It was pouring rain and i needed to bring the crew to Okotoks for a couple of them to take exams. (At our house, i get them to take the Provincial Achievement Tests for grades 3, 6 and 9 for Math and LA - Cai is also doing Science and a violin exam this year).
Usually on exam days, i take them out back to the playground, but today - on this dismal, drippy day - i took them to the McDonalds play place. i actually don't even know if Gagey has ever played in one, we go so rarely. Since Sloanie was still gone on her birthday junket, i only had 4 little ones to watch climb, slide and play all over that greasy structure. i bought some pancakes and a coffee and settled down to exist as Ephraim's personal play place. He climbed all over me, accepting tiny nibbles of pancake before running over to yell up the tunnel at his siblings and then racing, open armed, back to mama.
He was deliciously cute that day - like... abnormally so.
Maybe it was the plastic ambiance of McDonalds that made his white hair and blue eyes stand out like sparkling jewels in a puddle of sludge, but he became that play place's darling. The seniors group having coffee in the corner couldn't sit straight in their chairs - they had to twist and turn - straining to watch him making his grizzly bear march across the floor. The mama's seated beside me weren't immune to his allure either. They only had one child between them, and the one without children with her turned to me and said wryly, "Would you take a thirteen year old on trade?"
i laughed and told her that i have a very nearly 13 year old of my own. She responded with, "And which one would you RATHER have? Isn't he so much nicer than 13?"
And maybe she caught me on the wrong day, but suddenly i pictured my sweet girl, balanced on the cusp of her teens - her sweet face, and wide blue eyes grinning at me across an eight day absence. My almost woman, and my tiny would-be man will never ever face off for my affections. Each individual in our family sifts in their own unique flavour to our simmering pot, one complimenting the next, bringing out it's essence.
Before i could answer her, the other woman still counting my children remarked, "So, you have a 13 year old too? How many kids do you have?"
And thus began a conversation that wasn't nearly as horrible as it sounds all typed out, but had me thinking hard thoughts and wondering when, exactly, i became so different.
"What's seven times seven?" She asked sharply when i told her my number; and caught off guard i murmured, "49?" not quite sure where she was heading with her line of questioning. Was she testing my intelligence? Was she figuring out how many grandchildren i could one day hope to have?
"Forty nine pairs of socks..." She fairly whispered.
"I can do all my laundry in one episode of Grey's Anatomy... It would have to take you at least three episodes..."
"Do you homeschool?" The friend interjected, and seeing my nod, she turned to her companion,"Well, her kids probably never wear socks anyway..."
i glanced at my 4 children, all wearing socks, and started to say, "i have a system..." but i was cut off by the first woman...
"i have a friend who worked for social services. She told me that one of the things they look for in neglected children is if they're wearing matching socks... Neglected children often aren't wearing socks, and if they are, they aren't matching."
At that moment, Ephraim came open armed to his mama, (thankfully wearing perfectly matched socks). i picked him up and smooched his neck and as i did so, i heard the women behind me continue their conversation under their breath...
"At some point, it goes beyond crowd control doesn't it? 49 pairs of socks...."
And i wonder when it was - that i started seeing the potential of a little person as infinitely more valuable than socks?
The saying 'i wouldn't take a million dollars for the ones i've got and i wouldn't pay a nickel for another one" makes less and less sense to me the older i get. It implies the ability to deny the potential in another life. Or, if not denying that potential... denying that that potential life is worth the effort, of folding one. more. pair of socks...
And don't get me wrong - i know it's about a lot more than socks.
That's why i wrote this post.