MAKING A LIST.
There is a nice very realistic moment in “Freaky Friday” with Jamie Lee Curtis. We see the mother while still asleep in the morning, waking up, with her thoughts tumbling around in her head even before she is fully awake: “Take kids to school… lunch box… pick up laundry… dinner… patients…” and so on. This phenomenon is of course familiar to any working mother. We make to-do lists before drifting off to sleep at night and float back to consciousness with them. Ah, but occasionally it happens that all our plans fall apart due to sudden weather changes, to kids’ sickness, to our own feeling indisposed, to the laundry being closed, to schools having sudden snow holidays. We lived through a tornado in New York. For many people it probably came as any sudden natural event does, with hurricane winds, disruptions in transport schedules, heavy rains and general havoc all around. For us, it started in the form of phone calls from schools. We were to pickup our children at once. Our primary school was within walking distance. I listened to the news reports, understood that the safest way was simply walking close to the buildings, so the father ran to pick up both young ones. Mid-school said they would bring all the teens to the cross-point at Broadway and West 86th Street, for parents to pick them up. I informed my supervisor and rushed there. The logistics didn’t need any specific discussions, it was clear to us that while the man could scoop up two kids and run, the woman could manage to bring home one teenager. I still occasionally have the same dream. As I was inching along as fast as I could, keeping very close to the tall houses, I heard some strange crunching noise. I raised my head and saw a huge pane of window glass falling down, breaking into myriad pieces which creaked underfoot. It’s that sound, not the falling trees and the flying cars, which is firmly associated with that day in my memory. Our kids also remember that day as “lots of fun”. School was cancelled!
What do we do with our lists if something happens to disrupt them and to send all our carefully thought out plans into the blue wide yonder? Why, nothing. As my mother used to say, the floor will be here tomorrow for us to sweep. It is the ability to quickly choose and separate the “must do’s” and the “can wait’s” that makes a wife and mother an effective planner. We always have a veritable jumble in our heads whether we want to or not. My to-do list includes, for instance, reading a chapter in the wonderful Shakespeare biography by Peter Ackroyd; while reading I finish knitting a baby cardigan. In a separate compartment I have lunch, with two bright salads, one fresh veggies, one red beet; turkey meatballs are the main dish of the day; pretzels and marble cake complete the meal. Tea, coffee or water is served as per taste. I know, at least by my own experience, that in a mother’s mind it is an orderly daily mix. It does not bother me that I have Shakespeare, knitting and cooking co-existing together. After lunch and washing up the dishes I can do my research and continue working on an article, with occasional or regular interruptions for family needs. Life is a multicolored multi-dimensional continuous process. One can have a semblance of order maintained through every day. Get up, make breakfast, send everybody on their way, get ready for work. Lunch or dinner, homework, movie or TV show in the evening. An outing or socializing with friends at weekend. “I am always in this circle, is it what life is about?” a friend worries. It sure is.