Expand, exploit, explode
Sally thought her head just might explode. She’d probably not eaten enough. Or had enough coffee.
Groceries. Oil change. Latest required reading for high school. The forgotten lunch box. Return the too small shirt. She was almost finished with the proverbial ever-changing laundry list of a mother’s daily duties. There were two hours left in her four kid-free hours and darn if she didn’t want to spend it all out and about the small town where she and her family lived. At least the weather was perfect. If she had to drive all around the five square miles that corralled her life most days, it helped that the sky was crystal blue; the hard shadows of fall gave the impression of warmth even if the breeze told a different story.
Sally focused on the click click of the turn signal as she waited at the stoplight, willing her heart to slow to its rhythm and hopefully get rid of the heaviness of the impending migraine. She’d eat when she got home and hopefully it would settle. Thoughts of the chaotic morning scrolled through her head like a movie reel, and she felt almost dizzy. The spilled cereal. The cat on the table. Silly arguments. Discussions and lectures about grades and messy rooms, expanding and retracting depending on the attention span of the listener.
The light changed and she took her turn, angling into the familiar parking lot of the store where everyone knew her and her seven kids. Where, back when she and the husband were expanding the family, she didn’t dare buy a pregnancy test for fear of the inevitable, “Really? Don’t you know how this happens yet?”
Sally would always quip, “Of course I do, and I love it!” or even, “Sure! Why do you think I have so many?”
That always shut them up. There was the one time when all seven kids were with her at the store, and the checker asked, “Do they all have the same father?”
Sally had flinched on that one.
Tact. It always seemed scarce when they all went anywhere together. She’d resisted the urge to say, “No, they all have different fathers,” and instead had nodded meekly with a tight smile. Whatever. No one ever understood her when she’d count the kids and no matter that they were all there, had paused to count again because it had always felt like someone was missing. Exploiting ignorant and tactless people wasn’t really her style anyway. She’d learned years ago that she said more when she said nothing.
Keys. Purse. Car locked. She headed in to the store, determined to get in and out and thus finished with her last errand of the morning. If she timed it right, she’d be home, have the groceries away and be able to enjoy the blissful quiet of the house before she had to pick up Grace from the preschool and begin the second half of her day. There was no sound more peaceful than the quiet whirr of the ceiling fan and the soft padding of the cat on the hardwood floor. It was restorative. Necessary. Vital, even. But for now, she had to focus.
Every targeted minute brought her closer to calm serenity that made her a better mother. A better person.