When James was 6 and Ben was 4…
There is an inside historic mall in downtown Durango which contained, among other establishments, a sporting goods store that we were to visit (per Daddy's request) and a scrap booking store (since we were there anyway). Here's the sequence of events:
1. Park the car, talk about expectations (which don't include the ice cream store. It's only 10:30)
2. Peek at the smallish (too small to fall into) fish pond in the center of the main floor on our way by.
3. Go to sport store for approximately 3 minutes: long enough to locate Daddy's wilderness book on the wall and appeal for directions to the bathroom to accommodate Ben's abrupt need
4. Walk quickly past the fish pond on the way to the bathroom, craning small necks on the way (We're all on Ben's mission.)
5. Magnanimously (given successful bathroom mission) grant eager requests to look at the pond again while I visit the large-windowed scrap booking store, conveniently located next to and facing the fish pond. The pond's not boy-sized. What could go wrong?
6. Say, "Don't fall in the water!" as I blithely open the door to the store.
7. Check on children in front of fountain about every 2 minutes. They continue to peer into murky (deceptively vast) 6-inch depths, both feet of each safely on floor. Doom slinks nearby.
8. Standing near the window, balance on the edge of a decision with near-final choice in hands for approximately 15 seconds.
9. and 10. together: Look up to check on children and behold utterly bedraggled boy with pathetic, familiar, tearful face (or was it just wet?) mouthing, "Mommeeeee" 4 feet away from me on the other side of the window AND Ben runs in yelling "Mommy! James just fell in the fountain!"
11. Cashier and I stare out the window at the completely sodden boy, she biting her lips and I with mine hanging open. She says, "My 6-year-old would do the same thing," to which I reply quite frankly, "You're probably glad it happened to someone else's child and not yours." She says, "Yep" and we both start laughing that little church/math class laugh that sounds like you know you shouldn't be laughing, but the more you try to stop, the harder it becomes to control. Of course, the laughter that James can see but not hear doesn't do anything for him, who's staring at me, still 4 feet away but with eye contact now, and getting more pitiable by the second. I can see behind him the reflection of the sun through the skylight on the trail of water on the tiles between the pond and his wretched position.
12. I make my purchase anyway. I know he's not going anywhere. This must have been the day I adopted the Love & Logic approach to parenting.
13. A stern little old lady, about 4 feet tall with a sharp nose and a disapproving look come in and asks if I'm Nancy, ready to indignantly tell me (like I don't already know, really!) that my child is soaked from head to toe in fish pond water (it can't really have happened - the pond was too puny!) and needs his mother.
14. We have a choice to make:
a. Go home wet and smelling like fish all the way to Farmington without lunch, which I'm tempted to do, but I'm hungry and we still have to get Daddy's wilderness book and Father's Day present. Besides, it's June. The warm car will smell like fish for a long time.
b. Go to McDonald's wet, which I'm not inclined to do, given the sorry potential for comingling of fish pond and french fry smells.
c. Go to Wal-mart
15. I undemocratically pick option C. James stays in the car (I know he's not going anywhere) while Ben and I forage for a pair of James-sized swim trunks (you gotta love the irony) and a t-shirt. By the time we come out, his hair is almost dry. He changes. We make up and are friends again. Only his head smells like warm fish water.
16. McDonald's (against my better judgment)
17. Back to the Main Mall to finish our errands. I exchange the hasty purchase (made under duress) at the scrap booking store. The new cashier says, "No, I was at lunch, but I heard all about it…" I hear tittering in the back of the store. Faces appear above the dividing wall for a quick peek.
18. Back to the sporting goods store to get Dad's book request.
19. The clerk says to James, "Going swimming?" I bite my own lips together and resist delivering a barbed reply or well-aimed look. You know the one.
20. Down the street to the Old West Photography studio to attempt Daddy's Father's Day present. James' trunks look like jeans under his chaps in the sepia toned picture. Except for his thigh showing.
21. Home and a bath, sans fish.
James swears he won't go anywhere near THAT pond again (like it's the pond's fault) (BTW, it's since been remodeled to actually fit a boy inside it). His standard answer to the question (aimed at any body of water) "How close to that water (point to potential water disaster) are you going to get?" is "NOT CLOSE!" I called him Fountain Boy for a while. He still doesn't think it's funny, but time heals almost all humiliations, and I can laugh about it now.