by Susan Sims Moody
So, I'm in my car, driving to day care from work, which is only 10 miles out of the way on my route home, and I’m thinking about the phone call that ripped me from my desk job 4 hours before the work day was over. It went something like this.
“Uhhh, Mrs. Moody? This is school calling.”
I think, Yes, I recognize the number from the speed dial on my cell phone. I repress the urge to ask who is sick, for fear that my prophecy will be self-fulfilling. Perhaps I just wrote out the weekly tuition check for half my pay incorrectly this morning. Perhaps it’s just something trivial. So, I simply say, “Yes?”
“Uhhh, Sister woke up from nap with a temperature of 100.5, and the state says we have to exclude them from childcare services if it’s over 100.4.”
Now, forget the fact that it’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Forget the fact that napping underneath a blanket might have elevated her temperature. Forget that, I tell myself. This is a good school: a school that does not ration toilet paper with 2 year olds. It’s a school that does not crack my four-year old over the knuckles with a ruler for writing with her left hand. It’s a school that serves things for lunch OTHER than chicken nuggets and fish sticks. I mean, this is a darn-good school.
“One hundred?” I say.
“Well, 100.5. And she’s acting sort of grouchy, which is unusual for her. I think she might be coming down with something.”
Ah, grouchy, I say to myself. That’s the clincher. What else would cause someone to take a child’s temperature right after nap in near-100-degree weather unless the child were grouchy?
“Ok, I’ll be there in 32 minutes,” I say. You see, I’ve got it perfectly timed. It takes exactly 32 minutes to send the instant message to my boss in D.C., slam down the lid to my laptop before he has time to respond, throw the 10 pounds of papers I’m working with into my briefcase and drop my PDA, cell phone, pager and other cell phone with the better coverage into my purse, find my keys, locate my access badge to the gate that guards the parking lot on the outer circle of Hell, and drive the 14 miles to the day school.
I admit it. I am miffed. It’s not that I want my child to be sick at school. To tell the truth, I’d rather be at home all the time with my kids, but there are bills to be paid, and miles to go before I sleep.
The thing is, it is mentally, physically, and socially impossible to care for a psuedo-sick child and work at the same time.
Now, if she were sick, then work would not even remotely cross my mind. But this is the child who miraculously heals on the ride home, the one that even the most neurotic of mothers would not carry to the doctor for a $25 co-pay, that is impossible to make happy while trying to answer e-mails on a Blackberry keyboard the size of a credit card. Not to be crass, but I pay people to deal with grouchy, if it falls between the hours of eight and five.
But I digress. I was miffed. I’d had a meeting to go to with a client, and I’d actually dressed for the occasion, all the way down to an over-the-top scarf-ribbon thingy in my professionally pulled-back hair. My co-workers were amazed that I’d looked so, well, groomed, insomuch as to ask if I had an interview or a funeral to attend. But instead I’ve arrived at the school and retrieved both Sister and Brother, as I do not see myself in the mood to drive back to school in a mere 3.5 hours.
And after strapping both children into their safety seats in my heels, hose, and over-the-top scarf ribbon thingy, (in 97-degree humidity) I now sit, disgustedly in the front seat of the car. And I’ve ripped the ribbon from my hair, flinging it onto the passenger’s seat. Yeah. I am having one of those quiet fits that moms have sometimes. But I manage to stifle it while backing out of the parking lot, dodging oncoming traffic, and making it onto the roadway.
Then from out of the back seat comes this terrifying, blood-curdling scream. You know the kind: the kind that means that either someone is acutely injured with protruding bones or someone dropped a toy onto the floorboard and cannot retrieve it. It’s the latter.
Yes, Brother has dropped his toy lion. This is a surprising feat, as I had begun to believe that it had somehow become permanently affixed to his hand. And of course this lion is in the far, nether regions of the floorboard. It’s in that spot found in every family-sized vehicle, where even if a mother stood on her head and drove with her Achilles tendon, while navigating with her God-given second set of eyes that are placed squarely in the back of her head, she absolutely still could not reach.
Ok, so I know I have no intention of trying to reach it, so instead I search the front seat for a suitable replacement for the next 17 minutes until we can make it home. All I find is my scarf-ribbon thingy: a long, silky, brightly-colored paisley job. “Here!” I offer, thrusting the accessory into the backseat. “Play with this, Brother.”
There is silence for a moment as my son fingers the soft, colorful object, and then takes it from my hand.
Success! I think, prematurely.
Alas, not more than 5 seconds pass before Brother casts the scarf-ribbon thingy to the floorboard in disgust. “No, Mama! I don’t want to play with your panties!” my son laments.
And he isn’t even the grouchy one.
Susan Sims Moody is a native Mississippian, hailing from Southaven. She is a graduate of Southaven High School and Mississippi State University where she received a BA in communication. She is most highly influenced by other Mississippi writers such as Eudora Welty, Ellen Douglas and Willie Morris.
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