I am driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood, looking for a parking spot. It’s a narrow residential street, and everybody’s got their three garbage cans (one for recycling, one for yard waste, and one for regular garbage) pulled out to the curb. It’s still relatively early in the day, and I don’t know if the garbage trucks have been by yet; I don’t want to inadvertently prevent someone’s garbage from being picked up. I search for a legal spot that will not block anyone’s trash pick-up.
“Oh my god, Mother . . . we’re only going to be here for a little while. No one cares. Park there. Or there. Or there.”
I keep driving, “Listen, if someone kept my trash from being picked up, I would be incredibly annoyed.”
Kallan is impatient, “Mommy, seriously . . . we have been in the car forever. Daddy would have been parked by now.”
“Yes, Mother. Daddy has many flaws, but he is an exceptional parker. You, on the other hand, are merely adequate. Less than adequate on this occasion, actually . . . what with us not actually being parked.”
“I have been parking for 30 years, so you just hush.”
Kallan snorts, “Yes, that’s about how long it feels like we’ve been trying to find a parking space: 30 years.”
“Good one, Kallan!” Maj and Kallan exchange high-fives of fabulous insult.
I keep driving, “I’m just going to go around the block again. Maybe there are some spaces on the next block.”
“Mother, look right there. There is a space. Park there right this instant, young lady.”
I stop the car alongside the space Maj has pointed out, and I shake my head doubtfully, “It looks too small.”
“Oh my gosh, Mother. It is not too small. Park the car, Mother. Park it right here.”
The girls chant together, “Park the car! Park the car! Park the car! Park the car!”
“You two are so annoying. Fine, let me give it a shot.” I pull up alongside the car in the spot ahead and then start backing into the space. The space is so small that I have to back in at a sharper than ideal angle, and as I wrench the steering wheel and try to straighten out, it is clear I have screwed up.
“You are not actually supposed to be up on the curb.”
“Thank you, Maj. I was unaware.”
Kallan is filled with gleeful mocking, “We’re not just a little bit on the curb. We’re pretty much mating with the curb.”
Maj snorts, “Good one, Kallan!” They high-five one another again.
I try to wiggle the minivan back and forth, but we are well and truly perched on the curb. Damn it. The girls shriek with laughter at my incompetence. I manage to get my front end off of the curb, but now my ass is waaay up on the grass. I’m all angled into the space, and there’s no way to fix it without starting over. Fuck. I am embarrassed and flustered and tired of the laughter. I didn’t want to park here in the first place. Stupid mocking children.
The girls have now undone their seatbelts, and they peer together out the side of the minivan.
“Mother, can I borrow your phone to take a picture of this tragedy? I think Daddy would enjoy a photo.”
Kallan mimics my voice, “We don’t need a photo, Maj. We will use our words to paint a picture of this massive parking failure, and then we will laugh until we cry.”
“Yes, Kallan,” Maj agrees solemnly, “We will use our words to capture the enormity of this vehicular mishap. High-fives!”
A car drives slowly past us, and Maj and Kallan fling themselves to the other side of the van so that they can get the driver’s attention and play-act silent-movie hilarity for the other driver’s amusement. “Look, Mother! He’s laughing at you! High-fives, Kallan!”
Damn it damn it damn it.
I take a deep breath, “Alright, ladies . . . I think I can get into this parking space if you guys help me. Just get out of the car and help guide me in. Tell me when I am getting too close to the curb.”
Kallan leans forward to whisper in my ear, “Mommy?”
“You are, I believe, a bit too close to the curb.”
“High-fives again, Kallan! You are on a roll!” Their riotous laughter fills the car’s airspace and squeezes my skull. Maj turns to me, “Unlike you, Mother. You are decidedly unrolly at the moment.”
I grit my teeth, “Get out and help me park the car.”
“Fine,” Maj opens the door and they both leap out into the grass. “Mother, it looks even worse from out here! You are the worst parker ever!”
“Mom, seriously . . . You don’t even look like you tried to parallel park! Your nose is pointed out and your booty’s on the grass; it looks like you got interrupted in a getaway attempt!”
They both lean to rest their hands on their thighs, weak with laughter.
I push the handy button on the inside of my door to shut the sliding rear passenger door. I wave a reassuring hand at the girls as I pull forward and out of the spot, and I mouth, “I . . . will . . . try . . . again.”
They stand there and stare at me, wiping tears of giddiness from their eyes.
Maj screams (and I know she screams because I hear her quite clearly through the closed doors), “Try to actually PARK the car this time, Mother. PARK. Like all these other people have managed to do. TRY TO BE MORE LIKE A DRIVER AND LESS LIKE A LUNATIC.”
Maj and Kallan high-five one another over this lovely insult.
So then I pulled out of the parking space . . . and drove away.
It was awesome.
A short distance . . . just around the block and then into a larger empty space.
The girls ran screaming and arm-waving after me the whole way.
IT . . . WAS . . . AWESOME.
I had to high-five myself, because neither of the girls would help me celebrate this bit of one-upmanship and parking success.
High-fiving oneself is a lot like clapping, Maj pointed out as we walked to our destination.
“You are clapping like a lunatic, Mother. Stop clapping. All you did was abandon your children and then park the car.”
A very good day.