It was a Sunday and I was working at church the morning that my husband, Sean’s, composition was premiering at Carnegie Hall, and since I had to head out to get there so early, we decided to leave my car at church after the services and drive up to New York City together, once he arrived. As I rushed out the door, though, before the others awoke, I noticed our littlest Twerp's Lightning McQueen suitcase sitting alone in the middle of the entryway. Being the mom of four that I had been for a long time by then, I did not trust the rest of the family to pick it up and put it in the car; in fact, I clearly pictured ten feet stepping over it as they made their way out the door, so I tossed it into the back of my vehicle and brought it with me to work.
That would have been the end of the story - no fuss, no muss - if only one of the teens had not overflowed the dishwasher by using liquid soap, flooding the kitchen with bubbles right before they left the house.
I was surprised that they were late to arrive, granted it was such a big occasion, but when I saw the boiling-red skin tone and furrowed brow on my husband’s agitated face, I understood that the plan we had hatched did not take into consideration the fact that children, as wonderful as they are, can sometimes be unpredictable nincompoops. The man whose feathers have always been decidedly difficult to ruffle ran out of the car toward me, snarling, "They are as useful as garden gnomes!" which caught more than one glance, as parishioners filed out of the building after the service. In an attempt to calm him, I reminded him that we had still had plenty of time, everything was fine, and it was all going to be a wonderful experience. "Let's go! It will be awesome!" I said, hopping into the front seat, looking over my shoulder to offer a smile, however forced it might have been, to the four silent, sullen faces behind me.
We arrived in NYC about two hours later. The Twerp exited the car in the parking lot, at which time I noticed that she was not wearing the formal dress I had left for her... and that her shoes did not match her worn-out play clothes. One of the teens said, "I think her other shoes are packed in her bag." I stood frozen in my tracks, struck by the realization that the Lightning McQueen suitcase was sitting snugly in the backseat of my car in the church parking lot in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, we had not forgotten her extra-red stuffed dog, Hearty, whom she held up with her colorful, polka-dotty arm from her self-designated spot on the floor of the balcony (after a long, long concert that followed a long, long drive). The grinning pup hovered, seemingly suspended in mid-air, next to her Daddy, as he stood waving in response to kudos and applause from a very full house at Carnegie Hall.