Caleb is dressed and ready for the snowy tundra that is our driveway. He had been jumping around the house with his backpack wide open, and one of his shoes fell out somewhere. I send him outside to wait for the bus as I frantically search the wild terrain that is our floor. After all, one can’t participate in gym if one is wearing winter boots. It’s just not done. I find it as Caleb is getting on the bus. I run with superhero speed, in my bare feet and pajamas through two feet of drifted snow, waving my arms and shouting like a looney-bird. The driver stops and everyone stares with wide eyes as I march to the door and hand Caleb his shoe.
“Oh. Thanks, mom,” he says nonchalantly. I go back inside and stand on the radiator for a good five minutes.
One Hour Later
I am sitting in the back of a church sanctuary with all of other moms whose husbands and parents can’t get out of work to go to their child or grandchild’s Christmas program. My camera is primed; I am ready to shoot video of Ben singing “Rudolph,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” My friend sitting next to me bites her lip through “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Her son has admitted to swinging his arms a little too vigorously during the song, previously injuring the little girl who sits next to him. I peer over at them and, indeed, the little girl looks a bit anxious.
Daniel sits and plays with his gowack but Ella thinks Ben’s Christmas program is a wild party and she dances in the aisle. No one seems to care.
In the crowd later, Santa arrives. I coral the twins and Ella is picked up by Mrs. Claus. She stares in awe. Santa asks her what she wants for Christmas and she shakes her head.
“No,” she says.
We go home after slipping and sliding through the parking lot.
I spend a good two hours at my favorite lunch bistro, McDonald’s, with Janet. Ella climbs the elaborate jungle gym and won’t come down. I stand below bribing her with a candy cane.
I drop the kids off at my mom's so I can go to the dentist.
No cavities! The dentist wants to know how I chipped my front tooth. I can’t remember. He seems to think that is odd.
I run to the mall to find a pretty dress to wear to a Christmas gala that evening. I find one at Sears. It is brown. I don’t try it on.
Back at my mom's, bundling the kids. I look at the clock and am astonished to remember that Caleb is getting off of the bus in five minutes, and I’m twenty minutes away. I get hysterical. My mother slaps me across the face and says,
“Pull yourself together woman!”
I pull myself together and call my wonderful friends and neighbors who live around the corner. Chris literally races the bus to my house and grabs Caleb. Thankfully, the bus driver doesn’t call the cops when Caleb gets into a strange car with a man who is not his father.
4:00- 5:00 pm
I sob at what an idiot I am. I vow it will never happen again. I don’t vow it to Caleb, because he has no idea what almost happened. I vow it to Ella, who nods, solemnly.
I squeeze myself into my new dress. John, who is a bit cool toward me, probably because of incidences that occurred earlier that afternoon, zips me up but doesn’t tell me I look pretty. I totally deserve that. Plus, my eyes are bloodshot and the dress is a bit tight and I really don’t look pretty at all.
At the Lakeside Hospital Christmas gala, a woman at the bathroom says:
“Has anyone told you you look just like Renee Zellwegger?”
Actually, yes! When “Jerry Maguire” came out, another woman in a bathroom told me I looked just like Renee Zellwegger. It was one of the happiest moments of my small life.
The woman in the convention center bathroom turns to her friend behind her and says:
“Renee Zellwegger. You know. Bridget Jones.”
It’s come to this. I used to look like “Jerry Maguire” Renee Zellwegger. Now I look like “Bridget Jones” Renee Zellwegger. If someone ever compares me to “Cold Mountain” Renee Zellwegger, I may do something hostile.
Laura Bush is the keynote speaker. She comes out and places a bobble-head of herself on her podium.
“It has come to this,” she says. She explains that the bobble-head was purchased by a friend at a gift store in Washington D.C. It was on the clearance rack.
How utterly sad.
I lose the silent auction I was bidding on, but win the table’s gorgeous centerpiece. John forgives me for my past transgression and we go home kind of tired.
John leaves for Buffalo to speak about constitutional freedoms at a men’s breakfast.
Everyone is up and eating oatmeal.
John comes home and Ben and I rush off to swim lessons. Ben now jumps into the pool, doggie-paddles in the deep end, floats on his back, and practices blowing bubbles in the water. He has vastly improved in just a few weeks.
Back home… I leave John to spend the day Christmas shopping with one of my best friends. I eat a St. John panini at Cibon and later a slice of lemon raspberry cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.
Back home. John leaves with boys to get a Christmas tree. I tell them to get a BIG one. They come home with not such a big one. Ben and Caleb are pleased with their tree.
“It was the best one!!!!” says Ben.
“They had to have this one,” says John.
It occurs to me that the tree does look huge to the boys.
John leaves to hang out with friends. I curl up with a book I bought for somebody else for Christmas. I intend to read all of the books I have purchased for others before Christmas. Is that wrong?
I’m off to sing in the church choir. I come back in between services to grab Caleb. Ben sounds croupy so John decides to stay home with him.
Caleb and I grab lunch at Wegmans after church: white cream-filled donuts, and head over to Supercuts so Caleb looks less like mountain child and more like a nice little boy. It grosses me out that the hair hasn’t been swept off the floor by Caleb’s salon chair. I am standing on someone else’s hair.
Back home. Ben and Ella are napping. The Bills are winning. I intend to take a winter’s nap. Ben comes down from his nap wheezing. He can hardly talk and seems to be struggling to breathe. Since I am leaving later to go with Caleb to his Christmas piano recital, John decides to take Ben to Urgent Care.
Urgent Care takes one look at Ben and calls an ambulance. John and Ben ride over to Strong. I start cleaning the house because what else can one do when one feels like throwing up because her small child is away from her, in an ambulance, fighting to breathe?
The doctors at the hospital are alarmed by a constriction in Ben’s throat. At first, they think he might have actually swallowed something that got lodged there. It turns out his throat is just very swollen. He has severe croup. They give him albuterol and steroids and wait.
My dad comes and picks up Caleb for his recital. They are going to play “Jingle Bells” as a duet together. Caleb is okay that I’m not coming.
Ben is released. The twins and I bundle up and ride to Strong to pick them up. We then grab John’s car at Urgent Care, stopping to pick up some popsicles for Ben. Ben is spry, but is milking his illness for all it’s worth.
“Mom,” he says, “I am still very, very sick.” He gives Renee Zellwegger in “Cold Mountain” performances, sometimes. Oscar-worthy, I mean.
I am so tired but I can’t sleep. I read more of the book I am giving to someone else, being very careful not to bend one single page. I am thankful that everyone is safe and under one roof. I have apocalyptic dreams, where all of the banks in the world crash and utter chaos is the new normal.
I am glad it’s Monday. Caleb, who was incredibly neglected this weekend, doesn’t want to go to school. He’d rather stay home with, of all people, me. We watch his performance at the recital again and again.
I’m sorry, buddy.
I’ll do better next weekend.