What to do When Your Children Throw Their Shoes at Strangers

Then it comes time to look first for respite, especially after long days on the road. We walk into these plastic palaces, their AC blasting, their primary colors tearing holes in my retinas. The cool air instantly chills my skin’s thin layer of sweat and grime.

We herd the children to the playground in the separate room and then collapse into a nearby booth. We breathe in the cool air, eat slowly, and somewhere off in the distance Cade has Sam in a headlock and both of them are screaming and people are wondering where these kids’ parents are but we don’t even flinch. We just sit. And breathe. And drink milkshakes.

* * * * *

Eight weeks ago we pulled away from my parents’ house in Paradise, PA. Eight weeks. Feels like years ago, decades. Millennia. Stars have been born, expanded, and collapsed into black holes during the time it has taken for us to drive from Pennsylvania to Florida to Tennessee to Louisiana to Texas.

But we’ve reached the halfway point now, and some days we’re in survival mode. We’ve settled into the long middle stretch, when you begin to question your sanity, your resilience, your ability to make it to the end. Ice cream, which in the beginning was an occasional treat, is now the answer to every problem.

* * * * *

The kids have taken their shoes off in the playground and are throwing them at strangers. I tap on the glass, like a child at a zoo trying to scare the animals. While I want to minimalize their savage-like behavior, I also want them to burn off as much energy as possible. I give them a stern look and point a menacing finger towards the shoe rack. Their shoulders slump, as if I have told them they are forbidden from having fun for the rest of their lives. They reluctantly return the weapons to the rack.

I slouch back in the booth. On second thought, I go get a refill of sweet iced tea.

* * * * *

“It’s 8:30,” I say to Maile. “We should go back to the bus.”

“Do we have to?” she asks, sighing, taking another spoonful of milkshake.

“Five more minutes,” I say. She groans. She is worse than the kids.

* * * * *

Now it’s 10:07 pm. My computer says 11:07 because I never changed it from Eastern Time. The inside of our bus is mostly dark, except for the small beams that escape Cade’s bunk where he reads long into the night, long after everyone else has fallen asleep. Lucy is in the top bunk, her fan humming. Abra and Sammy sleep. Finally.

And no matter how I vowed that I would go to bed early, I simply cannot trade these quiet hours for anything. Especially not sleep. So I turn on some music. Maile falls asleep beside me in the bed. I write a little. I play Words With Friends. I check Facebook. I write some more.

Then, when I can barely keep my eyelids separated, I put away the computer and read books on my iPhone until I drift off and nearly drop the phone on my face. Then I turn it all off. I give in. Every possible minute has been squeezed out of this day.

I fall asleep, and I dream of wide open spaces.

* * * * *

Please head over to Kathy’s blog (Katdish) for a great review of my book, “Building a Life Out of Words.” I’ll admit I was a little nervous about this one because I knew she wouldn’t pull any punches.

5 Replies to “What to do When Your Children Throw Their Shoes at Strangers”

  1. You truly are a great storyteller, Shawn. Reading your stories is like unwrapping a gift, which I guess is exactly what it is.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful review of my book, and this very kind comment. I wish you all the best in your own writing endeavors.

  2. I see people moving ahead while I stand still. And I get frustrated with my fears and laziness. Reading of your travels is encouraging, refreshing, and provoking. Thanks. :)

    1. But you’re not standing still! You’re building momentum. Think of how quiet Mt. Saint Helens was before it blew up.

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