Years before satellites enabled scientists to see tropical cyclones approaching the coast, people knew the signals that preceded tropical cyclone landfall, the long ocean swells crashing on the beach, the high, wispy cirrus clouds, formed from ice crystals being shot out of the top of the giant storms. I am a trained scientist. So there is no reason for me to miss the signs that Hurricane Wes was brewing. But miss them I did.
The ever so slight hit of wildness in his laugh. His brazen defiance of my requests to stop running in the library. The time I told him to come "RIGHT HERE (pointing at a spot on the floor by my feet) RIGHT NOW" when he slithered all the way there on his belly shrieking "I a 'nake!" The way he pointed at something on the screen of the kiddie computer so forcefully he almost knocked it right off the desk. His insistence on walking in the six inch space between the bike rack and the wall instead of holding my hand.
A thousand little signals. And I ignored them all and took the kids to the coffee shop after the library. I gave them my standard string of warnings as we walked the twenty-five yards of sidewalk between the library and our favorite little place. They dutifully parroted them back to me. "OK, Mama, no fighting. If we fight, we will leave right away." What good boys.
What I should have told them is "Don't respond to my request to clean up the toys by taking off your shoe and throwing it." Or perhaps, more specifically, "Don't have a screaming floor tantrum which requires me to squat down to the floor (Carefully, so as to not wake up the sleeping baby strapped to my chest in the Snuggli) to pick you up then hook the hem of my skirt with your sneakers as I fling you up to my shoulder (NEXT TO THE NOW SCREAMING BABY IN THE SNUGGLI), pulling the whole thing up to my waist and showing off my undies to the other customers." Or maybe just, "get in the car, I think you're going to act like a psycho in forty-five minutes when it's time to go." Yes, that last one would have been best.
(I should note that Charlie was a hugely helpful little angel the whole time, really. He's been working so hard.)