It’s daylight. A child climbs onto my bed. Judging from the ‘feel’ of the person, it’s either Percy or the Hen. I can’t open my eyes to look because they are glued shut after a night of restless sleep. The child slides under the covers and I feel denim brush against my arms.
It must be the Hen. The only one of our children prone to rising excessively early and dressing himself immediately.
He lies there for a long time.
Eventually he asks. ‘Can you help me make my bed?’ Because he has a chore list on his wall that specifies he needs to make his bed before school and he can’t do it on his own.
‘What time is it,’ I croak in a barely audible voice. My throat undoubtedly feeling the aftereffects of the latest 20 degree temperature-pendulum-swing. Or the measles ‘epidemic’.
Which means it’s actually 6:30am, because my alarm clock is 10 minutes fast. (Twelve minutes according to the Gort, but I haven’t noticed the extra 2 minutes.)
‘You can’t ask me to make your bed before 7,’ I remind my middle son for the umpteenth time. Because I don’t enjoy functioning before the clock strikes 7.
He slides out of bed, crawling – if my closed eyes are not mistaken – under the covers to the end of the bed.
Eventually I hear three voices and the telltale sounds of cereal-gathering in the kitchen. The pantry doors open. Bowls are retrieved. And then I hear Percy crying. Something about a brother who won’t get him a bowl. Every morning there is some kind of fight over breakfast. Pouring too much cereal. Pouring the wrong cereal. Pouring too little cereal. One person getting more cereal than another. One person not pouring the milk for someone else. Someone refusing to get a spoon for somebody else. Someone refusing to get a bowl for his brothers.
I remain, semi-paralysed, in bed with eyes that won’t open and a voice that is barely audible, and a body that is crying at the memory of Tuesday’s ‘Extreme Shed and Shred’ with Jillian. I think it was the burpees, but I can’t be sure.
Oh. The pain.
Someone is sitting on top of me. It’s Percy I deduce from the voice. I wince though he doesn’t seem to notice. Someone else joins the dogpile. The Hen. Ninety pounds of human are sitting on top of my howling limbs. Percy bashes the back of his skull into my nose. If only it were the first time he’d done that.
‘Does guitar [lesson] count as guitar practice,’ the chore-list obsessed Gort walks in the room. He has a habit of asking questions that require both thought and response. I mutter something. He doesn’t hear me, so he keeps asking. ‘Does guitar [lesson] count as guitar practice?’
I can’t recall who said what, but minutes later I can hear the guitar being practiced.
‘You need to pack my lunch,’ the Hen addresses the room of comatose adults. ‘You need to get me cereal,’ Percy adds to the list of requests.
‘Everyone wants me to do something,’ the professor sighs.
I take this as a sign that he’s packing lunches today. Excellent.
‘What do you need,’ he asks me.
‘Coffee.’ And a voice that works properly. And a body that can do extreme shed and shred without wailing for days afterwards.
‘What do I need to take to the Consulate today,’ the professor suddenly remembers his passport appointment.
‘You need to fill out the application.’
And then in my croaky, semi-paralysed state I begin counting the number of times we’ve had to visit that ridiculous office in the last 5.7 years. Because it feels like we’re there on an annual basis – and that can’t be true, can it, if passports are valid for 5 or 10 years.
2010. I got a passport
2011. Mmmh, maybe no one got a passport that year. Can that be right?
2012. Did we miss that year too? The Hen would have been 5.
2013. The Hen got his second passport. Right, the passport expired in 2012, but we didn’t renew it until 2013. When that Russian guy with the purple shirt tried to ‘hide’ his oversized laptop bag in the building and the secret-service type security guards were talking about it through their earpieces.
‘When we go to Oregon,’ the troubadour-Gort walks back into the room, ‘can I bring my guitar.’
I have visions of sitting in the van for hours on end, listening to ‘B-D-E-B-D-E…… and I’m not sure I will survive if that’s the soundtrack.
‘Maybe,’ I croak.
I stare at the clock. Seven-something. NPR is blaring from the kitchen. I will myself to get up.
‘What do you do with the nuts?’
I stare at the professor, quizzically. Ah, the nuts to make almond milk.
I dump soaked nuts in a blender with water and whirr loudly for an interminable time.
‘Finally,’ the professor sighs when I turn off the blender. Even though his news show is just as loud.
‘What’s this about a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope,’ he asks from his perch in front of the computer. I’d forgotten that little detail. ‘And where’s this passport application form?”
‘I’ll find it,’ and he gets up so I can stare at the user-averse website.
‘Here’s the form,’ I locate the pdf, before concluding it would be faster for me to fill in his passport form. I can’t help but think the professor would not be able to do the same for me. ‘What’s my social security number,’ I test my theory. ‘It has an 8 and a 2 in it.’
I notice the Gort is wearing the pair of green pants I’d hidden in his closet in an attempt to coerce him to wear some of the jeans in his drawer.
‘Why are you wearing those pants instead of the jeans in your drawer,’ I ask, annoyed-though-not-surprised that my scheme had failed.
‘Because they’re itchy,’ he offers his standard response.
‘I’ll give you $5 if you wear one of those pairs of jeans.’
‘It’s 7:59, can we go to school now,’ the overeager Hen asks, knowing they’re not supposed to leave before 8.
‘I need some water,’ Percy requests.
‘Bye, have a great day,’ I dismiss the schoolboys.
‘Can you drive me to the train station?’
I don black clogs with my 13 years old grey sweatpants and blue t-shirt and summon Spiderman-pajamas-wearing Percy to jump in the car.
We end up driving the professor downtown; dropping him off at the Consulate. I rue the fact that I’m wearing clogs and bedhair and bad sweatpants, which means I can’t even stop somewhere and get a second coffee. Or a doughnut. I scour the car to see if there’s something from the Goodwill bag, or a forgotten coat, that might elevate my outfit.
It seems unlikely that a pair of 3T snowpants or one of the professor’s old sweaters will enhance my appearance.
So we drive home and I make pancakes.