At some point that evening, after we’d returned and unloaded all of the special sticks and everything else from the car, I also unloaded the contents of my pockets, carefully setting aside the snub-nosed pencil while it awaited its burning ceremony, and there it sat for a few days while the machinations of the school week ground along. On Saturday night, after our youngest child was tucked tiredly away, the older kids came downstairs to hang out with us until 8:00, something we’d never done before but were willing to try as a once-in-a-while occasion. Because our pet bunnies had been hutched up for much of the day, I let them out for some kibble and a romp-around while I futzed about in the kitchen waiting for 8:00 to roll around. Summerly was sitting at the counter writing a note to a friend when one of the Holland Lops careened around the kitchen island and proceeded to try to climb inside a cabinet I’d opened to put away a mixing bowl. “Gosh,” Summerly said, remarking on the rabbit’s behavior, “They’re so…” and I offered up, “Exploratory?” Without looking up from her paper, she replied, “Perfect word, Alison. Perfect word.” I said, “Did you just call me ‘Alison’?” to which she responded without glancing up from the words on the page, “Maybe. Maybe not” in that characteristically wry way of hers.
This struck me as hilarious in that moment, and as I usually do when one of the kids delivers a zinger or memorable tidbit, I reach for a pencil and write it down on one of my many notepapers positioned in places that are usually within reach. Just then Liam happened onto the scene, ambling through the room to exchange one book for another, and looked over to see me scribbling down his sister’s most recent quip, only to stop dead in his tracks and exclaim, “Mommy! What do you think you’re doing?” I must have looked at him quizzically because he pointed a finger at my hand and leaned backward for dramatic effect. “You’re using the pencil!” he said. “I don’t believe what I’m seeing. I thought you were going to burn that thing!”
I looked down to realize that I had, in fact, used the dastardly object, having absentmindedly sharpened it the night before along with a handful of others I’d decided were in need and deposited on the counter next to where I’d left the scrap that had been notoriously excommunicated at the music lesson. “You’re right, Liam,” I said, dropping the cursed object as if it were hot, “I don’t know what I was thinking! Well, what do you make of that?” and he tucked the book under one arm, looked me directly in the eyes with a wicked twinkle, and proceeded to deliver a perfectly-timed slow clap. I’d never seen him do this, nor did I know that he was aware that the “slow clap” was even a thing, and the comedic quality of it was so spot-on that I once again reached for a pencil to jot down the essence of the interaction. “Mommy,” he said, “You’re using it again!” and commenced the slow clap.
A few minutes later, I said, “Okay, guys! 8:00. Time to head up.” Summerly looked at her watch and said, “No, it’s 7:59.” Let the record reflect the evening’s events described here, dear reader, as evidence of the kind of injustices that can occur when people let their children stay up late.