Yesterday I was reminded why life is so hard – not because Damon is out of work, or I’m being sued; my child does not have cancer nor do I bear a handicap that impedes my every action, day after day after day…no, no, no! It’s because of the little stuff. These damn minor irritations, that build and build and swarm around my head like bees. Now I’ll be the first to admit that one, two, even three bees is not that big of a deal – just swat at them and keep moving, right? But get up in the double digits with bees, and suddenly it’s a full-blown panic. I’m frozen in place and professional help might be required.
Yesterday was one of those days…I woke up at 2:30am from a bad dream. Actually, a terrible dream. I won’t go into details, let’s just say it involved tragedy and kids, death and violence. So I awoke, thankfully, and crept downstairs to check on said kids now sleeping on the living room sofas…a status in effect because the night before one of them had had an accident in their bed (the top bunk -ugh!) and I still had work to do to make it sleepable again, so down on the couch they were. And as I bent to tuck the blankets around them and smooth their hair it became fairly obvious that this same child had had another accident, but now on my sofa! (And, might I add, this is not a child who normally has ‘accidents’…so, what the heck?)
I gasped and turned on lights, and my poor girl was startled awake. I made her get up and undress and redress and visit the bathroom and I led her along because she was half-asleep, wet and cold and stinky, and it was all unpleasant and irritating and that was before the other girl woke and sat up to find out what was going on, promptly spilling a spaghetti sauce jar full of water all over her lap, and I had to perform the whole routine again. Finally I had them both back on temporary beds, with fresh blankets, yet a mountain of work awaited me. I unzipped couch cushions, brought soiled linens upstairs and cleaning agents down, scrubbed and squirted, then finally moved cushions here, there, and everywhere to ‘air out’ all while the Professor meowed at my legs and begged for food and generally complained non-stop in the urine-soaked darkness. I meowed right back, and wondered why humans don’t have a ‘general discontent’ sound that emanates from us when conditions deteriorate?
I returned to bed some time after 3am feeling wide-awake and ‘dayish’. I couldn’t sleep at all. I instagrammed, facebooked, scanned the news (SO much irritation!), and finally just lay there in the dark, trying to name places I’d toured that started with each letter of the alphabet. (Turns out I can’t even remember where I’ve been!)
At 6:30 am I was again upright, shuffling kids around. Holland, Lochlan, and the neighbor girl Abby arrived. (Did that sentence give you pause? Three other kids arrived at 7am!) Now nine people navigated our tiny, upturned living room, wandering among the naked couch cushions like aliens warily traversing a new land.
The chaos of these young people readying themselves for school was remarkable. Our little abode shook with noise and mayhem, until at long last the school hour arrived and the sun came out. Ta Da! Miracle of Miracles! I shut the door on the lot with utter relief. Then I stood like a lone, bath-robed survivor amidst the morning’s wreckage, despondently sipping my coffee, while Lochlan crawled beneath the couch cushions like an unperturbed little cave man. Slowly my ‘will to live’ needle crept back towards ‘functioning’. Eventually I dressed, played ball, washed dishes, readjusted couch cushions, and sorted laundry ad infinitum. At lunch time Damon returned from work and we both agreed to go out and about for a bit.
We ate at a little cafe, then wandered down to Green Lake. Lochlan tottered ahead of us, throwing his tennis ball with great gusto and screaming “BALL!” at the top of his lungs. He charged after that thing like a frisky puppy, loping forward on his tiny, bowed legs, while D. and I followed behind, chuckling. When Lochlan lost his focus on the ball and instead stopped to stare at a gaggle of pretty girls, I thought, “This might turn into a pleasant Friday after all!”
Then the sirens began. Many, many sirens. Helicopters appeared in the sky overhead, circling ominously. Damon seemed disconcerted and said we should head home, something was going on… We walked back to the car while silently I fretted. I had school kids traveling home from four various schools just then…please! The sunny day now felt like a facade.
At home we waited anxiously for news. The phone rang and we leapt to answer it, thinking it was from one of the schools. Instead it was an automated call from a medical company, telling us to immediately call back to a particular number to clear an outstanding debt. Damon did just that – he called back to the exact number specified – and after speaking to a real-live human who had no idea why Damon was calling, finally figured out that we owed them some money. Damon offered to pay the bill over the phone. After lengthy technicalities – locating a case number, which we did not have, etc…Damon was informed that our outstanding debt so critical to rectifying was $2.15. Seriously!
Shortly after 3pm we learned there was a shooting near Green Lake and that the police were still searching for the suspect. This meant some of the local schools were on ‘lock down’, or in my children’s case, they were currently ‘sheltering in place’. Damon walked down to the elementary school so the girls could be released, while I stayed back with Lochlan and Annalise, wondering when this country will admit that owning a gun should be AT LEAST as hard as owning a car, for pity sake! Shouldn’t there be a mandatory gun insurance fee if you want to carry a gun, just as people who want to drive a car must pay a monthly car insurance payment? At least then every person’s next of kin might receive some financial compensation after their senseless demise!
Just then the mail arrived, and within the junk and bills was a note from Eli’s school informing me that because of his two unexcused absences this school year, months apart from each other, we would now have to attend a mandatory meeting wherein school officials would ‘discuss attendance concerns’ with us. Attendance concerns? Give me a break! This particular kid missed exactly two days of school this year. Shouldn’t that get him an award? He’d never even been tardy, and he’s a sixteen-year old boy! That the schools would spend money and resources to send out this type of letter, after two absences, seemed ridiculous. My ‘irritation’ meter skyrocketed upwards. I went to the phone and called the man/woman/elf named ‘Tipton Blish’ who’d signed the letter. She was curt and seemed irritated by me, because I was so unapologetic. She said, “Mrs. Kirk, you have to call when Elijah is absent. That is the rule!” Which prompted me to say something to the effect of…”well, pardon me and my unruliness, but I didn’t call, so can I clear the absences now?” At this Ms. Blish morphed into a rational person and said sweetly, “Sure, no problem, Mrs. Kirk…I’ll do that right now. Thanks for your call.”
Honestly, I hung up the phone more irritated than ever. She didn’t know if I was truly the parent of Elijah, for one, (I could have been one of his friends, after all) and I could have made up any old thing for why he was gone on those two days…which I didn’t, but I could have, so why even bother to have to call in? Why not just EXCUSE the kids from being absent when they are absent, until a CLEAR PATTERN is noted…say – four days not in school…that seems like then maybe your ‘ding, ding, ding, something might be wrong’ bell would make sense for going off. Two absences all year….uff da! I still say they should have been mailing him (and me) an award!
Justly, I decided to award myself, with a container of Ben & Jerry’s ‘Cheesecake Brownie’ ice cream. I sat in the kitchen cross-legged, like a fat, old Buddha, and ate the whole carton. Kids wandered in and out the kitchen door, but I gave them not a lick, not a spoonful. Instead I hurled lollipops at them like darts, which sent them running down the hall with squeals of delight, while I sat peacefully, gobbling up brownie bites wrapped in cheesecake ribbons.
At 5:00 pm Damon left to shuttle Jacob from school to work; Eli left for his school play; Lochlan left for the night; and the three younger girls begged to leave for the school talent show. Again, my irritation meter rose. This annual, three-hour affair (I kid you not!) was not something I wanted to sit through again (my own kid was in the talent show last year and I still felt that way). Lorraine agreed to drop them off (because of the shooter on the loose, remember?), and I agreed, reluctantly, to let them take my cell phone so we could come pick them up when it was over (last year it went long….yes, truly!).
By now I mostly wanted to lie on the sofa in silence. Eventually Damon marched in the door with a bag of piping hot Chinese food, and as he dished me up a plate we agreed to try a new Netflix drama called ‘House of Cards’. I tucked into my still steaming noodles. They tasted (and smelled) exactly like cigarette smoke. It was disgusting. The Mongolian beef was chewy and cheap. My whole dinner seemed inedible, and I complained bitterly to poor Damon, who had just jetted all over town securing the stuff.
So I leaned back, tried to ignore the metaphorically buzzing bees swarming in front of my eyes, and attempted to watch ‘House of Cards’. Within ten minutes I was livid. Not irritated, not annoyed – livid. Because every single lady was prettier than the next, and every man was ugly, creepy, and hard to watch.
The double-standard was agonizing. I realize most shows are this way – men don’t need to be attractive to be on-screen, while women most certainly do…but the sheer audacity of waving the ugliness of these men in my face again and again, all while the women paraded through each scene in less and less clothing….well, it riled me. And then, not fifteen minutes into the first episode, it went from bad to very, very bad, when Robin Wright’s character uncrossed her bare legs and rose from the sofa to declare to the immovable Kevin Spacey, “My husband should never apologize to anyone…even to me.” And with that she sashayed up the stairs to the bedroom to, I assume, get even more undressed.
Well, I just about flew off the sofa. “Are you kidding me with this?” I screamed to Damon, who until that moment was still happily munching his nicotine noodles. “What woman would say that? No woman, that’s who. No woman, ever! Not unless she was under duress, anyway.” Damon held his fork mid-air and nodded sympathetically. He knew not to argue.
“The least they could do is hire a woman to write the woman’s dialogue, don’t you think?” I yelled. “What 27-year-old guy wrote that crappy line?” Damon picked up the remote and mournfully returned to the Netflix menu. “Some 27-year-old who’s never been married, I can tell you that!” I felt like a Sugarbaker, decrying the injustice of the world right there in my living room.
Calmly, Damon told me to blow out ten candles. “Close your eyes and say ‘Serenity Now!’ like Costanza does,” he implored. Gently he covered me in a urine-free blanket and told me to lie back and relax. He’d fix this. Things would improve. They would!
The opening credits of “Call the Midwife’ began to play. Set in the 1950’s in England, this show detailed the pain and despair impoverished women went through to bear children and subsequently raise them. It was interesting, but not improving my mood much, what with all the screaming and sweating and laboring. Until about the third scene, when one old nun turned to the brand-new, fresh-faced midwife and declared, out-of-nowhere, “I feel we are prompted to go in search of cake…”
I sat up and smiled. The next scene was just the two of them, eating cake. It was so awesome I cheered out loud and said to Damon, “Did you hear that? Did you? Pause it so I can write it down, ok? Now that’s a line actually written by a woman!”
“I feel we are prompted to go in search of cake…”
It’s like the opening of a love story! In that one sentence, uttered amid the agonies of birthing, you have the essence of life itself; a woman’s tale told in one fell swoop!
I sat back and sighed. Suddenly this Friday seemed no different from any other Friday I’d lived through before, and all the Friday’s still to come – lots of bees, a bit of brownie, and more than enough buddha-bites to chew on.