5 years ago

The last twenty-four hours of my life illustrate why I think women are so amazing. What happened to me happens to women everywhere, every day, and each morning we wake up and do it all over again. My life is no different from any of us; I'm just documenting it, as Eleanor Roosevelt did six days a week for twenty-seven years in her newspaper column, "My Day."

Cell phone service in northwestern Connecticut is notoriously poor. As my brother once said, "I had more bars in the Sahara Desert than I ever did in Connecticut!" That's why, yesterday afternoon I texted my son, I'll pick you up at the train station at 9 tonight. Going to Ridgefield now to teach Kathrin. Won't have service for the next 4 hours. See you tonight!

Kathrin is my German student and for the last year I've been teaching her and her three children English. I adore them. Kathrin's not embarrassed to ask me anything from where in the United States to find parsnip baby food (nowhere) to helping her translate her resume. Yesterday, as soon as I got in the door, she said, "I have to ask you this. I do not understand. What are wallets?"

"Wallets?" I asked. "You know what a wallet is. It's the thing men carry in their pants pockets, where they keep their money and driver's license. Women use them, too."

"Yes," agreed Kathrin handing over her grunting one-year old whose outstretched arms reached for me like Cheeta reaching for Jane, "that's what I thought."

"So, what's the problem?"

Holding a piece of paper in her hand she said, "This came home from first grade. I looked up wallets online and I still do not understand."

Having rummaged through many a backpack in my day, the mother in me immediately recognized the order form for school photographs. My eyes zeroed in on Package C, which offered Kathrin 2 5 x 7's, 3 3 x 5's, a class photo and 8 wallets! I explained to Kathrin that, if she chose Package C, she would not be receiving eight leather wallets with her first grade daughter's face on them.

We sat down at her dining room table and she had another question for me, "When I am at Stop & Shop I never understand what it means when a woman on a loudspeaker says: Deli kiosk order eighteen is ready for pick-up at your earliest convenience. Every time I am shopping I hear this! What does it mean?"

I spent the next fifteen minutes explaining the impersonal intricacies of grocery store delis to a woman who, in Germany, was on a first name basis with her local butcher. She couldn't understand why people (like me) would enter their cheese and cold cut orders into a computer rather than talk to the person behind the deli counter.

Four hours later I was back in my car and checked my cell phone. There were nine texts, all from my aforementioned twenty-two year old son, who was flying home from Puerto Rico that night. Bear in mind I had texted him that I wouldn't have cell service for four hours. As I scrolled down the list of texts they grew increasingly frantic: My flight lands at 7. I'll be in Brewster like 9, Should I see if there's the bus to Danbury or whatever, Call me asap!!!, Mommy there was a change to my flight but American Airlines never informed me, They changed the flight to leave an hour early and I missed it, Hey! Did u get my messages?, At least they didn't charge anything for my bag!, r u there!!?, Can you pick me up at midnight in Brewster?

Ten minutes later as I sat in a traffic jam on I-84, I finally had enough service to call my son back and put him on speaker, the phone beside me on the seat. "Mic, I'm on the highway. I'll call you as soon as I get off and can pull over," I quickly said.

"Mommy, Mommy, wait, wait. Did you get my texts?"

"Yes, I'll pick you up at midnight," I said.

"No, that all changed. They're offering me four hundred dollars if I take another flight. All you have to do is pick me up at JFK."

"Pick you up at JFK!" I screeched. "Do you have the faintest recollection of our drive to Newark Airport when I swore to you I would never do it again?! No way! I gotta go, traffic is starting to move. We love you," I said as I hung up.

By the time I got home, there were five more frenzied texts. Final outcome: he would be at the Brewster train station at 7:45 the next morning.

I walked in the house and was greeted by my twenty-year old daughter and her boyfriend, Zane. Rubbing my hands together in mock anticipation, I said, "So, Zane. You all ready for next Saturday?"

"Yeah, I've got a question for you. What exactly are we doing at this thing?" he asked.

The "thing" in question was a class I had been asked to teach at the Terryville Country Fair. A few years ago I created a company called "How Cool Is That?!" (Hands-On Science) which offers various science programs for children at all kinds of different venues. Zane has helped me several times. He's very good with kids and has a calm demeanor which offsets my enthusiastic one. Translation: he's relaxed, I'm animated.

"Did you tell him the best part yet?" my daughter, Ehris, asked.

"No, I did not," I quickly responded, hoping to gloss right over her comment.

"What's the best part?" Zane asked.

"I think my mom failed to mention that one hundred and fifty kids will be coming to this thing. That means you'll each be working with seventy-five kids!" she smirked.

Mellow Zane looked at me with panic in his eyes.

"I'm guessing she didn't tell you the other part either." Ehris prodded.

Despite the fact that I was glaring at her, shaking my head and making 'Stop it!' gestures with my hands, she continued.

"Zane, do you remember the Backstreet Boys?" she asked.

Zane nodded.

"Have you ever seen the Sham Wow Guy on those infomercials?"

Zane nodded again.

"Well, you and my mom are going to be on stage wearing headset microphones just like they all do!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," laid-back Zane said slowly.

Trying to distract him, I said, "You know, this morning I was thinking about getting some "How Cool Is That?!" T-shirts made up. What's your favorite color? I was thinking red would look kind of cool with my logo."

"I hate red. Nobody looks good in red. Like have you ever seen anyone look good in red?" he asked.

"I look good in red," I said, "but that's because I'm a 'winter' but you're a 'spring' so you're right; red would not be good for you."

He looked at me with narrowed eyes. "What exactly are we going to be doing in these Back Street Boys headphones and T-shirts that aren't red?" he asked.

"Oh, something the kids are going to love," I said offhandedly as I pet one of our kittens.

"Like what?" he

"Alka-Seltzer Rockets," I answered.

With her hand, Ehris covered the snort that escaped from her mouth. "Are you crazy? You're doing Alka-Seltzer rockets with one hundred and fifty kids? You're each going to have seventy-five kids," she cried in disbelief.

"Yeah, well you don't have to remind me. It sounded like a good idea at the time and the lady was all excited," I conceded.

"What exactly are Alka-Seltzer rockets?" asked Zane.

"Well Zane, that brings up an interesting point," I said. "Now that everyone has a digital camera, little kids don't know what a film canister is. They have no idea that film used to go in cameras."

"She's stalling," Ehris said.

"Okay, okay. It's all about chemical versus physical reactions. Each kid gets an empty film canister with a lid and an Alka-Seltzer tablet that they'll break into four pieces. Then they have to predict, or hypothesize, whether they think their canister will make a bigger explosion if they add their piece of Alka-Seltzer to a container that's filled halfway with water, all the way, or a quarter of the way. Then, as a grand finale, they'll dump out all the water and make rockets with seltzer and Alka-Seltzer. You're not going to believe how big the explosions are," I chirped.

"Just think," Ehris advised Zane, "you're going to do this seventy-five times while wearing a cool T-shirt and a Sham Wow headset microphone."

A few hours later, after I had cleaned up the kitchen and before I went upstairs to bed, I reminded Ehris that she was bringing our two kittens to the vet the next morning to be spayed. We adopted these kittens from Bridgeport Animal Control. Cora had been found living in an alley and Betty had been dumped at the shelter in a box. I've always believed that two kittens are better than one. They play so hard that they simply flop where they are, and there are few things as adorable as two kittens curled up together for a nap. "Don't forget the paperwork and the neutering vouchers they gave us. I saved those cardboard pet carriers we brought them home in so we could use them for this. They're both in the garage," I said as I bent to kiss her goodnight.

When I woke up the next morning and checked my cell phone, I squinted and saw there was a text from Ehris sent at 12:27 a.m. Do you know where the other cat carrier is? There's only one in the garage. I won't even address the fact that I was getting texted in my house, from my house. It's 2012. Groaning, I took a shower, got dressed and headed downstairs with about fifteen minutes to spare before I had to leave to pick up Mic at the train station at 7:45. Ehris was just coming out of the garage. She was wearing shorts, a tank top and a headlamp. She looked like an alluring Cyclops, but this could only mean one thing. She was desperate and hadn't found the other cat carrier. It meant she was headed to her least favorite place: our dark, creepy dirt floor basement with log beams from 1770 and spider webs that were probably spun during the American Revolution.

Since Ehris has been known to overlook something that's right under her nose, I decided to give the kid a break and search the garage knowing full well I would find the missing cat carrier. I didn't; but by the time I got back to the kitchen there was an empty QVC box on the counter. It had about twenty nickel-sized air holes poked all over it. There would have been enough oxygen flowing through that box to sustain a full-grown horse, let alone a four pound kitten.

It turned out that Ehris had made it to the third basement step. The kittens had followed her and were now chasing each other around the basement, bouncing off the heating duct work and sending crashing noises and aftershocks throughout the house which, in turn, made Wilma, our Great Dane, go nuts.

Back upstairs, we decided to stick Betty, the more docile kitten, in the QVC box. More docile than what? We cleverly did that folding flap trick to keep the box securely closed. Proud of ourselves for just a moment, we watched Betty's little feline head poke through the center of the folded box top. Like a flower emerging in one of those time lapse nature videos, the four petals of the box bloomed and Betty popped out.

We got her in the box a second time and this time all thirteen of her paws poked through the nickel-sized air holes as she mewed and cried. Cora scampered around the house until, she too, was finally scooped up and put in the official cat carrier. Ehris loaded them into the truck and headed to our vet's office, while I got in my car to leave for the train station but not before I got the following text: Mommy, the subways are slow. I'll text you when I'm actually on the train. I might be a little late. Thank u again!

Tonight at dinner, Ehris and I recounted the story of the missing cat carrier to Jim, my husband. He listened to the entire tale, including the part where both kittens escaped in the truck and Ehris recaptured them and just stuck them both in the same box. About fifteen minutes later he asked, "Wait a minute. Was this box blue and white?"

"Yeah," I said suspiciously, "and made of cardboard with little blue cats all over the outside. Why?"

"Oh, it's in the van. I grabbed it out of the garage last week when the repair shop worked on the transmission. I threw everything that was in the console inside the box."

Ehris looked at me across the table and calmly said, "I know you thought I lost that box. I think I deserve an apology."

My day. Your day. Our days...

Velya Jancz-Urban
September 8, 2012


I blog at 'Peep Into My Life'

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