I recently received this message:
Hello and welcome to the most random-out-of-context message you may have ever received—but the other day I was in Shoppers Drug Mart with my best friend and she grabbed a box of condoms. After stifling my gag reflex at the realization that she is now in fact in a relationship and will actually use these, I proclaimed very loudly in Shoppers “Penis raincoats!!” because of the story you told in class about explaining condoms to your niece and it has forever stuck with me. And, quite frankly, I am still unsure if the worst part of this story is that I yelled “penis raincoats” in a public place, or that I have until that moment not had any need to look at or buy a box of penis raincoats. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Emma overshares and is awkward….please don’t unfriend me…
Well if that isn’t a message to make me laugh then I don’t know what is.
So, let me tell you a story.
One evening my sister and brother-in-law were both working late. They trusted me with the safety and well-being of her children who were around six and eight years old. These two I love dearly. My favorite humans and I will do what I can for them, never lie, never say no.
This particular night I had a few things on the agenda. The first thing was to get my nephew to and from Beavers. The next thing, with Anna in tow, was to pick up a six pack of beer because I had a friend, a contractor, who was going to have a look around and give me some suggestions on fixing my old house (in the end I just bulldozed it).
I dropped Peter off at school where the Beavers met weekly. Anna and I carried on to the liquor store. She’s always been an independent little girl, a problem solver, outspoken. We walked into the store and I grabbed six bottles and six cans. She offered to carry the cans. I let her. Unfortunately two cans slipped right out of the rings and fell on the floor. Anna immediately sat on the floor and proceeded to try and push the cans back into the rings. “I’ve got this Thea. Just a minute.” I noticed an employee, a young man and he noticed us. He stepped away from his job of stocking wine and came to help. “Can I get you two new cans?” He asked. Anna answered before I could. “No thank you. I’ve almost got this.” Her little fingers pressing hard on the plastic rings. My arms were full. My toque was sliding down my forehead and over my eyes. I could only look down. He walked away.
“Anna, help me. Pull my hat up. I can’t see.”
“What do you need to see Thea?” She was completely preoccupied with getting those cans back in their holders.
“Quick, help me before the cute guy comes back.” She stood up and shoved my toque back. I’m pretty sure it was crooked but I could see! And there was the young man, with a new six pack, smiling.
“Here you go.” He handed the cans to Anna and picked up the split pack on the floor. He shot me a smile and I gave a quick thank you.
At the checkout Anna put the cans on the counter beside the bottles. The cashier looked at Anna and asked “May I see your ID?” The woman winked at me.
“Like actually?” Her words were full of the attitude of a teenager which made me laugh. “No Anna she’s just having fun.”
“Oh.” I paid. We left.
We were a ten minute drive to my place. Anna, in her sweet little girl voice, broke the silence.
“Did you actually think that guy was cute?”
Oh no! Little ears pay attention. I snickered, thinking about this young man—too young for me but truth be told, he was handsome, walked with confidence, had longer relaxed curly hair and a lovely smile. He also paid attention and was helpful. THAT is a sexy trait. I raised my eyebrows in silent contemplation. I’m of the policy that when asked I need to be honest. “Well, yes, Anna. I think he was cute.”
We fell into silence again giving her brain time to formulate more thoughts.
“Yes sweetheart?” I caught a peak on the rear view mirror.
“Would you date him?” I gave a little laugh.
I swallowed, “Would I date him?” I repeated the question as a strategy to buy more time. “I don’t know him. But if I knew him and he was a nice person I suppose we could go on a date?” –A date that would look more like a babysitting adventure—I thought in my head.
We were almost home. I knew there would be something in my place that would distract her sweet little brain from her Thea’s dating dilemmas. Almost home Anna broke the silence one more time.
“Are you ever going to find a man who doesn’t run away from you?” Pow! She definitely got right to it. I wanted to spin around to the back seat, finger pointed and say “look here Anna, that one guy, he ran away from me. Coward! And that other guy I ran away from him because he was a psycho!! And I don’t care who ever else left because they were too lazy, too chicken shit, or too weird to be in a relationship with me!! Got it?” I imagined Anna pushed up into the corner of the back seat of my car, her gorgeous brown eyes bug eyed huge with fear! Instead I belted out the biggest laugh—at her comment and my imaginary monologue! My grip tightening on the steering wheel—still laughing. Oh wow! What this child has perceived of me and my romances in her short sweet innocent life.
“What’s so funny Thea?”
“Your question—that’s funny. And to answer it I hope so! I hope I find someone who doesn’t run away from me—.”
Home at last and relieved. Anna would be distracted by something else, anything else—besides my love life, or lack of love life.
I began cleaning and check with her. “Do you need anything?”
“No thank you Thea. I’ll just look around.” I was okay with that. My house is full of things: rocks, shells, bits of nature, art supplies, books. An interesting place for a child (and maybe some adults).
I let her wander, and I busied myself with tidying. I ran some soapy dish water to clean.
“Who is this man and why does he say no?” This question made no sense. I turned and look at her for some clue. My eyes practically popped out of my head as I register what Anna was holding in her delicate fingers, squishing the small package back and forth. “It’s slippery.” She stated curiously. She was holding a condom. Fuck. It was a joke condom a friend purchased—as a joke—from Paris. It had a picture of the Pope on it and with outstretched hands the caption on the packages was “Je dis non” Get it? Ha—ha—oh my God…ha! My friend also purchased a condom with a picture of Darth Vader on it that said “Luke I am NOT your father.” Yeah. Cute. Funny. Because I live alone, because I rarely had visitors, because I wasn’t in a situation where I needed a condom I forgot about this one sitting on my DVD player. In addition it was a joke condom and who is going to risk that? Not me!
My expression was one of shock, my hands full of soap. I imagined how my mother would have handled that moment, slapping the condom away from my hands. It, flying in one direction. My hands stinging from the smack, and white dish soap bubbles everywhere and there would very likely be a lot of screaming “Don’t touch that! Mind your business! Get away from here!”
“Thea?” Anna waited patiently.
I grabbed the dish towel and dry my hands.
“Okay. Well—” We should start at the beginning. “Your French is really good.”
“Thank you!” She smiled and then lifted the small package up to remind me. “Right. You know how we have an Archbishop in our church?” Anna nodded.
“Okay. Good. Well there’s another church, the Catholic church and they have a boss man too. He’s a bishop.” Anna nodded again, still squishing the condom in her fingers.
“Good.” I’m starting to sweat. “So this Bishop and his church—well—they—” Anna stared up at me on the couch.
“Yes, Thea?” Oh God.
“Have your mom and dad talked to you about sex?” Anna affirmed with a wagging head.
“So, okay. You know the parts?” Her head bob confirmed my question.
“Thea, what does that have to do with this guy?” She bounced the small package in the air.
“That’s an excellent question. Well, he says no because—” I point to the Pope on the condom “this guy and the guys he works with, they don’t think people should control when they get pregnant. And, you get pregnant when—”
“You have sex!” Anna announced proudly. I raised my eyebrows and smiled. My sister and brother-in-law did a fine job. I was impressed.
“So, if you don’t want to make a baby you don’t have sex but some people have sex anyhow. So instead of worrying about making a baby they use this.” I tap the condom.
“And that keeps people from making babies?”
“Yep.” Awesome. I was done and relieved.
“How?” Fuck. I do not lie to these children. I also don’t want to make this little girl’s parents mad by overstepping a boundary.
“The man puts it on.”
“Yes.” She looked so confused.
“On what?” Was I going there? Yes I was. Lord help me. “It’s a tiny raincoat for a penis.” I want to face palm myself. Penis raincoat? What the actually hell!
Anna looked at me and then the package. Her fingers stop squishing it for a moment. “The male wears this?” She asks innocently. Ack! She called the man a male! I was concurrently so pleased with her parents and also so stressed with my thrust (pun not intended) into sex education.
“Do you have any more questions?”
“No. Can I watch T.V.?” I breathed a deep, deep sigh of relief. “You sure can.”
I set her up on the corner of the couch and turn the television on to Entertainment Tonight. My channel selections were limited but she didn’t complain. Anna wrapped herself in a blanket and I set to finishing my chores.
“Thea? Why is that man crying and why are they taking his kids? Thea his kids are crying.” I was in the hallway and popped back to where she was sitting. I perched on the couch near her and watched for a moment. “Oh, that is sad.” I spoke quietly.
“This man is addicted to drugs and alcohol which is very bad and social services has taken his children until he can get his life in order and get healthy. They don’t want to leave their dad but it’s not safe. And he doesn’t want them to go but he knows he has a problem.” Anna wrapped the blanket tighter around herself. “Drugs and alcohol are bad.” She stated.
“Yes. They can make life very difficult.”
“Oh, Thea, why do I have water in my eyes?” She held up her fingers to her eye lids. “That’s the saddest.” And there she was, a granny on the couch, wrapped in shawl trying to sort out this man’s sadness and all the while calling her tears water. Oh. My. Heart.
“Oh, honey, don’t be sad. He’ll get better and he’ll get his children back.” I gave her a hug. “Let’s see what else is on television.”
Time came to pick up Peter. I was on the home stretch of the evening. Just a couple of difficult conversations but no biggy. My nephew nestled into the back seat. I strapped him in. I drove down the road. Peter opened the car door!!! Because he thought it was funny!! And I did what people do when they are frightened. I yelled. I stopped the car. I got out. I set the child lock and I told him NOT to do that again in a very loud voice! And he did what children do when they get yelled at. He cried. But also like a child by the time we got home he was okay. I, on the other hand, was not. Holy hell kids are work—but I knew that.
The sweethearts ran happily to the door, dropping their coats, kicking off their boots and greeting the family pets. I let them do their thing while I took a breath at the dining room table. My sister came home shortly after us.
“How was your evening?” She asked. I also don’t lie to my sister.
“I yelled at your son and made him cry.”
“Peter, did Thea yell at you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He left the room. My sister laughed. “He opened the car door while we were driving. He thought it would be funny.” Still laughing her eyes showed a small bit of shocked. “I talked—and yelled at him about it.”
“Right, Anna. Well let’s see. We bought beer. Went back to my place where we talked about sex and condoms, and then how drugs and alcohol can wreck a family and she cried.”
My sister is an incredibly stable person. She could definitely win at poker, but I could see her face change as I listed the events of the night with Anna. By the end of my statement she was laughing.
“Anna, did Thea tell you about condoms?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” You could tell she was embarrassed in front of her mom which is weird because she didn’t seem at all self-conscious during our talk.
“Why did you cry?”
“Oh, mom, this man, on TV. He was doing the drugs and doing the alcohol and they took his kids and they were just little and they were crying and he was crying and then I was crying. It was very sad.” My sister was stifling a laugh.
“Okay. Go brush your teeth.”
“Okay mom.” She left the room.
I figured my babysitting hours would be cut due to questionable supervision. I sat in silence. The cat jumped on the table. I pet it.
“Can you babysit next week?”
*I did not unfriend Emma at the top of the page and thanks to her for reminding me of this story.
**Thea is Greek for Auntie.