“Mom, let’s go!”
Let’s not. I think I’ll stay put. I’m going to take a hard pass on greeting the day.
I like my bathroom. It’s nice in here. My lap top and phone batteries are fully charged, there are plenty of towels to cushion the stone floor. These inanimate objects are my true friends.
It’s been a rainy winter. I could take a long, guilt-free shower. Or a bath. I could stage the perfect bubble bath, place the soapy bubbles strategically, use Photoshop liberally and create a viral Instagram post. “Morning Me Time; suck it, family,” would be the pithy caption. I’ll towel off and remain locked in my cocoon. I’ll write. Maybe I’ll enjoy a complete thought, possibly even five minutes of peace.
That was a pleasant 90 seconds.
“Mom–we’re going to be late!”
And there it is. That adamant objection to being late. I know, teens are tardy by nature. But not mine. Not on weekday mornings. Being tardy has a toll in the realm of private school logistics– the cost of an Uber to transport the tardy tyke to school. Or, the mayhem of driving her myself – a quick trip to her school… a hellish slog back home to an even bigger pile of paperwork that should’ve been completed while my daughter was on the bus.
She is 15. By the time I was 15 I’d already been hospitalized for asthma, buried my father, and helped my mother through her initial, wrenching grief into widowhood. I’m grateful that my daughter’s life is substantially different. My husband, her father, still shuffles along this mortal coil with us. That is her real blessing; her father is loving and engaged. If there were a contest, he’d likely be judged the better parent. But the delta between our formative experiences sometimes makes understanding a challenge. Sometimes I minimize her problems and how she angsts over them. And fear that I’m the over-indulgent parent who is raising Veruca Salt.
“Mooom. WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE”
She is my mother’s revenge. My mother knows most of the doormen on New York’s Upper Eastside by name. Because in her decorum handbook, on time is late, early is prompt and late is simply unthinkable. Until recently, my octogenarian mother walked at a clip even New Yorkers found fast. So, when she’d leave for a lunch, dinner, meeting — any engagement whether business or social – 15 minutes before the appointment, I’d ask,
“Mother, it’s only five minutes away.”
could come up.”
“In two blocks?”
“You never know…. And…”
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” we’d say in unison.
She’s always early – but would never be so rude as to present herself to a hostess, business associate – any sentient being — before the hour of the invitation. She has sat in most of New York’s best – and worst – lobbies. Occasionally, when I was in a prickly mood – which was often in my teen years – I’d ask, “ What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were late?” She’d stare at me as if I’d asked the question in Greek.
“So what if you’re a couple of minutes late?”
“That would be rude.”
is it rude? What if there’s construction or something comes up?”
“That’s why I always leave myself a little bit of extra time.”
“Mother, your idea of a little time is a lot.”
“Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Now, I am the late meat in this prompt generational sandwich. My mother will always be my timekeeper; both as herself and through her granddaughter. My punctual parent and progeny are determined to pull me out of this oh-so-comfy bathroom. Karma has a sense of humor.
“Mooom. WE HAVE SEVEN MINUTES TO MAKE THE SCHOOL BUS”
The door begins to rattle. Like every good teenager, she is testing me on all levels. Again. And again.
Dad take you?”
“Mom, he has pneumonia!”
“I’m not asking him to hike Kilimanjaro.”
don’t be dumb.”
“I’m not. I’m tired. It’s hard to sleep through coughing.” Even harder to leave for the guestroom when your honey might need help.
Grunts of frustration and more door rattling are her only response.
Finally, in fear that the door and its hardware will soon fail, I open it.
And there she is. Fist raised – she was on the verge of “gently” rap, tap, tapping upon my door again -face stern. There are hints of a beautiful woman within the pretty girl who is now my height. (Okay, slightly taller, truth be told).
I could never have dared to hope that such fierceness, such singularity of purpose could be made manifest in the exquisite creature who is my first born. She embodies all of the promise I felt when the doctor handed her to me for the first time. She’s my mother’s decorum, my determination and her own unique will.
“Mother, we have to go. Don’t make me late.”
There are hints of a she-devil in her eyes. She’s the quintessential 15-year-old; an angel-bitch.
“Let’s go. What are you waiting for?” I ask rhetorically.
More grunts. Hurried footsteps. Wait, is that a smirk I see on my daughter’s face? Maybe she gets the cosmic joke that can be this life after all. God, I love this fierce creature.
The traffic light gods cooperate. We sail smoothly to the bus. Specifically, just in front of it (there is no specific regulation as to where a child has to be when a bus is stopped. Please, don’t ask why I know this), lest the driver dare think of leaving without my tyke.
“Thanks, Mom, I love you.”
“I love you more. Have a good one.”
And she’s off. And so am I. Back to the laptop that waits for me. In the bathroom.