The day was looking good. Kids breakfasted and lunches bagged, they went off together to school. I had only one item on my calendar before the late afternoon’s rash of meets/games/matches, and yes, it appeared that a good writing day was ahead of me. An excellent writing day.
I love those. Writing is, after all, what I am (mostly) to be doing with my time now that I am not teaching all day. And the one item on my calendar was a pleasant one, too: lunch with Emily. I was looking forward to the delicious food and delightful company, which would serve simultaneously as a break from my productive focus.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe a little too good. Ah, the life of a writer. I’m still pinching myself. My arms are black and blue.
So when the phone ran mid-morning to notify me that I had an unanticipated errand (“Mom, it’s me, Emma”–I love how she still identifies herself to me on the phone, as if I wouldn’t know, as if I wouldn’t recognize her voice among others in a million phone calls–“I’m really sorry but I left my PE and volleyball stuff at home”), it was no problem.
“No problem,” I said, and already I knew what I would do, and I did it: ran immediately up to her room and secured her packed bag and put it in the car. The place where I was to meet Emily was already halfway to the school. I didn’t mind in the least just driving that little extra distance.
In truth, I hadn’t really gotten any writing done before lunch. The laundry assserted itself (ah, the stink of soccer socks), as did the breakfast dishes. But it was okay. I was all jaunty cheerfulness. I still had the whole afternoon. And lunch with Emily was just as I knew it would be, and then I made the errand to the school.
It took seconds to drop off the bag, seconds to chat with the secretary at the desk, the one whose son I taught six years ago and whose daughter I taught last year. We only talked for seconds, I’m sure of it.
And it could only have been a matter of minutes that I chatted with Rita and John, who sat together at a picnic table watching over their fourth-grade students at play in the woods and creekbed. I could have just gone straight to my car, but there those two sat together. John had taught both Everett and Emma, and Rita had been a source of sweet friendship over all my six years at the school. How could I not just stop by for a minute and ask them how their year has begun and tell them that I miss seeing them, miss being among those wonderful colleagues? And besides, it wasn’t so hot or so humid outside as it felt in the car, and there was a little breeze, and it was so good to see them. But I only stayed a few minutes.
I couldn’t have been thirty seconds off school property when my cell phone rang. “Mom, it’s me, Emma,” who went on to educate me in the insufficienies of her gym bag which, while packed with volleyball and PE stuff, hadn’t quite been packed All The Way, which mattered. It mattered that she didn’t have gym shoes, for instance, or a shirt to wear.
What’s a mom to do?
I know, I know. Make her suffer. Make her sit out her PE class, and also her volleyball practice, and simultaneously make her learn her lesson.
“I’m so sorry, Mom. I’m so sorry.” She had said that. She said it several times, and even if she hadn’t, there’s a grace period, isn’t there? There’s the first few weeks of school wherein we relearn some things (like practice your instrument before dinner, and pack your bookbag before bed, and make sure you have everything you might possibly need today Before We Leave the House). And this is her first time at having to change for PE, and her first after-school sport. There is a grace period.
Which meant that I didn’t fuss at her on the phone. And I went home and then back to school– easily 25 minutes. And chatted just a few seconds– just a very few– with another secretary while I was there for that second drop-off, a secretary whose son I taught this past year. I wasn’t at the school for any time at all.
But by the time I got home, I had an hour before I had to leave again, this time for the meet/game/match events, the ones that would have me gone for Hours.
And that’s how a day goes, folks, right? We only get 24 hours. And we sleep, if we’re lucky, for a good number of them.
I didn’t get any writing done at all yesterday.
But I did make it to the meet/game/match, and I did (as ever) delight in watching my children (are they still children?) and my former students put their all into their work and joy, and I did take a few pictures.
When we got home at 7:30, I had a dinner plan. The kids started their homework, the meal would be ready soon. We would eat together and they would finish that homework, and they would be in bed in good time. And then I would steal an hour–just an hour– to get some writing done.
“Uh, Mom?” It was Everett, standing in the living room, idle.
It had been his first cross country meet, and the run had asked a lot of him. He had done very well and should be proud (I am), but the last leg of the course had seen him running full throttle, and afterward he was sucking air. It took him awhile to recover, and then we were off to the soccer game. So he couldn’t be blamed, could he, for leaving his backpack under that tree there, the one just beyond the tennis courts on the fields behind Durham Academy?
And so Everett and I got back in the car and drove to Durham Academy, which is almost just as far as driving to the school.
Fourth trip in a day.
Everett apologized several times, of course. The backpack wasn’t there, of course. The custodial staff didn’t know its whereabouts; neither could they point us to the lost-and-found, which likely would have been locked up anyway.
But the evening was pleasant enough. The air had cooled. It was nice to be just the two of us, walking over the damp grass where, only a few hours before, Everett and so many others had run their hearts out. A year ago, after a day of teaching, I would have been too tired for this. I would have been too tired for the meet/game/match. I would have had to send Bill on this unresolved errand.
We drove home, making a plan to leave early tomorrow and make a stop at Durham Academy. We drove home, and I reassured Everett that his teachers would understand, and that it wouldn’t kill him to take a few zeros for homework. We drove home, and Everett suggested we call his coach, who kindly told us that he had the backpack and that he had tried to let us know in all manner of ways– but we had been busy with the game/meet events, and so had missed his messages.
We drove home, and we admired the sunset, which was the kind with lots of clouds and the sunlight breaking over the edges, liquid gold in places where we shouldn’t expect to find it.