“I know-oh-oh where it-is-is-is,” I stutter as I pound on my chest on the way down the hall to find my grade book. I am a cross between an ape pounding on his chest and Carol Burnett yodeling. I amuse myself. “I know where it isssss!” I sing-yodel all of this to the tune of “Give Me Some Figgy Pudding” until I reach my front door, when it’s time to go outside. I sing that a lot because it reminds me of Christmas.
I step outside and walk to my car, which has been parked in my driveway for five days because my garage door won’t open. The three pointed bolts that hold the slidey-part to the door itself all fell out at once last week; the door isn’t even attached to anything anymore. I’m glad I wasn’t standing underneath it when the bolts decided to eject themselves so fiercely that they left divots in the cement below.
I have a handyman coming over on Monday for that and five jillion other things that I can’t do myself, or at least I can’t do myself and do my own job at the same time. My toilet has been running for so long, I’m surprised it’s not in Siberia by now. I’m sure Siberia comes to mind because I’ve begun making plans to live near Russia for a month this summer, and I hope my toilet doesn’t run the entire time I’m gone.
I take my grade book from the car and walk back to the house. My one-year-old kitten, Leo, is sitting on the other side of the screen door; he’s black and in the shadows, but the white patches on his chest give him away. He knows Mommy left this way; therefore, according to all things Leo, Mommy should be coming back this way pretty soon. And there she is: we lock eyes.
My heart turns over on itself: I’m in love with him. I go in cooing and close the screen door behind me, but turn around to see that I could have easily nipped Leo’s big nose if he had pushed his tomfoolery a bit farther. “NOOOOO!!!!!” I scream at him, for him and the whole neighborhood to hear since the door is still open. I don’t care. I just suddenly want to instill extremely appropriate boundaries and appropriate considerations in Leo’s mind since I’ll be gone for a month in Prague, and he’ll be in the care of his father, Nabe.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But who will continue Leo’s lessons in time and space engineering? He lags behind what his older sisters were capable of at his age, like knowing where to look if something disappears around the corner. Leo still thinks everything disappears forever. If I run around with a toy on a string, he chases after it, but if I lift the toy up, Leo doesn’t know where it went. My poor boy has inherited my absence of any sense of direction.
I was up early in the first place today because I had a date for breakfast with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile—we’d decided on a bagel shop that was closer to my house than hers, so I gave her directions. Explicit directions. I hated her for the fifteen minutes she was late, until she walked in all pointing and saying “THAT way is east, THAT way is west!”
I had given wrong directions again. She forgave me.
Who will continue Leo’s lessons in patience?
Nabe probably lives here every time I’m gone. I bet he orders pizza and gives everybody the fatty cheese instead of their 2%. I bet he doesn’t interrupt their sunny afternoons for lessons and grooming. Nabe always plays with them and feeds them and cleans up after them very nicely, which makes me happy, and he doesn’t discriminate between boys and girls, like some people do. Nabe is an equal-opportunity scratcher and conversationalist if anybody is ever in need. He talks to my little ones like I talk to them.
For all I know, my going to Prague will be a vacation for all of them from me. I will cling to this idea as I ready the ranch for my absence, harboring ill will towards it too, until I can finally admit that my little world here does not necessarily need me.