Last week was a big week, professionally speaking. I spent early mornings, workdays, lunch hours, evenings and late nights preparing for a deposition of a plaintiff in arguably the biggest case of my career. Not big money-wise. Big pain in the butt-wise. The case has produced nearly 18,000 pages of discovery to date, all of which had to be reviewed and filtered and prioritized. We also had digital copies of emails dating back to 2003, which is enough to choke, gag, and drown a horse.
Now I’m not a big-time firm lawyer with a discovery associate hinged at the neck to bob his head up and down while saying “yes, ma’am!” I don’t have a fancy tab-placing color-coating document preparation service that flags important juicy smoking-gun documents. And I certainly don’t have research clerks who run back and forth from my office to a stuffy law library hoping to find the perfect case for “the sun always rises in the east” when I know the rule is “the sun always sets in the west.” Nope, it’s just me and my trusty should-be lawyer legal assistant. The good news is there’s nobody that knows the case like we do. In fact, I’m pretty sure we know it better than the plaintiff. The bad news is, well, there’s nobody that knows the case like we do. So when it comes to a deposition like this, I’m the show.
I’ll spare you to gory whorey details.
But by the time the deposition was over at 6pm on Friday, I was ready for bed. I had pulled an all-nighter, probably the only time since law school finals over ten years ago, and was up early the day before. With only 4 hours of sleep under my belt in 48 hours, a questionable amount of quality food consumption, and the caffiene detox shakes, I was ready for home in a way I have not felt in a very long time.
When I got there, I couldn’t wait to walk in the door to find the smiling faces of reality: two little kids that were just happy to see their mommy. One was already asleep in bed and I woke her just to get a kiss. It was mean, but I couldn’t help it. I had missed her contagious smile. It was like I had been completely absent for a week. The other was watching television, and I could tell he was studying me for a moment. I understood his trepidation after one entire week of dealing with “stressed out mommy.” But the Preschooler leaped into my arms with complete trust, and the week was erased in a moment.
He proudly presented me with a note he had written with the assistance of Nana:
As I looked at the note, I thought about all the support they had given me during the week. I thought about the fact that my poor children spent an entire week without a home-cooked meal. In fact, the only hot food they got at all was the cafeteria lunch at school. They were up early for morning daycare all week, and were the last lollipops to be picked up every single night.
“How do you know I did a good job?” I said. “I don’t,” said The Preschooler with authority. “But it doesn’t matter.”
Boy was he right about that one. There was no senior partner here at my home congratulating me on a job well done. There was no defendant slapping me on the back to tell me how glad he was that I had been his lawyer. There wasn’t a big fat bonus or promotion awaiting me. Hell, there wasn’t even a wife with my slippers and a cold drink.
Right about the time I was feeling sappy about their sacrifices, unconditional love and innocence, I peered through the fog of sap and saw my own kitchen floor. There was a layer of something on the floor. Not a spot. Not dirt. An entire layer. It was grime. It was guinea pigs. It was gross. Against my better judgment, I raised my eyes up slowly, as if looking at the horror scene you know is coming because a young girl in a bikini top is curiously wandering through a thick, wooded brush to see what the strange chainsaw noise is all about. I had to come to grips with the squalor that had so easily overtaken my home.
I immediately focused on the overflowing kitchen sink. “How can so many dishes accumulate without any cooked meals!?” The Preschooler looked at me and blinked. I was clearly wrong. I couldn’t bear it. I turned away. I literally turned my back by executing a perfect “about face,” and headed toward the bed.
So I ended my legal victory for the day by lugging the big one out of her bed into mine, and carrying the little one up the stairs to my room. As they slept I laid awake for one more minute, thinking about lawsuits and emails and emotional distress. I slipped downstairs in the dark to send myself one more little email note for Monday morning, so that I would be able to overcome the possibility of insomnia. I left the lights off mostly so I wouldn’t have to see the condition of the rest of the house.
And that’s when I found a note from Sweet Pea near my computer. Sadly, I guess she thought that was the best place to put something so that I’d see it right away. Sadly, she was right.
It read: “you are the best mom ever!!! Good job Today. I hope you did great! Your so nice. here is a picture for you to celebrate. Good news. I finished my homework. the moon stands for you saying goodnight o sweet pea. the pink and blue cat stands for – your like as sweet as a kitten. The bow in the pink and blue cats head stands for your buty. The stars stan for your heart bersting open with Love. the hills stand for you running to help. Love, Sweet Pea.”
After staring at it for a moment, I couldn’t remember what I had come down to write. But I knew, whatever it was, it wasn’t important. This was the important work. This was the reward. This was the job worth fighting for.
I wasn’t sure why a kid I had abandoned all week had likened my ability to come running to her like the rolling hills holding up a pink kitten under a blue moon. But clearly I was “butiful” in her eyes, and that was really all that mattered.
I crossed back through the war zone in the dark, making my way up the stairs with minimal foot impalement, and snuggled back into the bed between them. I went to sleep determined to make it up to them the next day. It was time to make it up to them.
To be continued …