Thursday, September 6, 2007

Report from Hoople: Day 2 (Wherein I Fear Electricity)

Nota Bene: For the next eight days, this blog will function primarily as a Remote Parental Communication Device. Do not expect reflective content. School behavior, potty-related issues, bathing schedules, and bedtime crying jags will be faithfully recorded for the benefit of the Temporarily Canadian Spouse. All other visitors should plan to read this instead, for the duration.

I always forget how guilty I feel being at work, acting like I can carry on life normally and interact with other people, when I'm the sole responsible parent. Dropping Archer off at school and Cady Gray off at daycare (or, as we put it to her to differentiate it from the preschool she started part-time last week, "old school") feels illicit, like abandonment. Surely the child welfare authorities will know that I'm not sitting at home by the phone ready to jump into action when their teachers call. How I can justify going to class, to lunch, to meetings, on the off chance that the kids might need me?

After leading a graduating senior information session in the early afternoon, I went home to fix the kids cups of juice, and then got back in the car to drive over to Archer's school. Even though I was going to get there a few minutes early, I looked forward to the chance to knit a few rounds on my sock with the cool breeze coming through the window. But when I turned the key in the ignition, nothing happened.

You can imagine how that made my heart skip a beat, after the mysterious car troubles just two days ago. That incident involved the other car; this time, I was driving our Civic Hybrid. I stared at the dashboard in confusion. All the instrument lights were on, the radio came on, the A/C started blowing, but the car hadn't started.

With a sinking feeling, I turned the key again. This time it chugged three times and started. As I pulled out, relief quickly gave way to anxiety. This car never huffs and puffs -- it starts smoothly and immediately, like turning a switch from off to on. What if its battery was about to die, just like the Subaru's? I started worrying that if I turned it off while waiting for Archer, it wouldn't start back up, and we'd be stuck at his school. Then I realized that even if I left it running while waiting for Archer to come out, I'd still have to turn it off at my second stop at CG's daycare. I'd never leave the car running while I went inside a public place -- it just seems like an invitation to have the thing stolen.

Undoubtedly I was jittery about automotive ignitions and their related electrical systems after the experience on Tuesday afternoon. I ended up sitting in the car with the engine running while I knitted a little and waited for Archer, but then parking and turning it off while we went inside. After I got them back in their car seats, I sat down and turned the key firmly. It seemed like a took a fraction of a second longer than usual to hum to life, but that's probably my imagination. No cranking noises, no other signs of trouble. Once we got home (where there's an extra car -- with a new battery, no less -- waiting in case of need), I felt a lot better about our transportation.

But that's the unnerving thing about parenting alone. There's no backup. At any sign of trouble, your mind starts racing about who you would call, and how you would manage. You're driving the same streets, going to the same office, but the brink is much closer than it seems when there are two of you.

On the way home from the school pickups, Archer mentioned that he would talk to Daddy on the phone tonight. "We probably won't talk to Daddy today," I told them, "but we can send him an e-mail." Archer piped up: "Mom, remember: A phone ... cuts ... the world in half." Befuddled, I asked, "How does it do that?" He answered: "In a phone call, there is only one place." Oh, I think I get it -- he's trying to describe a connection. Or maybe cyberspace. Either way, I know what he means.

1 comment:

the secret knitter said...

Cars have a way of inducing paranoia like that.

While you were writing about parenting, I think the same holds true for being single in any situation. Well put.