I had never been to the girl’s house and crept down the street squinting at addresses. 37… 34… Close. Close… The numbers were partially obscured but I heard youthful noise so I pulled into the driveway then immediately hit the brakes. At least 9 cats lounged on the blacktop. Not one of them even flicked a whisker, and after a moment staring me down, resumed the important business of licking themselves and stretching out in the sun.
Amused, I zigzagged through them toward the back of the house, but found nothing but manicured grass and empty lounges. The voices were coming from next door. I turned to go back to my car and almost ran right into a pissed off woman.
“What were you doing in my yard?” She accused.
“I’m, um, picking up my son but uh wrong house,” I stammered and pointed next door where the sounds of merriment lifted into the air like music notes. “Sorry.”
I received an extremely skeptical look. Jeez. Did people regularly walk into her yard? Did she think I was animal control?
I was still giggling when I walked into the next yard and saw my son, his friends and a bunch of girls in shorts and bikinis running around an empty blue pool, circling each other in a fascinating mix of confidence and insecurity.
They all stopped their pubescent frolicking at my interruption but only briefly, like I was the most uninteresting person in the world. The boys gave me a cursory smile or wave; my own son the most standoffish among them. I think I heard a cat yawn.
“Hey guys,” I said, “I’m picking up you, you and you.” I pointed at three boys who each looked at the guy next to him.
A quick huddle ensued and my son was sent over to break the bad news.
“So um, listen,” he started, giving me his sweetest smile, “Don’t feel bad or anything but we’re going to wait for Sawyer’s mom,”
“What?” I said, “Why? I’m here.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he soothed, putting his arm around me and walking me out while the bikinis and boys who grew up on my lawn watched. “She’s on her way. We’re going back to his house anyway.”
“But I can take you there. No problem!” I pleaded a little desperately as he led me to my minivan.
“Thanks, mom. But it’s okay.” He closed my car door and leaned in the window amused, “Don’t feel bad that you’re not the cool mom.” I was about to protest but didn’t get the chance, “And I need some money. We might see a movie.”
“I’m cool,” I pouted, reaching into my sack and handing him $20.”
“Of course you are,” he smiled, pocketing the cash. Then with a hint of boyish bashfulness, he slouch walked back to the yard, behind the fence, to his friends, the bikinis and beyond my reach.
With no one to carpool, I drove off rejected and smiling but still feeling somewhat astray.
I knew I should have taken the Jeep.