Yellow River P— Ranch. Or, What Mommies Do

I’ve been facing the challenges of working from home for a while. Over the last year I’ve had several part-time jobs at once, many of which I could do from home. Since the semester ended, I just finished teaching an English 1101 course. This required me to hold class at Georgia State, but most of the grading and lecture prep took place at home. I work for two literary magazines–I do all of that work at home. I work on my own fiction an non-fiction projects. And this won’t come as a surprise, but no one pays you for that stuff until you actually produce something great. Oh, and let’s not forget finishing up grad school. So, the struggle is to produce, to nurture that production, while ignoring the fact that there may be dirty dishes to wash, that you  may not be completely stocked up on special milk which a certain little someone might ask for when he gets home from school, that you need to do umpteen different life-admin tasks. But these things never go away. I’ve been re-learning this fact. There will always be more dirt, more field trips, more doctor appointments. And what am I doing right now?–blogging about this fact when I have a stack of submissions I need to read through. By tomorrow.

Then there’s a phenomenon I know all Mommies know well. It has something to with how a twenty-minute doctor’s appointment can take up four hours of your time or how a four hour field trip can take up eight hours of your time. I haven’t had to go to work, physically, for the last couple of weeks, and where has the time gone?

I spent one day accompanying my son on a field trip to the Yellow River Game Ranch. I love taking him there. One, because it is a place I went on field trips as a child and I remember how fascinating it was at the time. Two, he loves seeing all the animals. He feels proud of himself for picking out the right kind of food for each animal. The ducks like crackers, the donkeys like carrots…So, since the timing was right I decided to go on the field trip with my son’s school (a montessori school for infants through age six).

I’d read a bulletin earlier in the week that informed parents the field trip was from 10-2. Since Keegan’s father drove him to school that morning, I didn’t have any reason to be at the school until 10. However, there was some event going on at 9, something to burn an hour for parents who dropped their children off early and were sticking around to wait for the field trip bus at 10. This event had something to do with pearls, yes pearls, and all I could imagine was the equivalent of a Tupperware or Pampered Chef party, except for pearls. The imaginary scene I conjured up based on this premise was nothing less than horrifying, so I promised myself I’d arrive just before ten. But, the morning-of came:

I felt guilty for wanting to miss the 9 o’clock shin-dig. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I like the school, I like my son’s teacher, and surely other moms were there sucking it up. I negotiated with myself, the self wanting to play hookie for the mystery hour and the self full of vague guilt, and decided I’d leave my house at 9. I got there at 9:20.

I was in the main hallway, locked eyes with another mom, and immediately thought we should bolt. We could hold hands and sprint. Then, the director of the school steered me by the shoulder, told us there were two empty seats in the back row, and we were ushered into a room. The front two rows were older couples in suits, the back row mommies–mommies looking tired, sipping free coffee. I had on my Doc Marten’s, grey curdorys, and my bringht yellow Ireland hoodie. I didn’t exactly fit in. There was a man at the front of the room giving a presentation about pearl harvesting and oysters. A documentary played on the t.v., which he kept pointing to and referencing. One of the older men kept taking pictures of us. At some point I realized the speaker was also the star of the documentary, which became obvious and baffling at once.

Somewhere, you may see me in the back row of a photo of a Kiwanis Club Meeting. Because that’s what this turned out to be. A weekly Kiwanis club meeting, the weekly guest speaker, and a bunch of visiting moms from the school. Who would have guessed? I could have used the extra hour of sleep, and I wasn’t the target audience here. I don’t see myself making time to join the nation’s largest service organization any time soon. I don’t see myself visiting the only independent seller of tahitian peals in Atlanta soon, either. I survived. I ate a donut out of distress.

The bus was an hour and a half late. Imagine: school bus with three seat belts per seat, at least thirty kids between the ages of two and six, lunches and animal food in tow, many parents and teachers, now running into the lunch-time of the kiddies. The initial plan was to see the animals, then eat lunch, then go home. Now, arriving so late in the day at the ranch, lunch-time was first on the agenda, which did not please Keegan, who wanted to see the peacocks right now. You know that terrible, sinking feeling of dread that comes from the bottom of your gut? That’s what I felt as we pulled into the parking lot at the game ranch and I counted no less that 12 other school buses. Holy crap. This was not a big place, people. That’s a lot of kids.

I won’t go into the details, but seeing the animals was great (most of the animals are rescue animanls who’ve been injured in the wild, or elsewhere, and otherwise wouldn’t survive) for a couple of hours. Our mood deteriorated as Keegan missed his nap, which he still needs, and became insanely unreasonable. The exhausted and hungry three-year-old unreasonable. Like, hey, I’m going to throw myself on the ground here because I wanted to feed that duck we saw ten minutes ago, this carrot which I just noticed I had, except I didn’t get to feed him this carrot, but Julia got to feed him one and I am so slighted and will just lie here and scream until justice is served. And the duck has fled from me which indicates the world has ended, so I’ll start hyper-ventilating now.

And then there were only two working bathrooms at the end of it all. And many toddlers who needed to go. And it had gotten warm. But this is what mommies do.

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