I have two children, a main son to provide general mayhem and destruction, and a younger backup son for mental distress. Although the odds of them getting along is about the same as a double fudge brownie dying of old age in my kitchen, they take great pride when it comes to disturbing my peace. Sort of a parental trauma tag team.
Son Number One specializes in physical destruction. His responsibilities include punching holes in plaster, breaking small appliances, and clogging the plumbing. He holds a family record for mass destruction and once brought down an expensive light fixture with a simple fastball, high and tight. If you’re looking for a Rambo-style battle with water-based munitions in your living room or need to know how much Play Doh the ceiling fan will hold, he’s your man. His motto is “I didn’t mean to.”
Son Number Two specializes in emotional turmoil. He is responsible for the state of general untidiness in the house, having long ago mastered the art of talking his way out of cleaning his room, taking out the trash, and emptying the dishwasher. He is especially adept in the art of negotiations and can reduce an opponent to heavy sighs and hand-wringing without once dropping his video game controller. If he were an independent country, his national symbol would be the loophole. We expect him to have a successful career in government. Should monarchy come into vogue, he’ll be a natural.
One sunny spring day when all the world seemed fresh and new, the boys were playing together in their room. I sat at the computer composing an essay on the joys of motherhood. For a paying market.
“And that’s why motherhood makes my heart sing.” I typed the final strokes, leaned back, and wiped away a maternal tear.
“You can’t kill zombies!”
That’s not something I ever expected to hear. Until I had children.
“You can shoot ’em!”
I frowned thoughtfully. I needed to add some more endearing anecdotes.
“They’re already dead. You can’t kill something that’s already dead!”
Maybe how Ryan loved to help me with his baby brother. He would bring Jeffrey’s favorite toy lamb and help sing him to sleep.
“They’ve come back to life. Beat ’em with a stick!”
Or the time Jeffrey bought my Christmas present with his own money at the school store.
“I’ll beat you with a stick.”
“Oh yeah, I’ll cream you and your zombie army.”
Did I mention the children are now teenagers? They’d rather argue than eat. Unless I’ve got something artificially flavored on hand.
“There’s cookies in the kitchen.”
Exit two teenage boys, charging down the hallway like the bulls in Pamplona. There’s a crash. The Pamplona bulls never had to negotiate a tabby cat and two Cookie Hounds trying to beat them to the goodies.
In the kitchen, on separate plates, there are two kinds of cookies. One with chocolate chips, one with sprinkles. I have five minutes before Ryan polishes off the sprinkles and develops a sudden fondness for chocolate chips.
The essay needs a bit more length. I’ll add that cute story about Ryan coming out of church the sweltering Southern summer when his was six. He refused to listen to the sermon about humility because he thought the pastor said humidity.
Smiling with motherly love, I revised the word count.
“Zombies can’t eat cookies. They can’t eat anything. They’re dead.”
“How’d you like to see for yourself?”
At times like this, I think back to what Mom always told me. Whenever I came to her with my traumas and tantrums, she’d laugh and say, “Don’t worry, it’ll get worse.” She said it when I was three and ran to her with a skinned knee, and she was right. I broke my arm. When I was thirty-three and getting divorced, she said it again. And soon my kids became teenagers. But by then, I had it figured out. If things can get worse, it’s not the end of the world. Things will also get better. So if postponing the essay for a few minutes to Google “Zombie Facts” is the worst thing to happen today, life is pretty good.
Especially if there’s a chocolate chip cookie left.
This tale of zombie cookie love was first published in the February/March issue of The Wham Magazine.