I’ve been sleeping in this summer. Staying up late. Living the life of the wastrel.
Not today, though! At 5:30, the alarm went off and I shuffled out of bed to drive Junior to a neighboring town where a very nice (organized, nicely-dressed, cheery) mom was going to drive our children off to camp.
I got home just in time for Junior to call me and ask where her medical forms were. You know, the ones required for camp. The ones the organizers had demanded, at the end of a longish email, one of the dozens they’ve sent in recent months containing all kinds of REALLY CRITICAL information like “don’t forget to bring a basketball!” (this is a music camp).
I was flustered. The camp’s a couple of hours away. I imagined my lovely writing time frittering away if I had to spend the day driving the blasted forms there…and squeezed my eyes shut realllllly tight and said “remember how i asked you to make sure all your paperwork was turned in for camp?” You can imagine how that went over (if you are raising a 16-year-old gorgon child of your own). I drove to the copy shop (we are the last household in america that is not fax-enabled), all the way feeling that terrific guilt/chagrin/irritation combo that’s a parent’s eternal gift-with-purchase – crossed my fingers, wrote a realllly apologetic cover page to the camp bosses, and faxed the forms. And turned my cell phone off, just to make sure that Junior is now their problem, not mine.
Okay, it wasn’t too late to redeem my day, I thought. On the passenger seat of my car was my Smog Check form. (Here in California, we subject our cars to a battery of really expensive and confusing tests every year, involving entire warehouses full of machinery and legions of coverall-wearing technicians, in an effort to help keep the unemployment in line. Y’all got folks out of work in your state? No problem, send ’em over here, via WyoTech for a quickie how-to, and they can help keep our fleet in tip-top shape.)
I’ll just check this off the to-do list while I’m out, I thought, smiling at the thought that I could be just as efficient as that other, nicer, fancier mom who was even now shuttling a car full of teen harpies southbound.
I *did* have a brief moment of doubt when I realized I was still wearing the 5:30am outfit, which consists of a decade-old pair of sweatpants whose waistband is perfectly stretched to fit just *under* my er, rather generous tummy and the bright green sweatshirt I purchased so I could be a proper Wolf booster at lacrosse games (Go San Ramon! Go Green and Gold!) but which looks pretty ludicrous anywhere else.
Ah well. It’s just the smog guy, right? Oho ho ho, he won’t care what I look like. So, I wait my turn, patiently enough, and then I wait the other guy’s turn who managed to jump in front of me in line. Whatever, I had a book. Eventually the smog guy comes into the waiting room with an eyebrow raised and drawls “so, little darlin’, where do you think you might have left your gas cap?”
“Ha ha,” I gamely chuckle, going along with the joke. I lose my gas cap every few months or so. Just, you know, thinking too much while standing around pumping gas, it could happen to anyone. No matter, there’s an internet outfit who’s got me on their auto-delivery program, all’s fine! Where do I sign, and I’ll be on my way, fine sir!
Not so fast. Turns out I can’t have my paperwork until he inspects my gas cap. Cause the smog…which he’s just certified my car doesn’t produce…could somehow sneak out through the hole. Or something.
Did I mention it costs ninety bucks to have a smog check? I’m despairing at the thought of coming back another day, waiting in another line, writing another check, and I – almost tearfully – cause it’s been that kind of week – ask if there is ANY way we can figure this out, and Mr. Jolly jerks a thumb down the road and says “yep, if you want to walk all the way down to the auto parts store and back, but I can’t wait all day, y’know.”
Which is how I came to be stumble-jogging along in my flip-flops several miles (okay, no, I don’t know for a FACT it was miles, but it was really, really far!) down the busiest street in our town around lunchtime today. Maybe you saw me? I was the one with the ponytail that was half falling out because I used one of Junior’s stretched-out elastics – last night’s makeup under my eyes (don’t tell my eye doctor, he made me *swear* I’d do better after that nasty infection) – holding my sweatpants up with one hand and clutching my paperwork in the other.
But here is why it was all okay.
Back in the waiting room, I’d been reading a Kristan Higgins book. Voila – the real point of this post. There’s a reason that every single person who ever reads Kristan’s work falls in love with it: her heroines are US. They are hapless. Messy. Unlucky. They make bad decisions and are never prepared and snark when they should be understanding and get scared when bravery is called for. They mean well, but they’ve usually got a lot more in the way of intentions than follow-through. Sure, I felt like an idiot arriving at the auto parts shop out of breath and looking like I escaped max-security housewife jail, but – at least in fiction-land – I had *company*. In Kristan’s stories, gals just like you and me have bad days and get disappointed and make fools of themselves (oh, do they ever!) but in the end, everything is somehow all right.
I was also thinking of that Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel that begins with the beaver suit on the side of the road…you know the one.
In my real life version, I drag my figurative beaver-tail behind me through the rest of the day, and there’s no well-muscled ex-con carpenter to fall conveniently in love with me as a reward, but that’s okay. I actually felt just fine as I finally got my DMV paperwork stamped and sent, because Kristan Higgins allows me to feel almost, well, hero(ine)ic about my own ordinariness.
So, anybody else had a less-than-sterling day lately? Do share….I’ll send the winner your very own Higgins novel to help you ward off the bad-day blues.