Frankly, we never should have gone out for breakfast on Saturday. But Pork Chop slept until 7:15 -- a record worth celebrating with a carbohydrate smorgasbord at a restaurant renowned for international cuisine.
IHOP was packed, but we snagged a booth with room for a high chair. Life was good. Pork Chop even struck up a cross-diner friendship with a toddler in a nearby booth. Both boys pointed at one another, smiling, goading each other to fling more food, to reach for the sticky syrup dispensers one more time. But our little suburban fairytale was to be short-lived.
We heard a gurgle. A low, wet rumble. My husband, Shelby, looked at me. Was something percolating in the kitchen? Then again the sound, like fast moving water bubbling over rocks. No, sadly, it was not a fresh pot of coffee brewing. It was our son, violating the Geneva Convention, the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Golden Rule, all at a very crowded House of Pancakes.
We went home as quickly as possible, before a war crimes tribunal could convene. And for the rest of the day, my poor boy was a miserable, incontinent mess. Neither boob nor Pedialyte could comfort him. Not even a taste of the iPhone's forbidden fruit could quell his tears for long. This was a job for the elephant.
The elephant is a small, plushy toy with amazing psychological fortitude. Pork Chop loves nothing more than to violate his docile friend -- gnawing on elephant's trunk, wiping his nose with elephant's butt, sucking his thumb while nuzzling elephant's spit-soaked ears. It's been this way for half of my son's life, which is to say about 6 months, and there are no signs that Pork Chop is about to kick the elephant habit any time soon. One day, when the elephant is threadbare and bursting at the seams, I won't be surprised to find that, instead of fluffy stuffing, the elephant is actually made of Xanax. The elephant's powers are profound.
If my kid takes a tumble, elephant consoles.
If Pork Chop is subjected to a new diaper, to the car seat, or to his high chair, elephant commiserates.
And every night, every single night, elephant comforts my son to sleep.
As I type, my husband is upstairs giving Pork Chop a bath. I can hear Shelby trying to convince him to stay still so that the kid's rear end can be properly sanitized. But the kid is having none of it. He's throwing bath toys and trying to scale the faucet. Shelby sounds fake-cheerful, like he's trying to maintain bath time fun, but like he's also wishing he could take a bath of his own, in gin.
The elephant sits on the seat next me. I need to take him upstairs before Pork Chop goes down for the night. It's been a rough few days for all of us. I glance at the elephant again. He does look awfully soft. I pick him up. I probably shouldn't hold him to my face, but I do. This feels illicit. And germy. But I bury my nose in his nubby fur, and then I take a good, long pull.