Joellen plans her day carefully.
By 6:30 every weekday morning Joellen was showered, dressed, and running her home like a military encampment. It wasn’t her choice. Left on her own, Joellen might have turned out to be a fairly relaxed housekeeper, a mom who played with her children rather than organizing and herding them. But Brent traveled Monday through Friday and when he arrived home “from the trenches,” as he called his work week, he insisted she have the week’s chores done and the household ready for him before the weekend began. That way they could have what he called “family time.” Joellen had always complied with what Brent wanted. Other options had never come up. Sometimes the very qualities that initially attract one person to another can become a vise that grips too tight.
It was Friday and Joellen started by getting the children ready for school as usual. Jamie was ten and always reluctant to start the day. Joellen already worried about his teen years. His room was piled with dirty clothes, toys and baseball cards. He had begun collecting and trading them in first grade. By now he had shoeboxes filled with cards stacked on every surface in his room and quite a few stashed under the lower bunk bed. Jamie was big for his age. A strong line driver, he played centerfield in Little League. When Joellen opened his door, he was still asleep, wrapped in a twisted mass of covers.
“Get a move on J,” she called to him. She waited until she saw a foot jiggle before she turned toward her daughter’s bedroom.
Noreen, seven, gave her mother a big hug before pushing back the covers. Her nightgown was patterned with little pink bears. She smelled of strawberry shampoo. Joellen often wished for Noreen’s baby years again. Life was speeding by.
“Time to rise and shine, little lady,” Joellen stage-whispered to Noreen.
Once Joellen had helped select Noreen’s clothes for the day, she headed for the kitchen. She got breakfast bowls on the table, milk poured into medium-sized glasses, orange juice in small glasses, spoons and paper napkins to the sides of the cereal bowls, lunch boxes open on the counter, Saran Wrap torn into sheets, each stuck to the counter so it overlapped a little to keep it from bunching up, slices of whole wheat bread, peanut butter, grape jelly, tangerines, two cookies each, two thermos bottles filled with chocolate milk – the day’s rations neatly boxed for travel. Finally, she started a pot of coffee. Two cups – her one daily extravagance although she rarely finished the second cup.
The school bus arrived on time at 7:48. It was a 15-minute ride to school. Next year Jamie would go to middle school. There would be two buses, two schedules to keep, two schools to visit on parents’ night, two PTAs to join.
Joellen glanced at her daily list:
pick up dry cleaning
stop at printer, order pre-printed Christmas cards
pick up Brent’s resoled shoes
grocery shopping – take list
wash car, check tires
bake cupcakes for teacher appreciation day
bring boxes of old stuff to church for rummage sale
She made a mental tracing of town, deciding the most efficient way to tackle the day would be to leave the church for second-to-last, before the grocery store. That way she could arrive home in time to have a bite of lunch and do the laundry while she popped the cupcakes in the oven before the kids’ bus pulled up at 2:55. She planned to freeze the cupcakes and ice them on Monday, the day she had to deliver them to the Wallis-Williams Elementary School. Joellen liked an efficient day. By getting all her chores done before Brent got home, he would have her available all weekend, which was the way Brent liked it. He had told Joellen many times over the past twelve years that he liked her to “be there for me when I’m home.” So she always was.