Today I had the day off to take my youngest to the doctor for his three-year-old well check.
Such a great day for me, as I got to be home and pretend to be a stay-at-home mom. I got up at seven (which meant sleeping in two more hours than normal), then made the kids breakfast before dropping the oldest boy at school, the oldest girl being at her mom’s last night and tonight.
My youngest and I got a whole day together, which with three kids happens so rarely that it’s as if I was handed an old fashioned pocket watch that was giving me time. Everything moved at a slower pace, a three year old’s pace. We went to the park.
My son and I were climbing up and down, over and around. I got to see him without the filter of his siblings, and he ventured further and farther in what he was willing to do, succeeding more times than not.
Another mom and child approached. She was younger than me, and of the done-up variety, put together as if going out (for my standards) and here I was in cut-offs, a tie-dye t-shirt and my new dark hair fading to an unnatural purple in the sun. I was, however, wearing my new aviator, porn-star glasses. They make me happy.
Her son turned out to be six months younger than mine. He was dressed as well to the nines, matching ensemble, fancy italian walking shoes, and a tan cap to tie it all together. My son was wearing a Flash t-shirt, and some plaid shorts that were too short on him. He’s so thin that he ends up wearing 24 month shorts, when his length in pants is a 3T. To tie his “look” together he also had on some Converse with flames painted on the sides that he had just found that morning. They were his brother’s, so he had to wear them despite the fact that they were a size too big.
Being the friendly sort, I struck up a conversation with my new pal, the size 2, and she as most first time moms told me about her boy, how he has the biggest feet anyone has ever seen and has the sweetest disposition of any child, anywhere.
She had just moved here from New Hampshire, and rolled her eyes when I asked her how she liked the Midwest. Oddly, for someone who herself has had her own Midwest growing pains, I felt oddly defensive of my home state of seventeen years. She asked if my van was the one with the Grateful Dead sticker. Yes, I said, that would be my husband’s. She proceeded to tell me she grew up on The Dead, her mother was a huge fan. Uh oh.
She went on about how they didn’t watch television in her house, they listened to records which normally I would have applauded but there was something preventing me. She told me that her husband was on the road much of the time and they were thinking about trying to get pregnant when she found out, in fact, she was. How far along, I asked, and she told me five weeks. She mentioned how nice it would be to have a boy, and I said, yes, you save so much money on clothes if you hit the season right. She looked at my son’s shoes, then at her own son’s and said, well, I believe in spending money on the important stuff. She nodded towards my skinny beanpole and added, not that those kinds of shoes aren’t cute.
At this point, I normally would have blown a gasket, but oddly I was amused. I said, yes, those are some great shoes he has. Shoes are important. How old are you?
Twenty-seven, she said, but I won’t ask how old you are.
Oh. My. Goodness. Soon-to-be forty, I said smiling, and never so happy to blurt out that number in my life.
You’re really lucky, she said. Most women your age have to worry about their eggs being all messed up.
I laughed. Aloud. Guffawed really. Yes, I said, I’m pretty lucky they haven’t all shriveled up. She nodded knowingly.
We got on the topic of education. I found out from this fount of wisdom that New Hampshire has the best educational system in the entire world, and she went to NHU which, yes, you guessed it, is the best university in the universe. She abhorred what she had learned about the Illinois educational system and would be home-schooling.
She also slipped in how the educational system in New Hampshire was so good, that just because two of her sisters got pregnant in high school, didn’t mean they wouldn’t graduate. They were expected to graduate. That is the kind of top notch schooling she was raised in, she said.
At this point I mentioned that I was from New York and I wasn’t certain on average, but I think I had a pretty decent high school experience. I also mentioned that the state school I went to is the one that people compare to an Ivy league. She had heard of it. Oh, yes, I went there, not proud, but I couldn’t contain myself. Her tone changed and now she really wanted to talk to me. I now had something I could offer her. The change was tangible.
I told her that as budgets get cut, as states get more and more in the red, classrooms will get bigger and teachers will be more overwhelmed. I told her that I felt it was my duty as a parent to do what I can, and if that means reading and working math every night with my kids, then that’s what I have to do.
I mentioned that home schooling while solving a problem for some, really doesn’t give back to a community at large as much as parents volunteering to give back to all the kids. Some kids don’t have the same advantages. Some parents have to work round the clock just to eke by. I told her that I felt it was our job as parents and as a society to see where something was failing, and add to the solution by adding ourselves to the equation.
Oh dear. She stood quietly. My son has anaphylactic shock, she said. I was confused. He has it? She said they just found out that he is allergic to chocolate and one M&M could kill him. I’m so sorry, I said. But you should know that Illinois state law now requires Epipens to be in every school, I think in every classroom. I told her if she was interested she should check it out.
I left with my happy, dirty, mismatched son feeling badly for this lost girl. Her insecurities must be so great to have to start a conversation where you assume you’re the smartest person in the room. I saw a little of myself in her, when I first moved here, making assumptions about people because they weren’t as forthcoming as I was used to.
I hope she improves her social skills. She was fortunate she ran into me and not one of my neighbors, plenty of whom are teachers and wouldn’t have been so gentle upon being insulted. They wouldn’t have gotten past her attitude to see how scared she really must be.
Then again, maybe they would have. I try not to underestimate people, even if they are on the cusp of shriveled-up and two steps away from death’s door. Oh wait, that’s just me. Fortunately for me, I stopped caring about those kinds of eyes years ago, and only care about the two blue ones looking up at me as he ran down the path in his too big clown shoes, his plaid Daisy-Dukes and glad he wasn’t anyone but him.
(Now, a little business. If any of you know, I’m now typing out my WIP and have a bit of a technical conundrum. I’m doing Times New Roman and font size 12, but I’m confused about the spacing. I read it should be done double-spaced, but then I end up with extra space between dialogue and it just ends up being a big mass of white. I thought of how people are reading requests on their Kindles, IPads, etc, and I think I’m not doing it right. Every agent has it down a bit differently, but for those of you who are more in the know than me, yes, that would be all of you, how should I do this? The no indent thing makes it so that if I don’t put the extra space between paragraphs, sometimes it looks like one big long mass, and as you can guess…I do that well enough on my own without putting two together. Thoughts? Thanks, and love.)