I glance down at my hands in a moment's pause; they're shaking. Slightly but perceptibly. Another text pings and, as if in support, the washing machine's sing-song buzzer plays its tune. It's time again, the fourth today, to switch loads.
I ignore the text and leave the mixer cocked open, chocolate cupcake batter dripping from the wire whisk into the bowl below. Downstairs, I transfer the clothes from the dryer to the basket-pausing momentarily in their womb-like warmth- and then the wet duds from the washer to the dryer. A buzzer sounds from the kitchen -the vanilla cupcakes are done- and I hurriedly shove the last pile of dirties to the briefly-vacant washer, pour in detergent, set all timers and race back up.
The vanilla cupcakes are golden and smell good, yet something nags. I cast my eyes towards my shaky hands and am seized with the realization that unless I was moving so quickly I didn't notice, I've forgotten to add the critically important tablespoon of vinegar. Shit.
These cupcakes are wartime and depression-era treats, from times when eggs and butter were rationed and people figured out how to make do with oil for fat and the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda for the eggs.
Another text illumines my iPhone screen, email and Gmail chat notices are flying left and right across my laptop's face, and I accept that I literally don't have time (or frankly, the inclination) to remake these cupcakes. In the past four days alone, I've already made Oliver muffins for his class snack last Friday and a double-layer cake for his birthday party yesterday. These vanilla pucks, now the lesser counterparts to their chocolaty kin still yet to enter the oven, will have to do for his school-based birthday celebration tomorrow.
There's always frosting. Which means, double shit, that I now need to make more frosting.
Percy starts barking -have I fed him?- and where is Nutmeg? Has he returned from his most recent venture in the neighborhood wilds? I glance at the clock; it's a quarter to three, I don't have on a bra, and school pick-up starts in thirty minutes. Go.
The chocolate cakes will have to wait. I change, shove some grapes into a container for the boys' snack and head to school. A slip of paper, a lonely to-do list shoved in my car console, catches my eye. I note that the dry cleaning is way overdue, I have two essays to read for classmates, and I've not yet managed to mail three packages that I so earnestly meant to.
Green light. Grip the wheel. Go.
Oliver is beaming as he approaches me. My hands still momentarily, as I scoop him up and kiss his warm cheeks. Never has a child been so thrilled for his birthday. I can tell that our days-long honoring of him is deeply meaningful, and I'm glad. Ol asks so little really. He is an easy child, easy to love, easy to raise, easy to celebrate. I don't mind all the cakes and cupcakes and muffins. I'm just tired.
We get in the car so he can tell me a "secwet" and he begins to climb all over like a manic monkey. I see Jack coming, beam-smiling and fully engaged in a conversation with one of his teachers. I'll come to find that they were conversing as might have Powhatan and a Settler. This role play strikes me as a cool means of learning Colonial American history, and I am again grateful that my sons attend the excellent school they do.
By the time we reach home, a helmet of peevishness has affixed itself firmly to my skull. How many times must I say, "I CAN'T look at you when I'm driving!" before the kids stop asking me to do just that? Why does Jack narrate every second as he lives it? Why does it feel that so much is asked of me so often? Another text arrives.
We pull up, and I see Nutmeg waiting patiently by the front door. He's licking his paws. Oops. I forgot to check on his whereabouts before I left, but that cat. That cat! He might very well be the smartest, wiliest of us all.
Oliver does his thing where he takes 85 years to get out of the car. It drives me batshit crazy, but I've read all the articles. I know I'm not supposed to tell my kids to hurry any more than I have to, and so despite my discomfort at leaving him, I do. I want to go inside and deal with those chocolate cupcakes. I want to finish one damn thing.
Jack insists that we load up Ol's new walkie-talkies with batteries, and of course doing so requires both a screwdriver and not one, but TWO, elusive 9-volts. I find everything and put him to work. Shortly thereafter, the walkies are working and Jack is buzzing through every possible channel, tweaking and testing and making more and more and more noise. He is so curious, and I love that. But he is not so easy.
Oliver begins his thank you notes and after completing 1.5 of them has a head-in-hands sob-fest because his V looks like a W. I fetch the white correction tape and mend everything as best I can. Yet the sob-fest continues because the white of the tape does not accurately enough match the white of the card.
I want to run. My hands start to quiver again. The cupcakes overflow the pan. The frosting. And once again, I'm flying.