7 AM. Simon wakes with a runny nose. My throat feels lumpy and scratchy. I paw through our medicine/first aid stash for oscillococcinum. I find some Colace that expired in the summer of 2009, just shortly after Charlie was born. In the trash it goes. I finally find the oscillococcinum buried under headbands and hair elastics and swallow the last of it. I hook myself up to my breast pump and get 3 ounces of milk in about 10 minutes. Moo.
Charlie’s sheets are damp, thanks to his nighttime super peeing powers. Roy strips his mattress while I fix oatmeal for the boys. It’s Simon’s first time having oatmeal, and he loves it. Charlie asks for seconds. There’s no more, and I need to get out of the house. I wait for him to get distracted. It takes 15 seconds for him to forget about oatmeal.
Roy gets the boys dressed. I pack snacks: cherry tomatoes, a peach, some applesauce, plus the pumped milk for Simon. I rush around, throwing on a T-shirt and shorts over the nursing tank and underwear I wore to bed last night. I do not brush my teeth or eat breakfast or apply makeup or go pee or put on deodorant. I do, however, quickly run a brush through my hair and then put it up in a ponytail. Roy retrieves my flip flops for me as I walk out the door. We kiss. A one-second connection. I lug Charlie and Simon into their car seats and drop them off at Grandma’s house.
I return Roy’s library books. I deposit a check and withdraw some cash. I go to a new farmers market. I walk slowly, eyeing all the produce. I am surrounded by people but my mind is quiet, hushed. I commune with some bewitching heirloom tomatoes. I meet a woman who sells tie-dyed shirts and cat towers. Her husband builds the cat towers and she carpets them. She spends an inordinate amount of time making tie-dyed T-shirts. She plans to quit because it’s making her arthritic wrists hurt. I buy 5 shirts from her, thinking of our plan to be a family of hippies for Halloween. I think of serendipity. I think of creativity. I think of genius, how this aging woman has taken this shitty economy and made a business out of cat towers and T-shirts. I resist the urge to tell her I love you, man.
I go to the grocery store and buy cheese. I forget to buy bananas. I go to the drug store and then to the health food store for teething tablets. They have none. I forget to buy bananas. I am pulling into the driveway of our house when I remember. I unload the car. I take out every last piece of extraneous material and pile it on the kitchen floor. I stuff the diapers in the washing machine and leave the house. I go back to the health food store. I buy bananas.
Grandma’s house, home, lunchtime. Charlie and I eat scrambled eggs with cheese. Naptime: Charlie first, then Simon follows about 30 minutes later. As I nurse Simon to sleep, my mind turns to the road. The long stretch. Openness. An empty horizon. The afternoon sunlight falls through the blinds, making perfect stripes of white-gold on the sheets. I have never seen anything more beautiful.
I face the house. Piles of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away. Dishes begging to be washed. Bags needing to be packed. My sketchpad and book of poetry stare at me. I ignore them.
I putter around for a couple of hours while the boys sleep. By the time Simon wakes up, I’ve already forgotten what I’ve done. Simon is clingy, whiny, and snotty-nosed. I catch a glimpse of one of his top front teeth poking through his gums. I fold laundry and he keeps climbing on me and shrieking in my ear. I have my own snotty nose to contend with and I am tired, like really fucking tired. I am going to lose my shit on this kid is the refrain that plays through my head as he whines and cries in misery.
I don’t lose my shit on my kid. I take deep breaths. I wait for Roy to get home and then I practically hand both kids to him as he walks through the door. I realize that I have a stupid cold, which is not a good traveling companion. I curse my luck. Charlie climbs in and out of our suitcase. Simon waves a sippy cup around and makes a nice pool of water all over the floor. I am relieved that he’s found something to make him happy.
Grandma and Nana bring us dinner. Chicken and loads of mac and cheese. We eat, and I feel so much happier. They give the boys a bath while Roy and I pack. We put the boys to bed while they clean the kitchen. When the house is quiet, we gather in the living room and talk. I talk in a way that only members of my tribe can understand.
They leave, and we face the house. We pack and pack and pack, clean and clean and clean. We don’t talk much. We don’t need to.
We see our neighbor when we are outside packing the car. She decides to give us $100 for our trip. She says we need it. I tell her we can make it without it. She says that we can pay it forward sometime. I am touched. I wonder if we look so terribly poor. Then I realize that I don’t care. We are poor. It’s just what is right now.
Sometime close to midnight our work is done. I sit down at my desk and write. My nose leaks, my head aches, my eyes burn. We’ve got 24 hours of driving ahead of us, spread over 4 days. Our destination: Waco, Texas. My dad. Endings. Beginnings. Inbetweens. I feel so small and yet so powerful. I can do this. There’s a tribe of people standing behind us.
We’re going to make it.