Final post: Alas, this is my last week as a part of the 5×500 crew. I’m sad to go, but excited for the next phase of writers. It’s been so much fun being a part of this. Thanks for reading. – Mel
Everybody’s standing in the yard waiting for dad. I’m the oldest, so I hold Megan, the baby, in my arms. Mom is in the car already, looking exhausted. I have the feeling like I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be, like I’m about to be caught. My legs get all tensed up, ready to run, and my breathing gets shallow. I wonder if that’s what’s happening to dad right now, if that’s why he’s locked himself in the downstairs bathroom and refuses to come out.
We’re supposed to be at grandma’s for our cousin’s birthday party, but we’re almost an hour late now. I look to mom to see if there’s any indication when we can just give up and go back inside. When we can stop standing in the yard like a pack of wolves – all eight of us kids, plus the baby. There’s a slamming, and for a moment I think dad has finally vacated the bathroom, but then mom walks up beside me. She says, “He’s overwhelmed with work,” and takes the baby from me. I wonder why we don’t just go to grandma’s without him, but the way mom’s shoulders droop as she carries the baby and tucks Jen, the five year old, under her armpit, I can feel the reason why without entirely knowing it. The rest of us follow suit: Reinard, the ten year old, two year youngers than me; Laurence, nine; Bennett, seven; Maxwell, five – Jen’s twin; Leigh, four; and Peyton, two and a half. She lets us eat cereal for dinner. It takes two boxes of Frosted Flakes, and by the time I pour my own, the milk is down to its final drops and I use water to fill the bowl. Mom nurses the baby, digging entire handfuls of cereal out of the box and eating it, not noticing the tiny white and beige crumbs landing on the baby’s head.