I forgot B’s school bag today, or E did. Whatever — tempting as it may be to cast blame, the bag was not in the car, is what I’m saying.
I’ll go home and get it! I said in my cheeriest mom voice, but this was not quite enough to correct the wobble of B’s lip — the violation of his routine was too disturbing. He returned to me twice for hugs before he could be persuaded, by a teacher wearing slippers with large smiley faces, to enter the classroom and start to play.
I guess this is what I dreamed of when I got my licence, I thought, while I drove the tedious ten minutes home to fetch the bag. I dreamed that I’d be able to run these errands!
It’s true that in deep Year 1 Pandemic when we’d first moved to New Jersey, I’d feel intense jealousy of E when he’d take the car out to the supermarket or CVS or whatever. I suspected that he enjoyed the solitude and the freedom (god forbid I find a half-drunk takeaway coffee in the driver side cup holder — how dare he).
Once I started driving, I realized, of course, that I was correct: when I’m in the right mood it feels like a rare treat to be in the car by myself, listening to a podcast. But other times it does feel very tedious. It does feel like being a mother in the suburbs.
The podcast I was listening to while I drove home and back with the bag was a serious news podcast (the one everyone listens to) and it made me think about the time when I thought I would be a serious news journalist. For a few weeks after I finished graduate school I had a serious internship at a serious news organization. I regarded the other interns with gentle disdain, for their un-seriousness (they were undergraduates, exchange students). We were all paid nothing, of course.
One day the most important journalist in the office called me to his desk with the process of ‘an important job for you’ which made me think that he had recognized my serious potential. My little ground-down heart, exhausted from waiting tables to fund the unpaid internship, was so filled with hope. You may, therefore, understand how devastated I felt when the important journalist revealed that the important job for me was to take a taxi to purchase about $100 worth of Krispy Kremes for the newsroom. I ran the errand and I dropped off the doughnuts and smiled without any teeth when the journalist thanked me. And then I went home and quit. I never went back! I was that mad about the doughnuts.
I thought about the doughnuts as I drove back across this little town we live in with my son’s little backpack with his little lunch. I thought, If I hadn’t gotten so piqued about that doughnut errand, would I now be a serious journalist instead of a suburban mother running errands? And then I thought: of course, it’s also true that some suburban moms are also serious journalists.
Back at school I hung up B’s bag in his classroom. B! I cried out, I brought your bag!
He was sitting on a mat playing with two other kids. He looked over his shoulder at me and smiled, but not with any teeth.
On the way home, I listened to a less serious podcast.