“You haven’t made one playdate for me all summer,” Violet, now 7, said one evening in early August while holding up school pictures of two of her best friends. “I’m forgetting what Reagan’s voice sounds like, Mom. I’m forgetting what her face looks like!”
Violet held the wallet-sized photo inches from my face and stuck out her bottom lip. We call that “a boo-boo lip,” something I hadn’t seen on her in as long as I could remember.
“How’d you forget what Reagan looks like when you’re looking at her picture?” I asked, forever the child my mom used to call “Sass Mouth,” even as a full-grown mother myself.
I do owe her a playdate. I should know by now not to promise something when I’m not 100% sure I can follow through. I always tell myself I won’t do it again, that I’ll say something noncommittal like, “We’ll try our best,” but I tend to get overexcited and it can be hard to backtrack on plans when I’ve told Violet, “I can hardly wait!”
Sometimes there just isn’t time to do all the things we want to do for our children, let alone ourselves. We get sick, overtired or overscheduled and every now and then can’t manage to live up to expectations, our children’s or our own, let alone our partners, our bosses, teachers and the PTA, not to mention grandparents, friends and everyone else in the world who may be counting on us to do all we can.
Then just when you think things might be slowing down, maybe even improving drastically or at the very least getting a little easier to manage, the power goes out, the hot water heater explodes, a bat flies in the window, and the dryer breaks. The dog eats mushrooms. Bad houseguests come to town. A heatwave hits. The sky fills with smoke. Dad gets Covid and the truck breaks down.
That’s all just part of life. But knowing Murphy’s Law is to blame doesn’t make things any easier in the face of an unfulfilled promise, when a green-eyed girl with four dimples and a trembling boo-boo lip begins to tear up because school is starting in eight days and there has been no playdate.
I’ve spent most of my time with Violet for seven years. Before the pandemic hit, back when she had round cheeks, baby teeth and toddler speech, we went to Play-to-Learn at the KP Civic Center, swimming at Camp Easterseals and preschool at the co-op. I was usually the last parent to leave preschool in the morning, the first one to return.
To Violet, my personality is “Mom.” Besides a few different shades of hair dye, I haven’t changed much in her seven years on this earth. I’ve always been right there within reach, within calling distance.
My guess is Violet’s never really had to miss me because I’ve never been gone.
Then I went and got a job.
I hadn’t planned on returning to work yet when I submitted the application back in May, but I had been feeling tired of my status as a mediocre-at-best housewife for quite some time. And sometimes opportunities arise that you just can’t pass up.
When I received the invitation to interview, I panicked. Violet would be home all summer without me if I got hired. Her dad works from home so it wasn’t an impossible plan, but his job is tough and he likes to run on his lunch break.
Who would make sure Violet didn’t OD on TV and junk food? How would the dishes get done? The laundry? Who would arrange and monitor all the playdates, park outings and summertime adventures I’d promised? Who would take over trying to predict and prevent everything that could possibly go wrong all day long?
I was half dreading the call, debating whether I should turn down the offer if it came through. Then it did: start date June 1. Listening to the voicemail from HR, I jumped up and down and felt butterflies in a way I hadn’t in a long while. The voice in my head that had been whispering, “This is the perfect job for you,” began to scream and shout and I knew there was no way I wasn’t taking it.
On May 27 I tested positive for Covid. Murphy’s Law. So, I started work June 16.
To my surprise and relief, summer went smoothly. Grandma helped and Violet’s dad ran in the mornings instead of at lunch. It was fine. I’d worried for nothing.
Then in mid-August, Violet said, “It’s almost time for school, so you’re almost done with your job.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your job will be done after summer,” she said, smiling. “Then you can stay home with me.”
I explained that, no, my new job wasn’t ending and I might even work there forever. Violet was not impressed. She was, however, impressively self-aware when it came to expressing her emotions on the matter: “I’m feeling angry at your job for taking you away from me.”
When school started, there had been no playdate with Reagan and I was in the doghouse. Then Murphy’s Law struck again.
A few days before Violet’s first roller skating birthday party, already delayed by two years because of the pandemic, her dad tested positive for Covid.
Violet cried when I told her we needed to reschedule. Then Reagan’s mom offered to drop off her present to soften the blow, which softened a blow for me too.
On the day that was supposed to be Violet’s party, Grandma brought over a cake and the girls got their playdate in our backyard. That night at bedtime, Violet smiled at me, let out a long sigh and said, “Thank you for my playdate, Mom. I’m having the best birthday ever!”
Krisa Bruemmer is an award-winning writer. She lives in Vaughn.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS