Monday, March 28, 2011

The Price of Silence

My daughter and her friend from elementary school attend different middle schools, but they’ve sustained a close friendship in part, I think, due to our Monday homework club. Every Monday, Rachel rides the city bus to our house so that the two girls can spend 90 minutes complaining to each other about their school workload, wheedling me for sweets, and talking in voices low enough so I can’t hear even if I place a cup against the wall to listen, not that I would ever stoop to that. Loud giggling is their regular soundtrack.
And every Monday, without fail, I greet Rachel at the door with, “I am so sorry I look like this. I intended to shower today before you came, really I did.”
“Like this” means: black sweatpants spattered in mud, a shapeless grey sweatshirt with either Penn (my alma mater) or Wisconsin (husband’s) printed on the front, my hair puffy where it should be flat and flat where it should be puffy. The only trace of makeup on my face is some sparkly pink mango flavored lip gloss from a cupcake-shaped container that I excavated from the well of the car while waiting to pick the kids up from school.
Mondays are hard.
I’m not going to insult you by pretending that I bound out of bed Monday mornings and head to the shower to get ready for my day. I stay in bed until the last possible second that will still leave me time to read my beloved print newspaper from front to back before it’s time to wake up the kids. Besides, my husband actually leaves the house to go to work in an office, where other people are. He gets priority access to the bathroom.
So I pull on the black sweats and sweatshirt and make a mental note to walk the dog at 10, giving me plenty of time to shower before I have to pick the kids up at 3:00.
At 10, the dog is snoring contentedly so I figure I’ll just keep plowing away on my to-do list, answering emails, researching stories, calling sources. I can still fit in a shower if I leave by 11.
At noon I realize the dog is holding his legs together and groaning, so we head off for the hills for a hike. It’s been raining non-stop all winter, and Achilles’ default gait is “hurtle.” So as soon as we step off the street and onto the trail head, he zigs this way and zags that way through muddy glop until I have spots of mud all over my legs, on my glasses, and sometimes my hair. Inevitably we meet a dog named Sierra or Bailey or Lucy whose owner says, “Sorry! My dog jumps!” just as the pooch leaps up and lays two muddy paws on my midsection, right under the “P” and the first “N” or the “W” and “S.”

Coming through the front door I think, ok, do NOT go check email before you get in the shower, you’re never going to have time to…oh hey! That guy I wanted to quote in the feature I’m writing finally got back to me, better respond right away. And I meant to send a query letter to another publication and they’re on the East Coast, so I should probably get that taken care of before they leave for the day. The phone rings, and it’s my friend who is adopting a baby. A metallic buzz from the laundry room startles me; I have to get the ballet clothes into the wash if they’re going to be clean for the kids’ rehearsal this week.
It’s 2:49 and I still have mudprints on my midsection. I jump into the car and race to pick up my youngest child, remembering that I need to drop off copies of the yearbook order form for the teachers to jam into backpacks. I will have to walk through school looking like Dawn of the Dead, but it’s not like they haven’t seen that in the halls of suburban education before. Once that’s done, I have only enough time to pick up the other child and race home to await Rachel’s arrival for homework club, and ponder why once again, Monday has gotten away from me.

I make my apologies to Rachel in the front hall as she unhoists her giant backpack. I make a silent pledge that I'll at least get a shower in before Andrew gets home from work, maybe just as soon as I finish up the 15 work emails that came in while I was out driving carpool.(After 19 years together, is it naive to hope that the sight of me wearing his mud-stained college sweatshirt and what looks like a fright wig is still a turn-on?)
“It’s ok, Nancy,” she says, a wry smile on her freckled face. "Can I have a Jolly Rancher?"

I think this is why Homework Club has always worked so well; for the price of a piece of hard candy, Rachel always keeps her opinion to herself.


  1. The fact that my kids woke up to "we have to be at the orthodontist in an hour" didn't make Monday any easier for us this morning. Mondays are hard. Thanks - misery loves company!

  2. While I was lucky enough to be woken up to the most fabulous utterance from my husband--"Honey, I went ahead and made the kids' lunches"--giving me ten extra minutes of Monday morning sleep! Didn't matter. I still drove carpool for six kids to school this morning dressed in my black velour sweats with matching black rings under my eyes from yesterday's mascara. I once read that Kate Hudson would sometimes replicate that look in the morning even if she had taken her makeup off the night before because it looked sexy. Judging from the horrified looks on the carpool kids' faces, I don't rock the messy eye makeup look as well as Goldie's daughter. So. I ended up halfway through the trip putting on my fake large Christian Dior sunglasses I bought for $5 on Canal Street. Yah, these kids do not have the self-monitoring skills of Rachel. Maybe tomorrow I should bring jolly ranchers for the early morning carpool.

  3. If nothing else the candy would probably keep them quiet in the car. Maybe a Gobstopper for the really bad days...

  4. I think Rachel is wise beyond her takes some of us decades to learn that skill!


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