Wednesday, December 06, 2006

there's always manana

We all overslept this morning. I forgot to warm up the car before we left the house and we were running so behind that I didn't have time to let the windshield defrost properly. I scraped the ice off the front and back windows the best I could, then ran the wiper fluid over and over so I could drive and keep clearing a view for myself at the same time. (I know it's a stupid thing to do. I did it anyway. Hey, I was late.)

Then when I got back I could hear the phone ringing inside as I turned the key in the lock to the front door. I struggled with the catch (it has a tendency to stick) and hurried into the room to answer it.

"Hello." There's always a pause when I say hello into my phone, making me think I either spoke too softly or the person on the other end wasn't expecting me to reply. I repeat myself, as usual (I'm always saying hello, twice).


"What's the matter?" my mother's voice is rapidly attentive.
"I just... walked in... the door."
"I'm going to tell you something. You shouldn't be running around like that. You sound like you can't breathe."
"I'm okay." I'm shrugging off my coat, looking around making a mental inventory of the place. The Christmas tree is still standing; the dog didn't eat it while I was gone. Good.

"And here's another thing. When you wake up in the morning, don't jump out of bed like you do. Sit there and dangle your feet first. What's your hurry? You always rush around. The kids can wait! We had a next door neighbor when we lived in Freeport. Dorothy. You wouldn't remember -- you're too young. She jumped out of bed to turn off the alarm clock and died instantly of a heart attack. To turn off an alarm clock! You don't want to be like Dorothy."

I've heard this before.

"No, I don't. You're right, I know you're right."

What is my hurry? I don't really have one.

"Oh, you say that. But will you listen? You push yourself too hard. You do too much."

I'm laughing at that, quietly, to myself.
I don't do enough.

Yesterday was Picture Day for the youngest! Did I remember? No, I thought it was today. So I got him to the school -- and that's never an easy task -- and realized I'm, alas! the only parent unprepared for this occasion. I also forgot the kid's lunch. (The lunchbox was still sitting on the hutch, where I'd packed and left it, when I went back to the house to replace the slightly oversized, careworn San Francisco 49ers sweatshirt for a spotless white hooded sweatshirt, instead.)

And then when I took the lunchbox and the new shirt back to the preschool, I turned around and realized the sash to my overcoat was dragging behind me in the dirt. I looked like a schlepper.

Okay! I admit it. I seem to be having a hard time. Or, more to the point, everyone else seems to be doing this much more easily than I am.

(Last night: the teenager is telling me enthusiastically how his teacher claims Scrooge from Dickens' Christmas Carol is the most dynamic character in English literature.
I scowl: "Then your teacher needs to read more books."

"What's wrong with Dickens?" He's indignant.
"Wait till you get Great Expectations with old Pip and Miss Haversham and then we'll have this conversation again about how great Dickens is."

You'd think no one ever insulted Dickens before. The family rose up as one and accused me of having a psychotic episode. Hey, I had to read Great Expectations in the ninth grade. I thought it was creepy. That old woman going around in her selfsame wedding dress. I ask this: after all those years, how did she still get it to fit? My wedding dress would only fit on a garden rake.)

But never mind that. I digress.

I just can't seem to keep up.

I feel like the guy in the old Bob Hope joke: his roof is leaking, but he can't fix the roof when it's raining because it's raining out. And when it's sunny he doesn't need to fix the roof anymore, because it's not raining. There's always manana.

That's me.