I woke up to the sound of rain. Pouring rain. Teeming, relentless rain.
We live immediately beneath the roof, and on days when there is nowhere in particular to go, the rain’s melodic timpani is soothing and cozying-in. This was, however, not one of those mornings. An early morning meeting meant I had to be up before dawn. Not just a meeting I had to attend and add my occasional two-cents, this was a meeting I had to set up, and lead. A meeting with output that I had the responsibility to produce.
To complicate matters, De-facto was out of town and I’d been solo-piloting the household all week. I’d made an arrangement with neighbors to drop Short-pants and Buddy-roo at their place at 7:30 and they’d finish the delivery at school an hour or so later. But in order for all this to happen, it mean rousing the girls at 6:45, which meant getting up and getting myself ready first.
I’m not really a six-in-the-morning type of mom. I’m more of a who-wants-to-make-me-coffee-while-I-lay-in-bed kind of mom. But I heeded the alarm; I had no choice. I did all the personal bits to put myself in presentable order and then started poking my sleeping beauties. Grumpy, groggy heads rose off the pillows with thick resistance. The aroma of pancakes (batter mixed the night before) in a hot fry pan finally got their attention and stirred them from the warmth of their beds.
The rain was heavy and steady. I’d be better off in a cab than walking to and from the metro at both ends of this trip, so I found my cell phone and dialed T-A-X-I. The automated greeting prompted me to punch in 0735, the time in four digits that I wanted to be picked up. A robotic voice confirmed a taxi at 7:35 at an address on rue du Bourg Tibourg. Not my street, that was where some visiting friends had stayed a few months ago and I’d organized their ride to the airport – evidently the last time I called for a taxi. I pressed “2” for the menu option to change the address. The automated system wouldn’t accept it and repeatedly asked me to confirm the same incorrect address. I tried everything: saying no, saying my address, pressing a number of other keys on the telephone keypad before hanging up exasperated, in the meantime nearly burning a pancake while attempting to sort out my transportation to this meeting.
I used the landline to call another taxi service. The good news: an actual person answered. The bad news: it was impossible to order a taxi for 25-minutes-from-now, I had to call when I was ready for the cab to arrive. Except when it’s raining in Paris, and you call for a taxi immediate, you’re guaranteed the standard answer: sorry, no cars available.
In other news, the clothes I’d laid out for Buddy-roo were all wrong. I’d fastened the clasps on Short-pants’ backpack without zipping it first, as she prefers. And apparently, there was too much syrup on the pancakes.
“Please just eat the pancake,” I said.
“But I can’t,” said Short-pants.
“Just eat the pancake.”
“It’s too syrupy.”
Then came the I’m-seriously-about-to-get-angry voice, the really stern one.
“Eat. The. Pancake.”
The eruption of tears shouldn’t have surprised me, Short-pants is über-sensitive. When Buddy-roo joined in, upset by my tone or her sister’s tears (or both) and I had two wailing girls on my hands. My eyes darted to the microwave clock – it was 7:12 and they needed to be fed and dressed and brushed in fifteen minutes and I’d managed to throw a wrench in the plan I’d worked out to prepare the kids cheerfully but swiftly, get them out the door and get myself (and a suitcase full of workshop supplies) to this damn meeting on time.
A crescendo of rain pounded on the kitchen skylight, the sound nearly drowning out their tandem crying.
In moments like this, a time-out is the best option. I removed myself to the still-curtained dark of my bedroom, permitted a few curses to escape, words I’m sure I’ll hear parroted at a future and inopportune moment. This was followed by the contemplation – in a split second – of all the choices I’d made in my life to bring me to this moment. A few synapses-signals later, my string of misery: I hated my work, I hated my children, I hated De-facto (this was all his fault anyway), I hated Paris. I hated the rain. I hated taxis. I hated all the other would-be passengers waiting ahead of me in the long line at a taxi queue that would empty of any cabs. I hated the room full of people waiting for me, everybody tapping their foot while I’d be hurrying to set the room, like one of those nightmares you wake up from in a sweat or like a painfully clumsy scene from Mr. Bean, where I’d be fumbling around to hang flip-chart paper on the wall and dropping pads of post-it notes all over the floor.
Big breath. A shift in thinking, to consider this: Not an earthquake. Not a tsunami. Not a nuclear disaster. No guerilla combatants within range. “Not my wife, not my life,” somebody wise once told me. Just a long week alone with the girls (hats off to every single parent in the world), and a temporary wave of stress about a job I wanted to do well. I lifted my head from my hands, gathered myself up off the bed and returned to the kitchen where the girls had remained frozen in their chairs, crying, not eating.
“How about I make another pancake and put it on the plate with that one, to soak up the syrup?”
The crying calmed to sniffles and a solemn nodding of heads. Breakfast resumed and completed. Teeth were brushed. Shoes and coats and donned, book-bags hoisted over little shoulders. Children hustled down the stairs and handed off successfully. The rain had let up. A miracle of plenty at the taxi queue. I even had time for a quick coffee at the café beside the office where my meeting was to be held. It’s true when it rains, it pours – but never forget, then it stops.