because I needed to say it. Not a day goes by that I don’t think how I’d like to do it all over again, start over right from the day I found out I was pregnant. I’d do it better this time. I wouldn’t yell.
After our picnic, I took him to Target to let him pick out a toy for no particular reason other than he’s been a really good and helpful boy lately. We’ve done some stringent expense cutting at our house since before Christmas and he has not once complained.
When we arrived in the toy department, a bin of rubber snakes caught his eye. For twenty minutes or more, he went through the entire nest of snakes, examining each one like a jeweler with a loop, looking for the most perfect and flawless of rubber snakes.
‘Which one do you like best?” he asks holding up a baby blue cobra and a lime green rattler.
“I like the green one,” I say.
“Oh,” he says flatly. He looks from snake to snake and I can see on his face that he can’t make a decision. He wants them both. But he doesn’t ask.
A minute passes.
“You need to pick one; we can’t get both,” I say sounding like a bonafide grown up.
“I just can’t decide,” he says and sighs heavily to convey that the decision is causing him a great deal of angst and pain.
Even though it’s only a $3 snake, to give in and let him have both would be a mistake. It would be a violation of our family’s new financial philosophy. And I had already clearly stated that he could only have one. I had to stick to it. And I hated that.
“Well, if you don’t mind,” I said, “I think I’ll buy the green one for myself. I’ve been wanting a rubber snake.”
“Really?” he asks, bewildered.
“Yup. Always wanted one.”
I grab the green rattler from him.
“I didn’t know that,” he says narrowing his eyes in disbelief, waiting for the punch line.
We lock eyes. He searches my face to see if I’m yanking his chain. He cracks a little half smile, not quite sure about his wacko mother.
“Let’s go pay for these,” I say.
He reaches for my hand and we turn and head towards the front of the store towards the cashiers, each clutching our very own rubber snake.