Friday was one of those days. It had taken me nearly two hours just to get to work. In the part of the city where I work? Well, the streets just don't get properly plowed. My city can deny that this is true but I am here to state that I live in an older, rather affluent area of the city but I work in the projects. And my residential street was plowed much sooner and better than the main street where I work.
Once in to work, I had my second visit with Retha. Retha is a foster care provider. She isn't a do-gooder and to say that she does this for the money is an understatement. Not only does she collect her foster care stipend, but she is also savvy enough to realize that if she can get her foster child declared autistic, she will get an even larger amount of money.
The problem is that the child in her care is not autistic. He is quiet. He is scared. He is four. His life consisted of a biological mother who pretty much forgot to feed him and exposed him to meth. Now, he has a foster parent who is trying to coach him to behave as if he were autistic. Except that, yes, he is four. And he doesn't really understand why she wants him to pretend to not be able to talk and to flap his arms about himself like a bird who is not sure of his direction. I saw a trailer for the film, Precious, recently. The character played by Mo'Nique was so similar to Retha in her facial features and her personality that it gave me pause.
After finishing up with Retha and the sad little boy with the too quiet eyes, I checked my afternoon schedule. Only one appointment. I had Marisol cancel it.
I needed an afternoon off.
I slogged back out to my car, wishing that I had heeded Bing's warning to wear my boots. I'd erred on the side of vanity and now my pretty navy blue pumps were going to pay a heavy price for that. Driving home, I stopped at a local bookstore, ran in, and purchased Stephen King's new offering, Under The Dome.
I like to imagine that I am an intellectual reader of literature. And I do read lots of really heady shit. I also am basically a whore for Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Stephenie Meyer, Jeff Lindsay, and John Grisham. I can inhale anything by King. Anything. His books are hefty in one's hands and when you open up that cover, you know that you are going to visit somewhere dark. You will witness good in the midst of evil, but, like life, it doesn't always win. I read Stephen King because I think that he is brilliant, for one, and also because I like falling under his spell. When I finish his book and come up for air, I am a little shell shocked, a little dazed and satiated to the bone. And maybe his books aren't considered brilliant, but I beg to differ. His books are masterworks of a mind that is set loose somewhere dark and somehow finds the way back home to tell the story.
I needed me some Stephen King. I bought the book. It felt cumbersome in my hands and I was itching to open it up and....jump.
When I got home, I made myself some hot cranberry tea and grabbed a scone to dip into it and climbed up the steps to the cashmere comforter on my bed.
I settled in and cracked open the book.
And yes, jumped.
A few hours later, as the room was getting dusky, I heard the front door slam and knew that Bing and Liv were home. I sighed and made myself shut the book. I laid my head against the pillow and gave myself ten minutes to relax before I went downstairs.
I heard faint sounds of a keyboard and Liv's voice. I tiptoed barefoot to the top of the steps and listened.
I heard Liv say, "Do you really think Mama will like this?"
I heard Bing assure her that yes, your mother will ADORE this.
I realized that they didn't know that I was home. I had parked my car in the garage, but Bing had left hers in the driveway in preparation for our Friday night grocery shopping. They must have come through the front door, therefore they had no idea that I was already home.
And they were doing something for me.
I kept eavesdropping.
I heard Liv practice on the keyboards until she mastered Jingle Bells without a missed note. They kept playing it back and adjusting the sounds of horns and sleigh bells to go along with it.
Hmm. Garage Band, I guessed.
And then, her voice.
Her sweet little piping voice.
It sang in her high ten year old soprano:
Dashing through the snow....in a one horse open sleigh! O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way (ho, ho, ho!)....
I smiled. She sang it through without a hitch and they played it back against the music they had mixed.
Then Bing said, "Okay, what do you want to tell her now?"
Liv said she was ready, to start recording.
"Merry Christmas, Mama! I love you more than fifteen cats flying over the moon on Halloween. I love you sooooooo much!"
I heard Bing praise her, tell her that it was perfect.
It WAS perfect.
I smiled to myself and tiptoed back to bed. A few moments later, I got up noisily and went to the bathroom for a drink of water. Stood looking at my hair in the mirror, messed it up with my hand just a little more.
And headed downstairs. Liv met me halfway down.
Her little face was twitchy.
"MAMA! What are you doing home?"
I put my arm around her. Told her that I had left work early because I was tired, and had just had the most marvelous nap. I didn't even hear her and Bing come home! Had they been home long? What time was it?
She and Bing smiled at each other as I walked into the dining room. I looked at the garage band equipment all set up.
"What's up?" I asked in my very innocent, unsuspecting voice.
Oh, nothing, they assured me. Just killing some time, waiting for you to get home...but look! You're here! Are we ready to go out for Chinese and go grocery shopping?
I said that I sure was.
During dinner, I looked at my little girl's face, all shining in the soft glow of candlelight from the table and I thought about the secret I would now keep and how surprised I would look on Christmas Eve.
"What? A Christmas cd for me? What a perfect surprise!
As we grocery shopped, I thought of that little boy in my office today and wished him a happy holiday too. I wish I could save them all. I can't. And I have to make peace with that.
Because sometimes, yes, life is like a Stephen King novel. The good don't always win. But, good exists and the good people keep trying.
And this eavesdropper realizes that.