With the almost incomprehensible suffering and devastation the world has witnessed of late, it's easy to forget that just two weeks ago, there actually had been tremendous jubilation in at least one teeny tiny corner of the globe.
Which corner, you ask? Oh. That would be the one occupied by, well, me.
Why? Because just days before the Haitian tragedy, I reached the stay-at-home motherhood equivalent of nirvana: I now have two children in school. At. the. same. time.
Yep, that's right. For six whole hours a week, I am gloriously, deliriously and entirely kid-free. And not at home with a sleeping child, mind you, but out in the world, with my station wagon revved and ready to like, go places and do stuff. OK, so between pickups and dropoffs, it's really more like four hours. But who's counting? Oh wait: I know. I am! Because that's four more kid-free hours than I had the week before. Actually, that's four more kid free hours than I've had in years.
Sigh. If I treat them really nicely, might they go forth and multiply, those four beautiful little hours? (I keep thinking of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, cherishing the two dollar bills that keep the Building and Loan from going under: "A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick.")
I wish I could say I had grand plans. That I'm going to knit scarves for the children of a Romanian orphanage. Or volunteer at a medical facility for homeless people with cleft palates. Or that I'm going to...I don't know...meditate? Write that novel?
Nope. None of the above. It is a sobering reminder of the level of glamour in my life that what I am really most excited to get to do is...run errands.
Yes, I'm going to run errands. Lots and lots and lots and lots of errands, in which I will be wholly unencumbered by the needs of the five-and-under set. (Picture me, if you will, in aviator sunglasses and a glamorous 1950s headscarf.) In fact, I think I'm going to target random strip malls and devise ways to go into every single establishment therein just to attend to a single piece of errand-y business. Perhaps I'll buy nothing more than some Tic Tacs or a box of Band-Aids at a Walgreen's. I'll go to Whole Foods just to purchase a single slice of organic Slovakian goat cheese. (Too narrow a focus, you say? Why no! I will have no children with me! I can do whatever I want! And quickly!) I'll bring a single shirt to a dry cleaners. Return an unwanted birthday gift to a Target. Pop in Starbucks for a latte. Grab a sandwich elsewhere. Get the oil changed. Go stock up on that frozen Pad Thai I like from Trader Joes.
I'm practically weeping with joy already. Because without my kids in tow, all of that will take me roughly 14 minutes, which still leaves plenty of time for the scarves for the orphans.
You see, one of those little things that nobody ever tells you about parenthood is that it puts a serious crimp in your errand-running mojo. The big tradeoffs? I long ago made peace with those. I get that I can no longer jet off for the weekend on the spur of the moment. (Not that I was really much of a spontaneous jetter off-er pre-kids, but I suppose it was nice to have the option, in theory.) And I'm pretty good with all of the rest: The wiping up of any number of bodily secretions. The endless recitations of godawful Thomas the Tank Engine books. The whining. Yes, yes, and yes. Got it.
But nobody ever told me what being a mother would do to my ability to do something as basic as run errands. It's the speed and efficiency I miss most, the quick satisfaction of a lightning-fast in-and-out retail experience. They slow you down, those kids, to truly agonizing, unbearable levels. Who knew that I would one day stare longingly at a grocery store, just thinking of the lone bunch of cilantro I would love to go in and buy, quickly and gracefully, like a gazelle stalking its prey. Without having to wrestle anyone in or out of a carseat. Without having a Hegelian discourse about which color racing car cart is best and who gets to sits where. Without having to lug three metric tons worth of coloring books with me or purchase roughly 516 unnecessary treats in order to broker peace. Nobody ever told me that I would one day chart a day's worth of errands based solely on the fewest number of egresses from the car required. (That drive-through at my all-time favorite soup and sandwich place, by the way? Heaven. On. Earth.) Nobody ever told me that I would one day have to plan a trip to pick up dry cleaning with the military precision of a tactical maneuver in Falluja. ("This is delta-charlie-bravo 41. I have a visual on the target. I'm going in with the stroller, do you copy?")
And so I salute you, my four little hours, for allowing me to take back a little piece of myself that I had long ago surrendered on the altar of motherhood. I only hope I do you -- and those orphans -- proud.