As we come around the corner, the crowds scatter, jump, recoil. First one–two–three–flying like the wind, silver scooters carrying them along like lightening, legs pumping–and then four–five–bent lower over the handle bars, legs pumping even faster to keep up with the vanguard–and you think they’re all through, but no, here comes six, working harder than everyone else because he has to keep up. And me, at the end, with number seven in the bike. Calling out, “High traffic area! Everyone keep to the right!” But they don’t hear me, of course; of course, they don’t, because there is only speed, wind, the path, and the posse.
I love the posse. Three are mine, four are borrowed for the day. Four people have the temerity to ask, as we zoom by, “Oh-my-god-are-they-all-yours?” and sometimes, I would punish them with The Look, but today I am happy, so I just smile. One-half of one couple is so appalled by the procession that is us that the beautiful young woman turns to her husband-boyfriend and says, loudly, fully intending me to hear, “And this, honey, is why we always use condoms.” I’d give her The Look, but then I catch the husband-boyfriend’s look, and it is one of such joy-envy-lust that instead of giving her The Look, I give him The Grin, and we have a very quick, secret psychic conversation:
Him: Seven, eh? Six boys? Man. My own fucking hockey team.
Me: Imagine the soccer games you would have.
Him: Basketball. Camping!
Me: You’d just sit in the chair, and they’d set up the tent.
Him: The littlest one would bring me beer.
Me: You’d build them the best treehouse ever, right?
Him: Oh, fuck, yeah. Would I ever. So… um… you wanna have more kids?
Me: No, I’m done. Sorry.
Him: Okay then. Well, have a good day
Me: Good luck with her, eh?
Him: Yeah… not sure this is going to work out.
We move on. Along the river. Over this bridge. That one. I don’t even attempt to tell them to stick with me–they are a posse, The Posse, and The Posse don’t wait for no Mom. But I am wise in the ways of The Posse, so I don’t ask. I command. “Meet me at the Dragonfly!” I yell to their backs. “Go ahead–and wait for me at the crossing! We all cross together!” It doesn’t matter how fast I go–they go faster. It’s all about being alone, really. I can read the fantasy, in the three eldest anyway. As far as they are concerned, they are alone.
We stop. Regroup. Do a headcount.
Me: Fuck. Five. Who’s missing?
They: The twins.
Me: Your mom’s going to kill me. Where are they?
They: Who knows?
Me: Dudes! No man left behind! Find them!
Phew. Just fixing their helmets by some bushes. Onward. But now I have given them a new war cry. They push off:
No man left behind!
Flora scoots beside me. “Did they leave me behind because I’m not a man?” she whines. “They didn’t leave you behind,” I point out. “You came to visit with me.”
Up ahead on the path: wipeout!
Him: I’m okay.
You don’t show weakness in The Posse.
The Posse fractures. Its members fight. When we stop at a playground and they play a mad game of tag with rules so complicated it makes my head spin, my eldest gets his nose out of joint. The twins think they’re picked on. Flora feels left out. Mostly, I stay out of it. Sometimes, I nudge towards a solution. But mostly–I let them be The Posse. I’m there to make sure there is no real injustice … but they know most of the rules of engagement. They are learning how to work things out. This is not Lord of the Flies.
My final test as Mom-wise-in-the-ways-of-The-Posse comes when we hit an ice rink. The ice is melting, sloppy. But still slippery. I see the desire in their eyes. The two eldest look and do a risk analysis. Then decide to try to break their bones on the nearby playground instead. The littles dump the scooters and go to slip and slide on their feet. But he-who-will-test-me comes up to me and says,
“Can we scooter on that?”
It’s a test. Any mother in her right mind would say no, and he knows this. And I know that he knows this. We look at each other, take each other’s measure. And I say,
“I can’t fit seven kids in my car if we have to go to the Children’s Hospital… Look, keep your helmet on, and no whining or crying at all unless there’s massive amounts of blood, and you’ve lost more than two teeth.”
He looks at me. Mildly appalled. His mom would have said no, outright, his eyes tell me, and I’m clearly irresponsible. Criminally so. But I’ve just given him permission. Really. If he doesn’t go on the ice, I’ll know it’s because he’s afraid. Of blood. Losing teeth. He’ll lose face.
He puts the scooter on the ice. Scoots.
“It’s not slippery enough to be fun,” he tells me. Drops it. And goes off to join The Posse.
We pass another couple on the last block home. This time, I have a quick, secret psychic conversation with the girl:
Her: Is it hard?
Me: Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.
When The Possee’s split up, and four-sevenths goes home with Fishtank Mom, they are all exhausted. And not-a-little tired of each other. But next time–next time, they’ll gel together again. Feel the wind, the speed. Be the pack. Fight, fracture, learn. Is it hard? Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.
Photo from the newspaper “Nogales Herald” dated July 20, 1922 showing an American posse after capturing the Mexican bandits Manuel Martinez and Placidio Silvas (middle of back row) who killed or wounded five people at or around Ruby, Arizona in 1921 and 1922. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And a thank you to the fabulous Tatu from Wonderland By Tatu for including Nothing By The Book in the shininess of the Sunshine Award. As you may have noticed, I truly suck at passing these on adequately. Not out of any better-than-thouness, truly, just out of… what shall we call it… laziness.Pure laziness. But thank you muchly, Tatu, you made me all smiley and sunny on a hard day. Here’s the link to the last one of these that I’ve paid back “properly,” which includes some irrelevant facts about myself and some of my favourite bloggers.
Sounded like an awesome experience. Oh and I know the look. I have gotten it more than a few times with 2 kids 16 months apart!!
Ah, the Look. 🙂
I hope I can be as cool a mom as you for just one day when my child gets older. Your children’s friends must love you!!!
Actually, much of the time they think I’m kind of mean. 😛
So sweet. I hope I’m cool like you, too, someday!
I loved this. Especially the psychic conversations. You always paint a vivid picture with your gorgeous words, lady.
Thank thee. I do think the psychic conversation with the husband-boyfriend was the gem of the piece. And alas, poor girl, she’ll never know I’m the reason he left her… 😛
Oh how I loved the psychic conversations!!!
God. Where were you when I was homeschooling? We would have had such fun. And for the record, I only had one, and still there were times when I needed to use The Look. My boy was a whirling dervish of energy and curiosity and people would constantly ask – Are you exhausted every evening. Had I known, I could have said, Fuck, yeah. But it’s worth it.
Love your writing.
Loved this…could totally feel the wind. Been a long time since I’ve experienced The Posse.
Thank you, ma’am. 🙂
I love this post! I could see it all, hear it all, but thank god not feel it all…ugh, cold, windy, bike ride? Screw that. You’re a kinder mother than me!
It wasn’t cold at all for a March day in YYC, Alberta. 🙂 No one was wearing a touque or snowpants. 😛 And it’s not kindness. Imagine, if you will, what seven children–six of them boys–would sound like in a sub-1000 sq ft townhouse. Try not to imagine what they would *do* inside that townhouse if trapped for four consecutive hours…
Loved this post, especially your ability to verbalize those whole-conversations-in-a-glance moments. Thank you!
Damn. How do you do it? I don’t know you, I’ve never met your kids, but I was there with you whizzing by on bikes and scooters. I saw the playground, the wipe-out, and the wench of a woman who will lose a good man because she sucks. Your writing is so much more than writing; it’s an adventure every.single.time.
Teach me, Wise One. 😉
Wow, what a thing to wake up to–thank you, Stephanie!
This was such an awesome post. You made me giggle out loud on this quiet room with the boyfriend/husband convo.
How did you have the energy to write this post after all that? I’d have to sleep for a week straight.
I did sleep for 14 hours after… 🙂
Pingback: How do you spell “nincom” and other paths to literacy | Undogmatic Unschoolers
Pingback: How you know you get the kids you’re raising | Nothing By The Book
Pingback: I blog because… #FTSF | Nothing By The Book
You’re so awesome. I love how you brought life and color to your psychic conversation with random dude based on a shared glance.
PS Pinned this on Pinterest. Not that you may ever see it there but it’s there 😉
Wonderful story, except I did feel a tad sorry for Flora. It’s always a shame when we can’t be included, even if we really want to be. But I remember riding bikes with my pack of girls, so maybe that’s how it should be when we’re young.
Thanks for linking up on our blog hop! Tweeted and Stumbled this, btw.
She recovered. But it’s hard, sometimes, being the only girl in a gaggle of small men.
Pingback: But I would drive 500 miles, and I would drive 500 more… | Nothing By The Book