catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 14 :: 2011.07.22 — 2011.09.01


The royal treatment

Life gets busy. It is stressful and tense and rushed and exhausting. There is always more required than time to accomplish it. The phone is always strapped to my belt. My computer at home is connected to the network at the office so I can get things done off hours. The kids need to get to daycare, dance lessons, basketball games. The house has to get cleaned, bills paid, laundry washed and put away.

I can’t seem to keep up with everything.

And then my kids want me to play with them.

“Mama, come play house!” My daughter’s blonde pigtails bob up and down as she hops. “Please, please. Just for a minute.”

“I can’t, Maggie. Too much work,” I answer.

“You always have to work.” She pouts. Not the bratty way. No, it’s a truly sad, lonely, missing-her-mommy pout.

“Hey, Mom,” my son says. “Come see what I learned at karate tonight.”

“Oh, Brent, you know I’ve got to get these dishes done.”

“No you don’t. They can wait half a second.”

“I’ll watch you do it later. I promise.”

“Whatever. You’ll forget. You always do.”

And, of course, he’s right. Because after the dishes I’ll find one of a thousand other things to do. Such is the life of a single mom.

Today is Saturday, though. Some people reserve this day of the week for resting and spending quality time with family. I should be doing both. Instead, I’m on the phone with a livid client.

“I understand your frustration…no, I really do,” I say into the phone while separating whites and colors in the laundry room. “I will make it my personal agenda to fix this problem first thing on Monday.”

“Mom,” Maggie whispers. She knows not to interrupt a work call. “Mom, I need you.”

I cover the phone and whisper, “Not now, Maggie. Working.”

“Seriously. You have to come with me.”

“I can’t,” I say. “Wait.”

“I’m still here,” I speak into the phone. “I’m telling you, I can’t rectify this right now.”

“I’ve got to show you something.” Maggie tugs on my shirt.

“Listen, I’m going to call you Monday. First thing when I walk into the office. I promise.”

Somehow, I’m able to keep promises to clients and bosses. Not to my children.

“Mom!” Maggie’s voice is loud enough that the client asks me what’s going on.

“Well, ma’am, it’s Saturday. I’m home with my kids…Yes, you’ve taken up some family time…Okay, talk to you Monday.”

I hang up.

“Come on.” Maggie tugs me by the hand.

“What in the world, Maggie?”

“You’ll see. It’s great.”

“Okay. But only for a minute. I’ve got a lot to do today.”

“Right, Mom. Just come see!”

She leads me to the backyard. A large pavilion stands in the middle of the grass, bed sheets cascading from the top.

“What is this?” I feel like a little girl. Wonder and awe and adventure blend into joy.

“We made a castle. Come inside.”

Three lawn chairs sit side by side. The old patio table is covered with snacks. A small, portable radio plays classical music.

“Go sit in the middle chair. We’ll be right in.” Maggie leaves me. I sit down.

A few seconds later they come back in. She’s wearing a cone hat made of poster board and streamers. Brent has a pirate hat of newspaper. They both wear paper grocery bags for vests. He holds his hand up to his mouth, “playing” it as if it were a trumpet.

“Good day, my lady,” he says in a terrible British accent. “I hope you’re enjoying your royal medieval castle day.”

“Well, hello.” The giggle bursts from my mouth. “This is quite nice.”

“Can I interest you in some refreshments?”

“That would be delightful.”

Maggie pours some kind of purple liquid into a plastic tumbler. “Wine, ma’am?”

“Oh, yes, please.”

“It isn’t real. It’s just punch.” She winks at me.

“Well, that’s okay for now.”

“And some cookies?” Brent presents a platter of dollar store cookies. “Only the best for you, my lady.”

“Would her majesty like some royal fingernail painting?” Maggie has several hues of nail polish. “You can pick one color or go with the castle specialty.”

“What’s that?”

“One of each color.”

“Sounds wonderful.”

Maggie paints my fingernails. Brent performs his karate moves. We play for hours. The sunset can’t even stop us. We find old mason jars to fill with fireflies.

The charcoal grill contains my modest fire. We roast marshmallows, letting them get brown and crisp. My children tell me about their school, sports, friends. I share stories about my childhood in Wisconsin. They laugh to think of me as a little girl.

We stay up late — hours past their bedtime. But it doesn’t matter. All that matters is this moment. This time to be. I sit, joined in play, with my family.

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