"I got a flat tire!"
Jim and Charlie had been out on their bikes for the better part of an hour when Jim called on his cell phone. "I heard a hiss and I tried to convince myself it was something else......" I could hear a worried whine from Charlie in the background.
I hurriedly drove the black car to find Jim and a forlorn Charlie standing in a grassy field, bikes still. My dad drove up a few minutes later in the green car as Jim was putting Charlie's bike and his helmet into the back of my car. I pulled out, Charlie looking back big-eyed at Jim's bike being loaded into the green car (a stationwagon).
One minute later as we went up a hill I heard a soft pop and a rattle. A glance back revealed a huge expanse of light at the back of the black car (also a stationwagon): The trunk had opened. I crossed two lanes of traffic, parked in a hotel driveway and got out just in time to see cars swerving to avoid a small blue object: Charlie's bike helmet. A few minutes later, the green car (also a stationwagon) itself appeared and I beheld Jim getting out, picking up the helmet, and looking around very puzzled until--aha!--he saw the black car, parked, trunk up, Charlie's yellow bike hanging out from the back.
We all got home in one piece, bikes and helmets included, to learn there was more: "I heard that hissssss," said Jim, "and thought maybe it was a gas line or something, and then a big white dog came by and Charlie started to pedal really fast away. So I had to run after him holding onto my bike......"
Ours was an Unexpected Easter.
For the past few years, we have often had Easter dinner at 2pm with many of Jim's relatives. Today--in part because Jim's parents are still in rehab for knee surgery--we did not do the expected Easter routine. We were quite sure that Charlie would have been fine at the dinner (as he had been at Thanksgiving) but still it seemed best to have a low-key holiday, without having to get all dressed up and, in Charlie's presence, explain about his grandparents' health, our efforts to find him a new school when his current one closes, and the latest family business.
So Charlie opened a big papier-mâché Easter egg, dyed a few under my mom's supervision, and had five minutes of frazzlement when he didn't-want-to-play-catch-anymore-wanted-to-get-going-and-take-the-train as we had said we would. "Let's help dad clean up the backyard," I said and Jim directed Charlie to scoop up a pile of dried-up leaves and sticks with a rake and deposit them into the recycle bin. Charlie waited out the last fifteen minutes before train-time on the couch by the front window and was soon in the car and calling out "Buckle up!"
We have a single-lane driveway and no garage and we had to orchestrate Jim backing out the green car and me pulling out the black car and waiting for him in the street and then off we went.
We missed the train.
So we drove to Jersey City to show my parents the view of lower Manhattan we had enjoyed last Sunday and then, since we had the car, drove on to Liberty State Park, where we walked into the wind and right beside Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. My dad recalled how one of his mother's cousins used to have a house in Jersey City and how, several years ago, he and his sister and Ngin-Ngin (as I call my grandmother) had driven all over the place to find that house. He also recalled how they had been able to walk up into the Statue of Liberty's torch, "back in those days."
"I never did that," said Jim. "Now they just let you go up into the pedestal." Charlie looked pleasedly down at the waters of the Hudson and ran back to grab Jim's hand when he paused to explain where a building had been to my parents. We wanted to walk down as far as we could opposite the statue, but Charlie said "black car, drink!" and we headed to Hoboken to get him "fries anna burger" at a certain restaurant. But the hostess told us they were closing early as it was Easter and they did not have enough staff.
Charlie went into panic-mode---as if he were never going to eat again---in the middle of Washington Street traffic. I held his shoulders and tried to get him to sit in his seat for a few quiet seconds as Jim headed for the Turnpike. It took a bit, but the calm came back to Charlie, who sat somberly at the promise of "we'll eat at home." He had his burger and some leftover cauliflower and something like a glow soothed the muscles in Charlie's face and shoulders. "Hot showah! Jamas, pants on! I want Goo' night Moon!" We practiced him saying "Play Goodnight Moon" on his own before I turned on the DVD after which Charlie kept trying to drag my dad away from brushing his teeth to play with him before settling down in his own bed, arms crossed under his head.
It was an unexpected Easter, good as finding a golden egg in the grass.