(Insert Drum roll) And, we're back!
Welcome to Episode 2 of Thirteen and Three. We left off with the cliffhanger: Beatrix was conceived in the children's section of The Strand Bookstore. I must inform you, as any good writer would, that after posting Episode One, I have been called a liar. Here is the exact accusation from my friend and smarty pants, Nick Wyman, President of Actors' Equity Association and actor of Broadway's Catch Me If You Can. (Please note what a nice and thoughtful person I am, I STILL plugged Nick's Broadway show and his fancy gig at the union DESPITE him calling me a big fat liar on my Facebook page, read by *millions. (*possible slight exaggeration.)
Nick wrote: "I am bitterly disappointed that you did not name *Beezer "Crystal." And I think you are a tease and a big liar. I am willing to bet that Beatrix was not conceived, but was merely conceptualized in the children's section of the Strand." (*Beezer, actually spelled Beazer, is Beatrix's nick name. It is a variation on Beezus from the Beezus and Ramona book series. If you are keeping score at home, fictional Beezus's real name was Beatrice.)
Whether I am a "tease and a liar" will reveal itself in time, dear Mr. Wyman. I advise you to read on.
Back to our story (and this is the back story).
There was a kid in Charlotte’s third grade class named Riley (a girl) who was holding unofficial, but well attended sex ed classes during recess. She was dishing out spectacular information like, "You can get pregnant if you have your period and a boy licks you.” Also a favorite, “You only get your period once and it comes out your butt.”
Mother intervention needed immediately.
After debriefing Charlotte on the finer points of Riley’s information, (which Charlotte was believing like it was gospel and would correct me with interjections like, "But Mom! It's totally true! Riley saw it on the Discovery Channel!"), I decided that sex ed, along with the sport of interjecting a curse word in between every word of a sentence, is just a fact of life during third grade recess. Charlotte is a good student and has the ability to retain facts like a Google search result, so I decided that if anyone under the age of 10 was qualified to bring this Riley kid into focus, it was Charlotte Meffe.
One rainy April Saturday, Rob was working and Charlotte and I were bored. Seeking a field trip that was cheap and ate up a lot of a gray day; a trip to The Strand to get a sex ed book seemed to fit the bill.
An hour subway ride later, we arrived at the 2nd floor children’s section of the extremely crowded store (“miles and miles” of books is their slogan, and a big draw on a rainy day.) We walked around for a bit and I found the "health" section, called Charlotte over and we quickly discussed the options. I was trying to be the engaged and concerned parent--seeking a book that was the perfect balance of science and compassion. But really, I wanted a book that was called 5 Million Things Riley Got Wrong About Sex. Surprisingly, even in their 18 miles of books (that is a real statistic according to their website) they did not have a copy of 5 Million Things Riley Got Wrong About Sex, so we settled on a book called It's So Amazing, a Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families.
I tried to be gentle about it, wanting to "honor" any "emotions" Charlotte might be feeling at this "delicate time" (therapy speak), but Charlotte rifled through the few books I'd picked out for her to look through, and tossed one at me because, "It has the best pictures." Transaction complete.
After lunch and a little shoe shopping on E. 8th Street (the unofficial "shoe district"), we decided to really blow time by taking a bus from the East Village to the Upper West Side. We hopped on a crowded M5, and Charlotte and I were seated, but separated. Not by much, just across from each other, but just enough that we couldn't talk to each other.
Despite having several fiction books to choose from, she pulls out It's So Amazing and starts to read. It is important to me that you visualize this perfectly, because it is one of my greatest memories of parenting Charlotte. The bus is crowded, she is squished into a middle seat facing out. So...in the back of a NYC bus, there are seats that all face in. Like on a subway car. This means that when Charlotte picked up the large book--it's about the size of a notebook--and started reading it, everyone could see the cover. There was no doubt what she was reading. For an hour and twenty minutes, all I could see were her skinny little legs swinging, and pages turning.
By the time we reached 86th Street (our stop at the time), we hop off the bus and I am dying to know what she is thinking. She holds it up and says, "I finished it." I was surprised. "The whole thing?" She looks up at me with a wry little face and says, "You wanna know what the biggest surprise of all was? I mean the thing I really had NO IDEA about?"