Some days it's a choice.
This morning the car made it in to school. I was so glad, so relieved. I'd had to pour tepid water on the driver's door and the girls' exit-to-school door to thaw them in order for us to get in, but the tires weren't one with the Earth any longer, and we actually made it all the way to school, taking our place in the elementary student-delivery line, cueing up as though there had never been any doubt. Things were finally turning around.
"Mom," said our older daughter, tugging at the door handle, after I'd kissed both girls over the seats, "the door's stuck."
"Kick it," I replied promptly. Inantimate objects must be taught their proper places or they'll run your life.
"It's still stuck," she complained.
I sighed and pushed my own door open, leaving the motor running. With the car in park, it wasn't going anywhere. We've had problems in the past with our very "girly" girls being a bit wimpy, and I'll admit my thoughts were turned toward the probability of a few lessons in firmly applying the bottom of the foot to the inside of a car door after we got home that afternoon. Now wasn't the time, however. I rounded the car, reached their door, grabbed the handle and yanked. Nothing. I whacked the frame a time or two and bared my teeth in a fake smile for the people waiting in the car behind us. Still nothing. I sighed and walked back around to my door, fully intending to have the girls climb over the seat and make their exits from there.
My door stuck, too.
I pondered my trapped children from outside frosted windows (the defroster only works a little and only on the windshield, the heater not at all) and considered our plight. Then I tapped the glass to get their attention. "Climb in the front seat," I hollered, "and turn the key toward you. Then wait for me." As if they were going anywhere. After first turning the key the wrong way (to the amusement of the parents behind us whose children were diligently and energetically opening and closing car doors with shocking success), our older daughter "managed," as she likes to say, to turn off the motor. She and her sister peeked worriedly out from behind the icy glass. They reminded me of small animals in a zoo nursery. "I'll be back," I assured them, and turned to see if I could find someone in the school willing to give me a pitcher of water.
Ultimately I did get the door unfrozen. My children did get out of the car and into the school building. It involved my twice walking the length of the elementary building carrying a very large watering can--the kind with a large sprinkler head on the end of the spout--borrowed from the school secretary (I bless her for a second day: Lord, may she and her kind flourish upon the face of the Earth!) and other small and sundry humiliations, but child delivery was at last completed. I nearly cried with relief.
There was no humor in me as I drove home, frost beginning to encroach on the edges of the windshield. I was alternating between the silent snarling of embarrassment and self-pity for my compromised image, when for no reason I can now discern, I suddenly remembered an activity that used to bring me great pleasure. As a child, when the opportunity presented itself, I would drop whatever I was doing, lie flat upon my back and stare upward in great anticipation waiting, waiting, waiting until at last I would be seized by the convulsion of a great SNEEZE. The resultant mist falling gently on my face had felt like soft rain: gentle, cool, and soothing. For a moment, a mere fraction of a second, I found myself looking back wistfully upon this abandoned comfort. Then I realized what I was doing. How in the world could someone who used to throw herself on the ground to lie beneath sneezes possibly be concerned with her self-image now?! "How ridiculous, Lucinda," asked some remote pocket of sanity from the back of my brain, "could you possibly be?" Pretty ridiculous, apparently.
I giggled the rest of the way home. Maybe not with the stability of the totally sane, but I didn't care any more. Why pretend? I'm not the calm, cool, collected, competent parent I'd like to appear to be. But being able to laugh at oneself can make up for a lot. And that's nothing to sneeze at.