Friday, September 21, 2012


This is for a friend who kindly but erroneously used the phrase “grace under pressure” describing our morning efforts as a family to get out of the house.

He doesn’t want me to pick out his clothes. He wants his daddy to pick out his clothes. I go back upstairs, outfit in hand, and give it to the lovely husband, who doesn’t even pretend to switch it for other clothes. He trots down the steps. “Ready to get dressed, G?” Yep! And suddenly, he’s wearing the clothes I offered.

Those two eat bagels and apples in the car. This one wants an everything bagel. This one wants a blueberry. Cream cheese here, butter there. Slice an apple. That one won’t eat in the car. It hurts her tummy. “What do you want for breakfast?” Chickpeas.

She eats chickpeas while I braid her hair. The first warning letter about a classmate bearing lice came home yesterday. I pull her plaits extra-tight. I subtly examine her scalp. Too tight! she yells. Keep eating your chickpeas; it’s almost time for shoes.

It’s in the 40s now but will be in the mid-70s by afternoon. That one’s taking millimeter steps because she’s too cold; that one’s wearing leggings and moaning that she will be too hot. The other one realized he’s wearing the clothes I picked out. No me want this shirt! Me want a daddy getting shirt! It’s short-sleeved; I ignore his words and offer his jacket. It’s kelly green and the hood bears appliqu├ęd frog eyes. He insists on the hood. “Are you being a frog? Is there a frog in my house?” He sours at my stupidity. No me a frog! Me a tiger that is a ribbiting tiger! Ribbit!

That one remembered my examination of last night and figured out why her braids are so tight. But you’re making my head hurt! What if I get a headache and can’t do math! Her thoughts go behind a cloud. Why don’t they tell you who has lice? What if it’s someone who sits near me? Are you going to make me cut my hair?

L stopped crying about being cold long enough to put her shoes on just while G got hot in his zipped-at-his-insistence frog-tiger jacket and took his shoes off. E can’t find her right sneaker and can’t remember if she needs to wear it or maybe PE is tomorrow? A six-day schedule is hard on a five-day-week on a girl in only the fourth week of school. PE is on C and F days; yesterday you had library, does that help? What day is library! Here me found it! her brother yells. He had hidden it in his tiger den. That’s the stuffed animal basket, but you knew that.

Why did he hide it? Why is he a fr-iger?

What if she can’t run in PE from her braid headache? I’m not looking sympathetic enough. She sours at my uncaring.

If you’re so cold, zip up your jacket, I offer L, and she starts to cry. Well, I didn’t know the zipper was broken, love, why didn’t you tell me? Let me help.

The zipper’s not broken. The zipper’s just not there, its pull tab and slider entirely gone. Parallel lines of lavender plastic teeth leer at me and I can’t make them stop. It’s fine, you really need to move up to the next size jacket, anyway. Hang on, let me grab it from your closet.

But you didn’t wash it! It will smell like closet!

1)What does closet smell like? and 2)why is it my fault that your closet has a smell? and 3)do you know what happened in there that made a smell? and also 4)and why haven’t you mentioned the smelling?

I ask none of those things. Add to the end of the ever-present mental list: empty out L’s closet. Subitem: clean/scrub/disinifect? Air out? Subitem: organize her waiting-to-grow-intos before putting back in. If the whole closet has to get emptied, you might as well.

Haha, joke’s on you. There is no end of the list. See what you did there? Nice one, so early in the morning.

It doesn’t smell like anything to me, promise. Just wear it today and I’ll wash it tonight. Laundry is like the List: there is no end.

And then they’re all in the car with the regular suggestion of “please buckle your straps.” One roars, one cries, and one buckles just to unbuckle. The roarer: he wanted to me do myself. The crier: the straps were too tight over her jacket. The unbuckler: she was too hot in the car with her jacket and had to take it off. She threw it in the front seat.

But, as they always eventually are, all three were assuaged. And nobody was late to school or work (today). But the unbuckler did forget her jacket in the car. I hope she wasn’t cold at recess.

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