The Allure of Roadkill

I’ve suffered the wrath of my children for a plethora of reasons—probably for more asinine things than I can possibly count. And most of the time, it has been because I missed something simple along the way—some crucial bit of insight and/or communiqué that might have taken much of the frustration and complexity out of childrearing. Something that would have made me less of an ogre and more of a compatriot.

That being said, I once made the dreadful mistake of trashing someone’s beloved “collection” that was lurking about in a despicable corner of our despicably organized garage. Said Shrine-to-Mother-Nature consisted of a hideous clump of wilted dandelions, a handful of slime-ridden leafy matter, a smattering of pebbles and a bunch of twigs I assumed had been left for dead. Silly me.

When my crime was subsequently discovered, it was as if I had slaughtered Sponge Bob and his moronic sidekick, Patrick (not that I haven’t entertained that delicious little notion). At any rate, I was practically deported for having violated one of the tenets of Motherhood: “Thou shalt not dispose of foolish tripe without first obtaining the express written consent of all interested parties (i.e. the resident heathens).” Since then, our mother-daughter relationship has improved somewhat, but I doubt I’ll ever be entirely forgiven for such an atrocity.

Then there was the cardinal sin I committed just last month when I insisted the toad must go. The toad who lived on my coffee table for three days running, who drove me completely berserk with his relentless pawing and clawing of the wretched cage-like home to which he had been so unwillingly assigned. The toad who had been worshiped and glorified for his many talents (being warty, for one). The fist-sized blob of repugnance whom my little girls felt compelled to kiss and cuddle (till I became visibly ill—Gak!) during a teary-eyed and interminable farewell which will live in my guilt-ridden soul forever and ever. Amen.

Of course, I’m certain it was not unlike the dramatic performance of a lifetime I myself delivered in Disney World back in 1974—when I became thoroughly and hopelessly obsessed with the idea of obtaining a certain toy rifle I had seen; one that stole my heart from the moment I ogled its silken stock and genuine metal barrel. The fact that it came with a real ramrod and shot corks merely made me want it that much more. My mission: to convince my grandparents that I couldn’t possibly continue living without it. That I would surely shrivel up and die right then and there with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck as witnesses unless and until they journeyed to the ends of the earth (read: the entire length of the theme park) and bought it for me. I still have that beloved prize, but sadly, not one cork.

As a parent, my popularity also waned the day I refused to let my dear charges wear their Crocs to Knoebel’s Amusement Park. Naturally, they grumbled and groused each time we happened upon a kid wearing those stupid shoes—the ones that ought to come with a box of Band-aids and a waiver. Waiting in line for the bumper cars, spinning around in those monstrous tea cups, crammed and jammed impossibly inside a bevy of bathroom stalls—where our worm’s-eye view spoke volumes. “See, that kid’s Mom let her wear Crocs.” Everywhere, it seemed, I was reminded of what a horrible mother I was.

Likewise, there was the time I rearranged the refrigerator magnets. Oh, the horror! The time I forgot to tell the landscaping people not to disturb the “eagle’s nest” in our front yard (i.e. the massive heap of sticks that begged to be flung into oblivion). The time I insisted the bug cage must either be chucked out entirely or purged of the unsightly display of caterpillar carnage contained within. Or more recently, when I had the audacity to wash their bedding without first consulting she-who-would-freak (read: she who would be instantly launched into a stomping, shrieking fit of rage upon learning her stuffed animals had been moved). Next time (she demanded of me) I would photograph said animals properly, so they could more easily be returned to their rightful place in the Universe. It’s poetic justice, I suppose, for having lied about bedbugs in order to convince her that laundering was necessary at all.

Like I said—I’ve suffered plenty of wrath at the hands of my children. But the rage-inspired idiocy I am about to describe is beyond all imagining.

While ferrying my brood over hill and dale, we passed what appeared to be a dead skunk along the roadside. The pungent aroma that filled our Jeep shortly thereafter, confirmed my astute suspicions. Ridiculously keen on witnessing dead things (as always), both kids craned their necks to see the furry beast who had met an untimely demise. But alas, they had no such luck—even after three tries and lots of helpful reminders like, “WE’RE ABOUT TO PASS THE SKUUUUUUUNK…WE’RE PASSING THE SKUUUUUUUNK…WE JUST PASSED THE SKUUUUUUUNK….” For a fleeting moment, I entertained the notion of pulling over to let them eyeball the ludicrous thing once and for all; but thankfully, that little gem of an idea went away.

Well upon learning that we wouldn’t be returning home over the same well-traveled path (where the unfortunate skunk lay), one of my charges decided to stage a protest. First, she whined and flopped about in her seat, eventually feigning death. Naturally, I ignored such nonsense and kept driving to our 437th destination of the day. By the time we finished our errands and pulled into the garage, the silent treatment had begun in earnest—in fact, she wouldn’t even get out of the car. She just sat there, stewing over my latest transgression, searing holes in the back of my seat, arms crossed in defiance, jaw and furrowed brow cast in stone.

“Lovely,” I thought. “Just lovely!” It’s NINE THOUSAND DEGREES and my kid (who ostensibly hates me) refuses to get out of a sweltering car that’s sitting inside a sweltering garage—thanks to a stupid skunk who couldn’t cross a stupid road to save himself!” How completely ironic.

Then again it was ironic to think that carrion could possess the least bit of charm.

Ultimately, my rebel child conceded defeat and dragged her sorry self inside. But her sullen mood continued for quite some time—punctuated with commentary like, “I just wanted to see the stupid skunk, Mom. I never actually saw a dead one before,” as if it were some sort of exotic thrill.

Apparently, I failed to grasp the simplicity of the situation yet again. What’s more, I hadn’t, in the least, considered the allure of roadkill.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with abundantly disturbed children).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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