There’s that howl again.
Man Walking by Alberto Giacometti
Last night at Doctor Dash’s holiday work party, I got a bit flustered and hot under the collar when the president of the group leveled his serene, avuncular gaze on me and let fly a few seemingly innocuous but red hot lava words: “What are you doing?” The way he said it made me think, for a moment, that he meant right now. For a split second, I was wildly hopeful, that perhaps I had been caught in the act of pick-pocketing him, or straightening his tie, or stuffing hors d’oeuvres into my handbag, or giving him a wet willy. Had he actually meant right now, I would have composed myself and answered: “Oh, you know, trying to be the charming wife of the young Doctor Dash without seeming too terribly awkward in my heels.”
But, alas, I knew he meant ‘what are you doing’ in the present progressive tense . . . terrible. What are you DOING . . . in your life . . . with your life? And there I stood, like an insect splayed and nailed to a white board while he and his wife and another couple stood, heads slightly cocked, patiently waiting for my answer. My thoughts raced . . . I mumbled something about being home with my kids, which in my experience is when polite company jumps in with the “Oh, that’ll keep you busy!” or “It goes so fast!” But no, they just stood there, watching me squirm and sweat and try to justify my existence.
This blog flitted to mind, but I quashed it even though it happens to be one solid use of a small portion of my brain. They’re doctors. And I write about tea and fur. And not even every day. And not for money. And not for very many readers. I wish I could say it made me feel better that the woman standing next to me, one of Dash’s colleagues who is around our age, was wearing an obscenely unflattering pair of maroon high-waisted pants, effectively obliterating her more than respectable figure. Her wretched maroon pantaloons actually made me feel worse. Oh, she has no time to shop. Oh, she doesn’t care if her pants look like something M.C. Hammer would wear to a court hearing. She’s a DOCTAH.
I wanted to throw my wineglass at the wall and shriek: IUSED TO BE A LAWYER, MOTHER FUCKERS! AND I COULD STILL BE A LAWYER IF I WANTED TO, BUT INSTEAD I’M A KINDERGARTEN ROOM MOTHER!
Last week I sent an email around asking the kindergarten parents to help assemble gingerbread houses for the class to decorate. Bring your glue guns, I wrote, and bring one for me. The mothers showed up in droves, with smiles on their faces and glue guns in hand. I coordinated, moved things around, made sure everyone had enough graham crackers to glue onto milk cartons, and finally, finally worked up the guts to take up a glue gun. My two gingerbread houses looked like crap, but that’s what all the candy and frosting are for. As I sat elbow to elbow with the sweetest women on the planet, wrapped in the warmth of their light chatter, I felt humbled by how willing to pitch-in they were, how calm and cheerful they were, how free of angst . . . how utterly devoid of peevishness.
If the kids only knew, I said, all you do for them.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. I wear “stay-at-home-mom” like a tight scratchy turtle-neck. I feel like the Jeff Spicoli of the Home and School Association. Dazed and confused. My very own Crackerjack and Nanook run the damn association and not only do they manage to make it look sexy (no small feat) and keep the meetings to an hour . I think I love them even more because they still love me even though I suck. The women speak of budgets and teacher gifts and whether to switch Subway lunch to wheat bread . . . and I can’t focus . . . I don’t . . . quite . . . understand . . . what they are talking about. What is my problem? Why can’t I give myself over to this?
Thank you for organizing this, said the other mothers, as they swept graham cracker crumbs off the cafeteria tables and put their winter coats on. We banged out thirty-six gingerbread houses in a little over an hour. I mimicked their brisk and breezy departure – waves and smiles – and thought: No – thank you . . . for your willing hearts and hands . . . and for showing me what a little bit of peace looks like.