Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Birthday Surprise

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Birthday Surprise
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

My partner was turning 51 and we decided it would be a nice to go away for a three day weekend, just us, no kids. First, we called about five babysitters, none of whom returned the call until the third try. That is apparently part of their overall plan to engender trust and assure us of their responsibility. As we were packing to leave, we heard rumors of an unseasonable snowstorm descending on the northeast. In preparation, we finally got new tires on my car, and arranged for a back up babysitter/school pick-up person “just in case.”

As we pulled out of the driveway, I said to my partner, “Honey, the right front tire feels funny.” “Feels funny?” she said, with a rise in her eyebrows I could also feel. “Yes, it just doesn’t feel right, it feels jiggly.” “I’m sure the tire is fine, dear,” she said, famous last words. We get into NYC, park the car in the garage, check into our lovely upscale hotel that we got on Priceline, and sleep deliciously late the next morning. We order $12 coffee and head out to play in the sleet that was now devouring Manhattan. We return to the hotel around 3 pm to dry off our underwear, when the cell phone rings.

It’s the back-up babysitter who says, “The weather is really bad here. Do you want me to pick up your kids from school?” We declined assuming the actual babysitter was already on her way. Which indeed she was, and for the next three hours (my partner’s actual birthday) we waited in the hotel for her to plow through the horrible snowstorm to pick the kids up at school.

Now, my son, thankfully, has a cell phone, something I was once opposed to, but it turned out to be a good thing, because it became our main communication link. The kids were finally picked up at school a little after 6 pm (one dollar a minute for aftercare after 5:30), the last kids to be picked up, keeping the Head of School there, who it turns out was also celebrating her birthday. They made it home at 7 pm, at which point my partner and I –both emotional wrecks — got dressed, and went out to a lovely four-star dinner at Megu’s Japanese restaurant, which was nearly deserted due to the frozen hail that was now pummeling NYC.

Mumbling the mantra “the children are fine, dear,” we have two relaxing days in NYC, eating good food and hanging out with good friends. On Sunday morning, we retrieve our car from the garage, and I notice that the side-view mirror is broken, as in hanging off the car. An hour later, we finish haggling with the parking staff, and go to pick up my partner’s 90-year old aunt to take her out to brunch. The right front tire is madly jiggling now. “Honey, there is really something wrong with the tire,” I repeat. As we turn the corner, the tire is bumping like a pogo stick, and I say emphatically, “We need to go to a garage NOW.” Crossing Park and 47th (for you non-NYers read: busy corner, home to the rich and famous) and I see two police officers. I pull up, yelling across my honey (who doesn’t much talk to strangers), “Do you know where a garage is … the tire is doing something funny?” The police officer takes one looks at the tire and screams, “Stop the car!!” We are midway through an intersection, but I comply amidst the sounds of honking horns. “Your tire is hanging on by one lug nut,” he says with amazement.

So there we sat, hanging out with Hector and Jose, truly New York’s finest, for the next two hours, waiting for Tony from AAA. I try to call the 90-year old aunt, who is waiting in the lobby of her apartment building for us to pick her up, and then call Tony asking him not-so-politely, and with much support from Hector and Jose, to re-queue his AAA priorities. I also called my friend Lisa who we were going to meet in Brooklyn for dinner. She thought I was saying that we would be late because “We lost our love nuts,” but was nonetheless forgiving.

Tony arrived, redistributed the lug nuts on the tires, leaving us with four lug nuts on each tire. We waved goodbye to Hector and Jose, and drove into Brooklyn with the spare tire, jiggling madly, hanging on with one lug nut. Yes, we did cancel lunch with the aunt who was quite tired by now from waiting in the lobby. We spent $20 on more lug nuts, found a garage to tighten them, and headed out to get some ‘breakfast’ at 4 pm. We had a lovely South African meal and headed home, tires snug, and belly full, after a lovely relaxing weekend in NYC.

The hotel is paying for the car mirror, and the tire shop manager is paying for the tires plus a year’s worth of free oil changes grateful as we all are for the tenacity of that one lug nut and that we are not suing. Whenever we leave the children with a babysitter, my partner has a long list of rules regarding bedtimes, food needs, homework, safety, security and pet care. I only ask them for one thing: I want my children safe. We came home to five loads of laundry, an unplowed sidewalk, and to our two boys all snug in their beds, hanging on tight, like the two lug nuts they are.