Without stirring for fear of making the natives restless, I recounted my slumber schedule and determined that the five straight hours of sleep I got on Tuesday night was the longest consecutive stretch of sleep all week. I reasoned that if an entire week of sleep deprivation made me punch-drunk (it did), then this was the sleep-induced hangover. I strained my neck just a little to move my head and I swear my brain rattled. I gave up and relaxed my neck muscles, sinking back down into the pillow. More rattling brain. Owie.
One kid was on my left, with her feet on the pillow where a head should be. As luck would have it, this was the kid with the traditionally stinky feet. The other was on my right. It was The Preschooler and his little hand was still resting gently on my face. Great. Nice restful night after a sleepless week. Genius. I knew this whole scene was my own rookie mistake. In my haste to huggle and snuggle my poor week-long abandoned children, I had foolishly acquiesced to letting everyone stay the night in “the big bed.” And now I was paying the price. I had bonked heads with one or both children several times, been awakened by pleas for more covers, and spent the remainder of the night with a hand, foot, knee or elbow piercing me in the back, stomach, or both. And now there was a hand laying across my face.
At this point, a quiet cup of coffee was all I really wanted.
I somehow managed to wriggle away without waking the co-wrigglers, and I found my way down the stairs into Dante’s Tenth Ring of the Inferno. This is the lesser-known ring just past Satan’s icy ring, devoted to the mothers who despise housekeeping and refuse to admit that they are the ones who are eventually going to have to do something to fix it. I looked around our great room and assessed the situation:
- The ornamentless but highly flammable and nearly petrified Christmas tree stood amidst a halo of needles now hopelessly embedded in the carpet;
- Tiny slivers of guinea pig bedding were scattered in a haphazard trail across the wood floor from the cage to the refrigerator, around the island, and into the bathroom. What that trail signified in terms of the handling of vermin, food, and toilet paper (in that order) made me shudder;
- My downstairs dish towel basket was full of wadded up pajamas with motifs like superheroes and ice cream cones, all of which smelled like moldy dish towels;
- Christmas was still all over my dining room table despite my prayers that the Christmas elves would come and take it all away;
- There was a substance that I hoped and prayed was peanut butter smeared on the corner of the counter, which was streaked all the way to the front edge of the kitchen island, ending very near the situs of the famous tweezers-in-the-electrical-outlet incident;
- The phone message machine blinked at me. Eleven. Eleven. Eleven. Eleven … These go to eleven.
Finally, I saw it: through a kaleidoscope of optimistically half full glasses of sour milk, water, and once sparkling cider, it was possible to see the image of a coffee maker. I carefully swept the glasses aside, made a pot of the headache-chasing elixir, ignored the mess (I don’t think I’m getting out of this ring of the Inferno anyhow), and gingerly backed away from the HAZMAT Zone into the one remaining bastion of order – the office.
And at that moment when my rear hit the chair, in walked Sweet Pea. So much for one quiet cup of coffee.
We talked about her astounding artwork and I did my best not to cry as she explained each element of the piece. We talked about her week, my deposition, the best kind of earrings, our favorite ice cream, and the funniest boy in the class. And then she looked at me and smiled. She lowered her chin and batted her eyes. I always squint when she does this. Even after 100 days without her Daddy, this universal skill is still adequately intact. It always reminds me of the way I spoke with my dad.“Can we go to the movies?” “Today? I thought we’d clean up today.” “Awwwww, mawm. You’ve been working all week.”
Sucker punch. This was somewhat like the day when she announced, “when I grow up I want to be a teacher so I can go home and be with my kids during the day.”“Well. I’ll think about it.” “YESSS!”
Apparently “I’ll think about it” means yes. I’m pretty sure this is a bad sign. But I updated my Facebook status anyway, and prepared for my guilt-induced day of make-up parenting. It read:
“The house is a wreck. I can’t find the floor. Obviously, we need to go play somewhere else.”
And so, we did.
To be continued …