This was originally posted on September 30, 2005. I never did find out what the lesson was.
Somebody somewhere said that the only wasted lesson is the one you do not learn. (I'm not in a very researchful mood, sorry, so I don't know who it was.) Yesterday was definitely what my camp counselor training would call a Teachable Moment.
A normal Thursday afternoon for me is spent at home. Mary's best friend Megan lives close enough that we carpool every day with her family to their school. Connie (her mom) usually drives them to gymnastics after school since their classes are at the same time, and I do the pick-up run on other days. It's a good system, and it saves a lot of gas and time.
This Thursday, though, Connie was out of town on business and had asked me to do the Thursday run. "Sure!" I said, thinking, how hard can that be? Yeah, OK, so I'll have Peter with me and I'll need to pick up both girls and Megan's little sister Kenzie, and all their carseats and backpacks and lunchboxes, and get them herded into the car, and make sure they eat their cheese sticks instead of seeing if they will fit into the gaps between the seats, and drive over to the gym and get my dear distracted daughter into her leotard and into class on time, and keep an eye on Kenzie, and keep Peter from going totally ballistic with all the activity and noise of the gym ... um ... whoops, too late, I already said yes.
Deep breath. Sure! I am Supermom, right? I gave birth to an 8 lb. 13 oz. baby without medication, I can certainly handle a measly little carpool run. Yes. I can. Definitely.
Somebody else said, "Pride goeth before a fall." (This time I know, it's King Solomon, but I'm not going to quote chapter and verse. If you want to know, that's what Google's for.) Apparently the universe thought there was a concentration of pride at my house and decided to shift things around a bit.
It wasn't my fault that the minivan didn't start, really it wasn't. This time I didn't leave the lights on or the back door open or the overhead light on or ... well, you get the picture. Anyway, it wouldn't start on Wednesday evening. My husband and his brother came and got it running again over Thursday lunch, and we were good to go! Right?
No. We were not. It turned out that it needed a new battery, but I didn't know that at 2:55 on Thursday afternoon. All I know was that it went rrr, rrr, rrrr. Rrrr, rrr, rrrr. I thought, maybe some gas? Rrrr, rrrr, VVRRRRRMMMMM, rrrr, rrr, rrr. Nope. A few bad words? Whack it on the dashboard to teach it a lesson? Perhaps a well-aimed kick to the tires? None of these really seemed like good ideas, so I simply sighed. (Well, all right, I thought the bad words.)
I called my friend Tammy, the only other person I know who has a minivan and was not using it at 3 p.m. on a school day, and YES! she was home and we could borrow it. So, I hauled a protesting Peter out of the minivan, did the contortionist's act required to get his carseat into the back of my beloved 1968 Mustang (2-door, unfortunately), and drove over to Tammy's, where I did the whole routine in reverse. By this time, Peter had settled into Tammy's front yard with her children, and he was NOT pleased to have to leave. It wasn't negotiable, though, so we left.
I called ahead and had the girls moved over to the school's day care, since I was going to be at least half an hour late. I called Megan's dad to tell him the Kenzie-swapping meet-up was probably going to be delayed. I managed to get to school without doing anything dire to Tammy's beautiful Honda Odyssey (didn't I just write something about coveting?), found a parking spot, and mentally armed myself for the inevitable battle of extricating the girls from the excitement and color and potato chip intensive world of after-school care.
OK, so far so good -- I had all four kids, all of them had their craft projects and backpacks and carseats and THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT MOM papers and lunch boxes. Wait! Kenzie! Did I leave ... nope, I got her. *phew* All right. We got to gymnastics, and nothing worse happened than Peter dropping several small pieces of equipment into a 4-foot-high vertical plastic tube that was bolted into the floor. (Don't tell, please. They'll find them one of these years. They didn't look all that expensive.) Everybody was with their appropriate teacher or parent, and I could go home.
I drove through the horrifying traffic of I-5 at 4:30, in which everyone is trying to beat the looming spectre of rush hour by driving ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit. In the slow lane. I cringed every time anyone came close to Tammy's paint job, sure that I was going to be the one to wreck this beautiful vehicle, in which the children were not allowed to eat and a towel was laid across the most high-traffic area of the carpeting. I won't vouch for my blood pressure, but we were otherwise safe and sane when I got to Tammy's, thanked her profusely, switched the carseats, once again pried Peter away from his playmates, and drove home, nearly two hours later.
Could it have gone worse? You bet. The van could have broken down at school instead of at home. Peter could have put his ARM in the tube instead of the little loops of cloth he found by the high bar. The tiny smudge of chocolate that landed on Tammy's pristine seat cushions could have been my entire diet Coke instead. (It came out, and she thought it was pretty funny that I was so stressed -- of course, she hasn't seen the inside of my minivan.) We could have gotten sideswiped on the Marion Street Bridge and gone crashing through the guardrail and fallen into the Willamette River and had to be rescued by heroic bystanders, and I would have been trying to cover up my tatty bra that would have been showing through my white T-shirt. Of course you'd be wearing a white T-shirt if you drive into a river, it's part of the nature of things.
It could have been worse, and a professional pessimist like me can always come up with several entertaining scenarios to prove it. But you know what? It could have been better, too. And it wasn't. And to be honest, I'm not sure I see the point.
Maybe I'm just too narrow-minded, too tired, too busy, too cynical. But days like this just seem to pick away at my soul without giving anything back. If I ever find out the deep lesson in yesterday afternoon, I'll be sure and let you know.
In the meantime, I'm going to make sure I always have good-quality chocolate in my purse. You never know when you're going to need it.