sharing the Gospel. Amen.” –
Karen Hess, Executive Director AlphaCare Pregnancy Center
I can tell this is gonna be a long night.
Jess’s impish behavior makes dinner a disaster, and Bonny’s losing her mind about little things. I make a joke to try to get Jess to drink her milk, but I don’t time it right. She decides to comply just when I get to the punchline, which sends her into gales of laughter, spraying homogenized chaos all over the kitchen.
Tanya isn’t any help, either. She steadfastly refuses to go to the fundraiser, even though Bonny begs her.
“But Honey, you’ll enjoy yourself,” Bon wheedles while mopping up milk with a dishtowel. “Denny Jacobs is gonna be there, giving the keynote speech. Did you know he and his wife, before he started playing professionally, they were so broke they considered aborting their second child? We could get a babysitter for Jess and –”
“Not a babysitter, Mommy!” Jess erupts indignantly. “Babysitters are for babies!”
“Alright, Jessica, just a sitter, then. Tanya, how ’bout it?”
Tanya rolls her eyes and gets up from the table. Ironically, the sweatshirt she’s wearing has Jacobs’s name emblazoned on the back of it, along with the name of the team he pitches for.
It was nice of Jacobs to get them for us. He offered them to all the staff at the pregnancy center and their families. Said it’s the least he can do for people who are, as he puts it, on the “front lines” of the battle for life. He even got one in Jess’s size – a fleecy thing with a hood – that Bon wanted to put away for Christmas. My wife usually starts shopping for next year the day after Christmas so she can hit all the bargain basement sales, but work’s been so busy for her this year, she’s running behind. I know she’s afraid she won’t have enough to put under the tree, and she doesn’t want Jess to think Santa shortchanged her. She really is great with money – much better than I am – but in this case, I managed to talk her out of her practicality. I didn’t want Jess to see the rest of us bumming around in our hoodies and wonder why she didn’t get one.
“Look, Mom, I’ve told you before, and I guess I’m gonna have to tell you again. I don’t have time. Why can’t you get that through – I mean, why can’t you understand that?”
Tanya’s snotty tone isn’t lost on Bonny, who glares at her with a mixture of anger and disappointment.
I wish she wouldn’t be so desperate to drag Tanya to these things. Bonny figures anything with a Christian label could be the key that will unlock Tanya’s heart and bring her back to church. I favor giving the kid time, letting her grow back into her faith, but when you get right down to it, she’s Bonny’s daughter, and I can only say so much.
“Alright, Tanya, I won’t ask again,” Bon says in a hurt tone, then turns back to Jess.
“Now, you listen, young lady,” she begins, “You finish up your dinner ’cause we’ve got to get you into the tub. Your father and I have a banquet to go to, so you need to get in and out of that bathtub lickety split. No silliness tonight. Mommy’s been working hard on this banquet, and she can’t afford to be late.”
I smile to myself, thinking how the benefit for Bon’s pregnancy center must mean about as much to Jessica as meeting a baseball player does to Tanya. None of us are sports fans, least of all our teenager.
Tanya starts across the floor, but her sock monkey slipper lands in some milk that escaped Bon’s wiping frenzy. Tanya skids, then catches herself on the counter edge, letting loose some choice words in the process.
That does it for Bon.
“Alright, Tanya, that’s enough! Take yourself upstairs this instant! Can’t you even control your tongue around your baby sister?”
“I’m not a baby!” Jess screeches. Her indignation is barely audible over the barrage of fury Tanya’s unleashing. Bonny begins to cry.
This is my cue and I know it. I put down my coffee mug and pick up Jess.
“OK, little lady, time to head upstairs now. Tanya,” I venture, trying to sound authoritative without overdoing it, “Let’s make this easy on everyone. Let’s call it a night, OK? Your mom asked you to go upstairs, so please.”
Tanya, looking only slightly less dangerous than Lizzie Borden, mutters “Fine!” and stomps out of the kitchen. Her exit would be more dramatic if her wet monkey slipper weren’t making sloshing noises each time it connects with the linoleum.
I swing Jess around to my back and head for the stairs, winking at Bonny on my way out. She half smiles, then blows her nose on a napkin. As I round the upstairs landing, I hear dishes clanking as Bon hurriedly clears the table and puts away the remains of our meal.
When we reach the bathroom, I say, “OK, Girly, let’s get this bath over and done with, so Mom and I can get out the door. Hop to it. First you better sit on the potty while Daddy fills up the tub.”
By now Jess is over her tirade about being called a baby, and narrates non-stop everything she’s doing.
“OK, Daddy, I’m gonna go potty now. Wait, need help with this button.”
I give the requested assistance, then turn to test the water from the tap.
“K, Daddy, lifting up the potty lid. Uh oh, it gots pee pee in it. Eeew, it smells bad, Daddy! Daddy, it’s really stinky! Mommy must’ve forgot to dump it. No sticker for her! Daddy –”
“Never mind, Hon, I got it!” I chuckle, reaching down and removing the basin. She’s right, I note while rinsing the offending article; it does do quite a number on the olfactory senses. I can only imagine how much worse things would be if our daughter were having greater success in the full gamut of potty training.
Bonny comes in, rattling off instructions. One thing I love about her – she does let things go pretty quickly.
“Ooh, Dave, you’d better get dressed, Honey! We have to be out of here in 20 minutes. Here, I’ll finish with you, Miss Jessica.”
“OK, but what about you? I mean, don’t you have to get ready too?”
“Don’t worry, Dave, I have my whole outfit laid out, and I can do my face while this one’s splashing around. Oh, wait, I forgot to get out the pin I always wear to these things. Oh, you know the one I mean, don’t you? The one with the baby feet? I don’t wanna forget that.”
I know the one. A tiny pin with an even tinier stick to fit through her lapel. It has two little gold feet the size of my pinky nail. She wears it to every fundraiser the pregnancy center has. Supposedly, it’s the same size and shape of a 10-week-old unborn baby’s feet.
“No worries, Hon, I’ll get it for you. In your jewelry box, right?”
As I root through necklaces, unattached earring backs, and even a few earrings (it’s on Bon’s to do list to clean out her jewelry box, but I doubt she’ll ever get to it), I wonder about the night ahead. I hope her expectations aren’t too high. She’s been running this organization on a shoestring budget for years, doing wonders with the peanuts she has to work with. She says this annual fundraiser covers about a quarter of their operating expenses, helping to stock their “Baby Boutique” with clothes, baby food, diapers, wipes, toys – you name it. Apparently, the expectant couples take parenting classes (I think they even sneak in some advice from the Bible), and as they finish each course, they earn “Baby Bucks” which they get to “spend” on items in the boutique.
Bon says they hand out stuff like vitamins for the moms to take while they’re pregnant or breastfeeding their kids, and don’t charge a cent for any of their services, including pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. They offer free counseling for women and couples who didn’t plan to get pregnant, and even for people who aborted in the past and are having a hard time living with it. Bonny says she’s praying they get enough donations this year to start doing STD testing at no cost.
Ah, there’s the pin, tucked inside an antique amethyst ring. When I pick it up, for a weird
second my mind flashes to Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor who got thrown in jail a few years back for keeping his “clinic” about as clean as a barnyard, and staffing it with unlicensed personnel and drug addicts. Apparently, his solution to late term babies who were unlucky enough to be born alive during attempted abortions was to jam scissors into their necks and sever their spinal cords to “ensure fetal demise.” Somehow the miniature golden feet on Bon’s pin conjure up for me the workings of that sadistic monster, who also had a creepy foot fetish, and kept the tiny feet of aborted babies in jars like cocktail sausages.
Bon’s voice down the hall sounds harried.
“Jessica Rose, if you step out of that bathtub one more time –”
She leaves her sentence dangling ominously. I picture Jess giggling while climbing back into the sudsy water. I need to grab that pin, throw myself together, and get in there to relieve my frazzled wife.
I do a quick clothes change, tie my tie, and snatch up Jess’s princess PJ’s, which are strewn carelessly over a chair in her room. Marching into the bathroom, I try to sound serious.
“Alright, little lady, you heard your mother. We’ve got a banquet to go to tonight, so you’d better hop out of that tub right now and into a towel. Hustle your bustle!”