A woman in her thirties pauses on the steps of the elementary school, her shoulders, slumped and her head drooping. It is only for a second, but if anyone was watching, they would recognise the posture of defeat. It was not yet 8:00 in the morning and already the day had won.
The bell has already rung, but there is still hope! The kids are lined up against the concrete wall of the school, waiting morosely to be let in, not unlike convicts whose yard time is over. Across the vast, concrete playground two girls and a family come running, packsacks heavy and awkward on their backs and their soft tissue lunch bags bouncing off their hips. The eldest daughter is the fastest and manages to make it to the tail end of the line where she spots two of her friends. With a nonchalant wave to her mother, she proceeds up the stairs and is gone. But something is amiss. The mother turns around and realises that her youngest daughter is crying, her small, round face hidden by hair and her tiny body laden with bags. The mother, desperate to get to the door before they lock it, grabs her by the hand and pulls her toward the entry asking in exasperation, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”. The youngest daughter can only cry. By now they have reached the steps and the teacher is waiting for them to close the door. The youngest daughter buried herself in her mother’s middle and does not want to come out. The mother asks the teacher, “Can I bring her in?” still wanting to avoid the stigma of lateness in the form of a yellow pass handed out by the school’s secretary. The teacher says, “no” and takes the youngest daughter by the hand and enters the school. The mother is left on the steps of the school, staring as the door closes.
“WHERE IS SHE?” the mother yells, rushing through the house, searching for her youngest daughter.
“She’s on the bed pouting,” the eldest says nonchalantly flipping through a magazine.
“WE HAVE TO GO! YOU!GET DOWNSTAIRS RIGHT NOW AND IN THE CAR!”
And there on the bed, facing the wall is the youngest.
“JESUS CHIRST, WHAT THE HELL? YOU TOO! COME ONNNNNNNNNNN.”
The youngest turns in exasperation, her sulking obviously not causing the reaction she would have liked. She abrubtly climbs off the bed and shouts,”OKAY!”
“She’s wearing my pants and I was saving them for tomorrow! Tomorrow is gymnase!”
They are both in the bathroom applying the toothpaste to their toothbrush in a painfully slow fashion. They have to leave in three minutes.
“But she said we were sharing clothes!” wails the youngest, looking at the mother with an exasperated, “make her see reason” kind of look.
The mother, adrenaline pumping through her sleep deprived and hungry brain, rolls her eyes and stomps her feet, knowing that a train wreck of hurt feelings and emotions run amok is just about to occur and THEY DO NOT HAVE THE TIME. The mother takes a deep breath to steady herself and in a voice as calm as she can muster says, “honey, would you mind choosing some other pants today?” And to her eldest daughter who has over reacted and almost caused a domino affect of tantrums, she says, “Next time, please tell your sister that those pants are off limits. You didn’t tell her. It is not her fault.”
Fatal mistake. The youngest sister overheard and senses an opportunity for award winning histrionics.
The mother, just back from her run, is in the kitchen rushing to get four lunches ready. She turns the radio on loud enough so the household can hear and she won’t have to go wake them up. There is nothing in the fridge for the lunches. The kids will just have to make do with rice cakes and creamcheese. The mother, rushed and angry at herself for not preparing the night before, rages like a tornado through the kitchen. In the meantime, the kids stretch and slowly make their way to the bathroom. Already the paces are different. The mother is in fastforward and to her, the kids seem like they are in rewind.
She woke up late again and now her alone time is almost over. The mother sits at the dimly lit kitchen table, knowing she has to leave now for her run or else her sanity (not to mention her waistline) will pay the price but is loathe to leave when finally there is a quiet moment. She puts her coffee down, shuts her writing book and heads out into the dark morning.
The alarm turns on. The mother stretches into consciousness and thinks,”Oh god, it begins again.”