On a blazing hot Friday afternoon, I pulled up at my oldest son’s elementary school on my sweet ride- an old, green, Trek bike, aka the Grocery-Getter. I was towing the two younger siblings in a much newer, blue, Burley trailer which I would never have been able to afford if it wasn’t for those wonderful things called ‘Gear Reviews.’ In the shade of some kind of elm, we disembarked, and a man with a huge beard, presumably some kid’s dad, approached me smiling and said, “I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you about your email.”
Being almost totally face-blind, especially without some sort of context, and having just hauled about 60 pounds of kid up the hill to school in the heat, I benevolently smiled like I totally knew what he was talking about. “Oh, no problem, I understand.”
Then, brushing the dripping sweat off my face, which was undoubtedly a blotchy shade of red (I hate all women who sweat beautifully), I just came out with it and asked, “I’m sorry, and your name is?”
“Jonathan.” There was an awkward pause as my brain, in full mom-mode, still wasn’t putting it together.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I wanted to follow up with you about your thoughts about Hanging Lake.”
Nodding, I start unbuckling toddlers and handing out Shut-Up-Now Granola Bars. At this point it took me a full minute to realize that this man wasn’t the editor who I’d emailed that morning about the same story (who lives in Boulder, CO, 300 miles away, incidentally), but actually the friendly Mayor of our town who I’d been pestering about this issue for months. In my defense, the editor’s name was also Jonathan, and the Mayor was wearing sunglasses at the time.
So what if I had sat across from this man for an hour at a coffee shop just a few weeks ago? He had sunglasses on! How could anyone really know?
As my brain finally bridged the gap between the two realities I live in- that of a writer/instigator and that of a mother of three- I managed to spew out a semi-coherent elevator pitch about how the City Council was currently making several grave mistakes regarding the privatization of public land. No, Cady, please don’t pet the bees. And also, on an unrelated note, they need to find a way to engage more community members with easy-to-find agendas and text updates about pending RFPs.
Then, as the school bell rings, my three year old perks up, “ Mom! I have to pee!”
I finish lamely with something about re-branding the City Council by using a text-blast app similar to the one which is used my son’s elementary school which texts me probably three times daily, and how hard can it be?
The Mayor, godblessim, listens politely this whole time. Hunter, my first grader, shows up cheerfully, immediately launching into a detailed description of everything awesome that happened to him that day. I see my three-year-old hopping around insistently. Shit. Wrap it up, DeFrates. Interrupting both my son and the mayor, I scoop up the bladderly challenged middle child, dragging his two-year-old sister along by the hand, shouting back to the six year old to stay with the bikes, and apologizing to the mayor that I’ll get back to him in my other life.
About halfway to the door I realize that I’m carrying the wrong child if we’re going to make it in time, and switch who rides the hip and who gets tugged along.
Phew. Made it. “Yes! You do have to wash your hands every time, and no, Cady, please don’t eat that.”
On the way back outside to the bikes, I affix the rosy-tinted glasses of my own narcissism to review the previous interactions. The mayor and his wife have left, and I conclude that maybe I had still made a reasonably professional impression on our bearded leader. As a local opinion columnist, this is important to me. Maybe he was even impressed that I could juggle motherhood and community engagement and critical thinking. Yeah, I’m respectable as fuck.
Then my six-year-old, still remarkably cheerful, “You know those grown ups you were talking to?”
“Yes, Hunter, that was the mayor.” Feeling important that my son would know I was chatting with a pillar of the community, I take a long breath.
“Yeah, I told them about how you are writing a novel.”
“Oh. You did.” Because you know what makes every writer into a cliche…
“Yup, all about that girl getting lost in the desert. I told them you’re writing it.”
“That’s great, buddy.” Smile. “Thanks.”
But there you have it folks. That’s me in a nutshell right now. The sweaty, red-faced, face-blind outdoorsy mother of three; snack-giver and butt-wiper, who moonlights as a creative when she isn’t pretending that her opinions matter to the powers that be. Coming to a neighborhood near you!
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