Early June, at the end of a long and cold spring, and the smell of freshly-mown grass is still a delicious novelty. An icy fog just settled over Cape Ann, taunting the little weather predictor on my computer screen. Forecast: seventy-two degrees, actual temperature fifty-nine.
My daughter will be muttering to her cold self that her mother sent her to school without a sweater. I see her in my mind, sitting at her desk with her corduroy hat pulled tightly over her ears, her spring-green dress tucked tightly around her legs. She’ll insist on wearing her purple fleece poncho during class—she’s been wearing the poncho since she was three years old, and it will be hard to give it up. She hid beneath it yesterday as her beloved teacher described how Madeleine was a ring-leader hassling the substitute teacher, the day before. “I believe that she is genuinely sorry,” said her teacher, who is honest and fair, so it must be so, though the sorry-ness has passed by the end of the day.
The temperature is cold, then, and I mowed the lawn this morning, while calculating the hours left in the school year. With graduation on Friday and an assembly the following Friday, there are five regular school days. It’s alarming—I love vacation, but I get no time to myself, if I’m not careful. Today I give my attention to annoying chores that need concentration, now, knowing that concentration will be in short supply in a little more than one week.
After a quick bowl of oatmeal, I checked in on my new jobsite (it’s online), then drove the minivan (aka The Party Barge) to my favorite mechanic’s place, on the other side of downtown. I smiled and left Bill with the keys. I walked with brisk efficiency until I stepped into City Hall, into the line at the Parking Clerk’s office. I knit a few rows on my son’s sock, to keep from tapping my toe impatiently. Demeanor is everything, when begging. Behind the counter is a genial round man with a white beard and half-glasses. He’s a sucker for women, as everyone in town knows, and he forgets people after a few months. This is a good feature in a parking officer—he doesn’t remember the last, say, seven parking tickets he’s forgiven me. I step to the window. It’s my husband’s parking ticket. I don’t overdo it, just explain sympathetically as he writes “void” over the dreaded orange thing. The people behind me in line are happy, knowing there is hope for them, too.
Without thinking, I find myself happily meandering downtown. There are a frightful number of beautiful storefronts empty—the world’s greatest toy store closed, and my favorite clothing store in the world, too. Perhaps a third of the businesses are empty, not a good sign. I step into a coffee shop, full of moms with small children, and chat with the owner for entirely too long. I step into the organic grocery and am careful not to do the same. Then into the vintage thrift shop that specializes in cowboy boots and outrageous clothing. I need to go home, I think. Then the second thought: how long has it been since I was not “in a hurry?” I make a conscious decision to dawdle, to not hurry until I am done. I chat with the UPS man, and stroll leisurely home. I’ve covered a mile and a half in two happy hours.
I cook a late breakfast for my lunchtime, a favorite practice this school year, and I resist the urge to eat my eggs and toast at the keyboard. I have only a week of predictable quiet left. I eat slowly and enjoy each bite as if it matters greatly. It's the best set of eggs I've ever cooked, I decide.
And then I pull out the baskets of mail and paper to be sorted, things to be filed and put back in their homes, while children are still in school. I still have a few hours to concentrate, to make the house ready for the vacation-chaos.
I love my reprieve from “hurry,” this morning. But now it’s time to move some stacks, while there is still quiet and a cool breeze and the smell of mown grass, and I can choose my favorite radio station with no argument. Perhaps the mechanic will call soon and tell me to hurry on back, but not yet, and that’s the important thing.