Today the grossest parenting thing happened, like ever. It couldn’t have gotten too much grosser. I am in the entry to the house, now, having stripped my kids and thrown them in the shower. I did contemplate cutting off their clothes, all of our clothes with scissors, but instead, I have them soaking for forty-five years in the washer. Shoes, too, and my fancy new baby carrier.
If I could walk you through a slow-mo reel played in reverse, that would be best.
We have just been let out of the cab. A little distracted, I couldn’t pay attention in time to direct him to just outside of our house. Instead, we are getting out of the cab like a people in the throes of bad drugs. Or people more than dabbling in crack cocaine. We are covered in vomit. Covered. I hold their school bags and three umbrellas. I also have my two-month-old in a carrier. The big kids, five and three-year-old, they are the culprits. They are sick.
I have just allowed him to keep the change–as if 1,000 yen (ten dollars) is enough to absolve this, enough to rid his cab of what has gone on. Like it’s a steam vacc or a sage smudge stick to clean out the negative space. What I really think he should do is pull any valuables from the glove box and drive it into a river. Try to stay under the radar of being called on insurance fraud.
The automatic door waits for me. I am embarrassed and horrified, but I’m stifling a laugh like a crazy woman because it really couldn’t have been worse. And the setup, too–he started with white seat covers, with knit doilies fashioned for passengers’ heads. Grimmace. No, my 1,000 yen is hardly enough to do anything to fix this. It can buy him a beer.
“Get me out”, my boy says. He is also deeply horrified. It is hard to pick out a spot on his person that doesn’t look like a bucket of sick, the poor boy. At just three and a half, this is the first time he has lost his lunch in public, and only the second time he has ever thrown up. Now he is caked with it. My daughter, too. We look like we’ve come out of something bad. Bad bad. Something like war or a horror movie hospital ward. I’m glad none of my neighbors are out.
“I look like I’m laughing; I’m not.” I try to convey how sorry I am, what bad fortune as we walk towards our driveway, but oh, this is one for the books. I cannot wait to tell their dad.
I strip off their clothes. I think about that poor cabbie and how he will never again, perhaps, stop for any family with a child. Especially not when it is mid-day and he is asked to pick up a family from a school, as this very obviously implies that someone is going home ill. I don’t know what miracle there is for the cab, what product can make this okay. He may do the noble thing and drive it into a river. Or pour bleach over all of it, do I don’t know what before the evening crowd needs rides out for drinks. My kids have soiled his baby. See, here in Japan, cabbies own their own cabs. They take pristine care, always shined, always waxed, hence the white gloves and white seats. Not his. Not anymore.
Now that I have the kids washing in the shower, I call their father. I am giddy when he picks up. “You know that part in Stand By Me? The part with the pies?”
Silence, and then, “No.”
“Oh, yes. It was bad. First J- and then K-. They were seat-belted in. Seatbelted in when they threw up and then he did it again and then she looked and started, too. And it was both of them again and again.”
I feel a small thrill of holding him mesmerized by the sheer grossness of our ride. Normally I tell such boring stories, but this one? This really is one for the books. Legendary. This is when, if not before, I win some badge.
I cannot even tell him about the details. It is way too bad. The state of the driver’s seatbelts is just too bad to get into detail about. I know I shall have to find him one day Oprah or some Japanese talk show. I will have to give him a check for the equivalent of five grand in Japanese yen.
I do tell my husband that as we walked up to the door of our house, my daughter looked at her stunned, shell-shocked and puke-covered brother, assessing, “You look like you stepped into one hundred cakes. One hundred stinky cakes”.
Poor kids. Poor driver. Poor washing machine. I stand stronger for having survived all the mothering it took to arrive.