Wednesday marked Cady Gray's class field trip to the apple orchard. It would be too easy to blame Noel's negative vibes for what happened next; he's been on this particular field trip three or four times already, and he's pretty sick of it. He spent the previous week talking about how he was dreading the morning lost to productive work.
After a long wait for their turn and a rather mournful game of duck-duck-goose (in which Cady Gray never got picked), the class went on a hayride (which Cady Gray adored). Then just at the end of apple-picking time, Noel was trying to get the attention of her teacher so that she could snap a picture of Cady Gray picking an apple for the class photoessay about the field trip. That's when he heard Cady Gray say "Dad, my leg itches," followed by her bursting into tears. She was standing right in a nest of fire ants and they were swarming all over her ankles and legs.
Some timely intervention from other parents, including an emergency-room physician, saved the day, but Noel felt terrible about his lapse of attentiveness. He apologized to Cady Gray as they were driving home and asked her to forgive him. "I forgive you," she said.
"Do you think Mom will forgive me?" Noel asked. "I think so,"* said Cady Gray.
And that's when Noel made his second mistake. He joked, "I hope so, because otherwise I'd have to move out of our house."
For the rest of the ride, Cady Gray was very still and quiet. Occasionally she piped up uncertainly: "Dad, I think Mom will forgive you."
* I did forgive him.