“Are they always this perfect?” the woman asked as I sat on the worn wooden park bench, crossing my fingers in hopes that my three-year old wouldn’t fall into the abyss located underneath the playground’s bridge, situated more than 7 feet above the ground.
I didn’t answer because surely this yoga-pants wearing, perfect-bicep-having Stepford Wife wasn’t talking to me. Then I realized that she was, in fact, addressing me.
I gestured towards my children, wide-eyed. “Them?”
She nodded, the sun glinting off designer sunglasses perched upon the crown of her head like angelic rays of light from the Heavens. She was a real-life Suburban princess, no lie. “They’re so sweet to each other.”
I studied my brood, both barreling across the jungle gym then recalled the evening before when my youngest informed the oldest that he hated her and would never play in her room again.
“They have their moments,” I supplied.
She drew up next to me on the bench and sat down. Next to me being about six-feet apart, mind you. We were all doing our best not to freak each other out during this weird, stay-away-from-everyone-but-still-be-congenial thing us Southerners had going on.
“Where’s yours?” I asked and she pointed to the smaller playground off to the right. Her two girls were dressed to the nines, looking like they’d just left a photo-shoot, not elementary school.
“They’re precious,” I said, wishing I’d at least put my daughter’s hair back in a ponytail before releasing her into the wild of the playground. My kids looked feral compared to hers.
We watched in companionable silence for awhile, not knowing each other, yet still aching for the auditory stimulation of another human that wasn’t five years old or below. At least, that’s what was going on in my mind. Pandemics sucked, especially for this stay-at-home-mom.
I grimaced when her older daughter reached back and socked her younger sister with the flat of her hand.
“No, ma’am!” the PTA President next to me shouted and shot to her feet. She marched to the smaller playground to coddle the victim and berate the instigator.
When the tears had dried and all was well again, the woman came back and plopped into the spot she’d vacated moments before.
“It’s a wine night,” she said and reached into her cross-body bag to retrieve a phone. She missed the next smack that came from the 3ft tall terror but the cries that followed jolted her into action once more.
I watched as she hauled both girls off of the playground, speaking in low-tones only they could hear, until they finally reached a huge, pearl-white SUV sparkling near the curb.
As the girls were unceremoniously hoisted into their vehicle, I snuck a peek at my wrinkled pants and bleach-stained t-shirt, wishing I had at least tried to appear like I cared about my appearance.
“You did it, brother!” I heard my oldest call out and watched as her brother cheered from atop a massive climbing rock that typically gave me heart palpitations.
I smiled, my clothing choices for the day forgotten.