Kneepads, A Basketball, and Spaghetti Sauce

>> Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I’m inside making spaghetti sauce for dinner: sautéed garlic and olive oil with balsamic vinegar, ground beef and tomato sauce. Michael is playing outside in the driveway with the girls. I glance through the kitchen window to see him affixing Elizabeth’s 3-wheeled roller skates to her skinny frame. And then the helmet. And then the kneepads. She looks like an American Gladiator in pink shorts.

Using a mop handle, Michael guides Elizabeth along while she holds onto it for balance. She shuffles forward, grinning widely, while Samantha stands aside and watches, clenching her fists in front of her chest in anticipation of Elizabeth failing or succeeding.

I secretly spy (with my little eye...) my family. I love Michael for teaching Elizabeth how to skate. I love Elizabeth for trying to skate again after a not-so-successful attempt a few months earlier. And I love Samantha for caring.

Lizzy falls to her knees and Sammy grimaces. However, instead of becoming angry or sad, Elizabeth is excited to have tested the Kneepad Experiment. The theory goes: Wear kneepads and your knees won’t get hurt. Does it work? Yes! “Hey! It’s a good thing I had my kneepads on!” she exclaims proudly. Now she can fall without fear.

Samantha is relieved, but holds her breath while Lizzy carefully stands again. Samantha would bite her fingernails if it occurred to her to do so. Instead, she sucks her thumb.

Michael and Lizzy circle the driveway a few times without incident. Then, Elizabeth releases the handle and tentatively scoots forward on her skates. Samantha’s eyes widen with excitement. She throws out her hands like an old Italian mother and calls out, “She’s walking! She’s walking! Mom! I’m gonna tell Mom!”

She runs to the door where I meet her and she tells me about Lizzy. “She’s walking, Mommy! She’s walking!”

“She is? On skates?!” I ask.

“Yes! Come see!”

I go outside as Lizzy shuffles forward, unassisted. She’s beaming with pride. Michael stands aside and watches.

“Wow, good job Lizzy!” I say.

And you, too, Michael.

And Samantha.

Aren't they wonderful?

Overcome with love for my perfect little family, I remain outside to fully enjoy this happy family moment. Samantha brings me a basketball. “Let’s play ball, Mommy!” she says.


She stands a few feet away and holds out her arms like an angle. I bounce the ball between us and just like that it hits the angel square in the bean. Well, that happy family moment didn't last long... In less than two minutes I’ve caused Samantha to wail so loudly that a neighbor runs frantically down the street, seeking her own child. Sorry neighbor -- I'm just being a horrible, brutish parent.

“Why did you throw the basketball?” Michael asks.

“Well, uh...”

“It’s too heavy for her,” he scowls.

“That’s the one she brought to me.” Oh terrific, I think. Blame Samantha. Nice parenting... “I thought it would be OK.”

“Mommy...” (sob, sob) “You HURT me!” Samantha screams.

“I’m sorry, honey! I didn’t mean to. Are you OK?”

(wail, scream, cry)

“Can I see?” I ask. I examine her tiny nose, her pouty lips, her puffy cheeks. Everything looks fine. There’s no redness, swelling, or bruising -- just a growing lump in my throat as I hand her to Michael and skulk back inside to stir my sauce.

Goddamn it.

A few minutes later, Samantha comes inside. We hug. “Are you feeling better?” I ask.

“Yea,” she says with her thumb in her mouth. Then, “Can I help you with dinner?”

“You bet!”

Like an angel, she prepares a salad for everyone. She finds the big step stool and puts it near the counter. She retrieves lettuce and carrots from the refrigerator and places them neatly in the bowls. She positions forks on the table, making sure to give Lizzy two forks because she knows that Lizzy prefers a dinner fork AND a salad fork. I break the spaghetti into the pot of boiling water and stir the sauce.

Dinner smells good and within minutes it is ready. Skates and balls are put away. Hands are washed. Milk is poured into blue and orange plastic cups. We all sit down to eat.

“Mmmm. Delicious, Mommy!” declares Elizabeth whose lips are instantly covered in sauce.

“Thank you, Lizzy,” I say.

“Mommy always makes great dinners for us,” Michael adds.

“Mmm-hmm,” Samantha agrees.

I look shyly at my dinner and smile.

Good job, Mommy.

My family -- they’re like kneepads for the heart.


Mumsydoodle April 1, 2008 at 1:35 PM  

I just love stories like this. It is so rare to hear gratitude expressed so eloquantly and it really lifts the heart. It's official, I am now in a great mood! Thanks!

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare April 1, 2008 at 2:33 PM  

Funny how family can be both the pavement that causes the pain and the kneepads that protects you from harm. Wonderfully - and sometimes annoying - complex, isn't it?

Dawn April 2, 2008 at 9:19 AM  

I love it when you do posts like this and tie seemingly unrelated things together. Such an inspiration!

mimi of sexagenarian and the city,  April 7, 2008 at 4:47 PM  

i love yr family melissa
can i come visit?

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