Scanning the crowd when we arrived at the kids’ soccer games last night, I searched for energetic, little blonde heads dashing toward us, and sure enough, along came Bear and Sunflower, nearly taking Gary off his feet as they rushed up to hug him. Wolverine soon followed, and one of his first questions was if we could take them to dinner after the game.
Instant awkward. The kids frequently ask for more time with their father, but we are constantly placed in the position of explaining why it is just as frequently denied.
Wolverine cried when he found out he couldn’t go to dinner with us, holding tight to Gary and hiding his face in Gary’s shirt. Sometimes the outburst of emotion takes me off guard, because after 3 years of this drama, I already knew dinner with us would be considered “extra” time with the kids and would never fly. I anticipated the predictable negative reaction. The kids retain such innocence, such hope for things to be different, and are disappointed nearly every time.
Spending any amount of time in the scintillating hayseed town the kids were whisked off to years ago, presumably to ensure less time with Gary, is always a treat…if you consider a town full of cornfed, inbred barnyard livestock who managed to totter on two legs long enough to be mistaken for homo sapiens a “treat”. I grew up in a small town and hold no affection for them, particularly like this one; small-minded wads of group-thinkers who can’t fathom a world outside of the perimeter of their own tiny walled-in box. It’s suffocating.
But the most interesting part of this particular hick town is that for 3 years, the same worn-out lies, legends, and tall tales have been churned out and repeated about Gary and me, to the point that local residents have come to expect a gun-slinging, beer-swigging, axe-toting barbarian coupled with a whip-swishing, leather-clad dominatrix panting lustily after every husband in town when Gary and I come around.
At the very least, they must be sorely disappointed when we show up and end up playing hide-and-seek with the kids between games, or when the kids pile into our laps or want us to pick them up. They must be stunned beyond belief when the kids actually cry when it is time to leave this father who is such a wife-beater, child-abuser, and violent drunk, or so the histrionic story goes.
At most, if I am even willing to give much of them this much credit for thought processes, they must have a dim inkling that at least some part of the horrific tales they have heard are, dare we say, not entirely true.
I remember my very first trip to this particular hick town, accompanying Gary one evening to take the kids to dinner. As we walked up to a restaurant with the kids, a woman seated outside turned so fast she nearly knocked herself out of her chair, gaping at me like I was strutting up to the building wearing nothing but my birthday suit and a swagger. I could already hear the conversation later, in hushed tones and a Larry-the-Cable-Guy-accent hissed around her chewed-up cigar: “Mabel, I saw her! I saw her! That husband-stealing hussy! She was here! Aww my gawd!”
And I also remember feeling like enough was enough. I wouldn’t be shamed or intimidated by absurd lies spread about us by an inutile coward.
I walked straight up to the woman, and her eyes got bigger and bigger the closer I got. I held out my hand, smiled, and said cheerily, “We must know each other, because you’ve been staring at me since I got out of the car.”
Her mouth worked for a few moments while she fought to get a grip, then she smiled back thinly and turned around quickly, burying her face in her plate.
I thought Gary was going to sprawl on the sidewalk, trying not to laugh, while Bear yelled out, “Hey, Smirking Cat, do you know her?”
I walked back over to Gary and the kids, took Gary’s hand, and said, “Apparently not.”
And we continued on to dinner.