It is a cloudy, dark day with a fine mist in the air. My son, Jonah and I meet up with our friends Jane and Mary and their children at Lamb’s Farm.
On our way to the petting zoo, Mary realizes she has left Kevin’s sippy cup in the car.
"Go get it," I say. "We’ll take Franny with us."
At the petting zoo, we are told that one adult must be inside the fenced area with the children. I volunteer so Jane can stay outside with her baby, Mark.
The kids are so happy to be there. They run toward the animals while ignoring all the mud, poop and puddles which I’m sure are not just rainwater. An employee chats happily to the kids as he sweeps the area.
Suddenly we hear a cry. We whip our heads around just in time to see Jane’s daughter, Amy, slip and fall—and land right in a big pile of wet poop.
I bolt across the petting zoo, expertly traversing small piles of poop pellets and puddles of God only knows what to reach her. I am almost to Amy….
She is still on her hands and knees with her tiny rear end up in the air when a medium-sized sheep strolls over, stops just inches from her tiny rear and head butts her. She goes sailing through the air and lands in a bigger pile of poop, water and urine. Amy bursts out crying as wet poop sprays all over her.
Stunned by the sheer beauty and shock of the moment—Steven Spielberg could not have crafted a more perfect stunt—I freeze. She flew upward like Superman and stayed suspended in mid-air for a second, as if really flying. I can’t believe it. Jonah, Franny and the man sweeping all have the same stunned expression on their faces.
It’s OK, isn’t it?
Finally I go to Amy. I don’t want to pick her up. She’s got wet poop, mud and urine all over her.
Gingerly I lift her up and steer her to her mother. I feel bad not cradling her in my arms and giving her the comfort she must crave. I wonder: Would I lift my own poop-covered child unconditionally into my arms? Of course I would. A bubble of guilt forms.
"Amy, honey, are you OK?"
"Poo … poop," she stutters through her tears. "I fell … OK."
"It’s OK," I soothe. "You’re OK."
The man sweeping the area keeps repeating, "I can’t believe that happened. That’s never happened before."
"Jane, she’s OK." I look at Jane. Her mouth is moving, but no words come out. "Really. She’s OK."
Jane struggles to form the words. "That sheep just head butted my child."
At this point I want to burst out laughing, a cleansing giggle at the sheer absurdity of it and in relief that Amy isn’t hurt. She wraps the sobbing child in her arms and gives her the comfort she needs. I watch this maternal moment and think, "Ick."
"I have a change of clothes in my car," Jane says. "Will you take Mark?"
"Of course," I say.
Jane whisks Amy away. Franny and Jonah come running up screaming, "Amy fell in poop! Amy fell in poop!"
"I know. But she’s OK," I say, trying my best not to burst into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.
I push Mark in the stroller as Franny and Jonah skip happily along chanting, "Amy fell in poop. Amy fell in poop."
We come around a corner and see Mary. I can tell by the look on her face that she passed Jane and Amy on their way to the bathroom. "What happened?"
Jonah and Franny fill her in: "Amy fell in poop."
The stinky truth
The laughter builds and I can no longer hold it in. The tension is broken and it explodes out of me.
Once I am able to regain control of myself, I fill her in on what happened.
"Oh my," she repeats.
"Thank goodness she’s OK. She could have been really hurt."
Jonah and Franny continue their "Amy fell in poop" mantra as we walk toward the parking lot. We see Amy and Jane coming and convince the kids that it would be best to stop yelling, "Amy fell in poop."
Jane’s once sky-blue sweater is wrapped around her waist and her tan pants are covered with varying shades of brown and yellow.
Amy, on the other hand, has on a clean pair of pants and sweater. She seems perfectly content as she skips happily to Jonah and Franny, the incident already forgotten.
"Jane," I say sincerely, "I’m sorry I didn’t pick Amy up."
"Oh my God, don’t apologize. She’s my kid and I didn’t want to pick her up. She stunk."
Then Jane bursts into laughter of relief. I think she’d been holding it in for Amy’s sake and now it comes pouring out.
On the drive home my bubble of guilt begins to deflate. Jane does not blame me for not pulling Amy into my arms. Later she will tell me that Amy thinks I did carry her in my arms to her mother.
"Mom," Jonah says. "Can you believe Amy fell in poop?"
"No, honey I can’t. But she’s OK." I look in the rearview mirror and smile at my son.
Stacy L. Frueh lives in Wilmette with her husband, Joe, son, Jonah, and cat, Leo.