The Mommy Punch

Because taking your kid to a Halloween party is a normal thing, and we deserve that, I try to pull Noah through the stretched-out cotton of cobwebs hanging over the vampire mouth of the party house. He’s not interested. He wants to run out into the street. There are cars in the street, and he wants to run with the cars; he wants to be the cars. He wants to climb on their hoods, press his face against their windshields. He wants to roll around in their trunks. He wants to lick their tires. I have to tighten my grip on his wrist and drag him in.

Lori, she’s the one throwing the party for the neighborhood kids, it’s her house, and she’s in a pink princess dress like she’s one of the little girls instead of a mom, and she’s saying, “Come in. Come in. Don’t be shy,” with this giant smile spackled to her face, and clearly she’s taking the effort so I’m going to pretend it’s real. I’m going to pretend that the hummingbirds in my heart aren’t like, Time to beat it. The shit in this bottle ain’t real sugar. I’m going to pretend Noah isn’t the only four-year-old at the party who won’t wear a costume. I’m going to pretend that if I let go of his hand, Noah isn’t going to climb on the food table, pour punch into the popcorn, lick the candy apples and then hurl them onto the perfect carpet.

“It’s ok,” Lori says. She takes my wrist, leads us inside. “It’s okay,” she says, pulling us into the orange glow. There are so many jack-o-lanterns. They’re not good. Mismatched eyes. Wonky teeth. One of them is just a giant nose. They are so not good they look like they were carved by all of a neighborhood’s four-year-old. My fist clenches still in Lori’s grips, and she’s still holding me, she’s still like, “It’s okay. I know how hard it must be for you. I’ll find you a glass of the mommy punch.”

“That sounds perfect,” I say. The Sangria is bright and sweet, just like Lori. I’m not at ease exactly, but Noah’s pulling, saying, carcarcar and my muscles slack off. I just let him go and allow myself to be romanticized into a conversation about Mr. Rogers, Alex Trebek, Bob Ross, and Steve Irwin.

A girl shrieks.

I run.

Noah’s got a silver braid wig in one hand and a stolen matchbox car in the other. I guess he needed a road.

“Give it back!” The girl shouts and stomps in her ice blue princess dress. Lori’s daughter.

“Be nice,” Lori is already saying.

“He stole my Elsa hair!”

Lori bends down to her daughter, to her level, to meet her where she is, and she says, “Be nice. He didn’t mean it. He’s special.”

“I’m special! I’m a princess! I have ice hands!”

Lori lowers her voice but looks at me. “Remember I told you. Noah has autism. That means he is special in a different way. His brain doesn’t work like yours. You need to practice your kindness.”

“I don’t like him. He stole my hair. I don’t want to be kindness.”

“Addison!” Lori warns, “Say you’re sorry.”

“No. He’s a dummy. You said, like a dummy baby!”

“Addie! Apologize.”

I can spackle on a smile too. And I would if I was a nice mom, if I was a normal mom, if I wasn’t shaking and tipsy, if the hummingbirds in my heart hadn’t said, oh hell no and escaped my chest with their daggerbeaks pointed. I cannot hit her. I cannot hit her. But my wrists are confused and the glass of the Sangria falls, not exactly accidently, soaking red into all that snow white carpet, wine, and juice, and Splenda.

“I’m soooooo sorry,” Lori says when she walks me out.

“It’s ok,” I say, “It was a good try.”

On the walk to our house at the end of the block, Noah’s zooming the car up and down the braid saying carcarcar and gogogo because he only has two words, and he know what he needs. He knows what he deserves.  

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