Monday, March 26, 2012
Rob has given notice to quit his second job. Celia, now seven months pregnant, fears that between the fatigue of pregnancy and the ongoing stress of living with her mother (not to mention keeping up with her teaching job), she will be too overwhelmed to manage the move to their new house.
Thank God for spring break. Celia and Rob lived simply in their one-bedroom apartment, and since the house purchase she had been systematically packing her non-maternity clothing. But managing her mother continued to take more time than she had planned and she was starting to feel the pressure. Mom, characteristically, was complicating things with her efforts to be helpful. Case in point: she bought dozens of new hangers that had to be stored now and moved later, congratulating herself that they had been on sale and that she had saved fifty cents per box. Celia had given up on trying to change this sort of thing.
“Good thinking, Mom,” she said instead of fighting it head on. “We’ll definitely need more hangers when we move.” This approach was healthier for everyone and required much less energy to play mother to her mother.
She knelt on the kitchen floor, trying to bend far enough over her belly to reach the unopened toaster in the back, to pack it. But she couldn’t reach it. She sat up, took a deep breath, and indulged in a brief fantasy: what might it be like to have a mother who was actually helpful? There was much to be grateful for: the sale of Mom’s house provided the downpayment for the house they would share. Celia would be able to work and not have to worry about daycare with Mom there to take care of their baby.
She knew that her mother had not been great at child rearing the first time around. But Celia did not want to dwell on the implications of Mom taking care of her child while she was at work… she would cross that bridge when she got there.
Meanwhile, there was moving in April, and of course giving birth in May.
Celia heard the front door open. “I’m home, honey,” Mom said.
“Hi Mom.” Celia reached up to the counter to pull herself up, and as she did so she was seized by pain around her middle, like something was pushing down on her—
She sucked in her breath and put her hands on the floor. In about thirty seconds, the pain passed.
Mom put her head in the kitchen to see Celia on all fours. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“I need to call the doctor right now,” Celia said. “Something’s not right.”
What happens next?
Monday, March 19, 2012
Life in the fast lane
In response to Celia’s complaint that she doesn’t have the extra energy necessary to defend herself against teasing from both her mother and her husband, Rob repeated his apology and reminded her that he doesn’t have a lot of energy to spare himself right now as the holder of two jobs.
Celia continued to weep in the passenger seat of Rob’s car while he drove home. His wife was not typically a crier and he still could not get used to this new, more sensitive – “hormonal” was the word she used—Celia. It really was not fair that as hard as he worked he had to put up with this, too.
She blew her nose and he rolled his eyes.
Suddenly Rob had a moment of insight, and he did not like what he saw. They had not planned Celia’s pregnancy but they had both been in bed when it happened. Life on the home front was only going to get busier in the coming months, but as much as Rob liked the extra income, the second job was optional.
He opened his mouth to speak just as Celia did, too.
“You need to quit Starbucks,” she said. “It’s too much for both of us right now.”
“I was about to suggest the same thing,” he said. “We could probably have handled it right up until the baby is born, except for getting ready to move.”
They sat in silence for a few moments while these words seeped in.
“Don’t do it if you’re just going to blame me when we cut it close with the checkbook over the next couple of months,” Celia said.
“Our income is covering our expenses without Starbucks,” Rob said. “That’s maternity leave money. We just need to be careful when we move. We might need to do without a few things in the new house at first.”
“I’d rather do without a few things and have you available otherwise.”
“OK. I’ll put in my notice tomorrow when I go in.”
Celia took his hand. “Thank you.”
As they approached their exit, Rob was struck with the sense that life was moving fast, very fast, faster than he could manage. Just yesterday he was riding his skateboard to middle school and now he was taking on both a mortgage and parenthood in one short season.
Rob did not like feeling so sentimental, as if the desire to be twelve again meant that he was not capable of being twenty-five. Maybe he could sleep it off—he would try again to take a nap when they got home.
What happens next?
Monday, March 12, 2012
Whose side are you on anyway?
After inadvertently forgetting to put the car in PARK, thus causing both AAA and Rob to come to her rescue at a turnpike rest stop when the car wouldn’t start, Rob is driving Celia home. Her mother, who had been with Celia, is driving Celia’s car home behind them.
Celia could not recall the last time she had been so enraged. It was bad enough that her mother had made fun of her for her mistake, stupid and ridiculous though it may have been. But when Celia burst into tears at her thoughtless comment, Rob had added insult to injury with, “So how long do you plan on being such a flake?” He probably didn’t mean anything by it, but for Celia, already exhausted after a weekend of packing up her mother’s house and entering another new tired phase of pregnancy, it was the last straw.
She sat weeping in the passenger seat, unable to stop and silently cursing the hormones that seemed to rule her emotions.
“I should have finished the drive alone,” she said. “You and Mom could drive together and continue to have a good time at my expense.” She fumbled in her purse for tissues but could not find any.
“Celia, I’m sorry,” Rob said. “You don’t have much of a sense of humor right now.”
Celia felt cornered, stuck in the car and for the rest of her life with a man she momentarily loathed; stuck in an arrangement in which her most unhelpful mother might be living with permanently. She was enraged now at herself; she must have been out of her mind to agree to any of this.
“No, I don’t have much of a sense of humor,” she said. “I left it at home, in our bedroom, because this baby is taking up all the space I have.” Rob had gotten her pregnant, too (her anger reminded her), even as the remaining rational parts of her mind knew that there had been two of them in the bed.
At the moment she could not imagine how she was going to coordinate getting their new house ready and planning a move; she was utterly overwhelmed.
“I’m sorry you had to drive out here on your day off. You deserve a day off and I am being a flake.” She was still crying and it was hard to get the words out. “But I need you to be on my side. I don’t have any energy left to defend myself against you, too.”
“I told you I’m sorry I said that,” Rob said. “But I don’t have a lot of energy to spare myself right now.”
What happens next?
Monday, March 05, 2012
Rob and AAA just “rescued” Celia and her mother from a non-emergency.
The sky shone bright blue and the highway was dry, and though it was cold Rob only kinda-sorta-not really minded the interruption to his rare day off from both jobs. He simply could not relax as well as he had been able to do before taking on the second job. Probably not a bad thing, he thought, since the birth of their baby was now less than three months away and relaxation time would be limited even with the elimination of the second job. Mostly he regretted that he would have to contend with a car repair, when working two jobs was about saving for retirement and paying down debt, not to pay to repair a relatively new car.
He exited into the huge turnpike rest stop lot and spotted Celia’s car by sighting the tow truck. He parked nearby, getting out of the car just as Celia signed a clipboard proffered by the driver. Celia’s mother hovered nearby, likely offering her typical chatty non-support.
“Robbie!” Celia’s mother called, throwing her arms open to hug her favorite and only son-in-law. He had barely received the hug when she blurted out, “The car’s fine! Celia just forgot to put it in PARK when we stopped.”
“Happens all the time,” the tow truck driver said. “No big deal.” He tore off Celia’s copy of the form and handed it to her. “The good news is, you don’t make that mistake twice,” he added as he got back in the truck and turned on its ignition.
Vaguely relieved that the car was fine, Rob found himself stuck on mistake. “You mean I drove out here for nothing?”
Celia’s mother looked at Rob, waved her arms and shook her head. “How do you solve a problem like my Celia?” she sang, mimicking the “Maria” song from The Sound of Music.
“I hate it when you do that!” Celia said to her mother. The moment she made eye contact with Rob, she burst into tears.
What happens next?
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