The relief of breaking out of a routine, taking shortcuts (no cooking required), the end of the work week slog.
That is not the case if you work on a Saturday. If you work on a Saturday – and lots and lots of people do – you look forward to your Sunday. If you work on a Sunday – and lots and lots of people do – I imagine you look forward to the day being over.
I worked Saturday mornings, some years ago. Finding a safe place for my youngest child to be for approximately four hours was a challenge.
I scrambled to organize play dates. If that didn’t work out he lived in the car, windows ever so slightly down, lying on the backseat, playing games on his phone while I did my job indoors.
A kindhearted colleague would nip outside with a drink and a treat, passing the monotony breakers to my prone son (so nobody saw him and made a fuss) through the car window, which he wound down a little more to allow for a hand holding a cup, and another offering a slice of cake, to enter.
There were good no-place-to-go Saturdays when, depending on who was Large And In Charge, how busy we were, and how long I’d been an employee, I would urge him to come inside. When he did, he would do a repetitive task, like taking sticky labels off stock items.
There was a smattering of bad days over that period, during the week, when he was too sick to go to school, and didn’t want to go to any of my willing-to-help friends. He stayed in the car for nearly nine hours on those bleak days. He’d scurry indoors to go to the loo. When that was done, he’d go back to his backseat. In my lunch hour I’d drive to a spot where he could stretch his legs for a bit.
Some memories, if we think about them too hard, break our hearts all over again.
I don’t know if this happens to you, but books – especially ones that strike such a chord I copy passages into my journal – mirror, somewhere in the prose, what I’ve lived in the past, what I’m experiencing in the present, and what I might face in the future.
I found consolation, at that time, in Taylor and Turtle.
Long before I had my own children, I pulled The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver from a bookstore shelf. After reading the opening lines, I bought it.
Taylor hits the road to break away from her hometown. She pulls over to have something to eat and drink and leaves the place a parent; becoming a mommy in five minutes when a woman places an abused little girl, like a parcel, on the passenger seat of her battered car. Taylor names her small charge Turtle.
Taylor is employed for a few days. The only free childcare she can make use of while doing her shift at Burger Derby is Kid Central Station in the mall; a place where parents park their kids and get on with shopping in peace.
Taylor leaves Turtle at Kid Central Station, retrieving the stunned child at the end of each Burger Derby shift. Another Burger Derby employee, Sandi, is in the same tight spot with her little boy named Seattle.
We would take turns checking on Turtle and Seattle, and at the end of our shift we’d go over to the mall together to pick them up. “I don’t know,” she’d say real loud, hamming it up while we waited in line at Kid Central Station. “I can’t decide if I want that Lazyboy recliner in the genuine leather or the green plaid with the stainproof finish.”
“Take your time deciding,” I’d say. “Sleep on it and come back tomorrow.”Taylor in The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
When I first read about Turtle, left to make sense of her shocking world in a mall’s giant playpen, it slowed the book down in a way that made me pay careful attention, feel something go deeper than the usual depth.
So naturally, it was Taylor and Turtle who consoled me.
I’ve just finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The mention of Wagon Wheels (a favorite gargantuan biscuit my family stuffs into suitcases heading from the UK to SA – we all love Wagon Wheels) got me excited. But I also paused at this wise Eleanor reflection, copying it into my current, rather scrappy journal:
I suppose one of the reasons we’re all able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Through all the times – good, terrible, terrifying, mediocre, confusing, happy, sad, funny, hopeful – writing, however trite, what I’ve experienced, what I can count as a good thing, be grateful for, helps me. Writing about the awful stuff helps too.
I don’t care about writing well. It’s not about that. It’s about bearing witness to a life in a way nobody else possibly can, because it’s my life, and no one ever knows the heart of anyone else (Nanci Griffith’s Late Night Grande Hotel).
Looking back at journal entries, I get a funny feeling in my body: a wash of cringing embarrassment and sadness for how naive I was, how hopeful, how stuck in illusions I became, the big mistakes I made, how I fail to learn lessons over and over again. I’m also filled with compassion and empathy. I should be. I know what it is to be me.
On days when I feel I’m dragging the weight of what has gone before behind me, I drop the dead by focusing, with laser-like intensity, on projects. Below is a video I made yesterday and uploaded today. I hope the prompts help you find a little something special in a little something you write, because we all need a little something on our worst days, and a little something on our best days…
Have a super weekend. Mpwah.