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Julie Come Lately

I suppose there are worse things than falling asleep on your couch and picking your child up 15 minutes late from preschool. Like leaving him at a gas station. Or forgetting him in a hot car. Or exposing him prematurely to Carrot Top. However, when you are in the moment and your preschool director is calling your cell breathlessly because she herself is going to be late picking up her older kids from real school if you don’t get your lazy rear up there to get your child who is the last lone tike playing with the trains all by himself (deep breath), you feel about as worthy of motherhood as, well, Carrot Top.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have a plan in place. It was 1:30 when I lay down. With one eye closed and one eye open, I glanced at the clock for the last time and promised myself a 30 minute cat nap, leaving 30 minutes of cushion before I had to get Drew at 2:30. This might seem risky to the average person. But if you knew the degree of sleep control I have, you would be confident in my ability to pull this off. I can wake myself within five minutes of a given hour I tell myself. (This backfired on me when I saw the horrifying movie Emily Rose and was programmed to wake up at 3:00 a.m. every morning to theoretically encounter all manner of demonic activity that, according to the movie, unleashes at that particular time. Gah.). My sleep control is especially potent with any daytime sleep I might be privileged to enjoy—because of course it is daytime and the chances of falling into deep, dreamless, drooling, snoring sleep are zilch when the mailman is dropping loads into your mail slot and onto the floor, the garbage man is growling down the street, and the dog next door is carrying on about some squirrel. It just doesn’t happen. But last Thursday, it did. Oh but it did.

Drew of course felt special, not neglected. He got to play longer than the other kids, which was just fine by him. And then the preschool director herself personally escorted him to my car like some major Secret Service detail or royal processional. He was all smiles. But I wanted to weep and strangely wanted him to be weeping too. It would serve me right. I wanted to take my shoe off and just hit myself in the face with it.

Perhaps the most humiliating part of the whole debacle was that they called my mother-in-law first. Well, they called me first but I was apparently too incapacitated to notice. They didn’t call my husband either. So my mother-in-law gets the news that her grandbaby has been abandoned at the preschool by her daughter-in-law. And as gracious and understanding as she is, I’d just as soon we kept this our little nuclear family secret. So my mother-in-law immediately calls me—which of course I don’t hear—and then calls my husband who then tries to call me, but again due to my profound unconsciousness, I did not hear my phone. So what does my husband do? Clears his afternoon with his assistant, rushes out the door of his office and heads for the elevators. Perhaps Julie has finally joined the circus.

I’m not sure what woke me up. Maybe it was Drew’s guardian angel or I was having a dream about exercising. The maddening thing is I woke up naturally, looked at the clock in the living room that said 2:20, and proceeded to use the restroom as if I still had 10 minutes to spare. I didn’t realize the clock in our living room was off by 25 minutes. It was really 2:45. I didn’t realize this until I saw both bedroom clocks and confirmed it on the stove clock. 2:45! It was like being in a bad chick flick where I’ve missed the train to the only future in which I could possibly be happy. Now all I had to look forward to was being a cautionary tale in the annals of Child Protective Services.

After my Great Humiliation, I took Drew to the park. It was too cold, so I brought him home. Then he had a snack. A little while later, Gordon got home from work. Then I worked out and made dinner, and somehow…life went on. Sometimes the “daily-ness” of life is tedious and ordinary, but on days like this when you get a glimpse of your capacity to be a total delinquent, the daily-ness is a blessing. Life goes on and the steady plodding of it can dull even the sharpest embarrassment.

But maybe not if you’re Carrot Top. I believe there must be some limits in place.