Writers need readers and it’s a pleasure to introduce readers to good writing. And so when Amanda at Hill + Pen invited me to participate in a blog-swap around the theme of the new school year, I thought she was kind of a genius.
Amanda is an accomplished lawyer, writer, wife and mother, whose writings I have enjoyed on many levels. She can tug at my heart while also making me laugh so hard that I snort my coffee. And, quite simply, it’s nice to be reminded that in these experiences we’re living through (mothering, wifedom, womanhood), we aren’t alone.
Each of us and our families, our stories, are like squares in a giant quilt. Taken individually, each is nice to look at, but it’s in the stitching together that the comfort and art of a quilt is created. In our uniqueness, in our brokenness, in our messiness, we are all a part of something wonderful.
Gold at the End of the Carpool Rainbow: Amanda B. Hill
In my past life, someone else waited in the carpool line or took my kid to dance class. Someone else got to absorb that quiet solitude on the way home where children dwell upon their own growing up. All the eye rolling and school lunches, teacher hugs and broken pencils – it all rattles around inside their little brains like Yahtzee dice. I was not privy to this before. I wasn’t particularly interested in it, to be quite honest. Outsource what you can, be present for the important stuff. That was my overall motto. My work was valuable. I was surrounded by engaging, professional peers, and I was actually doing what I’d gone to law school to do. I’d much rather be solving complex problems with high-stake outcomes than listen to a sullen child mutter things like “I’m still hungry” or “when I get home, I wanna watch my show.” Hire a nanny, and go back to solving problems.
But things have changed. This week, I sat in the carpool line with my child’s pick-up number vividly displayed on my dash. I inched forward, only to be given dirty looks for daring to stop at the front of the school. But isn’t this where my daughter is supposed to be picked up? Isn’t that the mass of students in which she is a part of right over there to the right? “Keep moving forward,” some man yells. I obeyed, although I’m going the opposite direction from my desired location, which is to be in proximity to the child I’m there to pick up. “Keep these cars going!” another lady yells and tells me to keep driving. Do they think my child is actually in the vehicle, and I’m just loitering around to see what all the other families are having for dinner?
I sense there must be a problem, so I park and exit my vehicle, flag someone down and indicate that my child is not yet in my car. I hear someone yell “6H! We need 6H!” I feel like I’m in an ER and there’s an emergent page overhead. My little girl finally comes walking over with an escort, her blond hair pulled back in two small braids. “Is she yours?” the lady says. I’m sure at this point no sarcastic response is appreciated, so despite all my natural yearnings I just nod and wave. When I go around to open the door some lady is peering inside my Chevy Tahoe. “Where is the driver?” she asks to no one in particular as she waves her arms around helplessly in big circles. “Did someone call for 6H?”
“I’m here,” I say as I pop around the car door. Just picking up my kiddo, from your ridiculously complex carpool system that involves walkie-talkies and screaming ladies and moms driving ten miles past where the actual children are. It’s moments like this I miss the nanny, whereby I trusted she navigated through all these waters, and listened patiently as she was being barked at by carpool volunteers. It was times like this I wondered why I ever left the practice of law, sitting here for an hour while 6H is lost in the shuffle.
On the way home, I asked my daughter about her day. She was forced to sit by some boy at lunch because her spot was taken. Her teacher mentioned the consumption of Jolly Ranchers for good behavior. They played freeze tag and ran around the gym twice. I heard it fresh and clean, like first-run newsprint. She told me that she folds her paper like a hot dog and they read a story from the Treasury of Beatrix Potter. I smiled because she could have just said Peter Rabbit and thought of her little sullen face as she sat by a boy. I laughed at the thought of all those tiny people with jaws stuck shut by jolly ranchers and how my daughter hates to sweat and had to run around the gym in her polyester school uniform.
But she told me. It came rattling out of her brain after all and the thoughts landed like dice in the Tahoe, sitting on the dirty back seat alongside tennis shoes, an extra diaper, and a Kleenex box. She didn’t tell the nanny, who later told me bits and pieces. I didn’t have to drag it out of her second-hand, after the newness wore off. I was there in real time, soaking up her day like raindrops. We drove home and she sat down in a heap, taking off her shoes and sighing. I hugged her little body and kissed her cheeks. I’m so glad you had a good day. Your hair sure is cute in those braids. I love you so much. “Yeah mom,” she said. “I know all that. Can I watch my show?”
And it hit me that this is so much more meaningful to me than contracts, or settlements, or budget meetings. This is unscripted life, played out in real time. This is absorbing the emotions that come from growing up, and seeing the affect of a new routine on my daughter’s precious little mind. It’s the little mentions and the subtle reactions and the tiny tidbits that connect my mind with hers. It’s how I know she’s okay, and thriving.
When my husband got home, he asked about my day. It might have sounded lame to him. Cleaners. Bank. Carpool disaster. But to me it was like a precious quilt square that I could sew into my new life. Another golden moment of understanding. Of absorbing. Of being that constant in her tiny little childhood. I tucked her in and we read a story and I thanked God for allowing me into her world.
So tomorrow, and the next day, and the week after next, I’ll still be sitting in that same carpool line, waiting for my first-born to appear. On the way home, I’ll hear about the tiny little details of her life, or nothing at all. But I’ll take what I can get, breathing in her childhood like fresh, mountain air.
~ Amanda Hill from hill + pen