Today I sit at a table with my kids at our best local eatery; we’ve just ordered our food (Nels and I have a tradition of splitting a salad with bleu cheese, olives, and mozzerella cheese) and I’m sipping some fresh coffee. I always feel a bit on display around these parts: I have notably school-aged children who accompany me on various efforts and endeavors during times in the day when you see no children, anywhere. Also, believe it or not, my green hair gets a lot of stares around here (yes, I experience my life as a bit provincial) and the kids are often dressed a bit oddly -Sophie has donned her Halloween vampiress cape for the day.
I lean forward to tell our kids some bad or at least not-fun news: our “newest” (as in, most recent to us) car has just been diagnosed with a plethoric and varied list of automotive problems we will need to repair at astronomical prices (hint: four digits). Ralph and I haven’t decided what we’re going to fix, and in what order, or even how we’re going to come up with the funds for this (goodbye, once again, house downpayment!). But I enjoy talking to the kids because they are at an age they not only understand some aspects of money but sometimes have impressive ideas about how to manage it.
Just as we’re winding down the discussion I realize we’re being listened to by a man one table over who is waiting for his order. Wordlessly he brings a bag up from the floor and begins pulling balloons and a pump out and fiddling with them. Without engaging or looking at my children he begins to blow up the balloons and twist them into scrotal shapes in preparation for some creature or another. The kids catch on to this quite soon and immediately halt every single thing except watching this man make balloon animals. The balloon artist creates, in succession, a parrot, teddy bear, poodle (this is for me), and a flower with a bee hovering about it (complete with yellow body and black stinger formed from the same two-toned balloon). The man himself is shy and soft-spoken but my kids – after their initial awe-struck silence – are not: after they receive the parrot they start in with their own suggestions. “Make a sword,” they suggest. Then discuss amongst themselves a bit and: “Make a chicken!” they challenge, as if this were some apex of natural existence. It’s kind of funny because every other customer in the restaurant is ignoring all this. But the fellow’s lunch is ready now, and he stands and looks right at us and says, “Have a nice day,” and takes his lunch and his balloons and leaves us with a brightly-colored menegerie and a very sweet episode in my kids’ everyday-extraordinary lives.
We pay for our meal and head into Aberdeen where I need to visit the yarn shop. Alas as it turns out the shop has changed their hours and I will now have to wait until Thursday to discover if I need to buy a different yarn and / or size up or down for needles – as well as, by the way, how the f*ck to knit gloves, a prospect that terrifies me! Returning to the car and the kids start crying; they’d fooled around with their parrot and teddy bear and now a talon was missing, a leg had become untwisted from it’s shape into an awkwardly-bent, freakish appendage. The kids ask me to fix it; “I can’t, I don’t know how,” I tell them. “A clown knows how to do it,” Nels (the Idea Man) says: soon the kids are asking me to take them to see a clown.
You know. Because they’re just regular professionals, working in our community.