Karen arose on Monday morning just as she always had, sleepy eyed and startled, much like a hamster that had been jolted from its cage by 10 little fingers and two scary hands. You see, Karen is a mother of three; not just any three, though. Three tiny, loving but horrendous, fearsome but tremendous little boys. Little boys that love adventure–so much so that Dillon, the youngest, being 2, frequently runs the street bottomless–escaping through mom’s helpless hands as he giggles with all his might. Aaron, the middle child, watches with eyes as narrow as the car-pool lane laughing as big as his lungs allow. Camden, age 12, runs after little Dillon as mom dodges looks from the onlooking neighbors. “Good morning!” Karen yells and raises her cup of coffee to the skeptical spectators, “ya’ll need Jesus” she says under her breathe as she turns her back on them. Smile and wave has always been her motto, and it’s looking like the phrase will stick a little bit longer. It took about 20 minutes to corral the three of them, but when she did, she made three quick bowls of cereal and plopped all the kids down at the cluttered table. “Say your prayers”, she reminds them as she exhaustedly walks away to find her phone.
On the other side of town sits Karyn, at her kitchen table, alone, a cup of lemon tea and an almond biscotti. She smiles as she holds the cookie to her lips and gazes at the motionless flowers outside. Life is sure grand in the mornings when she can wake up before the kids and sit at her table with her nose immersed in her floral covered bible. The two hurricanes that changed her name to “Mom” were still sound asleep–and so was the cat, for now. Karyn opened up her bible to Proverbs, she thumbed her way through until her finger found the verse she had been thinking about since the day before. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” Karyn likes to dabble with the thought of a peaceful household that honors her every move, one that looks like the Wife of Noble Character would create. Precarious thoughts like these only leave Karyn dangling on a limb, waiting for someone to take notice and push the trampoline just far enough over so she doesn’t land completely on the metal springs–but she tries not to think about such negative thoughts. The deep bark of her yellow lab startles her out of her pleasing illusion and back into full-fledged reality. Karyn takes the last bite of biscotti as she brushes the crumbs to the floor (she’ll no doubt vacuum that same rug three times today, anyway) and makes her way to the ringing doorbell. She peels back the shade next to the door to see who could possibly be at her door so early in the morning. (I mean, does she need to grab her gun? Just kidding. But really, does she?) As she looks out to realize that there is nothing to be alarmed about, she tightens the strings on her house coat just to be sure–she doesn’t like to play peek-a-boo this early in the day. “Boy scouts, really?” They better be selling cookie dough or she will send them on their jolly way. Karyn laughs to herself as she thinks about the humor she provides–if only her kids and husband thought the same. She also wonders if the Proverbs 31 perfectionist had any humor of her own, but how could she not, really, she was the best woman, like, ever. Karyn flung open the door and greeted the boys with her best foreign accent. The two, maybe 11-year old’s, just stared at her. She resumed her normal voice as she wondered where this generation went wrong in raising outgoing children. She looked them up and down and smiled warmly at them, spotting the magazine that held the order form for their delectable cookie dough. “Hi boys, what are you selling this morning?” The tallest of the two boys offered up a pretty tempting sales pitch for the new popcorn flavors, but lost her in his pronunciation of the word popcorn. “The S’mores popporn is the best new thing.” He said. Karyn stared at him for a while–letting him go through the spiel–before she leaned back to the entryway bench and grabbed her husband’s wallet. “He will never learn”, she smiled to herself as she pulled out a 20. Karyn handed the tall one her money as she gave him her order. They both looked at her a bit surprised as to how she made a decision so quickly. “Common boys, I wait all year for this.” She said, shaking her money at them.
Karen took about 10 minutes to herself in the solitude of her own bathroom, still scented with the lavender essential oil she put behind her ear an hour ago. How the kids are downstairs not making any noise after breakfast was beyond Karen, but she took it. She didn’t hear any bowls being thrown at the wall, or at another kid, so that’s pretty much a win. She found her phone on the counter next to the toilet, naturally, and started to dial her mom. As soon as she realized her mistake she put down her phone and held her head in her hands, sitting on the bathroom floor. It was so easy to forget that her mom had passed away several years ago–it felt like she was with Karen wherever she went. She decided to text her friend instead. “Meet after the kids get dropped off at school?” She asked, and headed back downstairs to check on the suspicious silence, shoving her phone in her sports bra. “It’s all downhill from here.” She told herself, as she thought about dropping the two oldest off at school. She just had to get past the uphill climb first. Karen received a message back from Karyn that said “Sure thing, my place?” And another one shortly after that said “Tea or wine?” And then another that said “Just kidding, I know your favorite is vodka.” Which made Karen laugh, because they both know that they haven’t had a sip of alcohol in years, heck they don’t even drink caffeine.
Karyn’s kids finally woke up, and she knows exactly the time that they did because the daily rhythm that couldn’t be described as anything less than a herd of elephants made its way to her. This could also be heard by the neighbor anticipating a quiet cup of coffee on his deck–no such luck pal–should’ve gotten up earlier like I did, Karyn flung her hair as she turned around with open arms, awaiting a good tackle. Her two boys, Ryan and James, leaped through the air into their moms’ auspicious arms. They weren’t usually in such a good mood, Karyn thought, I wonder what they’re up to. She quickly found out when one of them pulled her along by her arm to their shared bedroom. The 6 and 7-year-old were proud to show her the clothes that they had picked out all by themselves for school that day. Through gritted teeth, Karyn smiled and nodded her approval. She has been trying for months to get them to help her out with the morning routine, and she just couldn’t let them see how disturbed she was with their clothing choices. I mean, why would she be mad about sending her children to school in bright orange shirts that say “just escaped detention”? Their dad thought it was hilarious when he bought the shirts for the boys–she, on the other hand, had no plans of actually allowing them to be worn to school. Karyn did not squeeze enough patience out of her bible this morning to engage in an argument with children, so she continued to grit her smiley teeth, and slowly backed out of the room as they delighted in her acceptance.