Saved by Coltrane and a go cup
We arose early, dashing about the house giddy with enthusiasm for the anticipated events of the day. We would cheer on Mom while she ran her 5k, then she’d be off to her champagne brunch at my sister’s. And I, kids in tow, would enjoy the family-friendly morning activities of Double Decker 2018.
Every year, folks from all over the region fill the picturesque Square during Double Decker to eat, shop and listen to music. Though the evenings are reserved for revelers and music lovers, the mornings have historically been a mecca for small children being pushed about in their tiny chariots.
In years past, families with young children have made it in and out of the fest by noon; before the great hoards begin their ascent. And with that in mind, we were on track to leave unscathed and satisfied.
My mother was there lending a hand, I’d just finished spending our kid’s college tuition money on jumpy houses and super fun rides being operated by a group of humans who seemed rather underwhelmed by the other groups of humans they were servicing, and all eight of us (two cousins joined our outfit) were blissfully strolling toward the square. All was happy and carefree- and yet, beneath the familiar olfactory sensation of eclectic festival food fare, lingered the faint scent of fear and claustrophobia.
My double chariot of personal ease was suddenly running over the feet of every other passerby. Dirty looks were cast my way as I unskillfully maneuvered through the ocean of squashed feet and judgmental eyes. It was 11 a.m. and the place was full. This was not the before-noon Double Decker of yesteryear that offered mobility and gleeful morning exchanges from fellow “stroller heads.”
The festival’s popularity had materialized into the full-on clatter of the childless (or if they had children they’d wisely left them at home). I began to sweat. I was the Lone Stroller and suddenly anxious to depart but outside of trying to push a bulldozer through a herd of thousands of cattle, everything was fine. No tears or screaming. All was well as a local landmark and air-conditioned safe haven appeared on the horizon. Square Books Jr. would be my sanatorium to gather the strength I needed to bring our quest to an end.
Accompanied by my mother, the children entered the sanctuary. I sat beside the stroller with the 1-year-old strapped inside and took a well-deserved rest on the curb. Everything was good. My mood was soaring; creating such a confidence in me I decided to unstrap the 1-year-old and join the others inside. She instantly took off and was lost until she was found. I quickly acknowledged my mistake, scooped her into my arms and rallied the others to wrap it up and get back to the stroller. We were again on the sidewalk amongst the cattle.
Out of the blue, my wandering 11-year old showed up. I pulled out the camera and documented the surprising silliness of the moment. I had this Double Decker gig down pat and I was getting photographic evidence of my greatness. I turned to put my camera in its bag when I heard a horrific squeal. The 11-year-old was peering into the corporate “freebie” bag of the 4-year-old. “Wow Dad, did you guys get her all this stuff?,” the 11-year-old asked, knowing I’m a cheapskate and fearing the worst for his little sister.
As I opened the bag, it was not simply the plastic cup, tongue dispenser cardboard fan and cheapo branded sunglasses; I discovered a treasure trove of sparkling pink accouterment the blonde, pigtailed hoodlum had lifted from Square Books Jr. Of course, all the items were ripped from her person and immediately taken back into the store causing a nuclear meltdown to ensue. Just like that, we were done for. As pedestrians crashed into one another all around us in an attempt to avoid the atomic cacophony we’d become, we stood helplessly, in the middle of the sidewalk.
Intending to leave, I realized my wife had the car. I quickly orchestrated a rendezvous point and fought my way to freedom. The devilish fit was still erupting and my rage reached its peak. I was no longer triumphant as I succumbed to the evil lie of pointed animosity and blame regarding my current hell. I was done.
My brother in law, not my wife (in hindsight a brilliant tactical move that saved all from WWIII), met us at the extraction point but my rage did not subside.
I arrived at the pool party and was greeted with genuine pleasant greetings from familiar faces, but I knew I must once again retreat or else my soul or the soul of another may visit the pearly gates sooner rather than later. I made my way down the street, bought a $12 bottle of chardonnay, pulled back in front of my sister’s house where the pool party merriment was taking place and just sat there in the car. I rolled down the windows, turned on some Coltrane and poured a bit of gold into a nearby go cup. I could breathe again. The sun shone through the sunroof darkening my eyeglass lenses and warming my now solemn soul.
I re-entered the world at peace, kissed my wife, and thanked God for the wherewithal and permission to be alone, if only for a moment.
Rhes Low lives in Oxford with his wife and kids.