Last night I headed out to a small gathering with some old friends, leaving my kitchen in a state of nuclear disaster and assuring myself I would have time to pull out the backhoe and the fire hose before our visitors returned from their evening plans and David got home from work.
Leah magically transformed a half-hour drive into what felt like a four-hour gig by screaming non-stop the entire way. By the time I drove past the correct house and had to use a nearby driveway to turn around, my nerves were so frazzled that when I heard the sickening crunch of my bumper hitting another car, a four-letter-word came flying out of my mouth.
Luckily swear words, like trees falling in deserted forests, don't count if nobody hears them. And nobody did, since the collection of tiny ears in the car were all mercifully deafened by Leah's hysterical shrieking.
Putting the speed of light to shame, Michael appeared at my shoulder. "Why are we stopping, Mom? Is this their house? What are you doing? What happened? I'm hungry."
After using my best attempt at a calm voice to shoo Michael back to his seat, I got out to check the damage. Leah was still screeching. My cell phone rang and I nearly pitched it through the window as my stomach convulsed in dread and anxiety.
I gathered up my courage and knocked on the nearby front door. No answer. For a split second I wanted to run away. And then I thought of my kids in the car, and of that $7 cashier-error-in-my-favor Yahtzee game sitting on my shelf that I never went back to Target to pay for because I went into labor with Michael the very next day. And the years-of-saving brand-new-minivan-sized check I wrote to get out of my underwater house in Virginia. Then I briefly wished I had been born into a mob family so that the honesty requirement could be waived in favor of riding off into a blaze of crime and glory.
I hated that I had to be honest. For an action that flaunts its reputation as being the best policy, it could stand to make itself a little easier. But I really had no choice.
So I scribbled a shaky apology and my contact information on a piece of notepaper while Michael hovered over my shoulder and Leah expanded her lungs to previously unexplored capacity. My cell phone rang again and I yelled at David to stop calling me. As if he should somehow know I was dealing with a crisis.
He really needs to work on his mind reading skills.
I got a call today from the gentleman whose car I backed into. He was calm and polite, and said his car has been scratched many times, but that I'm the first person to ever leave a note. It soothed me somehow to know I still qualify as a decent human being.
And having had that little fact reiterated came in handy when, later, Michael took off on his scooter when he was supposed to be getting ready for bed and I had to enlist the help of a neighbor to help me box him in. Then, when he actually was getting ready for bed, I found him standing on the bathroom counter, peeing in the sink.
But I was a decent person. I kept my voice down and everything. No really, I did.