It’s 8:24 am, and K (age 4 years and 10 months) and I are at the front door, poised to leave for school. She’s on the floor, pulling on her shoes, her curly hair falling in her face because she refuses to let me put it in braids or a pony tail, thus perpetuating the struggle over hair covering face that has been taking taking place between mothers and daughters ever since the Cro Magnon era, when there were far more limited options for hair gizmos than there are now. (What did they use? A piece of tendon? Vines?) I’m hovering over K, keys in hand, trying not to hurry her because any attempt to do so will actually slow her down, when she looks up from behind her locks and asks: Mommy, where are you working today?
I contemplate briefly the options. I could work from home, but that would mean cleaning up the crumbs and breakfast dishes to make room on the dining room table which serves as my desk, and that in turn would mean first emptying the dishwasher to make room for them because we seem to be caught in an unbreakable cycle of running the dishwasher overnight so the day HAS to start with unloading it if I don’t want to feel like I’m surrounded by the previous meal’s detritus all the time. I could work from a café, but we’re running late to get to school, which means that it’s unlikely I’ll make it to a café by 9, after which time it becomes very difficult to get one of the prized seats near an outlet because this town is so full of floaty people writing books, dissertations, grant proposals, computer programs, editorials or other activities unconfined to “nomal” offices. I could work at my own sort of office at the medical center, but it’s a dismal place, a swing space used by several other people, with poor, flickering lighting, strange sounds from the HVAC system and an ever-present smell of trash because no one in the housekeeping department seems to know that the office even exists. Not that I blame them.
Then, I haven’t figured out what I’m going to work on yet. The first two hours of my day are devoted to getting my husband and child squared away and out of the house washed, fed, supplied with lunch and generally sorted out for the day’s activities and weather. Only once I can claim the time to myself do I make decisions. Work on my book? Attend to administrative work for the dance non-profit? Cross off tasks on my project-manager-at-a-hospital plate?
So I answer K. “I don’t know yet.”
She looks perplexed. “You don’t know?”
“No, I don’t. Please look at what you’re doing, your shoe isn’t fastened.”
“But, didn’t the people tell you where to work today?”
“You know. The people. Like at the hospital.”
“No. I get to decide where I work. I just haven’t decided yet. Let’s go.”
She stays put on the floor. A look of wonder spreads across her face. Her eyes open wide and she juts her head out. “You mean… you’re the people?!”
I laugh, and then I realize that she’s really hit upon something. “Yes,” I tell her. “I guess I’m the people.” And what a good feeling that is. So what if there are crumbs on my dining room table/desk? So what if my office at the medical center is dank and windowless? I don’t have to use it. So what if I’m running late? It’s only late because I say so. Because I am the people.