The other morning while on my way to work I drove by a mother with her two young daughters. They were waiting at a bus stop. But not just any bus stop. The SAME bus stop that my girls and I used to wait at a really, REALLY long time ago. In fact, anyone who’s over the age of 14 will understand when I say, “another lifetime ago”.
Stuck in traffic, which lately seems to take up about eleven tenths of my life, I got to watch as this young mother entertained her kids with a string. Mesmerized by their mother’s Cat’s Cradle skills, the young girls fell for the distraction. Then the bus came, they climbed aboard and left me to continue my merry way in a fighting-traffic kind of way.
Since I have my black belt in multi-tasking, I was also able to visit a time down memory lane when I myself was a young mother of (only) two . . .
(Wherein the present cuts to a memory from that other lifetime I mentioned.)
It was a Saturday. I remember this because I was home and scrubbing the bathroom floor. (Did I mention that I lead a really fulfilling life back then?)
I was just about to get to the laundry and dusting when an argument broke out between my daughters. Something about crossing an imaginary line in their shared bedroom.
This could only mean one thing: my daughters were suffering from mom-we-need-your-attention syndrome.
I may not be the quickest of learners but one thing that did manage to sink in quite early in my life is that there are never enough days in a weekend. With that in mind, I decided to toss the dust rag and focus on my girls.
This day that I’m remembering goes back 20 years. Melissa was 6. Stephanie was 3. I was 27 and fully emerged in my career as a working, single mother.
Life was hard.
Despite this, I have quite a few good memories from those days.
Like our Friday night picnics on the living room floor. Milk in our wine glasses and the clichéd red and white checkered tablecloth was an end-of-week ritual we enjoyed for years.
Saturdays were a day for catching up on housework but on this particular Saturday my girls’ arguing was having an incredible effect on my 6th sense. (My 6th sense being the incredibly astute sense of guilt I had developed since giving birth.)
“Get dressed, girls, we’re going out,” I told them.
“I have nothing to wear,” I remember Melissa saying. Of course she was right since I hadn’t gotten to the laundry yet.
“Here,” I said as I pulled out matching white dresses with little, coloured bows from their closet. “You can both wear this.”
“What’s the occasion?” Melissa asked.
“It’s a surprise,” I answered as I went through my own closet looking for something as equally festive to wear. (Or at least nicer than my sweat pants and T-shirt.)
Of course I had no clue what that surprise was going to be but the new purpose in our day had already distracted them from their fighting. And somehow I just knew that the Saturday cleaning would wait for our return.
That’s the thing about housework. It’s reliable. No matter how much you ignore, neglect or abandon it, you can always count on it to scream for attention in its silent, passive aggressive way.
Despite this, I knew that getting my girls out of the house was the right thing to do. As the three of us walked down the street to the bus stop – yes, THAT bus stop – I remember their shiny faces, so proud as they walked on either side of me in their identical dresses. They had no clue where we were going and to be honest, neither did I. But it didn’t matter. Delighted in our directionless pursuit, we were feeling better about the day already.
During those first few minutes on the bus my girls were quiet; taking in the variety of people on the seats around us. An old, Italian woman dressed in her mourning best; black from head to toe. Three teenage girls, giggling at something only they could find funny from the back seats. A man in his early 20s, wearing a suit. (I remember this because I ended up writing a story about them – “Strangers on a Bus”. And since this is pre computer days, I have no idea where that story ended up. Probably in a box somewhere, underneath 20 years of city dump.)
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the distraction of other people on the bus to lose its power.
“Where are we going?” Stephanie asked.
I knew that I had exactly three seconds to answer if I wanted to appear that I indeed had a plan up my sleeve.
“To slay dragons,” I whispered loud enough for only the two of them.
Their eyes told me that they understood. We were on a secret mission. Their smiles told me they were up for the adventure.
Of course I had no clue where this adventure would take place. Being a novice dragon slayer (but with lots of practice in make-belief), I had no idea where we could go to save the world from imaginary dragons.
It wasn’t until the bus arrived at the Lionel Groulx metro station that the idea for a location hit me. Saint Joseph’s Oratory! The large, castle-like sanctuary would make a great setting for our adventure.
And it did. It took all afternoon for us to save the world with our pretend swords in hand.
By the time we got home, the imaginary line in my girls’ room had disappeared completely, making way for a place to practice their dragon slaying techniques. You know, in case we needed to save the world again.