Note: This is an older story from Judith’s archives.
While calmly swimming laps, I happen to glance through my fog-covered goggles and notice the plants around the pool. At the drooping appearance, I knew that Shoshi hadn’t done her chore…again. When would she ever learn to do what was expected of her? A devious plan popped into my head. I’ll water the plants and then force her to make dinner, which will make her late for the beloved, high school football game.
Cheerfully humming, I approach the task with love — nurturing the delicate green plants, removing the unsightly brown, dead leaves, nourishing the soil with plant food infused water. I find that I actually enjoy the quiet time, caring for the needy little things. But upon my umpteen thousandth return to the water faucet, I happen to glance at the clock as I hear the door open in the back hall. “My plan is working perfectly,” I chuckle evilly. It was now time for dinner. And I hadn’t even started it yet.
It wasn’t until then, that I remembered that I had a date with a prospective boyfriend in an hour. Ah, the life of a single mom. Rushing to the shower, I yell over my shoulder at my very capable 16 year old and her friend who had just walked in, “Shoshi, since I had to do your chore, you can do mine while I shower. Put the pasta on. Ashley, are you staying for dinner? Yes? Then take the apples from the refrigerator and do something with them.”
Ashley looks at me blankly. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Wash and cut them. I don’t care. Just do something.”
And so the race began. Ten minutes later, I’m downstairs, hurried sweat dripping from my freshly washed body (covered with a bathrobe, of course) and see JT enter the back door very nonchalantly, as only a teenage boy can do, followed by three friends and his little brother.
“Oh good, you’re here. Are your friends staying? Yes? You can grill the skirt steaks.”
Two more teens walk in.
“You better make some hamburgers too. Adam, set the table. Mike, put water in the glasses. Dan, get the Shabbat stuff out. Josh, cut the green beans and stick them in the microwave.”
And so went the orders from Staff Sergeant Mom before running upstairs to finish dressing.
“Pause and breathe,” I have to remind myself as we start the Friday night ritual. (OK so we’re not religious. But at least we do dinner and prayers.) After the candles are blessed, JT scoots outside to turn the grilling meat. “I’m not having a repeat of last time,” he says upon his return. We laugh at the memory of another meal’s charred rib-eye steaks.
Finally, its time for the last prayer, the special one where I bless the children using this long, convoluted prayer, that I never say correctly anyway. But since I’m flustered from all the rushing and unexpected guests, I simply look around the kitchen at these wonderful kids and say, “Bless the children.” Before we sit at the table, each kid is kissed on the top of the head – even the ones who are taller than me, which are most of them. They put up with the kisses every week, but they’d miss it if I didn’t do it.
Dinner is a lively meal with lots of talking and laughter. Just the way I like it. I wish we could sit here and enjoy the meal for the next few hours. But then it dawns on me. Why aren’t they jumping up to leave the table for the game?
“What happened to the football game?” I ask coyly.
“Oh,” Shoshi drawls, “we decided not to go.”
My eyes stare daggers at her, even my antsy butt stills as I realize I am the only one rushing to leave. “Oh, stay seated as long as you want. I have to get going.”
Everyone else rises also, so I start yelling orders as I rush out the door: “Adam, wash the table. Dan, make sure the leftovers are put in the refrigerator. Mike, load the dishwasher. Shoshi, ….”
I zoom out of the garage (a tight fit for an SUV) and down the street while trying to stay at 20 mph. At the stop sign, I whip out my cell phone and call my date to inform him that I’ll be just a few minutes late.
“Oh, didn’t you get my message?” he apologizes. “I have to work late tonight.”
The message beep comes through just as I snap the phone shut.
Returning home, I calmly walk into the kitchen and start helping the kids clean up. Within minutes, I’m the only one working. Everyone else has disappeared.
I guess thoughts do form our reality. When I truly expected the kids to help, they pulled through and did. But, I knew deep down inside that they would. They are basically good kids.