As a working mother I seem to perpetually spread myself too thin. Although I try my best to avoid this it seems the world conspires against me, with an unpredictable job and a toddler’s unpredictable immune system. 2014 was always going to be a busy one, I dubbed it “The year of the visitor” as we had Chris’s aunt and uncle visit for ten days, his parents for three weeks, his sister and her family are coming for a week later this month, and then Eva’s godfather for ten days or so in September. When looking ahead I knew July was going to be a bit of a nightmare. My friend and co-co-director Kara could only come to do our shoot for our documentary, for ten days at the end of July, so we booked that out to shoot our many and varied interviews for our current film. During that week my in-laws would arrive, and the day after the shoot ended I would be flying with Eva and my mother in law to Boston. Nothing like leaving no time to pack, that was acceptable only before I had a two year old- if I forgot something like her bunny, then I might as well fly home. It was also the week of my husband’s 48th birthday, considering I forgot his birthday last year it was high time I made up for it, before Linked In beats me to the punch again with their scheduled happy birthday email- damn automation. Chris had reminded me several times of the date at the beginning of the month so I would not forget but I had my own version of automation- I decided to throw a party. I invited all the relatives who were in residence on the family compound to dinner for Chris’s birthday on Saturday July 26th, in the middle of our shoot and four days before we left for Boston. Hey at least I wouldn’t forget.
To make matters more confusing, I got the dates mixed up for Auntie Zoe’s holiday and she was planning to be away from July 16th through August 4th, not from August 1st through the 14th as I had planned for our holiday to coincide with hers. With my shoot beginning on the 19th of July I would not only have a shoot, guests, and a dinner party to throw and a trip to plan, but I would also have no daycare. This was an impasse. The only answer was to ditch Eva with daddy over the weekend of our shoot, which did not make me the most popular wife or mother, and then on Monday and Tuesday I had to ditch the shoot to take care of Eva, which did not make me the most popular co-director with my co-directors. To make matters worse both Eva and Chris were recovering from the summer flu, and I had finally made it a mission to take my old man of a dog, Piccolo for his yearly checkup several months late. At the vet appointment I learned that he needed an operation immediately to have several teeth removed before an abscess grew so in addition to everything else my firstborn had to go under the knife. So when my in-laws arrived fresh off the plane I ditched them not only with a two year old but also a dog recovering from surgery and disappeared to join my fellow filmmakers who I then abandoned at 5pm to run home, take Eva to swimming lessons, come home prep her for bed then cook dinner for four people and think about doing it all again the following day.
Around the same time every client I have had in the last two years called, emailed and asked for something to be done immediately and without delay, none of which was possible because my editing suite died and was stumping the apple technicians who could not figure out what of a myriad of possibilities was preventing my computer from even turning on. In the meantime, I resorted to leaving Eva watching cartoons on YouTube on my laptop in order to cook dinner, organize the shoot or otherwise get rid of client demands. When I came back Eva had not only chewed through the power cord, she had also removed five or six letters off of the keyboard, she was part toddler, part tiger or so she told me.
“Eva, mommy’s puter is not a toy.”
“But mommy I know it’s not a toy, but I am pretending it’s a toy. Roar Tiger” while making claws with her hands and trying to bite my arm.
What do you say to that? I just sighed. I wasn’t sure what was going to go wrong next but I ran around unplugging appliances sure that the house was going to burn down, well it didn’t but my fridge died, so we fed on rapidly defrosting mystery food for a week.
Amid all this chaos, there is always the unforeseen to tip things totally over the edge. In our case, it was a hostile take over of sorts, what happened next was that it rained. Although rain in and of itself is not a game changer, it invites a congregation within the house, which are unwelcome by the human inhabitants: ANTS. Five days into our shoot as I collapsed into bed I heard the distinctive ear flap of my dog Piccolo and then I felt an ant crawl out from my hair line, then another one on my ankle, then one bit my butt when I had the nerve to roll over. At midnight I flipped on the light to reveal the invasion, which had infiltrated the last bastion of peace for any over subscribed working mother, my entire bed. They were everywhere, I killed what I could see and tried to go back to sleep. Five hours later when they were biting my eyelids I gave in and got up without any sleep.
The following day I made it to my shoot, but almost crashed the car a few times, and found it difficult to finish my sentences but it was almost over, the next day I only had a dinner party to prepare and a forgotten birthday to make up for. I went to bed early, my husband very generously switched sides of the bed with me after I shared with him my thoughts that entire world, ants and all had turned against me, that or I was high on ant venom from the night before.
The following morning I woke up, momentarily victorious that I had slept through the entire night without being bitten by an insect or wild animal, until I got up and collapsed back into the ant’s lair. It was the flu, I was on fire and I could hardly speak but it was okay I only had a dinner party to prepare. I managed to eek out
“Happy Birthday” with a flu-ey exhale.
“I have to go to work” Chris said.
“On your birthday?”
The day before his company had been taken over -not by ants but by another company, and the future was as uncertain as my dinner party. After Daddy went to work, I did as any hard working responsible birthday party host would do, I put my toddler in front of the T.V. and got to work making the starter course, and the dessert. After completing a culinary masterpiece tomato orange soup and chia seed pudding, I made Eva lunch and force fed her as the room spinned, my head pounded and the annoying Peppa Pig theme tune repeated ad infinitum. When the clock struck one, it felt like cocktail hour had finally arrived. I measured up a strong bottle of milk and gave it to Eva to sip until the heady eyelid drooping arrival of naptime dawned.
I propped her up in bed under a pillow and prepared to sneak out of the room. As I turned the doorknob Eva cried.
“Mommy I have to wee wee.”
It was her new procrastination.
“No you fucking don’t have to pee.”
Immediately I felt guilty, I didn’t think I had ever sworn in front of Eva. I am pretty sure she thought I was speaking Spanish anyway but she was a bit shocked by my tone of voice, and so was I, it was more than I had said most of the day.
I picked her out, put her on the potty, read her another book, and then put her back to bed. Within five minutes if anyone followed the trail of pain pill wrappers and Ricola sweets they would find me, prostrate on the bed surrounded by the dead bodies of about one hundred ants, murdered by me in fever fueled “fucking” rage and the few survivors drowned in a feverish sweat, even the ones that clung to my eyelids.
When Chris came into the room when he got home, he found the outline of a dead body drawn by the tiny black ant bodies outlining where I had collapsed. I managed to say “happy birthday “ in half enthused baby sign language. I didn’t cancel the birthday party, nor did I promise it would go forward. At four pm I surfaced to take the beef out of the working fridge so it would return to room temperature, something no one else would remember.
At 5:30, an hour and a half before the guests were due to arrive Chris returned to my flu lair and announced,
“Your mother, back from her trip, has taken over the party.”
“Thank god for mom.” I said and rolled over.
Somehow like a miracle worker, my mother was able to whip up a chocolate cake complete with home made cream cheese icing, roast potatoes and cooked my roast beef tenderloin to perfection. The guests were notified of the location change, and I was left in peace.
Chris had a birthday party after all and I survived the night.
The next day, I did not come out of the bedroom and I had only two visitors.
My mother came first to see if I was still alive.
“Thank you mom, for saving the day.”
“Not a problem” she said bringing me tomato soup, taking my temperature and checking my medicine dosage.
“I guess moms are really good to have when you are sick or you need to throw a party.”
“The show must go on.”
A little later on, a little face appeared at my bedside, it was my second visitor, my daughter Eva coming to check on me.
“They told me you went to work. You didn’t go to work!” she said with a tone of total disgust of having been lied to.
She played with me for about forty-five minutes bouncing on my bed and being generally worried about my wellbeing. When her father had been sick with the flu the week or so before, she had gone into see him and announced,
“Mommy will be very upset if you die.”
When I was sick I think she was more concerned about who would make her lunch and dinner.
About forty minutes later someone realized Eva had escaped from the playpen. She gave me a kiss to get better and was ushered out, but within the hour she was back checking up on me again.
“Mommy will you be better tomorrow?”
Amazingly I was much better the next day and although I had to cancel the rest of the shoot, I was able to leave on our family holiday a few days later.
And Eva also returned to her normal self.
“I like Daddy better than you.” She said the next day.
“Why?” I asked
“Because he is taller than you, and he has bigger hands.”
“Okay” I said knowing I would not be able to change that.
“I love you mommy, but daddy is more fun.” I might have been wiping her butt when she delivered that line. I was growing accustomed to her abuse as any mother must.
The day we left for our trip, my own mother showed up the morning to help us pack, she took us to the airport, gave us the keys to her apartment in Boston, my parents house in New Hampshire and the keys to their car. She made sure we packed the ipad she had given Eva and that we had all the right forms and passports. She also took Piccolo for two weeks at her house, allowing him to sleep in bed with her every night, so he wouldn’t miss us too much while we were gone. And when we get home rest assured there will be a carton of milk in the fridge she will have bought for us, because that is what mom’s do they save the day.
We were about to pull out of the driveway for the airport when she yelled,
“Wait, you have forgotten Eva’s bunny.” Picking it up off of the front stoop where it had been draped over a suitcase, fallen off and almost been forgotten, she passed it through the window to Eva.
“Thank God!” I said. “Thank God for Gigi.”
Thanks Gigi for saving Chris’ birthday and all the days in between.
Xx Derelict Mom