Claire laughed and shook her head at me. “Sorry, those are trade secrets in the mom world. And if I remember correctly, you were there for the first four years when I was a single mom to a boy who liked to talk about his penis in public. He’s seven now and still likes to talk about his penis to strangers, but at least now I have Carter to help out, just like you have Jim. You’re doing a great job, Liz. Your girls adore you and someday, they’ll be grown and have kids of their own and you can point and laugh at them when they come crying to you. Full circle, baby. Full circle.”
“DAAAAAAAAADDDY! I need more money!”
Claire and I turned in our seats when we heard Jenny whine behind us. She stood in front of Jim with her hand out while he shook his head at her.
“Uh, hey guys. Why is Jenny calling you daddy?” Claire asked Jim.
Jenny looked up and her sad face immediately went away when she saw us.
“You guys!! I am having the BEST time! But Daddy here took my money and he won’t let me have any more,” she said with a pout as she pointed at Jim.
My husband stared at her with a blank expression on his face, which usually meant he was trying his hardest to keep his mouth shut before he said something he’d regret.
“Why won’t ‘DAAAAAADDDDYY’ let you have any money?” Claire asked, doing a perfect imitation of Jenny’s whiny voice.
“If one more person calls me Daddy, you’re all going to die,” Jim stated in a monotone voice.
“Daddy isn’t being fair!” Jenny complained with a stomp of her foot.
Jim growled and I put a hand on his arm to keep him from choking Jenny.
“Hey, Jenny. How about you tell them why I’m not letting you have your money,” Jim suggested.
We looked at Jenny and she rolled her eyes. “I was winning! I put my gambling card in the machine and it gave me two hundred and fifty dollars!”
“What machine is this?” Claire asked, looking around for the machine that was obviously a winner.
“Oh, please tell them what machine,” Jim begged, his face suddenly taking on a look of pure delight.
Jenny pointed to the other side of the room. “See? That one over there. The Atom game.”
Claire and I squinted, trying to find this Atom game she spoke of, but we couldn’t see anything through the mess of people, blinking lights and gaming tables.
“What Jenny is pointing out to you would be the ATM machine,” Jim informed us.
“You win every single time!” Jenny announced happily.
“And this is why she is no longer allowed to have her ‘gambling card’ or her money,” Jim added, using his hands to finger-quote gambling card. Which we suddenly realized was her bank card.
“Come on, Daddy! I want to win more money!” Jenny shouted, grabbing Jim’s arm and dragging him away.
He gave us a pleading look, but Claire and I waved happily at him as they disappeared in the crowd.
“Well, the good news is, Jenny is giving him tons of babysitting practice for your kids,” Claire stated as I sat back down next to her at my machine. “Would now be a bad time to tell you that I made you and Jim the guardians of Gavin and Sophie if something were to happen to us?”
My hand paused mid-air as I got ready to hit a button on the machine. I stared at her with wide eyes and an open mouth for so long that she finally had to snap her fingers in front of my face to pull me out of my daze.
“Don’t worry, it’s not like something is going to happen to us,” Claire explained. “Carter and I just figured we should update our wills and it’s not like I want my dad to get the kids. Could you imagine? They’d spend their childhood watching the Gameshow Network, taking naps and brushing up on their skills of stringing swear words together. Actually, that might not be a bad thing.”
“Why in the hell would you ever think it was a good idea to make me the guardian of your kids? Did you not just hear me complaining about how I suck as a mother and I don’t know what I’m doing?” I reminded her.
Claire turned her chair to face mine. “Listen, going into that lawyers office and having to talk about your children being raised by someone who isn’t you is the most depressing thing in the world. I couldn’t even get through two minutes of that meeting without crying. My kids drive me insane, but they’re still my kids. My babies. The thought of not being here to watch them grow and to teach them about life… it really sucks. But as soon as the lawyer asked me for a name, I knew there was no one else in the world I would want to raise my kids if I couldn’t do it.”
I refused to fucking cry in the middle of a casino, but it was no use. My eyes filled with tears and I was honored that Claire trusted me enough to make me the guardians of her kids, but I still didn’t get it.
“But why me? I mean, you have Carter’s parents and your dad and, even though Jenny and Drew are fucking crazy, they’re fun and young at heart and great parents so far. Why in the hell would you ever pick me?”
Claire cocked her head at me and leaned closer. “No one could ever replace me as my kid’s mom. But when you’re looking at the people in your life who might just have to take on that role someday, you try to find someone who will give your children a taste of their mother when she’s gone, someone who reminds them of you. I can’t imagine someone else raising my children. No one seems like the right choice because they’re not me, so I chose someone who is as close to ‘me’ as I could get. You’re my person, Liz. You’re my other half. If I’m not here, there is no one else in the world who could remind my kids of me and give them the same kind of love I did.”