France was on strike today.
If only I could go on strike.
I wouldn’t have to get up early in the morning, in the dark, in the cold, to get you ready for school. If I could go on strike, I wouldn’t even set the alarm. I wouldn’t offer you pancakes or egg-in-the-hole, or the coveted, imported Cheerios. I wouldn’t lay out your clothes, or pretend to nod approvingly when you adorn your own (mismatched) outfit. I wouldn’t search the house for your hairbrush, hidden in the drawer by the Play-doh. I wouldn’t squeeze toothpaste on your toothbrush and leave it poised on the sink. I wouldn’t hunt for misplaced schoolbooks or slip the package of biscuits in the side pocket of your backpack for your morning collation. I wouldn’t dig out a pair of matching mittens and squeeze them over your tiny, disobliging wrists. I wouldn’t see you to the door or steady you on the way down the stairs. I wouldn’t hold your tiny paws in my hand when it’s my turn to walk you to school.
If I went on strike, the laundry pile would grow radioactively, a virus of miniature, mismatched socks, inside-out cotton tights with stripes and hearts, turtlenecks with chewed sleeves and chocolate stains. I would not check your vaccination schedule. I would not wait in line at the conservatory to sign you up for the solfège. I would not send in the form to get put on the list to have the right to telephone the office secretary next Tuesday between 9 and 11 o’clock in order to get on another list to be called back for an appointment for an interview to enroll you in the bilingual school.
If I were on strike, I wouldn’t sew buttons, I wouldn’t tie shoe-laces, I wouldn’t cut the crust off, get the ketchup out, put the juice in a sippy-cup, put the juice in a big-girl cup, get a straw, cut your meat, or don’t cut your meat. I wouldn’t read stories about pigs that eat hot buttered toast or little girls that live alone in hotel suites. I wouldn’t watch the Never Ending Story a never-ending number of times. I wouldn’t change the sheets when you throw-up in your bed in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t kiss boo-boos or find lost doudous, I wouldn’t scratch your back up-a-little-lower, I wouldn’t put band-aids on wounded, naked dolls. I wouldn’t study your artwork and ask thoughtful, enthusiastic questions before posting it on the refrigerator.
If I could only be on strike, I wouldn’t rush through the days to get everything done before the school pick-ups and the pre-dinner witching hour and evenings of bedlam and chatter.
If I could go on strike, oh, I’d linger in bed. I’d lay there dreaming an Egyptian thread count, and then a mid-to-late-morning rally to the cushioned couch where I’d sit and listen to the sun quietly spilling through the skylight, staring at the coffee cup that both my hands would wrap around, slowly smelling the strong aroma before each savored sip. If I could go on strike, I’d have time to do all the things I want to do and then I’d have more time, still, to do nothing.
Time that I would probably squander, spending those luxurious hours thinking about you, in your little bodies, wandering around your little worlds, wondering what or how you were doing.
When I thought I might lose you, there wasn’t enough time. This notion of time is my riddle. Now I know that time is not mine to have, it’s mine to give away; to parcel out without counting the minutes or moments. Going on strike might give me some respite, a slight slowing of time, just enough to catch my breath. But as time goes, there is never enough.