There are certain activities I try to avoid in life. My most disliked activities are attending the rodeo, doing jigsaw puzzles and projectile vomiting. Not necessarily in that order. I have to admit that babysitting is also on my list of unenjoyable experiences, but last night I decided to do my friend Auburn Pisces a favor. So I went over and joined Thor, her housemate, for a night of babysitting.
Auburn Aries is an eight-year-old princess with fiery red hair and an awesome sense of humor. Her laughter is contagious, and she can play harder than almost any kid I've met. Fortunately for her, Thor is capable of playing for hours and hours. He picked her up, he spun her around, he bounced her, he threw her, he tickled her. It was cute. Until they made me participate.
So, Thor and I are out in the front yard after a pouring rainstorm swinging Auburn Aries. He held her wrists and I held her feet. The grass was soaked. After a few rounds of "Swing the Kid", I wondered why I was the only one getting wet. My jeans were soaked and my shirt was wet too. So, I asked if we could stop playing and just go inside to clean the playroom. I now see what a mistake I made in suggesting such a preposterous notion, but I wanted so desperately to surprise Auburn Aries' mother. She works so hard as a single mom, and I knew she'd love to come home to a tidy house.
So, my brilliant plan had been to clean the playroom, making a game out of it like Mary Poppins did with Jane and Michael. But, unlike Mary, I did not find that in every job that must be done there is an element of fun. No, while I agonized over where to store the baby blankets (she must have been so cute as a baby. And quiet), Thor and Auburn Aries seemed to be having the time of their lives playing with the toys. Thor became My Pretty Pony and let Auburn Aries ride around the small room as I folded blankets and put dolls away in a chest. Sometimes I would pick up a Barbie shoe and think it might be easier to throw it in the trash than figure out which crate to store it in, but Thor wouldn't hear of it. He insisted that every Barbie shoe be saved and stored away for future losing. According to the song "A Spoonful of Sugar", if you find the fun, then, SNAP, the job's a game. Mary Poppins lies.
Thor rewarded Auburn Aries and me with a visit to the ice cream parlor after we cleaned. They didn't have Maker's Mark at this establishment, so I had a scoop of coconut ice cream and wished I had eaten dinner. When Thor tipped the girls working behind the counter, an awful thing happened. They launched into a song. Misty, who was probably about 16, shouted to her co-workers, "Hey, guys! We just got a tip!!!" and they all started clapping and singing The Tip Song. I don't remember the lyrics or the tune, but it was loud. Auburn Aries asked if I had a dollar so she could tip the girls again. "Nope, sorry, Auburn Aries. I do not want to watch those poor girls go through that humiliation again." I mean, can you imagine having to sing every time someone gave you a lousy dollar as you scoop ice cream for minimum wage? Thor, of course, liked when they sang, although he admitted he enjoyed it more when the high school boys were working and launched into song.
When we got home, I realized I had been set up. Thor had decided long in advance of this night that he was going to be good cop and Hot Toddy was going to be bad cop. I didn't figure it out until I was washing dishes and begging Auburn Aries to head for bed (45 minutes past bedtime) while Thor tried to get her to chase him through the house. I took over getting her to bed, only glancing briefly at the unopened bottle of whiskey on the counter. "I'm coming, baby," I whispered to the bottle and went to tuck in Auburn Aries.
As I sat outside on the deck with Thor enjoying a drink and talking, I hoped my friend Auburn Pisces was having fun on her date. I have new respect for what she goes through each and every day. Thor asked if I ever thought I could raise kids, and all I could reply was, "Not by myself. I think I would rather go to the rodeo."