Brandon is, sadly, back to working full-time at the embassy. He has been since the spring, but we're still in mourning that he has to go to work and leave us all day every day. Occasionally, however, he will still work from home if can swing it.
Last Thursday he participated on a conference on religious freedom in Uzbekistan. Before covid times, these conferences were held in person, but now everyone has discovered the joy of virtual conferences and attendees can enjoy attending from the comfort of their home or office. It saves travel time, and the organizers don't have to worry about providing snacks and drinks for breaks.
Before I went downstairs to do school with the children, Brandon let me know when his slot for speaking would be. He had spent a reasonable amount of time working on a speech that he was giving on behalf of the U.S. government and he didn't really want it to be punctuated by screams, shrieks, cries, pounding, slamming, or any other other random noises that happen on a regular basis at our house. It's pretty impressive how well microphones can pick up the exact noises that you'd rather not have shared with everyone.
As the time approached, I let all of the children know that Dad would be giving a speech, and everyone should be very careful to keep quiet. William started shrieking just before the appointed time, but I was able to chase him down and force silence on him just in time. We all tiptoed carefully around the house, speaking in whispers and most especially staying out of the upstairs where Brandon was working. As I helped Eleanor work on her grammar lesson, I heard Brandon speaking loudly and clearly and felt like a Good Wife for keeping everyone quiet for this important moment.
Soon enough, Brandon grew quiet and we returned back to our normal school noisiness. A little while later, I checked in with Brandon to see how the speech had gone.
"It went well," he told me, "but right before I had to speak, I heard Elizabeth coming up the stairs, babbling to herself. Right as she came up to me, the moderator announced that I would be speaking, and I had to turn on my camera. I couldn't do anything about her being there. Everyone was waiting for me and I couldn't suddenly rush off camera so that I could carry Elizabeth downstairs and give her to someone. I just had to start my speech. There wasn't anything I could do.
If she had come up five minutes earlier, I could have taken her downstairs to you. If she had come ten minutes later, I would have been done. But instead she had come at the exact wrong moment in my entire workday. I had visions of that BBC guy with the little kid in the background flashing through my head and I couldn't believe that the exact same thing was happening to me.
Luckily, she came from the side and she's short so everything happened where the nobody could see what was going on. So I clapped my hand on her head to keep her from trying to climb on my lap and just started my speech. I was afraid that she was going to cry or complain about being kept still, but I think she was just surprised at my my reaction and also how loudly I was talking. She might have been able to tell that something important was going on and kept quiet, but I'm just grateful nobody but me could tell that she was there the entire time. Maybe she just knew I needed a live audience."
As I listened to him, I couldn't decide whether to die of mortification or die laughing. I had been so careful about making sure everyone kept very quiet, but didn't even think to wonder where Elizabeth was during that all-important ten minutes. I literally had one job to do, and only had to do it for ten minutes, and I wasn't able to get it done properly.
But when I thought of Elizabeth standing next to Brandon, held immobile by his hand firmly held on her little blonde head, I couldn't help but laugh. What a perfect encapsulation of life as a father of seven children - giving a speech to numerous government officials and members of various organizations while desperately trying to keep your almost two year old daughter from making an unannounced appearance in the meeting.
In the end, everything turned out okay, and nobody was the wiser except the three of us. And now the entire internet. But I know that the next time Brandon has to give a speech while we're all at home, I'll be very sure to make sure that Elizabeth is kept as far as physically possible from Brandon.