Today Gigi and I were in a rush to get to school. We’re always late for preschool. Anyone who knows me well, understands that I have a slight tardiness problem. I don’t really know what happens, but it’s clear that a time issue that started when I was young, way before kids, has only grown more severe with each child added to the familial fold. My husband considers this characteristic of mine one of those that falls in the “for worse” column. My parents have “waited me out” many an instance, gathered with my siblings around the car about to embark on some family adventure…if only the daughter would come out of the house already!!! My father would become so steamed, he’d start the car, his hand poised to honk, I’m sure (though he never did; he is a man of great control) before I’d come dashing out of the house, frazzled and muttering, “You never give me enough time!” Even my in-laws know to calculate extra time into any family gathering such as Thanksgiving dinner. So, if they announce that dinner will start at 3:00, they know to suggest a start time of 2:00, thereby ensuring that we’ll show up at 3:00, just in time for the dinner.
The older three children also know all about the “Cassie Time” dilemma. With eyes rolling at the clock, they have bonded tightly over this phenomenon, joined together in disgust over their often harried, tardy, completely “frazzed-out” mother who has made them late once again. At the early age of three-and-a-half, Gigi is already beginning to comprehend the seriousness of “Cassie Time” and its long-range effects on her future.
“Come on, Gigi! We gotta go. We’re really late, today!” I use my jazzed-up-on-coffee voice. So many things to do, so little time!
“Mommy, I think we are late every day,” says Dr. Gigi, nose scrunched up as she concentrates on accurately assessing the clear symptoms of “Late Virus” that have clearly befallen her mother, the patient.
“Yes, I always get behind….”
“Why do you always get behind?” she asks.
“I don’t really know. I guess I just try to cram too much in. There’s never enough time.”
The doctor is silent. She prefers to give her diagnosis after more careful deliberation.
We’ve gathered our things (princess backpack, princess lunch box, the extra doo-hickey – stuffed animal, random toy, hairbrush, old cell phone – that must accompany Gigi on this particular car-ride to school and we’ve managed to successfully slither out the door while avoiding the bull dog’s escape. (Simone would like nothing better than to skip down to the deck and lick some barbecue drippings.)
“Come, come, come,” I press urgently. “Get up into the car seat quickly. Let’s get to school.”
As if to underscore the point about being behind schedule, Gigi takes her time to mount the car seat, careful to first place all her extra carry-on packs and accoutrements gently, on the next seat over, before settling into her own throne… with elaborate care… and excessive re-adjustment of her body parts. I rush in to set straps straight and clasp buckles but the princess has decided, in this instance, that she must buckle herself. She tries, she misses, she tries again, she misses again.
“Please Gigi we’ve got to go. Come on. We’re late. I’ll do it.”
“Don’t pinch me!” she scolds. (Once, many months ago, in an effort to get on the move quickly, a chunk of Gigi’s thigh got caught between buckle and clasp. No matter that a mother doesn’t easily forget such a gross miscalculation, Gigi always reminds me to take care.) I slow down and carefully slide the clasp into the buckle, which glides and then clicks sharply into place without coming into contact with any thigh skin. Making sure all hands are free of the closing door (another memory of a finger in the door, which wasn’t my fault, makes me momentarily weak in the knees) before I’m bouncing into my own seat, buckling up, and checking the rear view to make my way out of the driveway.
Something’s on my mind….I can’t think what it is… I was pondering before we left the house…a mental check: we have everything Gigi needs for school…when I get back from the drop-off should I ride my bike, then write or the other way around? Another beautiful day…take the chicken out for barbecue tonight…dog likes to lick the barbecue drippings…oh…oops…I took the right turn back there…as if I were going to pick-up Charlie from school….his school dismissal’s not for six hours.
“Oh, Gigi, Mommy’s so silly! I took the turn as if we were going to Charlie’s school. See?”
“But, we’re not going to Charlie’s school now, we’re going to my school, Mommy. This is the looooong way to my school. We’re verrrry late, Mom. Why did we go this way, Mom?”
“I guess I forgot which schedule we were on, G. I was thinking about other stuff. Sorry.”
“You have to keep to your schedule, Mommy. You can’t forget which way we’re going and… what time is it? Mom, how late are we now?” (The dreaded question every child of mine has asked many times over, “How late are we now?!”)
“It’s not too late. Okay, Gigi. I’ll try better. Here we are.” At last, we’ve rolled onto the side street of her preschool and I park the car. Gigi disembarks from the vehicle, attempting to sling the backpack over her shoulders herself. I move to assist her but she stomps forward and half carries, half drags her backpack behind her. She’s muttering about recess and how much of it she’s missed already. Her classmates are outside on the petite playground behind the building. We both hear sounds of voiced shrieks (happy or sad, hard to decipher) and tricycle wheels rolling over pavement as we rush toward the front entrance. We follow the miniature trail to her particular classroom, and I find the small sign marked “Gigi” and loop her backpack onto the hook. Gigi rushes toward the classroom back door, heading quickly for the playground.
I call to her, “Bye, Gigi. Have a good day! I’ll see you later!”
Without looking back, her eyes already searching the grounds for her friend Jocelyn, she yells back, all bossy and crisp, “Do your schedule, Mommy!” I check my watch and rush back to my car, considering how much I can cram into the next three hours and begin the journey homeward.