My 10-year-old son threw the ball fast at my head and yelled, “Line drive!” I wasn’t ready. I’d been gazing up to the gigantic nest in our Pine Tree wondering what was inside. I looked back in time to instinctively shield my face from the ball, while I turned my body to the side, and winced in anticipation. The ball hit hard against my glove and fell to my feet. “You dropped the ball,” he yelled from across the yard. I know. I know. I shook my head and rolled my eyes up to the sky. It was the third time I’d dropped the ball that week.
The first time was Tuesday, when I wrote a scathing email to the Home Owner’s Association concerning my subdivision’s lawn policy, only to find out that I had misread the policy, and that my yard was not at risk of having the Health Department called.
“Still,” I scoffed later to my rather presumptuous husband. “I intend to keep the HOA, and their wacked-out policies, in check.”
“Sure,” he acknowledged. “After all, someone needs to weed out the crazies.”
I ignored the condescension and placed a half-burnt chicken breast in front of him.
On Wednesday I had an appointment with the dentist. I’d made the appointment six months prior, assuming I would cancel last minute with some lame excuse. In between deciding which excuse to go with, “My (insert relative) is having a surgery,” or “PTO responsibilities have tied me up,” I began to worry that some expensive, probably deadly, gum disease was raging war inside my mouth. The worrying, as is my nature, lasted up until that morning, when I called the office to tell them that I was planning on coming in for my appointment, but then last minute I found out that my mother was going in for knee surgery at that very moment, and I had to be there with her. When the front desk woman reminded me that my mother lives 1,500 miles away, I tacked on the word spiritually. Spiritually I had to be with my mother. And she concurred. Going as far as suggesting I come in for my appointment as a way to take my mind off my mother’s apparent surgery. It turns out that I did not have gum disease. At least I don’t think I did. I don’t really know. They gassed me for the entire appointment.
Then there was Thursday. Spring Picture Day. My son told me the week before that it was a “dress down” day, meaning he needn’t wear his school uniform for the picture. He gave me this information so that he could absolve himself the burden of remembering that important point. He’s sly like that. Like his father. And he’s a little lazy too. That part he gets from me.
The school, to do their part, sent out a reminder text, and they stuck a bright, round sticker on my son’s stained uniform polo on Monday afternoon. “Remember Picture Day!” it said. I rolled my eyes. How could I forget?
After bedtime on Wednesday it occurred to me, over a half pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and a sad Netflix documentary, that the next day was picture day. I needed to ensure my son had a clean shirt for his picture. It’s was usually a fight to keep five uniform shirts clean, and occasionally we had to rummage through the hamper in the morning, arguing over who is responsible for getting his clothes to the laundry room, as we frantically smell arm pits in all his shirts and try to rub out crayon stains. But it was Spring picture day. He needed a nice, freshly-laundered shirt. I was so proud of myself that I remembered, that I immediately stepped into action. I tip-toed into my son’s room, quietly overturned the hamper and, by the light of the nearest bathroom, I rifled through its contents for the perfect, stain-free polo. My eyes sparkled when I found that stain-free Robin’s Egg Blue polo. I held it close to my chest for a moment, taking in its sweaty, salty odor, then I shuffled my socked feet to the washing machine.
The next morning went like normal. Snooze. Creaky knees. Electric toothbrushes whizzing. Breakfast. Book bag. Car. I whistled on the drive to school. My son smiled from the backseat, his nicely combed hair with its wild cowlick he is always trying to keep down shimmering in the morning light, while he smoothed his hand against his clean, fresh school polo. It wasn’t until we pulled into the carline and I saw a sweet, little kindergarten bobbing alongside her mother in a pink, frilly dress that my mouth went agape.
“Mommmmmmy,” my son whined from the backseat. “It’s dress-down day!” Right. What to do? What to do? “I’ll bring you up a suit and your favorite tie,” I said, trying to calculate how long it would take me to make the turnaround. My son is a snazzy dresser. Always has been. He doesn’t get that from either one of us. He likes polos, and ties, and the occasional three-piece-suit. He knows how to combine colors. He understands, instinctively I suppose, that you don’t wear socks with sandals and that your belt needs to match your shoes, especially if your shirt is nicely tucked in. And your shirt should be tucked in. He often goes as far as to question my husband and me about what we wear. “Are you going out in that?” he will occasionally ask me, when I am in “pants” that I bought in the pajama section of Old Navy and a sleeveless shirt that is either two sizes too small or two sizes too big for me. “I’m just going to Target,” I will counter, and he will role his eyes with a sort of disgrace that, if I am being honest, I thought would come much later in his life.
So there we are, in the car, frantically looking at one another. The line is shifting up and my son and I are eyeing the pastel dresses and short sleeve button ups with sharks, and baseball bats, and cacti on them. “Mommy, hurry,” that is all he says before he exits the car, hyper aware that he is in his school uniform.
I race home. I speed, at times scaring myself and considering the number of one-hand movements I am receiving, probably other drivers too. I get home. I run into my son’s room and flip open his closet. I fumble in the dark for the light switch. Where is the damn light switch? I decide I don’t need the light. What is he wearing? Is it khaki? Yeah, he’s in khaki pants. I choose a solid, white button-up. I run over to his dresser and slide open the top drawer. My anxious poodle, the one who has been hopping on his hind legs at my apparent exercise, is humping me as I am hunched over my son’s dresser looking for a tie that says, “hip” but also “Spring” but also “fun”. I push my poodle down and hold a plaid pastel number in my hands. Yes, I think to myself. You did it, girl! Mom power! I race back to car, out the driveway, blow past a stop sign or two, and screech into the school parking lot a mere 20 minutes after leaving. I park in the “No Parking” fire zone and run to the front door. I look inside to make eye contact with the secretary. Does she see me? Do you see me? She isn’t at her desk. I ring the doorbell. I make eye contact with a kid sitting outside the nurse’s office. I motion to the locked door, and hold up the clothes frantically, but trying to smile as to not scare the kid. I wave the shirt and tie around like this second grader is supposed to know what I am doing. The kid doesn’t budge. I ring the bell again. I smile broadly and wave a little to him. He shakes his head no. He won’t be opening the door for this crazy lady. The secretary walks out to her desk, spies me, and remotely unlocks the door. I go inside and explain my morning while she smiles and calls for my son to come to the office. I eye the second grader and smile a “told you so” smile. I silently hope he has head lice.
My son comes through the office door relieved to see me. He tells me he was the only one in his class in his uniform. I apologize and say I will do better next time, even though I know the chances of me doing better next time are slim. He knows too, but smiles and hugs me just the same. And right before he races to go change his shirt he stops, turns around and looks at me. My heart fills my eyes with water. I think, we did it, Dude. “Mommy,” he says. “Yeah,” I ask eagerly, anticipating an “I love you” in front of the office staff. “You forgot my belt,” he says, before he walks back through the blue swinging doors.