Monday, February 27, 2012
Damsel in Distress
Celia, six months pregnant, and her mother are stranded at a truck stop with car trouble.
Celia was not sure why she called Rob first. Rob was an hour away in Columbus and she had AAA to take care of her car. Maybe it was because she was worn out, and not only from the work she and her mother had done all weekend on the house. Being with her mother was exhausting, too. But as her pregnancy progressed, things that might previously have been merely inconvenient could nearly send Celia over the edge.
“Call AAA and I’ll leave now to pick you up,” Rob had said immediately.
Today was Rob’s first day off in weeks and that he had been looking forward to watching basketball and taking a long nap, but he had not betrayed one hint of frustration at her interruption.
Now, as she waited for AAA and Rob, she counted her blessings.
“I’m going to go inside to shop while we wait,” Mom said. “Want anything?”
Celia shook her head and as her mother closed the car door and left Celia alone, she added another gratitude to the list: she could have a few minutes peace from her mother’s relentless chatter while she waited, even though it was cold in the car. Only her mother could turn a truck stop shop into a genuine shopping excursion. She thought to call after her, to tell her not to buy any junk since they were getting ready to move, but could not summon the willpower.
There was nothing romantic about being a damsel in distress, especially one in maternity jeans. She felt like her brain was starting to go, too, but she had been warned by her fellow teachers to be ready for that. Household items began to show up in strange places, such as the shiny green canister of Parmesan cheese that kept appearing under the sink next to the shiny green canister of Comet cleanser, thanks to some neurological crossed wire.
She thought she might doze a bit, and she redirected her thoughts to dream of the new house they would move into in less than two months. Usually she could lull herself to sleep on this reverie but today she was too drained to go there… Good. There was the AAA truck.
Celia got out and flagged down the driver, waving her AAA card for good measure.
The driver parked the truck, got out, and greeted Celia. He took the key from her and got into the drivers’ seat. Within ten seconds, he had started the engine.
“Oh, my gosh,” Celia said, astonished. “How did you do that?”
“You left it in DRIVE,” he said. “Has to be in PARK to start it.”
Just then Celia saw Rob pull into the rest stop parking lot.
What happens next?
Monday, February 20, 2012
Slowing down without Melting down
Moving plans are unfolding. Celia and her mother went to her mother’s house to pack it up over the holiday weekend while Rob was left behind to finalize details on their new house purchase.
Rob could not actually remember the last day he had not worked at one of his two jobs. Christmas day, maybe. But he was off today, Presidents’ Day, and he was home alone to boot. He had awakened early, taken a slow, cold jog, and rewarded himself with a hot shower while his coffee brewed. Rob enjoyed that the Starbucks job, rather than making him hate coffee, had increased his appreciation of it. He could no longer tolerate the stuff Celia bought at the grocery store.
He poured his coffee, turned on Pandora to his U2 station, sat down on the sofa to surf the sports news online, and sighed. For about thirty seconds he looked at college basketball scores before he set aside his computer and stood up.
The moment he did, he wondered why he had gotten up. He sat down again and tried to focus on the scores, but something in his body kept telling him that there was something undone that needed to be done. He stood up again and wandered into the kitchen, picking up a sponge and wiping around the fixtures at the sink. After a moment he bent down, pulled out some cleanser from beneath the sink. Sprinkling some on the sponge, he attacked an errant speck of grime…
This is crazy, he thought. I work all the time. Today is my day to rest.
But Rob could not sit still, as if his body no longer knew how not to work. Even when he had evenings off, he had been helping out Celia, who was six months pregnant now and more tired than usual, or attending to new house details.
“I really can’t relax,” he said out loud to his empty apartment. Maybe watching a movie would help. He put away the stuff he had been using at the sink and returned to the living room to look through their very small DVD collection. He pulled out Iron Man.
“OK,” he continued out loud to no one as he turned off the music. “Spending the morning with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. How bad can that be?”
At least the movie kept him planted on the sofa. He kinda-sorta watched it while looking at scores and reading the news. He really didn’t do much of that anymore beyond headlines.
About an hour into the movie, Celia called. He was relieved to be distracted.
“We’re having car trouble,” she said. “We stopped so I could go to the bathroom again but the car won’t start.”
How does Rob respond?
Monday, February 13, 2012
Home Owners at Last
Rob and Celia are trying to work on their relationship with Celia’s mother as they anticipate buying a house with her as well as living with her.
The call that their house offer was accepted arrived just as Rob and Celia were laughing, with genuine mirth, at the situation they had put themselves in by agreeing to live with Celia’s mother.
“We got it!” Celia said, disconnecting the call from the realtor and standing up at the table. She and her mother were having tea at Starbucks, where they had stopped in to say hello to Rob as he worked the closing shift on his second job. Celia hugged Rob, hard, before they both hugged her mother.
The house was a little smaller than they had hoped; only three bedrooms, but it was in Upper Arlington, a nice neighborhood near Ohio State where Rob and Celia had met. More importantly to Rob, Celia knew, was that it fell in a good school district, which meant that they would not have to worry about trying to move again before their child started school.
“See,” Celia said, hugging Rob again and speaking into his ear. “Now you don’t have to worry about anything. Just getting about getting on with the rest of our lives.
“I’m sure I’ll figure out something new to worry about,” he said.
“Let’s just worry about moving and having a baby,” she said.
“I can’t wait to start decorating,” Mom said. “Why don’t we”—
Rob sighed, gave Celia a look that said good luck, and went back to work.
“Mom,” Celia said, sitting back down. “Except for the nursery we’re going to have to get by with the furniture we have. We’re going to be at the limits of our income just getting into the house and there isn’t much left over. And remember I won’t be drawing a paycheck over the summer.”
“Oh, but it’s your first house,” Mom said.
“Mom,” Celia said firmly, “we will decorate gradually as we can afford it. But you can decorate your room any way you want.”
“I’ll pick a nice deep gray-green paint,” she said, “and find a nice neutral bedspread.”
Celia smirked. At the very least Mom was easy to redirect.
“I have an idea,” Celia said.
What does she tell her mother?
Monday, February 06, 2012
Marriage vs. Mother?
Every day seems to usher in one more small battle between their marriage and Celia’s mother, but Rob and Celia are beginning to feel like they are winning.
Rob, standing behind the counter in his Starbucks barista role, watched Celia and her mother continue their conversation at a table over tea.
“Look, I love you and I want us to live together, but I need you to be a team player,” he heard Celia tell her mother.
“I am a team player,” he heard his mother-in-law say with a touch of whine in her voice.
“Being a team player has to mean more than your best intentions,” he heard Celia continue. “Rob and I need you to listen to what we’re saying. When I ask you not to talk about the baby’s sex anymore it’s because”— Celia glanced up at Rob and he held her eye contact for the long moment before she looked back at her mother – “it’s because I don’t have the energy it takes to have the same conversation, over and over. Please.”
“Well, you don’t have to get mad about it,” Mom said.
Rob laughed inwardly at his mother-in-law’s lack of nuance. People were either happy or they were angry in her world, and since Celia was not obviously happy she must be angry. Watching Celia and her mother struggling out of their rut, he credited them both for their efforts. Reaching into the pastry shelf he picked out two miniature cupcakes, grabbed a pair of napkins, and walked over to Celia and her mother.
“Good job,” he said, giving them each a bite of dessert.
“What do you mean, Robbie?” his mother-in-law said.
“I mean that I’m proud of you both. It’s hard work to figure out how to live together and you’re doing it.”
“I’m just not going to say anything at all,” Mom said. “That way I won’t get in trouble.”
Rob and Celia both laughed in spite of themselves, and Rob knew that even that was progress; to laugh at her limitations instead of despairing over living with her meant they could be on the same team even if the going got difficult.
Celia’s phone rang at that moment and she answered it.
What is the call about?
Page 1 of 1 pages
Return to home page