Week before last, while I was feeding Calvin, I spoke with a loved one who had had a tough day. The entire time I was on the phone Calvin screamed his head off and I had to ask her to repeat herself nearly every other sentence. She laughed about it and I told her, half chuckling, “it’s not funny ... well, it’s kind of funny but it’s not THAT funny.” We cheered each other up.

When Calvin was finished I cleaned him up, brushed his teeth, gave him some water, removed his dripping, soiled bib and tied a fresh kerchief around his neck. Michael was busy paying bills and I was late in bringing dinner to a girlfriend’s house. I left Calvin in his high chair while I called and ordered some take-away Indian food.

Calvin impatiently pulled his usual stunts of thrashing, screaming and howling, banging his head on the back of his chair and rocking forward into his wooden tray. One of the tray’s flimsy plastic latches had recently broken so, lurching slightly too far, the tray dislodged, Calvin pitched forward and the heavy wooden chair he was belted into came crashing down on top of him. Just as his forehead smacked the floor I caught him, barely breaking his fall.

“Goddammit” I blasted at the top of my lungs and, seeing that Calvin was fine—even laughing—Michael blurted “relax.” I heatedly explained how I’d had about enough of Calvin’s hyper screaming mania, like some caged animal. “So have I,” Michael replied. “But you don’t have to listen to it all day long every day like I do ... it’s different,” I huffed.

Michael whisked Calvin up to escape my seething ring of fire, at which point I noticed a single blue felt slipper on the floor. I peered out the window to see Calvin, like a miniature clown in his skinny striped pajamas, walking with Michael on the pebbly driveway with one slippered foot, the other lily-white and bare. I grabbed the moccasin and stomped out the door full of steam and muttering. But I realized I needed to chill out, so I took a deep breath and, trying to laugh at the somewhat comic scene, brought the slipper out and slid it onto Calvin’s foot. “Good thing you’ve got a wife with a decent sense of humor” I said. “Good thing” Michael replied, smiling.

I kissed my boys goodnight, slurped down the last bit of my drink and headed out the door to pick up the Indian food. All was well in the Kolster-Shake shack, albeit somewhat of a circus.

photo by Michael Kolster

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