Holidays are supposed to be about fun and relaxation, aren't they...?Why is it then that our family holidays feel like survival of the fittest? Is it just us we wonder? Is it just our family that behaves like this? Our children that carry on like this?
All the other kids in the cafe seem to just sit and hang out with their parents, nothing like ours. Hunter squirms off my lap and looks around for mischief - I sit on the edge of my seat ready to run after him if he bolts for the door, but for now it seems he's content to stay inside, there is enough of an audience for him to work as he weaves through the tables, his little eyes looking from side to side to see what's in reach. He has an overstated walk, a swagger, and like his older brother doesn't have a trace of shyness in him. I mentally note the whereabouts of each waitress and get ready to sweep him out of their path before they can trip over him with a tray of drinks.
Charlotte is in a black mood. Only seven, her dirty blonde hair hiding part of her face, she hunches over the table. She's been working on the art of answering back these holidays. "Watch out or you'll be sent to boarding school!" Tim threatens after she holds her nose at the table and declares she doesn't like the smell of the cafe we've chosen. "My life, my rules" she retorts, and then turns the volume up a notch "Stop talking to me!" she whines loudly.
An innocent waitress approaches our table and we place our orders. Tim wants a beer. I want a coffee. The big kids want milkshakes, but Tom takes it one step further by asking for a mix of chocolate and strawberry. The waitress looks perplexed. "Just choose one Tom." I say sternly, "Either, or." The nice waitress tries to be helpful "I suppose we could mix them..." she says but I am unwavering "No. Just one. That's fine thank you. Tom?"
"Caramel then" he says.
"We don't have caramel" she says, and on it goes.
Hunter has found a toy box in the corner. "That's the mangiest looking teddy bear I've ever seen in my life" Tim says. I order a fresh juice for Hunter who has struck up communication with some young lesbians who have claimed a couch in the corner beside us. They talk to him but completely ignore us when we try to make small talk, then one leans over and kisses the other directly on the mouth in front of us. 'Was that supposed to be shocking?' I think to myself. 'Shock the breeders!' I can almost hear them screaming to each other telepathically. Neither Tim nor I bat an eyelid. Like that will shock us - Ha! We've been through natural childbirth THREE TIMES. Nothing shocks us. We lived in the city, above a sex shop! My mother performed at the Midnight Shift for god's sake!
Or maybe I picked up the wrong intention I wonder as I wait for my coffee. Maybe it was supposed to be a performance for Tim's benefit. Lesbians hate Tim. I don't know why. It's like they are repelled by his Y chromosome. They have a physical repulsion to him like werewolves to vampires and their hackles rise when they're cornered together in a room such as this cafe. Yes, a performance. Lesbians love performing, but not in the way that men think of course. This girl kissing her girlfriend was supposed to be a titillating tease perhaps, a little power trip, a trap for an unsuspecting, gullible male, one who believes that pornos are real... as if my husband would fall for such a ruse. As if!
The drinks are taking too long to arrive. I consider starting up a game of Eye Spy with the big kids. There are lots of good things in the cafe - pineapples on the counter, a guitar on the wall... but its too hard. I don't have the energy. It's taking all my effort just to keep everyone together at the same table. Our family is like an atom with too many electrons and we all seem to take it in turns to ping off. This afternoon it turns out to be Tim's turn, who suddenly stands up and breaks from the table in a strop. Were the kids fighting again? Was Tom whistling under his breath again? Was Charlotte kicking his seat? This time I didn't even notice.
The sweet-faced waitress returns to our table, she's lost our orders. She taps them into an iPad again. Is the world really becoming this dumb I wonder... Mercifully when the drinks arrive they are nice. I count my small blessings - Charlotte doesn't spill hers, there's plenty of napkins to wipe Hunter's hands and his purple juice hasn't ended up on my white top. Tom has run out of things to say and Tim has resumed his seat, taking great gulps of his beer, and for a few minutes everyone is quiet.