A month or so ago I heard that Jane Goodall would be speaking at my university and I immediately secured two tickets for Ryan and me. Nevermind that it was a Tuesday night, one of the more chaotic nights of our week, and that our usual sitter was possibly planning to attend the same lecture, we were both going, darn it. I would figure out how to impose on all of my friends and relatives later!
At the eleventh hour (the day before) I had made a convoluted set of childcare arrangements whose complexity was second only to my mother's epic vacation planning (you fly to Boston, Papa will drive in from Connecticut and leave his car in remote parking lot A2 then take the bus to the subway to the train to Portland where I will pick him up in Grandma's car then we will go together to pick Grandma up and all meet in Maine). Miss S was to arrive at my house at 5:35. After a hasty set of bedtime and dinner instructions, I would jump in the car and rush Charlie to his 6:00 swim lesson where we would meet Miss N, our regular babysitter, who had, unfortunately, not gotten a ticket to Jane Goodall. Miss N would observe Charlie's lesson then drive him to my house while I drove to Ryan's work to pick him up and attend the lecture. Then we would all end up back at our respective houses by the end of the night by MAGIC (snaps fingers).
At any rate it's gratifying to know that it takes two people to replace me in my daily routine. And also sort of explains my generalized anxiety disorder.
We were all comfortable with this plan slash military operation but then it decided to RAIN for the first time in seventy-five weeks. Rain is no joke around here. We need it badly. No one is allowed to complain. However, this particular giant thunderstorm and torrential downpour arrived at 5:00. Rush hour. And the good people of Central Texas are absolute freaks when it comes to driving in non-dry conditions.
The first part of the plan began to unravel when Miss S contacted me at 5:20 to let me know that she was sitting on a parking lot of a highway approximately fifteen miles from my house and absolutely would not be able to get here by 5:35. I told her I'd leave the door unlocked for her then rushed the kids into the car so fast Charlie forgot to bring shoes.
We drove through the downpour and lightning and noise to the Y for swimming, got stuck for ten minutes at a flashing red light at one of the busiest intersections in town, then finally careened into the parking lot in pouring rain at 5:57. Charlie and Wes got out by the front door with strict instructions to run to the vestibule and NOT MOVE ONE INCH FROM THAT SPOT while I parked the car then ran through the rain and giant puddles holding James in one arm and my shoes in the other (in a dress! and a cardigan!). We squish squish squished our way down the long hallway to the pool where we were greeted with a cheery blue sign which indicated that the pool was closed.
I asked an employee. No swimming tonight. Information that would have been SO convenient to have BEFORE I left my house so fast I was pretty sure the milk was still out on the counter.
We caught a breath for a moment while I returned a call from Miss N. She had gotten a ticket after all, hurray! She promised to come drive Charlie (now all three kids, SURPRISE!) home to Miss S before the lecture, but I took one look at the highway and knew there was absolutely no way that would be possible. Since there was no swimming, I would just take them home myself then go to my school. This should take about forty-five minutes, since the two places are on opposite directions, but I had an hour, so I figured it would be fine.
But once we were all back in the car and headed toward home we hit A. WALL. OF. CARS.
It took me fifteen minutes to drive a quarter of a mile out the back entrance of the Y and back to the highway. It was now 6:20. There was NO FREAKING WAY I could make it home and back by 7:00 at this pace. Or any pace for that matter.
I wanted to give up. I wanted to go home and take off my dress and put on some sweatpants and some thick cozy socks SO BAD. But. JANE GOODALL WAS AT MY SCHOOL AND I HAD A TICKET. I had quite the internal battle over this, but in the end JANE GOODALL overrode any sense of reason I might have had re: crap weather, traffic, just isn't gonna work this time. I banged the steering wheel in frustration. I said a word I'd rather the kids not repeat.
Then I called Miss S, who still had not managed to get to my house in the horrendous traffic, but who agreed to meet me at the Y and switch cars. This was the only way it could work.
And also, I should mention, the kids were so good during all of this it was OTHERWORLDLY. They were ready for an adventure!
Ten minutes later Miss S pulled her Ford Fiesta into the spot next to my van and we both jumped out, threw our keys at each other, and slid into the opposite cars. I remembered to yell "they can go to bed anytime!!" as I slammed the car in gear and backed out of the space.
After a ten minute search for a parking spot, I pulled into a church lot, abandoned the Fiesta, ran across a highway, then hurried to meet Ryan in the gym for the lecture. We were ushered in five minutes before go time to a completely packed auditorium where someone from University Affairs nabbed me and said "Would you like to sit in reserved seating?" Um. OK. He led us to the front section of chairs and let us take our pick and I sat down and relaxed for the first time in two days.
The lecture was absolutely unbelievable (her discussion of the role her mother's unending (and unconventional) support had in her becoming a successful scientist was so moving and also made me feel better about all the creatures that have called my kitchen home). SO incredibly worth all the chaos it took to get there. And I was so glad Ryan was there to share it with. And honestly, a story of overcoming World War II, a government unsupportive of women scientists, hostile male gorillas, potentially unfriendly indigenous peoples, and living primitively in a remote African jungle for weeks at a time made my angst about traffic and missing swim lessons seem a bit silly.