It was one of those stretches when nothing works out.
Summer continued to be a terrible slump. The past-due bills just got higher. I had to go to the food pantry again.
Jimmy came by asking if he could borrow fifteen dollars, but I didn’t have anything to give him, and that always irks me.
The heavy rain knocked over my tomato cages, and the tomatoes swelled up and cracked from all the extra water. I can cut out the cracks if they dry up and scab over, but these were the kind of cracks that stay juicy and rot. I’ve thrown more tomatoes onto the compost than I’ve eaten this week.
I got an email from the friendly school psychologist asking if I’d enrolled Adrienne in school yet, which is how I found out that the bale of paperwork I’d done at the psychologist’s office hadn’t been the official enrollment paperwork. I floored it over to the middle school to get the forms. This was the first middle school I’d ever stepped into in my life. I’d gone to a Catholic school meant for Kindergarten through eighth graders until I was eleven, and then homeschooled until college. Adrienne had homeschooled from preschool until now. None of my friends had gone to a middle school. It was something completely new.
I got to the school in the middle of fifth grade orientation, which is how I found out that Adrienne won’t get the standard open house tour of her new building. I hadn’t been notified there was such a thing because she wasn’t officially enrolled yet. I didn’t know what the principal looked like, but I found him rather easily: he was the one wandering from cafeteria table to cafeteria table cracking jokes. I explained my embarrassing mistake and that Adrienne had already been evaluated for her IEP before she was even enrolled in school. He introduced me to the secretary, who introduced me to a stack of papers the size of a Victor Hugo novel. She explained there’s no school bus for middle school. You have to walk or bike or catch the city bus, or get dropped off by a parent. She also explained that the school lunch and breakfast were free because a critical mass of students in the district were low income– this might not help us too much because of Adrienne’s wheat sensitivity, but it’s something good. She promised that the school schedule would be sent to me as soon as she filed the paperwork. As of Sunday, I haven’t gotten it.
The next day we were supposed to line up to get a free backpack full of brand new school supplies, at the Back-to-School Bash orchestrated by the same generous church that runs the food pantry. But through one SNAFU and then another, we missed it. I didn’t even know what supplies she needed and now I had to find out what they were and pay for them with rent a bit late and a water bill looming. I lost my temper and yelled at Adrienne, who wasn’t to blame, and then immediately apologized and felt rotten.
That night, the dryer started acting up.
If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you know that we were given a new washer and dryer as an Epiphany present just before the 2020 lockdown. . Before that we’d spent years washing clothes in the bathtub and drying them on racks, or sometimes getting a geriatric used appliance that broke in a matter of weeks, or sometimes dragging a cart full of dirty clothes to the laundromat on foot. These were an unspeakably luxurious gift and the first new appliances I’d ever had, and I named them Crockett and Tubbs.
On this particular Friday evening, Lady McFluff the guinea pig was playing happily on my favorite quilt on top of my bed when she did what happy guinea pigs do. I stripped the wet sheets and quilt off my bed and took them all downstairs. I loaded them in Crockett the washing machine, which turned on just as it always does. Tubbs the dryer still had damp clothes inside, so the dryer was started again. It made a burning smell and a horrifying THUMP-a THUMP-a THUMP-a sound, like a car with engine knock about to burst into flames.
My brain went six different places at once. I melted down at the prospect of going back to drying our clothes on racks just before school started. I cheered up that with the stalking neighbor gone, we could just make a regular clothesline outdoors. I panicked that we were already impossibly behind and couldn’t afford a handyman to fix the machine. I sprinted into the hallway to clean out the shoe rack, so the handyman we couldn’t afford to hire would not be offended by the sight of a cluttered foyer. I stopped for a minute to ask in the Buy Nothing Group if there was a handyman who could come over for free. I despaired that my quilt and bedsheets were in the wash covered in guinea pig pee and I’d have to sleep on a bare mattress.
And then I left the shoe rack half cleaned and ran outside to see if the smell and sound had anything to do with the exhaust vent.
Adrienne came with me unbidden, using the flashlight on her phone. She has always been more practical than I am. She held it up for me. I scraped as much lint as I could grab out of the filter on the back porch, in the yard I was afraid to stand in for years while the stalking neighbor tormented us. There was a big wad of it right in the vent cover.
Back inside, we tried the Tubbs again and it started with no knock and no smell.
If only all crises were averted so easily.
At that point, I started to cry.
I’m sure things will quiet down and get better as soon as we’re in the swing of the school year, but right now everything is terribly chaotic. I have no idea what I’m doing or what would be best to do next.
That’s what I did toward the end of the week, when I should have been writing.