My 5-year-old daughter sits on the floor by her discarded pink glitter sneakers, WAILING. Streams of indignant tears pour down her inflamed face — all caused by a polite request from me, uttered seconds ago.
Me: (veiled innocence) What’s wrong?
Donny: You said I wasn’t helpful, but I AM!!!! I’m packing my lunch and setting the table and now you JUST said I have to put my socks in the hamper and you’ve never, EVER asked me to DO THAT BEFORE!!!!
A confession. My “polite request” actually went like this: “Hey, kiddo. You know what would be really helpful to mommy? How ‘bout you start picking up your dirty socks and putting them in your hamper, instead of me always having to do it?”
Given we’d just trekked 15 blocks home from her summer camp under a blazing New York City sun, and Donny was undoubtedly dehydrated, hungry, and pooped, it was a poorly timed, snarky jab. But I was pooped, too.
I stare at her, doing nothing, while her wailing continues. In a moment, the commotion fades, dropping off into the background as my thoughts wander to a faraway place, where I’m not a mom and I’m doing these things…
1. Taking a cross-country road trip. My ultimate unfulfilled high school fantasy is this type of free-spirited adventure. Accompanying me is my 20 year-old Volvo, my 8 year-old dog Ginny, and The Stones’ “Sister Morphine” blasting on my stereo. I’ve got one hand on the wheel and one hand out the window, casually holding an American Spirit. Ginny’s head sticks out the passenger window smiling, her tongue out, and truckers honk hello as we pass. I’m pre-Dave, my partner, free to pursue any flings along the way. The road is wide open adventure.
2. Getting (& staying) naked with my man. Morning sex. Flooding the bathroom during a silly shower. Drinking coffee. Streaming a movie. Smoking pot. Taking turns watching our favorite band’s music videos. Ordering take out. Drinking wine. Eating take out. Conversation. Confessions. Connection. Repeat.
3. Finishing my favorite magazine in one sitting. I’m sitting on my favorite chair Sunday morning, toast and tea at hand. Without interruption I open the latest issue of pure, unadulterated magic: my New York Magazine. Warming up with the comments, picking and choosing the “Intelligencer” pieces, then losing myself in the cover story. This week, a school in Connecticut is tackling racism as early as third grade. I flip to the back pages to finish it, no dog ears necessary. A new mug of tea ushers in the mag’s breezy second half–fashion, entertainment, reviews, and my favorite: The “25 Things to See, Hear, Watch, and Read.” I circle the ones that appeal.
Days later, I’m actually at that “name-dropping” comedy show. And the following weekend, in line for Trainwreck with my girlfriends, the weekend it opens. In the days after, I feel no dread waiting for the next issue’s arrival. Just happy anticipation, and satisfaction that its predecessor lies comfortably in the recycling bin.
4. Taking a bath. I’m soaking in lavender bubbles in my huge, claw-foot porcelain tub, filled to the top with hot water. A Mario Badescu calming mask dries on my face. Outside the window, the sky glows pink with twilight, and a gentle breeze floats through, blowing at the shower curtains. I doze off, listening to the birds singing and the trees rustling outside. My fingers are more wrinkled than a 60-year-old elephant’s face.
5. Quitting my s&*tty job. Me: (in exit interview) Because this is by far the most toxic, poorly run company I’ve ever worked at. Its run by a megalomaniacal crook who’s more committed to firing people because it gets him off, than making us actually successful! I’m never been more miserable, and I can’t wait to plaster the worst reviews of this place you’ve ever read on every job site in America!!
I walk out the office building, dropping my box of desk decorations on the sidewalk and breathe deeply. Surrounded by truck fumes, it’s the best breath I’ve taken in over a year. I dial Dave on my cell.
Dave (answering): So? How’d it go?
Me: It was absolutely … incredible! I feel f&*king FANTASTIC!!!!
Our savings is in good shape. But we decided if we get close to empty, we’ll sublet our pad, and Dave’ll join me for fantasy #1.
6. Doing absolutely nothing at all. I sleep until waking up naturally. I have no to-do’s, dates, or agenda. Sometimes I chill out on the stoop chatting with neighbors as they pass. Other times, I walk around the neighborhood window shopping. Or pop into the local diner, sitting at the counter with a corn muffin, watching the waiters and cooks scramble through a busy lunch. Sometimes I never leave the house. I snuggle with the dog, and play hide and seek with her favorite toy. I wander around the pad, looking at framed pictures. Art. I pull down a book I haven’t read in years and flip through it. I lie down with my partner on the couch, as he watches a UFC fight. I go to bed in the same clothes I woke up in.
Donn: Mommy? Are you even LISTENING to ME?!?!!?
The screaming snaps me back to life. Real life. With my real daughter. The one who’s actually cooperative, fun, and sweet 90 percent of the time. My fantasy vacation may have only lasted a few moments, but it helps me shift gears.
I sit down next to Donn, pull out my pocket pack and wipe at her face, showering her with a major Mea Culpa. When I finish, we hug tightly, then move into the living room and turn on the AC. Only this time, after she’s set up watching Diego, snacks at hand, I don’t log back online, or clean the dishes in the sink, but sit with her and watch Dora’s cousin save a pygmy marmoset. When I tell Donny she can watch another episode, I even catch a short nap.