When you read this, I will be in Italy. It sounds so strange to say, “I will be in Italy” because I’ve never said “I will be on the moon” before and yet, they both feel like the same thing. My in-laws (God love-em) are keeping Both Things for the 10 days we are gone, and my stomach twists at the thought of that airplane door being sealed shut — me inside, my babies outside.The trip will be whirlwind — Milan, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Rome — and then we will return home the day before my first dress rehearsal for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” If I haven’t eaten enough gnocchi to burst my costume’s seams and hamper my speed, I plan to jump from the cockpit onto the stage just as the lights are coming up to the overture music. I wonder, sometimes, if I have a screw loose.With all the benefits of international travel, including permission to eat gelato every day and the freedom to experiment with braiding my hair into pigtails, comes a lot of unknown inner turmoil. Having never been away more than two nights from Either Thing, I worry I will have some sort of physical reaction — all my organs will slide down into the cavity of my left leg; my eyelashes will turn crimson and fall out; my elbows will stop working. Something Chernobyl-esque. After all, I’ve lived on a steady diet of neck nuzzles and head-smelling for almost five years. I’ve breathed the air of stinky diapers mixed with sweet baby breath, inhaled the dander wafting off the tiny hair follicles on their arms and legs. My heart beats in rhythm to the cadence of their speech and screaming. Can I survive in a new emotional ecosystem?With enough gelato, I’m sure anything is possible.The other day I was reading Drew a book he is probably too old for — “You Can Do It” — a cardboard Elmo book where each page is filled with items your child must try to find. There’s a dentist scene, a pool scene, a birthday party scene, with all the corresponding props, and throughout each scene runs a consistent cast of Sesame Street characters. It had been a while since I watched Sesame Street when I first had children, and I was surprised to discover a whole new population of Street puppets that had taken over the neighborhood. It’s been an uphill battle, but I’ve gradually learned most of their names. All except one: that little pink puppet with the purple pigtails that is able to fly due to the fairy wings on her back. Fearful Sesame Street had gone a little too Dungeons and Dragons, I tried not to mention her when Drew and I would read “You Can Do It.” But he was instantly mesmerized.“What’s her name, Mister Mommy?” he asked.“I don’t know. What do you think it is?” I asked.“PATS.” (Insert incurable laughter here.) “Her name is PATS.”And so the enigmatic joke of PATS was born. “Mommy, when you read Elmo, point to PATS, and I will laugh.”
We have begun looking for PATS in our other Sesame Street books and on TV when SS comes on. At Dairy Queen yesterday, to my embarrassment, Drew pointed to the cashier behind the register and said, between fits of hysterics, “PATS! PATS!” PATS, our gender-ambiguous friend with the wings, is now an established inside joke between Drew and me, a joke that only Drew understands, but which we both think it is funny.Will PATS still be around after my trip? Will Drew still call me Mister Mommy? Or will both of those things be squished beneath the big boot of Italy?Maybe I should bring back some gelato for a little peace offering. Ciao!
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