In the derby of the school pick up-line, the boys spot my we-refuse-to-acknowledge-it-is-a-minivan. Victorious in escaping the atomic bombardment of dozens of elementary schoolers, they tumble into the car. The backseat is awhirl with noise and feet and big eyes. As one, they ask for water, backpacks, television time, help buckling the seat belt that was buckled three second ago, bathroom breaks, television time, and Where’s Daddy. I grind my teeth, check the rearview mirror, and brace for the demolition derby that is escaping the parking lot. Parents have turned the dual-lane pickup system into a stampede of cars seventeen across. Everyone is scanning for their opportunity to dart. Some rebellious adults have parked their cars and launch over one another other and the SUVs to get to the kids. I expect by Winter Break someone will begin awarding points for performing a layout tsukahara with a full twist over a Jeep Cherokee.
I drive out of the parking lot, steering with my knees, while deflecting backpacks, thermoses, art projects, permission slips, pineapple left over from snack. The principal impatiently waves us off with the skill of a NASCAR official. I’m not departing fast enough and there is an angry mob forming behind me. I spot a torch.
As their bodies so often do, the boys’ words tumble over each other. It’s our version of morbidity and mortality meetings, letting me know that in the seven hours since I’ve seen them, the world continued to be imperfect. From what I gather, elbows were scraped, lunches had soggy elements, someone cried, recess was fun, and art smocks were scratchy. Ultimately, all the words race to their inevitable conclusion.
Did you bring a snack?
Of course. I am Mama. Once I gave birth to you, my body produced milk and small bags of Goldfish crackers. It’s how our species survived lean times.
The noise stops as they see what I’ve unearthed from the rubble of my purse: two fun-sized Almond Joy bars, the final treats from goodie bags from one of the seemingly endless birthday parties this past month. I am convinced, although have no proof yet, that some of their friends are in an accelerated growth program because I swear Tyler just had a birthday four months ago, and Asher is already blotting a styptic pencil on his shaving nicks as he runs to make it to the first grade reading rug before the final morning bell rings. I appreciate parents trying to give their kids every advantage, but Asher creams my kids in Duck Duck Goose. Every time.
I put the bars in the fridge to firm up. “How long?” they ask. Five minutes. They run to get the timer, which they don’t seem to trust, as they cross-reference it with three other clocks in the house, as well as what they seem to think is my internal world clock. There is counting down, jumping, fidgeting, and not particularly gentle prodding for me to retrieve the booty from its temporary throne next to the hummus and some questionable green onions. With fanfare (I’m singing the Olympic Theme Song), I cut the bars in half and present one to each upturned smile.
The first bite is perfectly rodential. Miniscule. They get only chocolate and are encouraged. The next bite, a scrape of front teeth against candy, exhumes coconut: chewy, sweet, polarizing. They manage to look both horrified and quizzically at me. I tell them to spit it out into the garbage.
“Can I have a plum? Can I have a banana?” measured words, slow and disappointed, hoping I would not insist on finishing what they start. They ask several seconds after they’ve actually reached for and touched every plum and each banana. I nod. They ask again, having not turned their heads from the fruit bowl. They ask again and again, words corrugated from years of not completing each other’s sentences, as expected from twins, but from competing and complementing each other until one (the loser) cries because the other (the victor) said the same thing, only using more words, faster and louder. Finally, mouths full of plums and/or bananas, they turn to and see me nodding. They run off to the backyard, land of t-ball and small hills and the occasional rabbit and absolutely no coconut. They squeal and battle over foul lines and turns, and they laugh over body noises, intentional and otherwise.
I watch them tussle, sinking my teeth into two beautifully, perfectly chilled Almond Joy bars, fun-sized with small tooth-shaped scratches on the edges.