The long journey to democracy
Yesterday morning I wake up fifteen (insert string of expletives here) minutes before my alarm clock.
(Side Note Novella: This is an alarm clock I bought exactly two days before I started my job. Before that it hadn’t been necessary to get up any earlier than my butt-crack-of-dawn-rising kids, but now it seems that doing so is crucial to the success of the trajectory of the whole rest of the day. So alarm clock it is. The clock is this newfangled robot kind that you can set with your voice, meaning that you push a button and a very polite mechanical-voiced lady says “VOICE COMMAND” and then waits patiently for you to remember which of the 45 approved words you’re supposed to use to set a buzzer alarm for 6 a.m. Fumbling around with my lady clock friend (which, at second glance seems to be a phrase that might lend itself to unsavory euphemistic jokery – do with it what you will) before bedtime is not too much of a hassle—the lights are on, L is (usually) still awake, I am not stabby and befuddled, but oh HO is it a different story in the wee hours of the pre-dawn light. It’s amazing how civilized Ms. Clock Voice remains in the wake of my sailor mouthed VOICE COMMANDS.)
As I was saying, I wake up early. Much work had been done the night before in preparation for the day: clothes are laid out for Noah, Rosie and me; lunch is packed and ready in the refrigerator, bag is pre-loaded with important inside-the-bag things, coordination of Operation Noah School Dropoff is, uh, … coordinated, note explaining where Noah is to go after school is nestled safe in his bookbag, coffee is set to brew just before we had to leave at 6:45, Rosie’s diaper bag is stocked with first-day-of-daycare supplies, etc., etc, ETC. and Rosie and I are able to walk out the door on time in the pitch black at 7:05 to go to school and work respectively. (Bonus points: It’s Noah’s school picture day, and I REMEMBER this. Spit is applied to hand and wiped across the top of his head for minimally bedheaded Kindergarten portraiture.)
7:25 a.m., we arrive at Rosie’s new daycare, unload, and stand like fools at the open-with-code keypadded door for five minutes before someone finally hears our knocking and lets us in. Regular first-day confused awkwardness ensues for seven or eight minutes until finally Rosie is deposited to the right room, her things hung in a cubby and name signed in on a sheet. I say—or rather call out, as she is already halfway across the room—goodbye to her and she yells back “BYE MAMA!” before deciding that she would actually like to bestow a hug upon me before we part ways. I pull out of the parking lot at 7:35, wiping my dampened (ok, wet) cheeks with the backs of my hands and tossing back her leftover breakfast of dry Kix and cubed cheese. And then it’s time to commute, bitches.
The drive to work is a study in the alternation of whizzing speed and traffic-jammed stillness and what it means to be living in the tension between the two. (That sentence goes out to all my seminary friends. You know who you are.) I’m in my parking space by 7:58 and at my desk by 8:02. And then I work.
8:04—I wonder what Rosie’s doing.
8:45—I wonder what Rosie’s doing.
9:30—I wonder what Rosie’s doing.
10:13—I wonder what Rosie’s doing.
11:00—I wonder what Rosie’s having for lunch.
11:30—I wonder if Rosie’s taking a nap.
12:15: I eat lunch at my desk, as well as make calls to the USPS (re: not getting mail for three days), and my old insurance company (re: DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT, OVERPRICED INDIVIDUAL COVERAGE). Both involve many many minutes of option selection and tinny Celine Dion music.
12:45—3:59—I wonder what Rosie’s doing.
4:00 and I’ve got my bag slung over my shoulder and sunglasses on, pushing open the glass doors on the front of my building and I’m on my way to navigate my first try at after-work-Rosie-from-daycare-Noah-from-after-care pickup. I merge into traffic on I-75 southbound.
4:45—still driving, but with less pep
4:59—I pull up to the daycare and realize I still haven’t gotten the code to the front door. I knock, knock louder, and then wave my arms around like an ass until I am ushered in to the warm building that smells faintly of soiled diapers and grits. Rosie is red-faced and has clearly been crying. I smother her with kisses. We sign out and pay our weekly bill and load back into the car. Rosie does not stop jabbering for even one second. “An friens! An Rosie’s MAT! An go nigh-night! An blanket! An my swing! An I go HIGHER! An my teach-er!” Whatever it was that made her cry before, it is forgotten. Par for the Rosie course.
5:25—we inch through a line of cars to turn into the driveway of the church where Noah is at after school care. I lift Rosie out of her seat and she wants to walk. No, she wants me to hole-joo. No, walk. No, hole-joo. MAMA HOLE-JOO. I hole-joo. We enter the building and the director calls over the walkie-talkie “Noah E., in the garden. Noah E., in the garden.” I think of Clue. Noah comes running over, rosy-cheeked and smelling of cold air. We hug, or at least hug as much as is allowed when you are five and a half and need to retain some of your street cred. I can tell he’s had a good day, and that makes me happy.
5:33—we all clamber into our seats and inch back out into traffic. There is talk of the election and voting. I ask Noah if he wants to go to the polls with me. Rosie spends the next ten minutes wailing, incensed that she was not also invited to swim. “I WAN POOOOL! I WAN POOOOL!” I try to explain that I am not, in fact, talking about aquatics, but rather part of the democratic process. But she’s not having it.
5:38—HOME, and Rosie has already removed her shoes. I’m so relieved just to have survived that schlep that I let her walk up to the house in sock feet. There is some sort of food in her hair—I’m guessing it’s from lunch. It’s also on her shirt. She’s a mess.
Noah needs to do homework. I set him up at the dining room table, while Rosie politely informs me that she is dying from lack of milk. On a repeated loop. At a very loud volume. And not very politely at all, actually.
The phone rings as I’m pouring Rosie’s milk and I arrange a doctor’s appointment for Noah and toss Rosie her sippy cup so that I can pen something into our dry-erase calendar. Noah has spelling questions. Rosie wants to know why it’s not chocolate milk. My sister (Whom let’s just take a time out and recognize, because she was almost finished cooking our dinner at the time: SARAH R., WE SALUTE YOU.) realizes she forgot to buy hamburger buns and we decide that I will take Rosie to the store while Noah finishes homework and she finishes cooking. I help Rosie put her shoes back on. We go to leave. She wants more milk. I refill her milk. We leave. I stop at the mailbox just to check, and three days worth of mail comes spilling out, meaning that I listened to about 12 more minutes of “My Heart Will Go On” than necessary earlier in the afternoon.
5:55—Grocery store is packed. Rosie wants to walk. No, she wants mama hole-joo. No, walk. No, hole-joo.
We get the buns and go to check out. I get out my debit card. Rosie runs away. I leave the checkout lane and chase after her. I go back and finish entering my PIN. Rosie gets a sticker. We leave. The sticker sticks to itself. Wailing ensues. A man yells at me through my car window. There’s traffic on the way home.
6:25 and we finally sit down to eat. Noah’s homework is done and put away. Buns are bought and warming. Dinner is on the table. Rosie is still a mess. L is running late. Uncle Joe is on his way over. I take a bite of my hamburger.
And then I remember that I haven’t voted. And that the polls close in 25 minutes. And I feel righteous indignation at the fact that after all I had done that day, after all the pains I had taken to make the tiny minutiae of all the factors of all our schedules and lives come together—SUCCESSFULLY, by golly—that I hadn’t done one of the Most Important Things. How could I not vote? I couldn’t not! I had to help make a difference! I had to exercise my rights! I had to push that blue button on Facebook!
I take three more bites of hamburger, stuff in a few sweet potato fries, slug back a swig of milk, inform my sister of my plan, grab my wallet, and take off out the door again. Our polling place is only a block away, but as soon as I leave the yard, I’m running. I’m literally sprinting down the sidewalk, dinner sloshing in my belly and idiotic look on my face that I vainly hope makes me look like I’m thinking, “I CARE ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT,” but in reality probably looks more like “I HAVEN’T MOVED THIS FAST SINCE I FIRST GOT MY VOTER REGISTRATION CARD.”
I slide in the door with fifteen minutes ’til closing time, punch my ballot screen the required number of times, ask for an extra sticker, and am back out onto the sidewalk in six minutes. Civic duty: complete.
On the walk home I think: You know, with all that schedule juggling and task remembering and kid wrangling and last-minute panicked running (definitely the last-minute panicked running) I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to count all of my votes twice. You’re welcome, America.