“Hands on the table, won’t come off. Now my hands are stuck on the beard.” Matt repeated this mantra over and over in a monotone voice with a slight fear filled crescendo at the end. Matt had a lot of night terrors as a young boy. For a period of time, he was afraid of men with beards. Before you read anything more into this, Matt was also afraid of tires for awhile too.
When we were little, mom would take us all grocery shopping with with her. Those were the days before child care in stores, but they did take the groceries out to the car for us. Mom would have one kid in the cart, one kid under the cart, one kid holding on to the end of the cart, and one holding on to the front or walking beside her. I was worried because after awhile they put up a sign that said that the bottom of the cart was for groceries only.
On the best days, my mom would give Mark and Luke quarters for the gum ball machines. One day there was a big sign that said there was a watch in one of the machines. Mark said that he was going to win it. Mom said that there wasn’t a watch in the machine, they were trying to bleed us dry of quarters. But much to her chagrin, Mark came back with the watch after one quarter.
On the worst days, Matt would act up in the store. When Matt acted up you could almost guarantee that Luke would act up too. Luke did not want his older brother stealing the show. He demanded that mom buy him what he wanted or he was going to kick her. Mark and I would stand there shell shocked. Two introverts trapped like deer in the headlights. Sometimes mom would run out of the store crying, leaving behind a cart full of groceries. I always worried about what happened to the groceries that were left behind. Mom said she didn’t care.
On one particular day, we made it all the way to the check out when Matt saw a man with a beard. This was at the height of his fear. He started screaming in horror, a high pitched I’m being murdered wail. All eyes on us. Mom held him down on the ground with her foot so she could write a check for the groceries while everyone stared. Just another day in the life.