By John Jericiau
This week I reunited with an old friend of mine. Actually she was born exactly 5 days before me, so she’s not that old. I’ve known her since my first day of Master’s Swimming in Los Angeles circa 1994. I sauntered onto the pool deck, a cocky triathlete in a nice-fitting Speedo, and was greeted by many of the veteran men and women swimmers on the team. One of the friendliest would later become one of my closest girl friends in the world, but I could tell from the look in her eye that I would first have to out myself and quickly ruin any hope she had of romance. Turns out I didn’t have to do the outing; she overheard a conversation in the shower where one swimmer was gossiping to another about how her brother was going to ask out the cocky triathlete as soon as he got up the nerve. Once we got that business out of the way we were BFFs before there were BFFs.
We went swimming together, competed together, saw movies, and ate dinner together. We had much in common, including the desire to have children. She went first. Since I was unavailable (her words), she became a SMBC (Single Mother By Choice), and her beautiful daughter was born. I helped out with the childrearing every chance I could. It was almost a practice run for me. I was given the title “Godfather” and I did what I could to live up to the name. I enjoyed every minute of it, but it ended way too soon.
Not tragically, thank goodness. My friend accepted a high-ranking job (one even higher than the job she had here) and sadly they moved across the country before I could say ABC. Sad for me, anyway, because my loss was their gain. Better schools, better house, better pay. Being the mere Godfather, communication broke down and we all went on with our busy lives. I got busy with a husband and kids (boys!) of my own, and she got busy with a coworker and ended up falling in love.
It’s nearly 8 years since she left the West Coast, and my friend is just married and enjoying a honeymoon touring the coastline from San Francisco to Mexico. They’re stopping in Los Angeles for a reception at their hotel, with invitations emailed to former swim teammates and former coworkers. This will be the reunion I mentioned earlier. My instructions were to bring my boys “to see what kind of childrearing job I am doing.”
The reception is happening in a nice Santa Monica hotel suite from 5-7pm, and I’m nervous for a couple of reasons. Number one reason is that my friend is kind of a perfectionist, and she will be looking closely at the boys’ behavior during the event. That brings me to reason number two. As most parents have learned, the hours between 5:00pm and 7:00pm are witching hours of sorts. Young kids have a strange disposition at that time of day, brought upon them by the combination of fatigue, hunger, and their desire to reach their quota of meltdowns and craziness before bedtime arrives. I was especially concerned because on the day of said event, both boys would have swim lessons immediately prior to going to the hotel. On the day of said event my oldest 5-year-old was sporting a pretty good runny nose. And on the day of said event my other half was away on business, leaving me to bring the three boys alone. Not only would my friend see my boys for the first time, but also many of the swimmers there were anxious to see the reason why I have failed to show up to the pool for the last four months. Plus when you’re a gay guy raising kids, people will scrutinize and assess out of the corner of their eye to decide for themselves if we are a real family. No pressure though!
We arrived about 5:30pm and it was so good to see my friend and her new husband. Many of my fellow swimmers had only seen the boys on Facebook, so they were quite taken aback by how handsome the boys are. The boys barely noticed the adults as they made a beeline for the food service tables. My middle son quickly downed three whole apples and four brownies, and I wondered to myself what his stomach was going to feel like later. My four-month-old was asleep in his stroller thanks to a carefully timed bottle just prior to the party, so he slept angelically in the middle of the room as the adults around him oohed and aahed. I gave my oldest son my iPhone, my middle son played with another Dylan who was there, and I was actually enjoying the reunion AND the reaction from my friends as they marveled at the boys’ dispositions.
I boasted about how just the night before my baby had slept through the entire night, and I was about to prepare to accept a Father of the Year award when someone bumped into the stroller in the middle of the room, jostling Dustin awake. It only took five seconds before Dustin was producing the loudest scream of terror in his entire short life. And the scream went on. And on. And on. I guess he got startled after waking up right in the midst of a bunch of strangers. I finally had to take him into the master bedroom part of the suite to separate myself from all the glaring eyes (and throbbing ears) in the other section of my friend’s hotel suite. In that bedroom I tried everything to calm Dustin down but he was inconsolable. It hit me that he might be hungry, since he has had a ferocious appetite for the last few days. The stroller was still in the middle of the party, so I had to send my middle son (the apple and brownie eater) out to retrieve the bottle and formula waiting in the undercarriage.
When he returned I had to quickly mix the concoction and then literally shove the nipple into the screaming mouth of my baby. He was silent in seconds, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief since people (including my BFF) were anxious to use the bathroom. I packed up my supplies to head back to the party area with my angelic baby and let the formed line of people start to come in to relieve themselves, when all of a sudden my middle son screams, “I have to use the bathroom!”
“Are you sure?” I ask, hoping that maybe he could put it off until the rush of people comes through.
“Daddy, please I gotta go!” he pleads, and I sense some unusual panic in his voice. “Okay, then go!” I yell. He backs up toward the toilet in the pristine white bathroom that is so clean that the toilet bowl seal has not yet been broken. He rifles his pants down to his ankles and, while in that bent over position, proceeds to expel everything he was holding in his bowels, much like a fire extinguisher when you squeeze its lever.
Believe it or not, I got lucky. I checked the clothes he was wearing. Nothing! I checked the white mats and throw rugs. Nothing! He had managed to cover the porcelain bowl with his s*#t without any collateral damage. I was able to wipe the bowl (and my son’s hamstrings) clean with the pretty pile of washcloths daintily displayed on the vanity, place them in a plastic bag from the garbage can, and deposit the bag later in the maid’s laundry basket in the hall. My son thought he had one too many apples.
Before flushing the toilet and making my escape from the scene of the accident, my son asked if he could “wipe himself real good.” I felt so bad for him. He was both embarrassed and brave at the same time. I told him to go for it as I turned around to give my five-year-old some dignity. I turned back around when I heard him flush, and I watched the water in the bowl start to rise as my son relayed that he had to wipe himself ten times. The water got to within a millimeter of the top of the bowl when my silent prayers were answered and the water began to recede. We both stared down until the water disappeared and was replaced by a new bowl of water, at which point we both breathed a sigh of relief. We washed up and made our way back out to the partygoers, who were being entertained by my oldest son dancing to Gangham Style on YouTube. It’s nearly 7:30pm and some people are beginning to leave.
“Oh my gosh, John! I don’t know how you do it with three boys!” my BFF exclaims. “You must be so pooped at the end of the day!”
You have no idea.