By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
The day started out great. It was the last day of summer vacation, so the kids and I slept late that morning. I didn’t wake up until Jack, my soon-to-be kindergartner, climbed into bed and snuggled up next to me. I put my arm around him, and we talked about how exciting the first day of school would be. We stayed there doing nothing for a while, and I soaked up the feeling of how nice it is to lounge around lazily with your little ones. One last day of “no fuss, no rush.” The next morning promised to be much different.
Finally we got up, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. Then my babysitter arrived so I could leave for a haircut appointment I’d had scheduled for more than a month. I got in the car, turned the key and heard a familiar sound that told me I was about to be late for my haircut. The battery was dead.
I was mad at myself when I realized why this had happened. Yesterday I left the key turned on to the accessory position so the kids could see the last five minutes of a robot movie they’d been watching on the car’s DVD player. I got out and immediately dialed my hairstylist’s phone number to tell her I’d be a little late.
“I can do this,” I told myself. “I’ll just ask the babysitter to pull her car into the garage and I’ll use the jumper cables. It’ll be quick.” I hit the button to raise the second garage door, but nothing happened. I pressed it again and heard nothing but a groaning sound while the garage door remained still as stone. If I couldn’t get the door open, I couldn’t pull another car into the garage and use it to jump my battery. There had to be another way.
“Okay, just think about this. If the other car can’t get in, then I’ll push mine out,” I said. I jumped in the driver’s seat and tried to shift into neutral so I could push the van out of the garage, having no idea whether or not I’d actually be strong enough to push a minivan backward on my own. I briefly pictured lining the kids up and having them help me push against the grill but I dismissed that idea quickly and felt a little guilty for imagining it. The gear shift wouldn’t budge out of park. I was still stuck.
It’s silly, I know, this frantic desperation to make it to a simple haircut appointment. I could have just called to reschedule for a different day. But we women look forward to our hair appointments and will do just about anything to avoid missing one. Because a haircut appointment means you get to sit still for at least half an hour – sometimes close to two hours if you’re getting your hair colored as well, which I was. On top of getting to sit still, you also get a grown-up conversation with another adult without being interrupted by someone who wants to know if we can go get a Happy Meal when we leave. Sitting still, having a grown-up conversation AND walking away from it with great-looking hair? Well, that’s pretty close to Mommy Nirvana.
That’s why I was trying so hard not to be undone by a stupid battery. Finally, I reached Tom on his cell phone and told him my dilemma. He explained how I could unlock the garage door and pull it up manually, which I did with the brute strength of the Incredible Hulk. The babysitter pulled her car into the garage, and we both tried to pop our hoods. I looked everywhere for the release lever and couldn’t find it. I finally had to dig the owner’s manual out of the glove compartment and look it up. But I didn’t feel too bad because the babysitter seemed to be surprised to learn that she even had a hood release lever at all. It was an educational day for both of us.
I did remember how to attach jumper cables, and soon my minivan’s engine was humming again. When I detached one end of the cables, I accidentally let the metal clamps clank against each other, and a shower of orange sparks shot up, which gave me and the sitter a scare. But soon I was peeling out of the driveway toward the hair salon, running about 25 minutes late.
And I knew my hairstylist would not turn me away for being late because she is also a mother and would appreciate how valiantly I’d fought to make it into her chair. I sat still while she clipped, snipped and shampooed me into a better frame of mind. I had fought the good fight against Murphy’s Law, and I had won.