A few months after we moved to Ave Maria, I was talking with another mother in our neighborhood. She kept asking me if I knew so-and-so, who lived around the corner, or so-and-so, who lived at the end of my street. Finally, she asked if I knew the neighbor directly across the street from me. When I responded in the negative yet again, she shot me a kind of sideways glance and asked, “Do you ever leave your house?”
At the time, I didn’t really know to respond, so I just stammered, “Uh, well, you know, I blog.” No, I don’t really leave my house. Maybe I’ll make a weekly appearance at the Bean or the Oratory, but as far as being out and about in the neighborhood, nah. Not so much.
Lately I’ve been trying to rectify that a little. I’ve made a slight effort to appear at Sienna’s school events (okay, maybe the plural is stretching it), or take Charlotte to ballet and hang out with the boys in the Piazza during the hour-long class. I’ve even tried to be a grown up about my appearance. Makeup, jeans at the very least but sometimes dresses and skirts, children with combed hair and shoes that match. I have this nagging feeling that I should try and act like a mature adult who can have children and be poised at the same time.
But the truth is that I can’t. I just can’t. Like the proverbial klutz who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time (<—also me), I cannot appear in public with children without self-destructing into a spazzy puddle of chaos.
Today I was determined to go to the May Day procession and crowning of Mary. Sienna’s whole school processes over the bridge to the Piazza, around the university campus, and finally into the Oratory for Mass, all while saying the Rosary. The first communicants wear their white and walk directly behind the statue of Mary that a couple of seniors hold aloft at the head of the line. Behind them, the kids walk from youngest to oldest, all carrying a flower to lay at the feet of Mary.
Sienna really wanted me to be there, so I got her off to school and immediately started getting myself and the smaller minions ready. The procession started at 9:30 but I wanted to leave by 9 so I would have time to get her a flower from the store and get to the school in time to give it to her.
Of course everything went to pot, as it always done when I’m making the kids move at a pace infinitesimally quicker than molasses, and we flew out the door at 9:35. I pulled up to the school just in time to see the smallest kids reaching the bridge. Muttering choice and inappropriate words, I swung the car around and drove over to the Piazza.
We managed to park and get out just in time to see Sienna walk by. Some kind soul had given her a flower, thank God, so I didn’t catch her trademarked look of sad, neglected reproach. She just smiled and waved and I caught sight of her still-intact French braid and felt, momentarily, like a capable adult. French braided hair speaks volumes to me. It says, “my mother cares enough about me to get up early and braid my hair so it’s neat and pretty before I go to school.” Usually Sienna’s hair says, “I did this low ponytail myself because by the time my mom had stumbled through making my breakfast and my lunch, she was already asleep again standing up while nursing the baby, and I didn’t want to wake her.” I was so proud of myself. Here I was, standing with the other moms like a real grown-up mom, pushing a stroller with a non-screaming baby in it, holding the hands of a 2 and a 4 year old whose shoes and clothes matched and whose hair was both combed and clean, wearing an actual skirt with an actual non-t-shirt-type-shirt, and watching my daughter walk with her class, the proud bearer of a French braid.
As I sat down, the top of my very large water bottle popped off and the water bottle, which was inside the diaper bag, turned upside down and drenched the bag, its contents, me, Lincoln, and my stupid skirt.
I tried to set Lincoln down on the couch so I could clean up the puddle we had become and, more importantly, fish my phone out of the diaper bag before it got wet, but wee Linc has panicked at the rush of cold water down his diaper and grabbed the neck of my very stretchy, nursing-friendly shirt with both frantic fists. Just for funsies, he let out an ear-splitting wail as soon as his bottom hit the couch, so everyone in the Bean looked up and realized, at the exact same moment I did, that my son had pulled the neck of my shirt down to the top of my skirt.
Luckily it’s finals week, so all the students were there instead of just some of them.
I spent the next 30 minutes trying to clean up a gazillion ounces of water with coffee-shop napkins and only one arm, while the other tried to contain a very angry, very wet Lincoln. His spare outfit was soaked, along with all the diapers, the nursing cover, my keys, and my wallet. Miraculously, my phone escaped the deluge.
Once everything was no longer dripping, I looked down and saw that water had spilled all over the front and back of my skirt (I’m assuming I actually sat in it) in this awesome between-the-thighs pattern that made it look like I had peed my skirt in defiance of both gravity and biology. Also, my flowy shirt that had been graciously hiding my unwaist was now ungraciously clinging to said convex midline. By this point, Liam was crying because his cookie was inside a bag that I was cruelly not opening, Lincoln was wailing and clawing at me in drenched and hungry despair, trying to simultaneously rip my shirt off and dive down the front of it, and the people around me were eyeing me covertly with that look I’ve become all-too-familiar with. The one that says, “I’d really like to offer to help her, but I’m not sure I have the kind of help she needs.”
I gathered up the kids and bags and food as best I could and tried to make a silent escape, but the squeak-squeak-squeak of my water-logged sandals betrayed me and marked every second of our excruciatingly slow walk of social outing shame.
I found a corner outside to hide in for the duration of Charlotte’s class, during which both boys were perfect angels and nothing catastrophic or even mildly awkward happened.
1) Taking the minions on social outings is like pouring water on a gremlin.
2) I will never manage to look polished while I have nursing babies.
3) I will never manage to look polished while I am a spaz and a half.
4) I will never manage to look polished unless I am miraculously gifted with with coordination.
5) I will never manage to look polished.
6) Skirts are devil.
I think I’ll just stay home for a few years.