I wasn't sure I was the kind of person who could have kids. I need my freedom. I need time to be alone. I need naps. I'm fond of things like peace and quiet and a clean home. My idea of a good time is curling up on the couch with a book and a glass of wine, taking a walk by myself, or sitting in a coffee shop idling the time away— things I haven't been able to do much of since I've had kids. So, after our week of being totally cooped up, when a very wise coworker of mine suggested that I should get out of the house alone for a bit—even just to wander aimlessly around a bookstore or sit in a café—it sounded like the best advice I'd heard in a long time. It sounded like something I used to do -- before I had kids -- back when I had things like free time and a disposable income. It sounded like a good way to decompress for a bit. I immediately started hatching a plan for a little alone time.
And then, in the midst of all my planning, I randomly found myself sitting in a coffee shop, idling the time away. It was every bit the peaceful escape I'd anticipated. Only, I wasn't alone. Julia and Charlie were there with me.
We had all been out shopping when Julia got hungry. Since we were without our usual half-ton bag of snacks, Will parked the three of us at a Starbucks for some sustenance while he finished shopping. So there we were, the three of us, sipping our "pretend coffee" (hot chocolate) and sharing a slice of lemon cake. We were happy as clams, Charlie sitting on my lap and Julia snuggled up in her "kwishy" chair, chitter-chattering away between bites of cake. Whenever someone new walked into the store, Julia would ask: "Mama, what's his name?" When I answered: "I don't know him, Juje," she'd respond: "Nooo, mama. You're supposed to make up a name, OK? His name is Dingleberry."
It was like being on a date with my best girlfriend and our short, mute, balding pal, only this girlfriend was wearing a hot chocolate mustache and had feet that barely reached the edge of her seat. We put our heads together over our steaming cups and giggled conspiratorially about Dingleberry as Charlie looked on, beaming his radiant smile. You could tell he thought it was a great game, too. So did the man at the table next to us, who kept looking up from his newspaper and laughing. The snow was falling outside and we were all cozied up together, hot chocolate and laughter warming our insides.
It occurred to me that someday, years from now, I might find myself sitting in a coffee shop with Julia and Charlie, when they might be drinking real coffee, with their legs crossed, and their feet touching the floor. Maybe we'll read the newspaper and have an adult conversation. Maybe we'll make up stories about all the people coming into the shop. Maybe we'll talk and laugh and idle the time away together. Or, more likely, maybe Julia and Charlie will be mortified to be seen in public with me. So for now, I am thanking my lucky stars for moments like these.
By the time Will got back, Charlie had started crying and Julia had guzzled her hot chocolate, spilling half of it down her white shirt and barfing up the rest on the velvety Starbucks chair. Still, I walked out of that Starbucks thinking that it was the best afternoon I'd ever idled away in a coffee shop, and that maybe -- just maybe -- I was the kind of person who could have kids.
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