On Tuesday, I rushed Ellis out of the door for our 10:30 swim lessons. I had planned on being on time, but failed to build into my schedule a buffer for a fruitless attempt at pooping on the potty and a twenty minute discussion about why no dinosaurs will eat our snacks.
I signed up for swim lessons, not because I believe my daughter is going to be some sort of two-year-old Michael Phelps, or even remember any of this, but because they were cheap and we need something to do. And despite the fact that swim lessons are less than half a mile from our home, I still end up being five minutes late every single time.
So, I hauled Ellis through the parking lot into the locker room. All of our classmates were in the water and the locker room was filled with the remnants of the water aerobics class, who were discussing fiber supplements and tying their Keds, very slowly. I was peeling off Ellis’ layers, when a woman who smelled of broccoli and Liz Taylor’s White Diamonds came over to our bench. She was wearing nothing but a maroon turtle neck and white cotton underwear.
“You ladies in the next class?”
“Yes,” I nodded and continued to change.
“There’s another one at 10:30?”
“Yes,” I nodded trying not to look at her legs, through which I could see someone’s bra and an orthopedic shoe.
“You sure about that?”
“I’ve been coming for four weeks.”
The woman shook her head.
“There is no class at 10:30. You girls missed it today.”
I stopped and looked at the clock. Holy hell. Class was at 10, not 10:30.
“Oh…I guess, you are right. I just forgot.” I looked at my child, who was in a state of undress. Oprah says to send good thoughts out into the universe and at that moment the thought I was sending was, “DON’T SCREAM AT MOM!”
“Why did you forget?” The lady demanded.
“Oh I don’t know, these things…happen.” The woman didn’t appear convinced. I turned to my daughter.
“Hey, sweetie lets have a snack and go to the library,” I said like I was offering her a million dollar home. Apple sauce! Library books! Don’t yell at mom.
“I don’t wike it,” Ellis pouted. “I wanna go swimmin’. I wanna go swimmin’!” The crescendo of her whine wasn’t doing me any favors. I put her shoes back on and zipped her coat. “I go SWIMMIN’!”
I hoped I could haul her out of there before she threw herself onto the tile and gnashed her teeth in righteous rage.
The woman bent down to Ellis’ eye level. “Honey,” she said. “Your mommy forgot all about swimming lessons and so you can’t swim today. She forgot the right time. Now you have to go away.”
I don’t think this woman hated me. I think she wanted to help me. Maybe with my messy bun and sparkly shoes, I didn’t look like a responsible adult who could juggle a complex task like dressing a child and remembering what time swimming lessons were. It didn’t help that Ellis was wearing her sparkly dress, five necklaces and sunglasses. Or that I had food stuck to my dress. I’m sure she didn’t hate me.
And one some level, I am glad she said something before we got into the water. And yet, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that she was enjoying watching this failure.
And in that moment, I kind of hated her.
Tears welled in Ellis’ eyes. “Mom, I go swimmin!” She wailed. “I GO SWIMMIN’!” I tucked Ellis under my arm and ran out of there, just as her limbs started to flail.
And I thought we made a great recovery. There were snacks. Library books. Chicken nuggets and juice. But later that night, as I sat on the couch to read Ellis some books, she looked at me and said, “Mom say no swimmin. I pretty sad. I cry. I wanna go swimmin.”
I realize now, we’ve reached a new milestone: That enduring age where everything I do ruins her forever.
In honor of National Pi Day, here is the story of how pie got me hitched.