The Children Act by Ian McEwan

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She rested her hand, briefly, on his narrow, cold wrist, then, not wanting to hear another protest or plea from him, she went toward the door without looking back, and ignored the question he called weakly after her.

The restaurant in which we landed was far above our pay grade and the waitress swallowed visibly as we tumbled in, all five of us, hot and dusty and in need of ice cream.

But it was early, barely five, and they were barely open. They rallied. They pushed tables together and arranged chairs. We helped, or tried to. “Only ice cream?” the waitress asked. “No, everything,” we answered. “Dinner. But ice cream first.”

The only options were vanilla or mango sorbet, but my boys do not have discerning palettes when it comes to frozen sugar. Vanilla sorbet was a perfectly adequate choice.

Me? I ordered wine instead. The waitress mentioned shyly, “I’ve got three boys, too” as she poured me a knowing glass.

T ordered a starter like he was born to it, and his brothers rallied to follow suit, using their most sophisticated voices to ask for noodles and chicken fingers. M found a steak. I found the fish. For a town whose claim to fame is avoiding the advent of the freeway until 1984, they boast of a pretty wonderful restaurant.

The sorbet, the steak, the noodles, the swordfish–it was exactly what we needed after a day of looking into a deep and terrifying (for me) hole. The Grand Canyon isn’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t for parents who can see only their children plummeting headfirst down a sharp incline. My glass of wine turned into two, without me needing to ask. Ah, yes, a fellow mom of three boys–she knows.

Of course, it was beautiful, majestic, awesome in the truest sense of the word, and someday I’d like to return without the responsibility of three young lives and really enjoy it. I’m glad to have shown it to them. Even if they were mostly interested in the gift shops and tossing rocks into that giant gap, I like to think that they’ll remember this when they are older. That sometimes when they are teetering on a precipice, real or symbolic, they’ll remember my hand dragging them away from the frightful edge. And then taking them for sorbet in a fancy restaurant.

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