The kitchen smokes with the smells of burnt crust and a day old French fry left behind. I’m fanning the over-zealous-the way small space smoke detectors behave- unit mounted four feet above my head with a linen napkin, kids jumping in the background, dogs running for cover. Half eaten-first round of breakfast, and the beginnings of homemade lunches litter the counters-conversations blend with the eardrum-piercing sound of the alarm, “Do you want turkey or peanut butter? Yes, I’ll cut the crust, and no, you may not have the whole bag of $6.99 per pound cherries.” Pool supply bags heap in a pile on the floor, “Pack your bags.” My little one responds, “Mom, how much money do we get for the snack bar today?” Coffee condiments crowd the hard-working, coffee dripper, luckily I’ve had my share, “None if you don’t clean up your mess, brush your teeth, pack your bags, put on your socks and shoes, and do what you’re told in general until it’s time to leave.” (And here folks-if you haven’t noticed-is a typical three-ring circus-morning with kids.)
It’s the morning after the Fourth of July, and the first day of something new, and outrageous in my life. I realize a specialty item would come in handy in order for me to make it through the day. I shout, “I need an occupational therapy ball, a small ball, or something I can grip and roll around in my hand. I’ve got to keep my hands busy with movement.” Susan walks in and brews herself a cup of coffee, I greet her with a kiss, “Good morning my sweet.” She replies, “Good morning, I may have something in my car you can use.” I smile, “Oh good, you know I need something to keep my hands occupied. I don’t know how I’m going to sit still for five hours. I hate sitting still. How am I going to focus?”
“Mom, where are you going today?” My son asks. I said, “I’ll tell you guys in the car. Do either one of you have a ball in your room I can use? Go look around for something I can squeeze.” My daughter comes back with a small, stuffed kitty. “Here mommy, use this.” Brushing my teeth, my words come out distorted, “No bay be, tha won wrk” toothpaste flies off my vibrating toothbrush, sprinkling little white dots all over the mirror. I turn off the water, snatch a piece of toilet paper, and wipe the mirror down, examining my teeth closely, smiling at myself (and if teeth could talk, they would say, “Zing!”)
I called out to Miles, “Buddy, do you have a ball I can squeeze?” He yells from his room, “Yes, I have my giant, super, duper bouncy ball. Why do you need a ball? Tell us?” I fill a water bottle, pack a bar, and shove a spoonful of peanut butter in my mouth. “I’ll tell you in the car. I’m almost ready to go.”
The backdoor squeaks, and Susan walks in,
“I couldn’t find anything for you to squeeze.” I think about it for a second as I shove hand sanitizer, and a shawl into my bag. I say, “That’s okay, I think I have a marble.” I hug her goodbye and yell for the kids. “Let’s go guy’s, I’m going to be late, I have something very important to do today.” Miles asks, “Like what? Are you going to be on T.V.?” “No,” I said. Susan laughs. He continues, “Is your book going to be in a library? Are you writing a children’s book? I ‘m hysterical, and answer, “No,” I told you I’ll tell you once we’re in the car, now let’s g-o, go!
Like a little sister, Sadie gets in on the action, “Mom, are you guys getting married today?” Susan and I catch each other’s eyes, this time we both laugh. “No,” I say through my giggles, and a flash from the scene from my imaginary “Big Lesbian Wedding,” she in a pantsuit and I in a dress, or would she be in shorts? Wait, fantasy interuptus, a child’s voice, “Oh mom, I know what it is. Are we getting a cat today?” “No” I said, with an emphasis on the O, losing my version of patience. “I told you I’d tell you in a minute.” Just get the kids situated already, damn. We all say our goodbyes to Susan. I load the kids, their bags, my bags, and myself in the car. I crank the car, blast the air and relax into my seat. Sweat traces my spine and down my ass crack, tickling and itching the valley. I’m worn out, and mentally drained; it’s 8:45AM. How am I ever going to make it through this day? I fidget, can’t sit still and have a hard time listening without creating stories of my own.
I reverse out of the driveway, looking over my shoulder I say to the kids, “I’m going to school today.” Silence,” so I continue, “I decided that I want to go back to school in order to be a better writer.” They giggle. I check the rear view mirror and find them looking straight ahead. The girl child speaks, “Mom, I thought you’re yoga teacher.” I shake my head, “Well Sadie, I’m kind of a fitness teacher, and I’m kind of a writer. I want to be a better writer, and I want to make money writing.
She looks perplexed, and starts in at a rapid pace, “Why? Your clients pay you? Are you going to write about us? I think we’re going to be famous.” Miles is snorting, hooting and laughing at his sister. He says, “Sadie, be quiet, mom is just weird. Mom, are you really going to school?” I’m amused, “Yes baby, I’m going to school, but it’s more like a college for creative thinkers. It’s called, The Creative Circus, and it’s going to help me learn how to write advertisements and commercials.”
Silence again, and then wild-laughter before Sadie squeals, “The Circus? You’re going to school at the Circus? Daddy used to tell us that clowns work at the circus, and we’ll go to Clown School if we don’t study our spelling words. Who’s your teacher?” This day can’t get any better, but it does.
I fill in the blanks, and answer their questions the best I can before dropping them off at day camp. I drive to the campus, gathering my composure, and pull into a shady spot. I sit for a moment and meditate; cradle the spirit, and soothe the voice of the person that tells me I’m not good enough. I whisper in her ear, and push the hair out of her face. I rub her arm and tell her how much she has to write about. I remind her that what brought her here is her ability to survive, and that survivors have things to write about. I explain to her again that she has a lifetime of experiences to draw from, and colorful memories to share.
I reach in my bag and pull out the marble. I hold it in my hand throughout the rest of the morning. I find myself squeezing it, griping it tight when the speaker at orientation tell us-the new class- that certified counselors are on staff to help manage our anxiety.
He says, “We push you to give your heart and soul to your craft. Creative types are known to be sensitive and anxious, prone to stress, and are willing to give themselves away when prompted. You should all be proud of your work. It was your portfolios that set you apart from the people not sitting here. We think you have what it takes to make it as a creative.”
I squeezed and cried, and cried and squeezed. I made it to the Circus.