I work now from 9 p.m. until midnight, so by the time I get to sleep, it’s close to 12:30 a.m. (What job? you say. I’m employed by a website as a community manager: think of me as a security guard in pajamas. For almost a month now, I’ve been working four nights a week.)
This may explain my fatigue-induced delirium. When the alarm shrilled this morning, I snapped it off, stood up, circled my room in confusion and went back to bed. For two minutes. Because everyone knows those two extra minutes of sleep mean all the difference between perkiness and sluggishness. Also, those two extra minutes give me enough time to lie to myself, to make fake promises about napping later, about going straight back to bed the second I return home from my walk.
Like talking with a mental patient, I nod and purport to believe myself and so, I pull on my exercise clothes, fish around for a pair of socks that won’t slip down my heel while I walk and sneak quietly out of the house so no one wakes before I go.
September mornings would win a beauty contest if such a contest were held for months. The air is clear, chilly but not cold, while the opaque sky waits for the morning sun to paint it blue. The waters of the Puget Sound look like glossy marble, barely mottled with movement. After I open the door and gulp in the morning air, I congratulate myself for my wise decision. I meet my walking partner at the door of her house and off we go.
Walk and chat, walk and yawn, walk and say good morning to those we pass along the streets. We walk for an hour, finishing our route by striding up a few hills, breathing heavily, feeling our forty-two year old muscles contract with the effort. By the last straightaway, my hair forms a frizzy halo around my naked face which I can only hope distracts from my puffy eyes. My friend always looks glowing with her straightened hair flowing around her shoulders like a runway model. At least I can out-walk her up the hills, small consolation though it may be.
By the time I pull into my own driveway, I remember that I promised to watch the neighbor boy each morning for two weeks. There will be no napping, now or later. At 12:35 p.m., I’ll have to take him to kindergarten. I remember my afternoon obligation to babysit the one-year old baby for two more weeks. I remember that I need to wash my 9-year old’s football pants before football practice. But first, I need to make him lunch and sign his planner. (Question: Do I tell his teacher that I kept him home from school yesterday to take him and his sister to the fair? Answer: Yes. May as well.)
The kindergartener arrives. I wake up my teenage twins and demonstrate the technique for trimming the fence full of ivy. (They have the rest of the week to work on this big yard project.) I decide to vacuum and one thing leads to another and by the time the boys have come inside to make lunch (and complain, “there’s nothing for lunch!”), I have fallen into the abyss that is their room and I am possessed by the devil of annoyance and I can’t stop myself from launching one sarcastic remark after the next: “Thanks, boys, I really appreciate your leaving your dirty socks everywhere,” and “Oh, this is great! I always wanted to sweep up a ton of disgusting old popcorn off the floor!” and then my fake sweet tone shifts and I shriek, “SHANE! COME HERE!”
He wanders into the room holding a pan of noodles. I point to a coat hanger that’s been bent into a circle. I say, “DID YOU DO THAT?!” and he says, “Yeah.” Last night, he was sitting on the couch in his room, holding a coat hanger and I said in a clear and direct voice, “Do not destroy that coat hanger.” I know my son. He cannot resist the easy allure of destroying something that is destructible.
Yet, here was the evidence, a destroyed white coat hanger on the floor. First of all, hello, disobedience of my direct command . . . and second, why do my boys think that the floor is their personal trash can? I order him to pick it up and take it to the outside trash and he leaves the room with his pan of noodles . . . and does not return until I yell again.
By the time I vacuum in their room, the boys are hostile and defensive because I’m so frustrated and annoyed with their lack of hygiene and tidiness. Their attitudes need a major adjustment and I suppose mine does, too, but I am justified and they are not. They will not see this for another fifteen years, I approximate. All they see is their mother freaking out because they left an empty juice box under their desk and broken pencils (who is breaking the pencils around here?) scattered among the dirty socks on the floor. This bewilders them. Adam puffed up his shoulders and says, “Mom, you have gone too far now!” and I can’t help myself. I laugh at his anger because he looks exactly the same as he did when he was four years old. He is now 5’10” tall, though, and finds my laughter deeply offensive.
I feed the little kids lunch and take the kindergartener to school. I start to read the newspaper, but the baby arrives before I get through much of it. (I squandered my time between kids checking email.) I settle into the recliner to feed the baby his bottle and the phone rings, which sets off another phenomenon I don’t get. Why does the phone ring the second I’m indisposed? And why don’t the kids hear me shouting, “GET THE PHONE! GET THE PHONE!”? At any other time, they race me for it.
The day slips away and yet I have no idea how to transform the pound of ground turkey in the fridge into some kind of delicious dinner. I’d settle for an edible dinner, truth by told, but alas, no ideas. (Well, maybe . . . soft tacos? Which the kids will sneer at . . . or turkey burgers . . . but I have no buns . . . meatloaf? Takes too long to bake.) My 9-year old goes to football practice with his dad at 5:30 p.m., so dinner must be cooked and served before he leaves.
At least I washed and dried his football pants.