#TBT- For Throwback Thursday I had to repost this essay, written in 2007. Heather recently posted a couple of pictures of Delaney as she approaches her 12th birthday, but she looks like she's approaching her 16th birthday! She is growing with poise and confidence into a lovely young lady. She now has two younger sisters who I suspect will give their parents an equal amount of gray hair and worry lines!
Weeks and weeks of work, stress and exhaustion led me to the Panera in Marlborough, Massachusetts last Friday. I was making a fast getaway to Maine and the island’s cool water and fresh air to break the exhausting cycle I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t have stopped at all, but my friend Heather lived close to 495, so I figured I could spare a few minutes to find out how she was doing in her new job, new home, new life. I don’t stop for much in my exodus--bathroom breaks, gas tank fill-ups at the cheap gas station at Exit 39, maybe food at the Hannaford’s--but little else. Heather even did me the favor of meeting me on the road so I wouldn’t have to take too long a break from my trip. So Panera it was.
I arrived at the agreed upon time, having synchronized our schedule by cell phone from the Mass Pike. Mother-of-a-three-year-old Heather arrived around 10 minutes late, walking in from the rainy parking lot hand in hand with Delaney, in matching yellow slickers and a stuffed blue back pack. Mothers of three-year-olds don’t travel light. I had already gotten my fruit cup and coffee and found a place to sit--a table with a booth seat for Delaney, knowing as I do, that children can’t sit and be comfortable in a hard chair while their mothers sit, drink coffee and chat with their friends. I envisioned an hour of catching up, relating the latest work news (gossip) and then wrapping up and getting back on the road for the rest of my steering-wheel gripping drive to respite from the latest storm.
Funny how plans change.
Delaney needed to bring her watering can, said Heather plopping down the blue and orange plastic toy. She also unloaded, from the vast contents of the big blue backpack, paper and markers for Delaney as she sat and eyed me from her seat on the bench. She hadn’t seen me since June, so she was naturally apprehensive, especially when Mommy left to fetch a muffin. I chatted up Delaney about her markers and asked her which color was her favorite. “This one,” she said, indicating the pink one with which she was coloring. And by coloring I mean dragging the pink marker back and forth across the blank sheet of copy paper. “It’s a sled!” she told me and pulled out the next blank canvas. Heather came back with the muffin, water, a scone, a soda, several napkins, a plastic knife and a straw and cut the muffin up in quarters for Delaney. But Delaney wanted the scone and she grabbed half of it in her hand and by turns munched on it and crumbled it into her lap. Heather graciously asked me about me about the program which I had just wound up--the cause of the enormous stress I had been under. I began the narration of the program’s challenges and although it had been difficult, it was also the program that had brought me the most...
“Mommy, color with me!” erupted Delaney, now glued to Heather’s side and eyeing me somewhat suspiciously. Heather barely broke stride and picked up the green marker and began drawing a curved rectangle and colored it in.
“...rewarding experience as the kids who came were awesome,” I finished up, happily remembering what I had been saying.
And so it went. Delaney warmed up to me a little and Heather’s and my conversation was punctuated with “Mommy!” with several bits of information like, “Mom-mom takes her coffee with milk and NO SUGAR!” and “Mommy! I have to go potty”, “Mommy! remember that mean girl who took my wagon?”
And then, “Cindy! I have a rock in my crayons!” and “Look, Cindy, I have new hair!” as she stood and wound Heather’s long brown hair over her own silky blonde and “Mommy! I have a great idea! Cindy can come to my house and you and Daddy can go to work!”
Soon, I began responding more to Delaney’s comments and conversation and less and less to Heather’s. Delaney’s non-stop observations about her world wove in and out of any complete sentences that Heather and I managed to get out. As we were drawing, because now we all had a white sheet of copy paper in front of us with an assortment of markers and now crayons from a tin lunchbox, I found out that Delaney’s house was mere miles from where we sat at Panera. Because we drew a map. So I drew a picture of the mountains and lake where I was going. And Heather drew a rainbow, because truth be told – Delaney’s favorite color is all of them.
Heather and I did actually get to catch up on new jobs and old jobs, Harry Potter and friends and family. And an hour and forty-five minutes after they arrived, we started repacking the big blue backpack. Yellow slickers went back on, and we walked outside and said our goodbyes while Delaney splashed in a wide puddle next to my car. Tiny pink cargo pants were now soaked to the knees. Heather said, “I guess someone will need to change their clothes when we get home!” and smiled at me. I guiltily realized how much easier it would have been for Heather if she didn’t have to get Delaney dressed and suited up for the rain, anticipate the necessary entertainment for sitting at a coffee shop for an hour and managing it all out the door on time--if I had just driven the extra 3 miles and come to them. And even as I realized this, sitting back in my car and starting the ignition, I thought that if we had been at their house, I might not have had the pleasure of Delaney’s proximity for almost two full hours. Or sat across from the light of her bright blue eyes and her adorable little smile--which was a constant--except when she was deep in thought coloring. Before I backed out of the parking space and headed toward the exit and the rest of my trip, I placed my drawings, one from Heather and one from Delaney, beside me on the seat. My hands were not gripping the steering wheel and I was smiling.
(The title refers to a Jimmy Buffett song of the same name.)