Body of a frog, memory of an elephant

One of our new activities as a sell-out family is walking to the park every morning while the weather is still good enough to allow it. It’s an hour-long adventure that starts with Chuck running laps through the house at 40 mph after someone inevitably drops the word WALK in conversation. He could be under two pillows and a quilt on the futon in the basement and one of us could just move our lips to form the word and before we even get to the L he’s sliding across the kitchen floor head-first into the dishwasher. We’re always telling each other to spell out the word just to prevent the dog from cracking open his skull.

We usually take the same route to the park, and the last two times we tried it we never made it all the way there. Leta has been throwing massive tantrums in her stroller at the same point on the walk, on the same street, on the same block, always in front of Starbucks. Last week her face split open and the fiery core of the Earth shot out her mouth because we stopped to pick up a cup of coffee. She didn’t want to be picked up or put down or looked at or stood near, and after several minutes of trying to figure out what was wrong I finally gave up, got down on my knees and said through clenched teeth YOU ARE NOT OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE YOUR PRECIOUS SENSIBILITIES OFFENDED BY A CORPORATE AMERICAN FRANCHISE JUST SAVE IT FOR GRAD SCHOOL. Today on Mistaking Your Child For Your Deadbeat Ex-Boyfriend.

Today on the way to the park it happened again, the Starbucks Revolt, and neither Jon nor I could figure out what was going on. Is she having an acid flashback, or worse, is this something my mother taught her? To convince us of the evil transgressions of the coffee bean? On the way home from the park we passed Starbucks one more time to see what would happen and just as I was about to plot my revenge against the Avon World Sales Leader Jon turned the stroller and headed straight for the store’s entrance.

“Where are you going?” I asked, worried that the closer they got to Starbucks the more people she would set on fire.


“What? How do you know that?”

“You used to come here and give her chocolate milk, right?”

“Yeah, but that was months ago.”

“Well, she remembers.”

“So last week she was screaming for a reason?”

“For a reason.”

Within seconds her screams were replaced with chocolate-flavored, snotty sighs. The straw plugged her up like a leak. I felt an overwhelming number of emotions in that moment, among them stupidity, relief, and jealousy that he figured it out before I did. Mostly I just felt sad that all she wanted was a fucking carton of chocolate milk and the whole time I thought my mother was trying to turn her into a Mormon.