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My day: an update, of sorts

July 22, 2010

7:30 a.m. Wake with raging sore throat. Ponder the impossibility of getting out of bed in search of aspirin; content self with swig of tepid bedside fizz-less seltzer water, which causes me to clutch my throat in agony. Sudden happy realization: I am alone! For the first time in what seems like–what is, in fact–weeks! There is no one to cook breakfast for, nor to get up for. I can sleep until the children bike home from camp at 11:30, which might nip whatever germ I’m cultivating in the bud.

8:30 a.m. Telephone rings. I croak some kind of greeting into the receiver. “I just wanted you to know that our younger son wants you to pick him up after camp because his bicycle is at your house,” says my ex-husband. This is fine, I suppose. However, one might view it as less than urgent information, since camp does not end for three more hours.

8:35 a.m. Telephone. Mother of older son’s best friend is not fooled by protestations that I was, really and truly, awake. Social arrangements involving older son are transacted. Mother of older son’s best friend recommends rest, liquids.

8:37 a.m. Telephone. Ex-husband announces that he and younger son are coming over to pick up shoes, which were forgotten when he picked children up last night. I express a polite disinclination to leave my bed. Lie straining for sounds of ex-husband and son entering, locating shoes, putting on shoes, leaving. At least they will take the bicycle, I think, so that younger son, who loves riding home alone, will be able to. And I am back off the picking-up hook.

8:40 a.m. Fluff pillows, lie back. Close eyes.

8:41 a.m. Fuck it. Might as well drink coffee peacefully with newspaper on the porch.

8:42 a.m. No coffee in house. Unable to vent negative feelings, due to non-operational throat.

8:43 a.m. Unbelievably, younger son’s bicycle is still sitting in the driveway.

8:50 a.m. Coffee procured from coffee shop nearby, at great expense. Disapproving once-over from barista reminds me that sleeping in yoga clothes does not necessarily mean I am, automatically, “dressed” in the morning.

8:55 a.m. Telephone call to consoling-windows friend, who reports identical sore throat (one side only, like swallowing ground glass, excruciating but of mercifully brief duration) from last week. Hang up feeling cheered.

10:30 a.m. Coffee gone, not a single word of the newspaper left unread. I am neither showered nor dressed.

10:31 a.m. Telephone call from consoling-windows friend, regarding imminent plans to leave the house. I regret politely that, due to the nature of my domestic responsibilities and lack of proper attire, I will not be able to join her.

10:45 a.m. Decide to leave the house, attire and responsibilities be damned. Throw plastic bags filled with baby clothes into back of station wagon, high tail it in the general direction of consoling-windows friend’s errands.

10:55 a.m. Got her. Honk loudly, open passenger door, motion her in. Old lady in parking lot appears to be wondering whether she is witnessing a kidnapping. In a way, she is: demand that consoling-windows friend accompany me to Goodwill to dispose of baby clothes. Having no other choice (I’ve locked the car doors, and hit the gas) she consents.

11:10 a.m. At the Goodwill drop off, suddenly spot something I cannot live without in one of the clear plastic bags stuffed with baby clothes, and claw my way in. It’s a winter garment, with elfin pointed hood, bought for younger son at tremendous expense and after much agonizing, at a period when we had no money whatsoever, from the Hanna fucking Andersson catalog. Rationalization: Elder son was born in warmer climes, and had no winter hand-me-downs to bestow. Also, bought in a size that managed to fit younger son, more or less, for three winters. Rescue operation successful, million dollar baby garment saved. Will be sent to my sister, who will not appreciate it, for her nine-month-old baby.

11:15 a.m. Become unaccountably sad about baby clothes. Remember vividly various scenarios involving babies. Those days are gone, never to return.

11:20 a.m. Inform consoling-windows friend, while driving in the opposite direction of her parked car, that she is critical to my emotional well being, and thus must accompany me to pick up younger son. Take ingenious detour in order to avoid passing ex-husband’s new house on way to camp; consider that it is going to be a long year if I must be forever devising detours. Still, it’s an open wound, and the last thing I want to see is evidence of moving, or–worse–happy habitation. Consoling-windows friend agrees. Waiting in pick-up line, with dream cottage directly behind us, utterly visible were we to crane our necks or angle the car’s mirrors, we exercise extreme self control. Eventually younger child emerges, bearing construction paper creation, grinning delightedly at the sight of us.

11:30 a.m. Return consoling-windows friend to her own car, and drive myself and younger son home. On the way we encounter consoling-windows friend’s youngest son walking home from camp, and offer him a ride, which he accepts. Love small towns.

11:45 a.m. Older son arrives on bike from job as camp counselor. Make lunch for children, in half-assed fashion.

12:00 p.m. Fail to clean up lunch. Decide that one advantage of an enormous house is the ability to destroy individual rooms, then leave, like a marauding barbarian tribe. Decamp to porch, leaving kitchen a ruin.

1:00 p.m. Realize I have been reading an issue of a magazine I already read from cover to cover for the last hour. Also, magazine is over a year old.

1:10 p.m. Shower, finally.

1:30 p.m. After numerous efforts to find clothing, resort to what is lying on the bedroom floor. This, my friends, is what summer is all about: the same clothes, the same magazines, day after day! With the right attitude, anything potentially depressing can be rendered picturesque. For instance, the peeling paint from my porch furniture, which is stuck to the back of the t-shirt I have worn for the past several days and will wear again, is evidence of charming dilapidation, rather than sloth.

1:35 p.m. Locate journal and begin to compose witty essay re the seven deadly sins and their varying degrees of desirability. Start strong (vanity is deadly; gluttony and sloth, however, are right up my alley) but lose interest after a few paragraphs. The children are playing Wii downstairs, in direct defiance of my rule against video games while it’s light out. Since this rule is broken every day, however, with zero consequences other than a tired “I told you not to play Wii”, the prohibition lacks a certain bite.

1:36 p.m. Still, as long as the children are busy playing Wii, it might be a good time to get a little work done.

1:37 p.m. Check mailbox. Oooh! The New Yorker is here!

2:10 p.m. Finish reading; am instantly overcome with regret. I should have paced myself. I hate people who say they can’t keep up with the New Yorker because it comes every week. I wish it came every day.

2:20 p.m. Appear in front of glassy-eyed children bearing snack. Order them to stop playing Wii, because they know perfectly well that video games are not allowed during daylight hours. Children give me identical jaded looks. The Wii remains paused, avatars quivering, waiting for me to leave the room. It is a Mexican standoff, for as long as I am willing to hover in the vicinity.

2:25 p.m. Why, I ask, are the three of us not at the pool?

2:35 p.m. Inability to shout at children, due to excruciating left tonsil, seriously hampers efforts to get ready. For instance, when younger son shouts “My goggles! Mom! Mom! Where are my goggles? Mom? Mom? Mom?” from third floor, I cannot shriek “We’ll get new ones from the lost and found!” loudly enough to be heard two flights away. Much unnecessary ascending and descending of stairs ensues.

2:45 p.m. On walk to pool, younger son steps in melted tar and is taunted by older son for ruining his new flip-flops. There are tears. The pool is noisy and crowded, and most of the good deckside chairs are taken. Tomorrow, I tell myself, there will be no Wii. Tomorrow I will pack lunch before they get home from camp, so that we can go to the pool in a timely fashion. I swim a few desultory laps, then repair to a lawnchair in full sun.

2:46 p.m. Children summoned for sunscreen. Both feign helplessness, grumble, wiggle, howl that I am applying TOO MUCH, step on my feet. Putting sunscreen on children is hateful, hateful chore. Thank god mine are small for their age, which lowers their surface area. Glare at nearby parent fucking up the ozone layer by coating her (cheerful, unwiggly) daughter in aerosol Coppertone. It’s her fault we are all slaves to sunscreen.

2:50 p.m. Peace. At last. I could write productively in notebook, but there is a deliciously fat copy of Vogue on an empty chair. Snag; devour. Feel very on top of things, as it is only last month’s issue.

4:30 p.m. Sudden, ghastly realization that we are going to be late for baseball. Inability to yell across the pool for children, who are treading water in the deep end and studiously avoiding eye contact due to fear of reapplication of sunscreen, necessitates jumping in again. Swim to children, who are so excited I am in the water that I can’t not play with them for a few minutes. We are going to be very late for baseball.

5:30 p.m. Not that it matters, because older son is the smallest, worst player on this particular team. When asked what position he plays by a friendly neighbor, he replies “Left bench.” Snicker.

6:15 p.m. Leave older son’s game to drive to younger son’s game.

7:00 p.m. Ex-husband appears and bounds cheerfully over to me, hell-bent on conversation. I am unable to speak much, due to searing throat pain, which makes for a truly surreal role reversal: ex-husband relates amusing anecdotes, provides running commentary on baseball game, including (but not limited to) the batting statistics of each and every second-grade player on our son’s team, discusses future summer plans and outings, describes the state of his garden (lush, bursting with vegetables) and his house (wonderful, of course) and car (making a suspicious noise; he would like to lease a hybrid) and job (lab going well; new papers about to be published). Wonder whether ex-husband sustained a brain-altering blow to the skull while on vacation in Crete, or whether this is, in fact, ex-husband at all. Struggle to remember the dénouement of “The Return of Martin Guerre”; begin to suspect that this bizarrely chatty person is a clever imposter who stole my ex-husband’s identity in order to inhabit my dream cottage. Surreptitiously try to locate identifying scars, moles on ex-husband’s forearms; meanwhile, fail to notice as younger son hits base-clearing double.

8:30 p.m. Extra innings. The sun sets.

9:00 p.m. Visigoths have sacked my kitchen. I salvage dinner from the wastes; fortunately, the children are so hungry they consume whatever strange thing I place before them. “What’s the theme of this dinner?” the elder son asks. “Food?” We are all amused.

9:30 p.m. Read a chapter or two of something or other, send the bigger child downstairs, sing the younger child to sleep. He’s in my bed, not because I aspire to be Jocasta to his Little Oedipus, but simply because it’s hot, and we are short on fans.

10:00 p.m. Older child convinces me to watch episode of South Park on my computer. I was going to work, I say weakly.

10:30 p.m. Oh, all right. One more episode.

11:05 p.m. Wander the house snapping off lights and checking locks, marveling, as I always do, that I got nothing done, absolutely nothing, and yet somehow the thread held for yet another day. Outside the third floor window, there’s an enormous, vivid moon. I admire it for a few minutes, then climb in next to my sleeping younger son, turn on the light (he never wakes) and read until my eyes cross.

1:15 a.m. I should have been asleep ages ago. Turn off light, thinking that staying up as late as one wants, reading, is one of the greatest joys of un-marriage. Alarm clock is set, doors are locked, house is quiet. My younger son stirs in his sleep, mutters something, then laughs. I lie still, repeating the following words in my head until I sleep (words appropriated by T. S. Eliot but written by Julian of Norwich):

Alle shalle be wele, and alle shalle be wele, and alle maner of thynge shalle be wele.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 5:59 pm

    This is just like the culture diaries at the Paris Review! Except funny! With things I can relate to!

    I’m going off for a week to an island sans children and husband and guess what I’m packing? About 14 back copies of the New Yorker.

  2. More Tennyson, Less Arnold permalink
    July 22, 2010 9:39 pm

    You get more brilliant with every post.

  3. Jennifer C. permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:26 pm

    Sometimes I (as a reluctant divorced person) want to thump you, but this…this is perfect. Also, very funny. Bravo.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 23, 2010 10:38 am

      Oh, I’m eminently thumpable–go ahead, any time you feel like it. I’ve often thought that I completely lack the inner resources to have been simultaneously divorced AND heartbroken–how on earth do people make it through? (“You just do,” my mother said dryly.) Anyway, the comments section is here for thumping as well as chiming in. I hope you, and others, will tell me whenever I am an unmitigated ass.

      That said, I’m so glad you liked this entry. Honored, in fact. Thank you.

  4. July 23, 2010 7:52 am

    I love this. A good day, by my standards. “Alle shalle be wele”, indeed.

  5. Elizabeth_K permalink
    July 23, 2010 9:38 am

    I don’t read it in an hour but you can bet I read it in a week — it’s like the world’s best book, WRITTEN EACH WEEK — how that Mr. Remnick does it, I’ll never know. But I salute! Reading New Yorker is the BEST use of time …

  6. July 23, 2010 3:33 pm

    Is it weird that this sounds like the best day ever? I mean, logically, I can tell that it probably doesn’t even make it into the semifinal round of the BDE, but still, it seems oddly…replete? Also like the kind of day where you take one of those naps where your tongue slides a little bit into the gap between your molars so that halfway through you wake up with an intense sharp pain in your mouth and suddenly the world seems not merely exhausting but also evil and possibly poisoned. Which naps I kind of hate but that make the day surrounding them feel deliciously full of leisure and human-being time.

  7. July 24, 2010 7:46 pm

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich! Haha.

  8. July 24, 2010 9:28 pm

    9:27pm. Finished reading entry. Sighed contentedly. Feel less alone.

  9. Maggie permalink
    July 25, 2010 8:21 pm

    Really enjoyed this. Sounds like a good day, sore throat aside.

  10. minoti permalink
    July 26, 2010 6:22 pm

    hope you are fully recovered very soon. but nonetheless a really funny entry. and so true to word. a couple of working friends ask me (i don’t work right now) ‘but what do you do all day’ and i fumble with my words. this makes me want to print this out and show it to them so they know. except my children are very young, and not in baseball, though one seems like he could be a golfer, and they are also dolphins in water. and when the kids are not with me, i do some of those same things you do too. i feel better suddenly. so thank you.
    i used to have a subscription to the new yorker, and my when-will-he-really-be-ex complained that all i did was read that vs i don’t know what, and so i just canceled the subscription. and i’ve promised myself that i’ll get it again one of these days… i really miss reading it on a continuous basis.

  11. Take 5 permalink
    July 26, 2010 10:25 pm

    Writing this post is a whole lot more than “nothing got done.” I look forward to reading your posts as much as I look forward to reading the New Yorker. Happily, your entries come more often.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 27, 2010 2:04 pm

      Well, SOMEtimes they come more often.

      Thanks so much….

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