I am become Mummy, the destroyer of worlds

I’m kind of surprised by this weeks America’s Worst Mother&#153 what with it being July 4th weekend and all. I expected Meghan and Mr Meghan (who seems to be around the house a lot more now that the Washintonienne is no longer plying her trade) and the kids (Anemone, Uhuru, Anna Conda, and Biff) to be making red, white, and blue scones and doing their patriotic duty by keying cars with John Kerry stickers. But no, this weeks column is all about death and decay and decomposition and well let’s just say it’s like spending an evening with the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds.

Anyway it starts off thusly:

One morning my husband is reading aloud to Paris and the Littles on our bed and I am brushing my teeth when Molly’s head pops around the bathroom door. She looks worried, and keeps her voice down.

“Mummy, there’s a spider eating a beetle outside the window,” she says.

“Orgh, glurg,” I froth, and shrug.

…and from there it’s all downhill

The little girls press forward to see. There is a rapt silence which Paris eventually breaks.

“Poor beetle,” he says softly.

Molly and I exchange glances. As one, we look towards Violet and Phoebe. As if on cue, Violet’s face crumples.

“We have to save the beetle!” she bursts out, “We have to do something!”

Oh, how inadequate are words in the face of a heartbroken four-year-old! I try to reassure her with platitudes about how the spider gives the beetle “a kind of medicine” so he “isn’t frightened,” and how “actually spiders help us,” by eating insects and feeding birds, and how, in any case, the window is painted shut and “it’s two stories up, so by the time we found a ladder — “but it seems terribly lame in light of the cruel inevitability happening before our eyes, and Violet weeps as though she will never stop.

Of course, she does. The beetle expires. With tear-streaked faces, four children watch the spider creep to the edge of his web to wait for his next course, and eventually, like rubberneckers on the freeway, we manage to pull ourselves away.

Now readers of AWM&#153 will remember that the Gurdon’s typically shun popular culture which means that the kids have never been exposed to The Lion King and therefore are as unfamiliar with The Circle of Life as Meghan and Mr. Meghan are with anything other than the missionary position so it’s no wonder that Meghan isn’t up to this task anymore than she was last week when she just lied to the kids to get them to shut the hell up.

Then there is this repartee over the breakfast table that would make Nick and Nora Charles green with envy:

My husband and I settle down with coffee and the Washington Post.

“Shall we go to the zoo today? There’s a new farm exhibit,” I suggest.

“Okay,” says my husband, turning to the op-ed pages.

I think that the sexual tension between them is quite palpable, don’t you? Unfortunately there’s no time for stuffing Meghan’s muffin, because death is once again knocking at the door:

We turn off the main thoroughfare and are passing through a quiet suburban neighborhood when I notice something pink and floundering up ahead, in the middle of the road. It is a bird on its back, pink feet clawing at the sky, grey wings thrashing. “Poor dove,” I murmur involuntarily. Which is a mistake.

“Stop the car,” Molly cries. “We have to help it!”

“We can turn him over, at least,” I say, and hand her my tennis racquet. She nods, opens her door, looks both ways, and runs back to the panicked bird. In the rear-view mirror I see her poking him, trying to get him righted, and then, in a little flurry, she manages it. The dove tucks in his injured wings, and rests, probably in infinite relief, in the middle of the road. Molly runs back to the car.

“I’m going to try to move him to the grass,” she tells me, leaning in the passenger window, and I am just saying, “Okay, but be careful, because — “when still in the rear-view mirror I see an SUV silently appear and hum towards us, shimmering a little in the heat as if emerging from a mirage.

We all have moments when real life feels like cinema noir and this is one of them. It is only three hours since the incident of the beetle, and there is a curious feeling of celestial filmmaking in what happens next. It is a splendid summer day: golden sun, azure sky, the usual. Flowers bloom prettily beside smooth lawns and neat asphalt driveways. And through this tamed, moneyed landscape the SUV moves like a death foretold. Molly and I watch aghast as the vehicle approaches and one tire runs over the dove. There is an audible splat. And the SUV rolls past us, signals, and takes a right-hand turn out of sight.

“No!” Molly cries, “No, no, no, no!”

So, as you can see, it’s been bad week at the Gurdon household and it probably won’t get any better since the kids are planning on watching Bambi this weekend where they will learn some hard lessons about Mummies and how they don’t always stick around.

Then they’ll have a July 4th barbeque.

I think they’re having dove.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....