Saturday, February 20, 2010

provision and grilled cheese

Note from a few weeks ago. 

I arrive home from a day of childcare. I call him from home, and he tells me our daughter’s team is neck-and-neck right now, so he can’t talk long. I hear the crowd sounds subside as he walks from the gymnasium.

“Can you please pick up one Chinese entrée?” He hesitates. We are short on funds this month, since my job ended in December. “Teething. My gal howled for 45 minutes straight. I am covered with snot and I smell like a diaper. My head hurts like I’m teething.”

He laughs and says yes I deserve Chinese food, yes, one entrée.

“It’s been a long time since teething,” he says, “She’s on the court now, and we are up by six points.” He tells me he doesn’t have the phone number for the Chinese place—I remind him Madeleine added the number to his cell phone. He’ll need to ask her to find it when the game is over. I agree to cook our own rice, to save a few dollars. Because every few dollars is a few dollars, right now.

I enrolled in a masters program three years ago, to pursue my love of literature and writing. I didn’t foresee any problems paying off my student loans—I’d graduate with a degree, I thought, and the parenting gap on my resume would look less glaring. I’d work, finally, in an area I love. When I completed my degree in August, I found adjunct work at a terrific college, a few minutes from my children’s elementary school. I taught two classes, my introduction to grading papers and teaching eighteen-year-olds in a classroom. I loved the work, and it took all my time until it ended at Christmastime.

And now I am free to do the thing I studied: I’m free to write. But I’m not free, as long as we struggle to pay bills. In some ways I am lucky: I knew my job would last four months. I haven’t checked in on my friend Dave’s job search. He thought he had his high-paying job as long as he wanted it. I haven’t checked in on Pete, who used to commute halfway down the coast for his work week. Lauren is happy to work on a consultant basis for awhile. These are people who earned serious money, and my adjunct work is small potatoes in comparison.

Are we all struggling? I assume most of us are.

I step into the shower to return to my own scents, to comb the toddler-gunk out of my hair. When I emerge from the shower, the family arrives. He doesn’t bring me Chinese food, not even one entrée. Kids needed to be home, he says, and I can see it’s true. He starts the grilled cheese sandwiches without asking. I eat mine with a bowl of tomato soup, then go to bed at 7 pm to sleep for eleven hours. It’s been a long time since teething.

Now they’ve gone to school for the day, and I have no childcare duties. Time to write.