“Why didn’t you buy four bags instead of three?” My girl skewered me with a look in the checkout bagging area at IKEA. Her tone had an edge that cut me right in the feelings.
I had spent the previous three days painting a sophisticated grey—the hot color choice of teens and tweens everywhere—over my girls’ pink, yellow, and turquoise bedroom walls. And that morning, I had doled out a chunk of money to each of my offspring, explaining they could spend the allotment for their bedrooms however they liked at IKEA. Before the shopping trip—while everyone was in good spirits—I had announced the ground rules, promising to dock any gripers $5 per complaint. So help me if they’re not grateful after all I’ve done, I had thought while counting out the cash into their hands.
But it had been one of those weeks, and now this with something as silly as an IKEA bag.
I leveled my gaze at my girl, my voice as smooth as the Svenbertil chair I had seen on display. “I made a mistake. I bought three bags for our stuff—and not four. We’ll figure it out.”
But she craved the final say, and disrespectfulness waltzed in with her words. I bit my tongue and shoved our cart of purchased goods into a corner near the elevator to the parking ramp. I crammed every last item—bedding, pillows, lamps, and curtains—into a couple of the blue bags to make the point that two bags could hold everything. In fact, three was superfluous, I hoped to demonstrate with my vigorous stuffing.
“Why are you in such a hurry, Mom?” my lovely asked.
I drove the cartload into the open elevator—wishing Husband had been with me—vowing I’d leave with or without my people. But somehow the three girls picked up the pace and scooted into the Honda before I peeled out of the parking lot. I tromped on the gas and clamped my mouth shut. Silence blared from the back seat, and maybe eyes widened too, but I didn’t care enough to look back.
I turned my thoughts to the past months. Besides the recent room painting, I had poured much of my energy into the girls and their pursuits, driving them—and their friends—anywhere at any time for sports commitments and friend engagements. Their requests echoed through my thoughts: So-and-so only has a bus pass, so could we drive her home since it’s -12 degrees? When you take me to so-and-so’s, could we pick up Friend A and Friend B first since they live near us? And can they get a ride home too? I’ll text you when we’re ready, since I don’t know a time right now. Oh, and can I get $15 for food after school and money for the game?
I had gotten a breezy thank-you here or there—from my own darlings and their friends—tossed to me like pieces of junk mail. Reality hit me in the gut: I was a free ride and a wallet, and nothing more.
In the previous weeks, I had told myself lies about my girls’ friends: Maybe their parents don’t have cars—or driver’s licenses—and they work 24-7 to put food on the table. Or maybe these kids don’t have parents at all and live a kind of Pippi Longstocking lifestyle, fending for themselves and their pet monkeys.
But my thoughts on the drive home from IKEA distracted me, and by accident, I took the Terminal 1 exit to the airport instead of the 55/Hiawatha exit to Minneapolis. Really? I looped around, inching along behind people loading and unloading their luggage at baggage claim—drumming my fingers on the steering wheel—before I finally got back onto the freeway home.
Later, I texted my friend: Wanna run away with me? No one will know I’m gone. Wait. Maybe they’ll notice after all. They won’t have their taxi service.
She texted back: I’ve wanted to run away for years. Or go on strike. I’ve read about those moms who stop doing EVERYTHING and stand outside with their signs. I’ve considered it.
Later in the day, I drove two of my girls to their sports practices.
“So-and-so needs a ride home,” one of them said to me. “Is that okay?”
I exhaled. “Sure. It’s on our way.”
After practice, my kid and her friend jumped into the car.
“Could she have a sleepover at our place tonight?” my girl asked me, her face eager.
“No.” Then I yanked my politeness back out of the glove compartment and smiled into the back seat at her friend. “It’s always fun to have you over, but we have a family day tomorrow. Another time?”
I deposited the girl at her house, and then turned to my kid. “Honey, don’t ask me things like that in front of your friends. It makes me look bad when I say no.”
“Sorry, Mom.” She looked down at her hands, and my close companion, Guilt, elbowed me.
On the drive, I contemplated life and my job as a chauffeur. I could say no, I told myself. I could lay down an “Absolutely not!” to driving everyone anywhere at any time. But then at 9:30 p.m., another one of my girls texted from her friend’s house: Could we give Friend C a ride home? If not, that’s okay. She can take the bus.
Sure, I texted back.
But before I could get her, I had to retrieve the other girl from practice and see that her two friends got home safely. Tired from the IKEA day and the endless driving, I pulled up to my last stop. My daughter scurried out to the car, along with Friend C who wore pajama pants. And she had thought she could take the bus? It was too cold at -5 degrees to be in thin flannel; I drove her home and rubbed my temples as I watched her unlock her door. She waved to us before entering her house.
At last, we made the day’s final trip home. Once inside, the girls disappeared to their bedrooms. I fixed a cup of tea and made a beeline for the bathroom. While I filled the bathtub, I selected the Mr. Mister station on Pandora—my go-to for self-soothing—and cranked up the volume. At last, I stepped into the tub and sank into the steaming water.
Toto crooned, Not quite a year since she went away, Rosanna. Now she’s gone and I have to say…
She’s gone! Toto had said so. How depressing. Big drops of self-pity plopped into my bathwater.
Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna…
So even the Toto guy covered the driving, it sounded like. I bawled some more and reached for my mug of tea. I reclined and listened to Journey’s “Only the Young” and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” And then I stopped my blubbering.
Exhausted from days of painting and home improvements? First world problems. Feeling put upon for driving everyone to kingdom come—and back—by my own choice? Child’s play. Feeling unappreciated for being the mom? An issue as old as time.
Then I thought of many in the neighborhood around me—mourning, struggling, freezing, hungry, lonely. All of them had worse things to deal with than fresh paint, new bedding from IKEA, and having three healthy girls to drive around the city. And I also thought of the characters from my favorite book who had been flogged, stoned, tortured, imprisoned, and mistreated. All of them had shown patience in suffering.
My reactions to the day had been less than commendable; my attitude, stinky. And the fruit of my patience sat rotten in its bowl.
I sighed and pulled myself out of the bathtub. Tomorrow would be a new day.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.