Today was a three-pastry day, not that anyone's counting. I should have seen the storm clouds looming, the forecasted wind and golf-ball-sized hail threatening the microclimate of my head-but I was too busy being sunny and 75. Yesterday. I'd scheduled a few salon services for the afternoon, namely to fix the feet I could no longer stand being attached to my body, but also to repair the sudden damage caused when I cut off my ponytail last weekend in a fit of cosmetological desperation. It's hard to get a good line when you're using kitchen scissors, friends. You get a nice diagonal, and that's about it. It was a Ramona-Quimby-on-crack situation, but Friday I got fixed up in all the right ways; practically an Extreme Makeover, except no porcelain veneers. I was feeling good-the kind of little high that salon fumes and vanity inspire, so decided to take my cute self to Target for a peppermint patty and quick whirl around the clothes department. I'm not a frequent shopper at the Tarjay, but yesterday's stars apparently aligned in favor of the economy and I now understand, fully, how an average American woman can Target herself into financial oblivion. I found really cute jeans two sizes smaller than I thought I wore (think Joe's Jeans Gatsby cut), a couple essential tank tops, and the aforementioned candy treat. Also a magazine, some body scrub, (honey stop reading here) alpha-hydroxy facial buffers, and a cardigan. And bobby pins. A box of Luna Bars. See what I mean? I was lucky to get out alive. It was fun, though...a wonderful diversion. Afterward, I went to see a play with a friend-it was the perfect day, really. Friday.
This morning I woke up early and tried hard to sink back into productive sleep-Saturdays are difficult with the Mr. in another state and the children wandering around like keening orphans, putting in requests for juice or candy-I need to be wide-eyed and alert for them and sleep is part of this, as is caffeine-but I couldn't get there. There was, for some reason, an abundance of stuff in my bed- a plastic slide whistle, leaves...it was gritty. SO later today, when the kids started their Miss Hannigan routine, searching for the benevolent Grace Ferrell-character to teach them tennis or manners, or play with them for Pete's sake, I couldn't come through. What they want is me, engaged in their lives. It's really that simple. They don't understand the psychosis that is this entire crazy thing we've done: uprooted, left every routine and success and relationship of the last eight years in the dust, greenhoused ourselves into financial oblivion... they're kids. They see me and they want me-no matter that I'm trying to get something, anything done to move the plot forward-pick out paint colors, pay taxes, go to the bathroom. There's no sense in trying to cut them off at the pass with "later"-later really gets them going, initiates the primal scream sequence. So, we left.
We needed sustenance-bread, sugar, coffee. There is an Amish bakery here, but we were in get-out-of-dodge mode, tired of the apple fritter, and sought out for an authentic French cafe the next town over, one with an excellent pastry selection I knew could lift us from our (my) deep well of despair, if not in a gastronomical sense, then at least culturally. We felt very cosmopolitan and hopeful-the kids put on shoes-and drove with the corn on our either side, to another world, listening to gospel music on the way, some real down-on-your-knees stuff; which in my experience can be helpful-the children, on the other hand, are uplifted by the Chipmunks and anything in the classic rock genre-so I alternated in the interest of everyone's spiritual welfare.
The array of pastries was impressive and glistened in all the right places. I allowed the kids to choose one item each, while I selected two for mental health reasons. We ordered pain chocolat, an eclair, and a napoleon nestled in its own parchment petticoat, with a baguette thrown in for kicks, taking it all to a local park that is home to a wild blueberry bush and seated along a clear stream with plenty of hiding places. The green canopy was a comfort-if there's one thing I miss most about the city of Atlanta itself, the actual topography, it would be the trees-the landscape. Before I moved there I imagined it'd be like Dallas-flat, hot, dry. Kind of brown. In truth, it is hilly, lush, and green. Also hot. There is something, though-an anonymity, maybe? Mystery....cover. I feel exposed now-exposed, with no cover-but crowded...and somehow, lonely. It's like I've been swept away, as cliche as that sounds, like maybe I didn't really want to do this...but I know I don't know everything, especially about what I really want. I thought I wanted bangs once. I told my husband today that I feel like the kind of person God loves, but doesn't really like. You know what I mean. He loves me because he has to-despite finding our relationship incredibly taxing. It's like this: There are a hundred times a day when I wish I could go back and rethink our decision, but at the same time, if there's going to be a big reveal...a grander purpose in all this, I don't want to miss it. It's just that...I can't see it now.
The kids and I hunched in the woods like hobbits and ate our French fare--which is to say, I ate it while they threw sticks in the water, creeping in and out of the leaves pretending to be explorers in grave danger. Which, actually, may have been me: the crazy woman with chocolate on her face. They are so dear-so lovely in their transparency, so fresh. When I stop to see them like this, I know, at least, that I want to be where they are.
It had been kind of meekly thundering for a while, but we stayed until spotting actual lightning- at which point we held hands and ran to the car, an amoeba across the skatepark, making it just in time.