It was bound to happen. For years I have been playing with carpool fire, escaping the humiliating burn that was inevitable to occur. Risk takers, in general, are a prideful bunch, attempting to defy odds that all reasonable folks know are not in their favor. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall, words that ring in my ears as I now contemplate the events of the morning.
I would ask that you refrain from judgment. As presumptuous as it may sound, I am certain that I am not alone in circumstances that beg for anonymity in the car line. In fact, we often pass by one another, baseball hats pulled low over our foreheads, huge sunglasses hiding the smudges from the previous day’s mascara and morning breath that can only be described as demonic.
The habit began innocently enough. A rushed morning, a scramble to fill lunch boxes and empty backpacks, left little time for proper dress. As is the case for most harried, worn-out moms, priority is given to the needs of the offspring first, and any remnants left over is hardly adequate to address decent grooming.
School mornings that resembled a three ring circus became less hectic and a little more bearable when I readied myself in less than thirteen seconds. Through much practice, and studying film of various pit crews in NASCAR, I have been able to accomplish pseudo-acceptable dress in the amount of time it takes for my children to bicker their way to the car.
Certain concessions in attire are made to ensure arrival before the mocking of the tardy bell is heard. For instance, a sweatshirt is often worn over a pajama top. While I am aware that I have reached an age that has been sucker-punched by gravity, and fully recognize that any outing lacking underwire is just plain wrong, the reality remains that it is quicker to hang free rather than support that which hangs.
Pajama pants worn to bed are also worn to school. At first, it was confusing to my children, as they often asked if I was headed to Wal-Mart after drop-off because “you know we always see people in their pajamas in the check-out line.” In addition, the bed head that frightens my husband every morning is sometimes covered with a baseball hat completing the look that can only be admired by a colorblind hobo. And besides, who is going to see me if I don’t get out of the car?
Famous last words spoken by the unkept, unshowered and unsightly.
My son’s forgotten lunchbox in the back seat of the car forced the issue this morning. He was to leave for a field trip any moment with high hopes of taking nutrition with him. I sped back to the school, hoping that the bus hadn’t already left, knowing that if it had, the preservatives eaten for breakfast couldn’t possibly combat ensuing pangs of hunger.
With a quick glance to the mirror to confirm that I looked as disheveled as you are now imagining, I pulled my hat lower, and briskly walked towards the entrance of the building. Positioning one arm across my chest – as though I were about to say the Pledge of allegiance – I tried without much success to hide the unrestricted body parts my best friend’s child refers to as “falling acorns.”
Wearing red and white striped pajama bottoms topped with a faded blue sweatshirt, I looked like a tattered American flag shuffling up the steps in my bedroom slippers. My battle plan was to toss the lunch box at the kind receptionist and then turn on my fuzzy heels and run like the Red Coats were coming.
Instead of a quiet, inconspicuous retreat, I was met with an impromptu meet and greet with a few of the staff and two visiting students who fully took in with bulging eyeballs my bed head, bedroom shoes and runaway bosom. Together we all pretended that I didn’t look like a bra-less fugitive in patriotic colors.
Allow my mistakes to be a lesson to those of you who tempt fate every morning in the carpool line. You may think that you are getting away with bulky sweatshirts and flannel bottoms, hiding crusty eyes behind sunglasses and halitosis behind rolled up windows. But I’m here to proclaim this very painful truth: it’s only a matter of time – and one forgotten lunchbox – before you too will be caught in all of your unsupported, floppy glory.
God Bless America.