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If my teenager devotes as much time and attention to preparing for and applying to college as she has plotting and organizing her efforts to buy tickets to see Taylor Swift, she will get in anywhere she wants with scholarship offers to boot. In fact she has said that she and her friends (both real life and online Swifties) are comparing receiving the magic presale code by text (required to buy tickets before the general public, if any are even left at that point) to hearing whether you’ve been accepted to your first choice school. Her excitement and anxiety around this concert tour have been enormous. She has said many times, “I am so scared.” As in, that we won’t get tickets, or maybe won’t get tickets for the right show, or won’t get good seats. The emotional intensity is palpable. I get it. This is someone whose music and persona she cares a lot about. I’ve certainly felt that way about musicians throughout my life. I know that problems, like gas or water, can expand to fill up all available room, regardless of their overall seriousness or significance. Hopefully we will be able to get the tickets tomorrow morning and all will be well. And between now and two years from now when she is actually applying for college, we will take lots and lots of deep breaths.

Meanwhile, we are also facing the superficially less dramatic but actually much more daunting prospect of her learning to drive. She and I attended a mandatory two-hour presentation about driver safety and education last week. Her school auditorium was filled with other sophomores and their parents and I wondered what was going through all of their heads. Here’s what I learned that night:

You’re no longer supposed to position your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. Now 8 and 4 are recommended, so you don’t have to cross your arms when you turn and if the airbag goes off you’re less likely to sustain injuries from your arms being crossed, and to reduce fatigue from driving. I thought this was an interesting tip, and wondered why no one is making an effort to tell adults who have already been driving for years to change their habits. There’s also a new way you’re supposed to position your side mirrors to eliminate the blind spot and avoid accidents. I know if you have a newer car you have the fancy indicators that tell you when someone is close by in the lanes next to you, but I drive a 2010 minivan so I have no such luxury. There were actually a few driving tips that seemed useful and I wondered why adults are required to do so little to renew their licenses. Not that I want extra administrative hurdles in my life, but I am sure my driving has gotten worse and I could use a little refresher course. I guess that’s what I was getting last week.

Allegedly, parents have the most influence on teens’ driving habits. The presentation was heavy on telling us to get ourselves together to both model proper behavior when we’re driving and set the rules and to feel free to take away driving privileges. We are supposed to go through step-by-step driving lessons in the booklet they gave us, and log 45 hours of driving practice with our kids while they have their learners permit. And review and sign and make them sign various contracts in the back of the booklet outlining what they are and are not allowed to do and what happens if they mess up. That is all in addition to the classroom portion of driver’s ed they take during gym class, and the behind-the-wheel training they have to take with licensed instructors. No pressure. The driver’s ed teachers who were presenting emphasized the importance of establishing a bond with your children to effectively encourage safe driving habits. If you haven’t already established a bond by the time they’re 15 and 6 months, it may be a challenge to start now. The slide show also included a smiling dad and daughter sitting in the front seat of a car and advised us to leave our family problems at home when we practice driving, to make it a fun experience for everyone.

I wondered how kids who don’t have reliable parents, or parents who drive, or parents who own a car, are supposed to manage all this. Today as part of my job I was downtown meeting with DC Council Members and their staffs to discuss issues related to youth homelessness. Included in our group were three young adults who have experienced homelessness and are now advocating on behalf of themselves and their peers for tailored workforce development programs and mobile mental health services that meet their needs. One of the service providers mentioned that abundant driver jobs are available in the DC area, working for Amazon or FedEx or UPS, among others. And many young people she works with are eager to apply for the jobs, but they don’t have driver’s licenses because they grew up taking public transportation, and they don’t have parents available to teach them to drive, or cars to learn on. One of the young people said that the logistical barriers are so significant that many teens don’t bother with them, and drive anyway, often taking cars that don’t belong to them because they literally have no legitimate way of getting a license and buying and insuring their own cars.

Which brings me back to the driver’s ed presentation and the talk by the police officer. He was there, ostensibly, to talk about how to behave when you’re pulled over while driving. He did that, but only after he offered a lot of his own perspective on teens and driving and how judges where we live don’t like to see teens in court for traffic violations because the judges know the teens should know better and are very strict. All of it felt like a lecture designed to scare the kids, which it probably was. But it irritated me. Perhaps because this is not my preferred parenting technique and I am not a police officer and I know a lot of the people in the audience probably bristled the moment the officer walked up to the front of the auditorium. I should mention that the officer was Black, and at least half if not three-quarters of the young people in the audience were people of color. So the officer said that if you’re pulled over, you should roll down the windows and put your hands on the steering wheel where they’re visible. He said that if the officer asks for your license you should say, “it’s in my pocket, can I reach behind me and get it out of my wallet,” or “it’s in my bag on the passenger seat, may I reach over and get it,” or whatever the case may be, so you have permission to move. “So we don’t have any accidents,” the officer said. Which translates to, “so we don’t shoot you and kill you for no reason,” I guess. He said, “Be polite. When you’re pulled over it’s not the time to practice your trial lawyer skills. If you feel like the officer did something wrong, your parents can deal with that later. It’s your job to be polite.” Are your parents really going to sort it out later? Whose parents are going to do that? Maybe parents who actually are trial lawyers? The more he talked, the more I did not want to listen.

I am a middle-aged white woman who has been pulled over a handful of times for stupid things. Mostly I have avoided getting tickets, perhaps because I legitimately didn’t know my tail light was out, or I wasn’t actually drunk but just trying to get the hair out of my eyes with a barrette (that did actually happen). Maybe I just seem idiotic and pathetic when they pull me over because I get flustered easily. And I seriously didn’t know that it’s illegal to drive through a parking lot in order to get onto a different road if the traffic is bad. Did you know that? (I did get the ticket for that one, and as a result I was even later to pick my kid up from day care). I am acutely aware that I have never been racially profiled and no officer has ever pulled out his gun when I reached for my license or registration. My daughter will likely be treated the same way because she is white. Unfortunately some of her friends and some of the teenagers in that auditorium will not be. We have to do a lot more to change the way police officers behave or even at a more basic level how we approach and achieve community safety with or without police, so no one else who is unarmed, nonthreatening, and completely innocent, gets killed by a cop for any reason.

Our lives are not perfect or without challenges, but I understand how privileged we are. Listening to the stories of these young people today talk about times in their lives when they were trying to find a place to stay from day to day, without any support from family, was important. One of them, who is currently studying for the LSAT and trying to figure out her path to law school, was homeless for her final two years of college. Another talked about the value of his lived experience as a prospective employee. He wants to be a social worker and he can draw on his knowledge of earning his GED while incarcerated, having been part of the foster care system, and being a parent, to help others. He’s already doing that by serving on several advisory boards and speaking at meetings and events across the city.

I try to provide all kinds of fun and enriching experiences for my kids. I want them to be exposed to all kinds of things. But hopefully they will never have to know what it’s like to be homeless or involved in the justice system or profiled by the police. Hopefully I will be able to model good behavior when I’m driving so none of us will crash because we’re distracted or sleepy. Hopefully my daughter will get a job so she can afford the concert tickets and the merch and the meals out with friends and excursions to Starbucks. And we will all keep in mind that even when we struggle, we do it with privilege.

When I pulled up in front of her high school, Zoe ran over to the minivan to collect her backpack and duffel bag, packed the night before and stuffed with everything she thought she might possibly need for the next three days. I offered to carry something for her and she declined. I started to walk with her to the entrance of the school where the rest of the crew team and the coaches and the parent chaperones were gathered. She stopped me.

“I was just going to walk you over there,” I said. “And give you a hug goodbye.”

“Can you just do that here?” she asked. I got it. I gave her a hug. Told her to have fun and not get hurt and do a good job cheering or rowing, whatever she ended up doing. She told me not to cry and walked away toward her friends.

For the record, I didn’t cry.

I don’t think of myself as an embarrassing mom, but I guess no parent ever does. I went home and got a consolation hug from my husband.

Now, several hours later, my favorite app–Find My Friends–indicates that Zoe made it to Philadelphia and actually all the way to the river where the regatta will take place. I think they’re scoping out the course, or maybe even practicing, before the race tomorrow. Zoe was invited to go with the team as an alternate for the women’s freshman eight boat, because if one person in an eight gets ill or injured, the whole boat is sunk (not literally). So Zoe will be as supportive and enthusiastic a cheerleader as anyone could want, unless of course someone wakes up tomorrow with a fever or trips while carrying an oar and breaks their leg. I would never wish this to happen, but it’s hard not to hope just a little bit that my kid would get the chance to row in what’s apparently the largest high school rowing event in the country. She, however, seems perfectly content to go along for the ride–basically taking a field trip to a cool city with people she loves.

This is the last regatta she will participate in this season. Next weekend is the national championship, and although her novice women’s eight boat took silver in the state championships earlier this month, novices don’t get to go to nationals. Don’t ask me why. But truthfully, this fact has saved me some amount of stress, because she’s also a member of the courtship for her good friend’s quinceañera that weekend. If you’re not familiar with the quinceañera, it’s a huge party (maybe somewhere between a bar/bat mitzvah and a wedding?) to celebrate a Latina girl turning 15. And the courtship is like a bridal party. Part of the courtship’s responsibility is doing a choreographed dance at the party with the birthday girl. Zoe is helping choreograph. The morning of the party, the courtship kids are gathering to get hair and makeup done, and then taking a party bus downtown for photos. So this is, you might imagine, a big deal. Also we need to get her a gold, floor-length dress. We haven’t yet found said dress. But we will!

Rowing has been one of the most challenging and exhilarating things Zoe has ever done, on par with earning her black belt in martial arts, or maybe she would say even harder, as martial arts practice was never held at 5:30am. During the spring season, the crew team practices six days a week. Typically, freshmen and novices practiced in the afternoon and varsity in the morning (at 5:30, arriving at the boathouse in the dark). But on several occasions Zoe’s coaches asked her and various combinations of other newer rowers to come in the morning. The first time they asked her to come to morning practice, she was thrilled. I was slightly less so, since I was the one driving her at 5am, but I got used to it. And she did too, although there was definitely a night when she had been at practice in the afternoon and her boat (a double that day, not an eight) had flipped, and she hurt her foot when it got stuck in the shoe of the boat (where you put your feet while you’re rowing) and she was supposed to go to morning practice the next day and I sat with her in her room trying to reassure her because she was worried that she just couldn’t do it. Of course, she didn’t actually do it because when she woke up at 5 she couldn’t put weight on her foot and we had to go to urgent care. But she was back at practice three days later, preparing for the next day’s regatta.

Over the course of three months, the skin on Zoe’s hands was shredded from gripping the oars. She complained that everything hurt. She was exhausted. But she was tough. Every night she made her lunch for the next day, and packed her crew bag. We went to the chiropractor a few times. She took a fair amount of Tylenol. She spent a lot of hours rigging and de-rigging boats. She has learned so many technical and practical things about boats and rowing that are beyond my understanding. It took me months to understand the difference between novice and freshman, which is relevant because Zoe was moved back and forth between the novice and freshman boats throughout the season. A freshman can be a novice but a novice isn’t necessarily a freshman–just someone new to the sport, which can include 8th graders. So the freshman boat is usually just a little bit faster than the novice boat. There are always going to be people who are faster and people who are slower. Such is life. And even when you work really hard, sometimes you’re not going to make it into the fastest boat. But there are many boats to fill, and someone has to row in all of them. In the midst of all this I had a good conversation with a friend of mine whose kid also rows. She reminded me of his similar struggles the year before and how she, like me, was hoping he would make a certain boat and he wisely said to her, “I row where I row.”

Then there’s this tension. There’s my core belief that you should do things because you love to do them, and you have fun, and you make friends, and you work hard, whether or not you have any natural talent or skill, and whether or not you’re getting any better, and whether or not you plan to do the thing in the future or just for a season. It’s what I tell myself when I play soccer. It’s what I told myself when I was singing in gospel choirs. It’s what I tell myself when I make art. I’ve done all those things because they bring me joy. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I don’t have to win any contests or demonstrate excellence. I can just do it.

And yet. And yet when you see your kid doing a thing, especially a sport, you want them to be great at it. Right? That’s not just me, right? Even if it’s against all odds and you yourself were never good at a sport and none of it matters at all. It’s like this pernicious little voice in your head, that hopes your kid scores, wins, achieves, masters whatever it is. Even though in your heart you know it doesn’t matter. You know all the ways that doing an activity is good for your kid, whether or not they ever win or score.

Niki is on a soccer team. Most kids around here who play soccer start in kindergarten. So Niki is a bit late to the game, and it turns out the boys on his team take soccer a lot more seriously than the girls on Zoe’s elementary school team did. You can tell these kids all watch soccer with their dads from the way they yell on the field and their goal celebrations. To put it diplomatically, not all of Niki’s teammates have been patient with the fact that Niki is more of a beginner than they are. An enthusiastic beginner. A fast runner. Also an anxious player who has been known to crack their knuckles a lot while playing and sometimes hop toward ball instead of running. The main point here is I want Niki to enjoy being on the team. I don’t want the other kids belittling them. And of course if they were a little more skilled, the teammates would probably have less to say. But that’s not the point, right? They’re having fun, they’re exercising, they’re practicing teamwork. And they like watching soccer with their dad too.

So we go to regattas, we go to soccer games, we drive to practices, we wash a lot of gear, we make a lot of snacks and refill a lot of water bottles. And always we tell them how much we loved watching them do their thing, and how proud we are of how hard they’ve worked. And how we’re glad they had fun. That’s all we can do.

Because I have questions. So many questions. They are eating away at the inside of my brain.

For example:

  1. Why is my 9th grader going to learn Tchouckball this year? Have you ever heard of Tchoukball? Is it fun?
  2. How is it possible that a person who was incarcerated for 30 years has been sober for only the past 14 years. How do you get access to alcohol or drugs when you’re in prison?
  3. Why does my 3rd grader weave back and forth when walking down a sidewalk with us? Why does he pace in circles sometimes?
  4. Who invented those indentations on the side of highways and how did they make them and who decides which roads have them and which ones don’t?
  5. How does someone decide the best way to honor their deceased loved one is by naming an overpass or bridge after them?
  6. Why do some people consistently reply all when they only need to reply to the sender of the email?
  7. If companies can make a product with just five ingredients, or with all natural ingredients, why don’t they just change their recipe instead of offering one version with chemicals or additives and another version that’s healthier? Why wouldn’t you just sell the healthier one instead so it’s easier for everyone to buy?
  8. Why can’t all the stores put all your coupons electronically on your shopper card?
  9. Why would anyone think that being mean to someone will change their behavior?
  10. How much of one’s day must be spent resetting passwords? Why?

I am seeking actual answers to these questions. Please reply.

This morning I woke up at 7 with a migraine that felt like it was threatening to kill me. I rarely wake up with migraines–they typically descend on me in the afternoon or evening. It’s one thing when you have momentum from the day that enables you to push through pain, but when you wake up with that kind of pain it seems impossible to get going. So after seeing Zoe off and giving Randy instructions about getting Zeke ready and delivered to school (typically my job) I took my meds and went back to bed. I let my good friends with whom I had a long-awaited breakfast date know that I couldn’t make it. I am always reluctant to take one of my pills because my insurance company has decided I am only allowed to have four migraines per month and they will not give me any more pills. In the past my neurologist has helped me work around that, but we’re in between visits. Anyway…

During my migraine nap I had three disturbing dreams. In the first one I found shards of plastic hair clips in my bed and hundreds of small, shiny rocks. Then we won a food truck at an auction but we had no idea how to operate it or even drive it out of the gym where we received it. Finally I was running away from my parents and ended up swimming fully clothed in a pond filled with rubber ducks. Somehow it seems insulting to have bad dreams when my head is already splitting open. I deserve a break, right?

Once I got up–headache free–I had to drive to a client’s office to pick up a laptop to use in my work with them. On the way, just a few blocks from my house, and fortunately just a few blocks from a gas station, I ran out of gas. I had been playing chicken with the little orange light for a couple days, always thinking I would get gas on my next trip, until I lost. Luckily Randy was working from home today so I called him to ask him to bring our gas can to me. We have a gas can only because of the last time I ran out of gas, a couple years ago. He came quickly and we noticed there was still some gas in the can, but we couldn’t remember how to open the can. I recalled that the last time this happened we struggled for ages until I opened it, but of course I couldn’t recall how. So I walked down to the gas station to ask for help.

When I went into the gas station lobby, the friendly woman behind the counter took the gas can and brought it into the garage for one of the mechanics to unfasten it because neither of us could. While she was in the garage, I watched the large TV hanging on the wall. The tv was showing images of old paintings of crucified Christ. There was no narration or context, just a lot of bleeding Jesuses. Pop music (maybe Bruno Mars?) was playing over the speakers. I’m pretty sure it was not coming from the TV. The gas station clerk returned and showed me that part of the nozzle pulled out of itself in order to pour the gas. She sold me $4.50 worth of gas and I went out and pumped it into the can. Next to me was a station wagon whose trunk was open, revealing a large pile of car parts. Like they had fallen off or out of the car and been stored in the trunk. Then I noticed on top of the car was strapped what seemed to be a bumper or a grill, although neither of those seemed missing from this car. Then in the front seat I saw a man who was working on the dashboard, although the dashboard wasn’t there. The whole inside front of the car had been stripped down. I could not imagine how this car had been partially disassembled but was still operational or why the guy was sitting there working on reassembly.

After I walked back to the car–which Randy was guarding–with the gas, I attempted to replicated the gas station clerk’s easy open of the nozzle and could not. We were sitting on the sidewalk and I was silently hoping someone would stop and offer to help. When someone did, I was surprised to see a short, stout, gray-haired woman. She suggested that we push down on the spout instead of trying to pull it up. Lo and behold, it worked! So I poured the two gallons into the gas tank while trying to stay out of the way of cars whizzing by. After we made sure the car started again, Randy went home and I drove to the gas station to fill up the rest of the way. As I was pulling out of the gas station, I saw the woman who had stopped to help us across the street, walking back toward the direction she had come from. She saw me too and smiled and waved and gave me a thumbs up. I laughed out loud. You never know who’s going to be of assistance and when.


I got home just in time to log into my 1pm meeting which had been pushed to 1:30 for my benefit, and kept my sound off while scarfing down the original chicken sandwich from Burger King I had picked up on the way home. I was relieved that both the colleagues with whom I was meeting also had their cameras off so I could work and eat and collect myself in privacy.

The moment the meeting was over I hustled to throw snacks in a box and collect some clothes for Zoe to change into for crew. Apparently I took a shirt from her pajama drawer, but it looked like a regular t-shirt to me. I managed to find her and one of her crew mates and hustled across two bridges to deliver them to the Anacostia Boathouse. Again it was fortunate that Randy was home because it quickly became clear I wouldn’t make it home in time to pick up Zeke from school, so Zoe texted Randy the QR code required to liberate Zeke. I forgot to tell Randy which door he should go to in order to pick up Zeke, but he was eventually directed to the right place, and they were back home by the time I got back home. Hopefully the father of Zoe’s crew mate is picking the girls up right now and delivering Zoe home, as I am at Zeke’s martial arts class. And Zeke’s back to school night is in 30 minutes.


And Zeke is testing for a stripe now. He’s been waiting to test for a while. I’m surprised they let him tonight since I just saw him staring at the classmate sitting next to him like he was trying to cast a spell instead of looking at what was happening in the center of the mat. But maybe the instructors were busy looking at what was happening instead of watching Zeke being weird. We’ll see what happens.

When you’re a writer who earns a living telling other people’s stories, it can be challenging to find time to write your own. And when there is a lot happening that you are compelled to write, and you don’t sit down to do it, a dangerous bottleneck of thoughts builds up in your brain, which becomes so crowded that it’s hard for any single idea to push through the crowd. Then when one persistent little guy makes it out (like that lucky sperm in those books about sex ed you read as a kid!), you start to write that paragraph and approximately 30 seconds later you wonder if it’s the most important one to write because all those others are trying to muscle their way through as well. And you question what important even means, and who you are writing for, and what everything means, and then you get distracted by Facebook and text messages and checking your credit score and organizing your art supplies and thinking about ordering more art supplies even though you’re running out of room to store the ones you already have. And so on.


Adulting is freaking exhausting. And adulting combined with parenting–especially when parenting during, say, the first week back to school after an 18-month pandemic-induced hiatus–is just too much. This week involved calling several doctors and driving to myself and the kids to five health and medical appointments (everything’s fine, just taking care of things that had been pushed off during the summer) and picking up prescriptions. And making lunches for school which I haven’t had to do since 2019. And filling out a million forms. You get the idea. And none of these things is too much by itself, but on top of the actual work I do for my job, and trying to communicate with my friends and family–all of whom are having their own intense adulting weeks–is a lot. I was talking with someone today who said that the past 18 months was like running a marathon, but instead of having time now to recover, we have another whole marathon ahead of us. News flash! The pandemic isn’t over yet! The world is still on fire! She said that we should just walk this marathon. Since sitting it out is not an option.

When people talk about having “all the feels,” does that include feelings like grumpy, disappointed, jealous, and agitated? My sense is that “all the feels” usually means “bittersweet” or “proud, yet wistful,” or something else that ends up leaning more toward the side of heartwarming and nostalgic rather than annoyed and overwhelmed. Maybe that’s just me.

Today was Zoe’s graduation from middle school. Except “graduation” here means, they showed everyone’s name on the screen, along with their photo, or if their photo wasn’t available, the Yellowjacket school mascot. A couple kids read poems they had written and the principal shared some “words of wisdom.” (Clearly I’m really feeling the air quotes today). Zoe watched this “ceremony” on her laptop, in her bed (where she has done most of her classes this year) as shared by her 7th grade teacher. Randy and Zeke and I watched downstairs. We quietly cheered for the handful of kids who we recognized. When Zoe’s name came up we cheered louder and I went upstairs to give her a hug. She was nonplussed. She is now a rising high school freshman and she is still, as usual, in her pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. And I don’t blame her. She and her classmates missed out on the 8th grade dance, Kings Dominion trip, picnic, and of course a real life graduation ceremony. She never even met most of her teachers in person. She’s only been to school a handful of times to take standardized tests or to pick up supplies. Tomorrow she will go to pick up a t-shirt and a certificate. Anticlimactic is an understatement.

I keep trying to hype high school, and as Zoe will be fully vaccinated in less than a week, she will be able to enjoy as normal a summer as is possible in a country that is still unevenly recovering from a pandemic. She’s looking forward to the beach, and returning to sleepaway camp, and getting to see friends in person at school. But she still won’t get back what was lost this year. Yesterday we were at the pediatrician for her annual checkup. When the doctor asked about Zoe’s sleep habits and when she goes to bed, I just laughed. The doctor said she’s gotten that reaction from all the other parents of teenagers this year. Pretty much everything Zoe reported sounded pretty typical, the doctor said. Which I guess makes me a feel a little better, a reminder that I’m not the only parent who has struggled every day for the past 18 months trying to figure out how to keep their kids engaged while also cutting them an appropriate amount of slack. Of course I know I’m not the only one, because I have friends and they have all had similar if not identical struggles this year. But in the moment, it’s easy to think you’re the only one who doesn’t have a clue what to do, because at any moment the pressure is only on you to figure it out.

Meanwhile, this week I have also been trying to get my client work done. At the beginning of the school year, when we decided to homeschool Zeke for second grade, my husband asked if it would be too much for me to be Zeke’s teacher while also running my business. I said, “probably, but I feel like that’s what we have to do.” Now at the end of the school year I can confidently say, “absolutely, it was too much to do,” but I still feel like it was what we had to do. Hopefully Zeke learned something. None of my clients have fired me yet, so I guess I managed ok, although I know I could’ve stayed more on top of my work. When you’re homeschooling, you have to provide some sort of evidence at the end of the year that your kid learned something. This can be a portfolio evaluated by a qualified professional, or a standardized test. As much as I do not like standardized tests, I chose that option because it was a lot simpler. Since Zeke was in second grade, I gave him the second grade test in late April, when we had pretty much finished everything I planned to do and both of us were running out of steam. He did great. Then this week I learned that you’re supposed to give your kid the test for the grade they’re entering, not the one they finished. This is totally counterintuitive to me, but I wanted to do the right thing, so I ordered the 3rd grade test and gave it to him. The test is online. When I tried to access the scores, it kept telling me sections of the test were incomplete. Apparently Zeke raced through several sections (it’s a long test) so he could play Xbox sooner. So we sat down together and I watched him answer all the additional questions. This included the reading comprehension section. One of the reading passages was extremely confusing, even to me. So in the end his reading comprehension score was not great. In fact, it was much lower than his score in April. I emailed all the test results to the principal, who shared my confusion about why you would give the 3rd grade test to a second grader, but she assured me that she would put him in class with the right teacher who will presumably see that he reads well when they hear him read.

When I submitted Zeke’s test results to the school system, the person in charge of home instruction students wrote back and asked if Zeke would be continuing home instruction next year. I replied that no, I had already enrolled Zeke at his old elementary school for third grade. She responded, “how wonderful for your son!” I chose to interpret that as her pleasure that things would be back to normal for him, not her relief that he would not be forced to do homeschool with me for another year.

The rest of the time I’ve just been trying to balance Zeke’s screen time with other activities that he can do without me, reminding myself over and over that he starts camp next week and will be intellectually stimulated, have the chance to make friends, and run around outside. Since he hasn’t had to get up and get dressed at a particular time on a regular basis since last March, this also feels like the first week of school for him, even though it’s summer. To that end, I’ve been trying to buy him new sneakers. He has complained for a while that his are uncomfortable, so I assumed he had outgrown them. I’ve bought his last few pair of shoes without getting him measured because the only children’s shoe store I know about is 40 minutes away. We were all set to go there on Tuesday, when I discovered they are closed on Tuesday. We went to the mall, against my better judgement. Three different people in three different stores measured his feet and got three different sizes. We didn’t buy any shoes.

When Zoe and I set out for the pediatrician yesterday, we discovered our van had a flat tire. One $22 Lyft later, we made it to the doctor. I didn’t have time to deal with the tire until last night. At 9:30, the AAA driver arrived, and had me drive my van up the ramp of his tow truck. It felt like being on an amusement park ride but much scarier because you’re in your own car. He towed us up the street to the service station, and then had me back the van off the truck! A friend of mine lives in the apartment building behind the gas station, so I alerted her to come to her window and watch. Apparently she waved but I couldn’t see because I was trying not to drive my car off the side of a truck.

Thankfully, today the van is fixed. They changed the oil and replaced the wiper blades, and the total repair cost was less than I’ve ever paid for a car repair, so that’s something. I should have the words “silver linings” tattooed on my arm. But not in air quotes.

Today we said goodbye to Ella, our 18-year-old Honda Civic, whose transmission conked out. We decided that the $4000 it would require to replace the transmission would be better spent on a down payment for a new (to us) hybrid car. Even though Randy has primarily been Ella’s driver since we bought our Honda Odyssey in 2013, I bought her on my own and she was our only car for a long while.

I bought Ella from Landmark Honda after my Saturn was–oddly–stolen. My Saturn was later recovered–unexpectedly spotted in an apartment building parking lot by a friend of mine six months after it had been stolen. But by then the insurance company already owned it and I had bought Ella.

Ella was the first new car I ever bought. I did my research and decided on a Honda Civic, then went to three different dealerships until I found one where the salesman wasn’t condescending. I brought my dad along because I was worried that the salespeople would take advantage of me somehow, or I wouldn’t ask the right questions. But it was going to be my car and I was going to be paying for it. At the first two dealerships, the salesmen addressed my dad instead of me. Finally, at Landmark Honda the salesman acknowledged that I was an intelligent adult, so I bought the car from him.

My favorite thing about her was the sunroof, which I chose specifically because I remembered how much I loved the feeling of the air coming through the roof at night (at which time it becomes a moonroof?) of the car my boyfriend in high school drove.

A Honda Civic is not a fancy car. And after 18 years, Ella had experienced ups and downs and was more than a little messy. She had worn through many bumper stickers and had collected a lot of crumbs that seemed to be just a permanent part of her.

At times when you’re a parent it’s hard to remember what it was like before you had kids. I know that I drove Ella for five years before Zoe was born, and then for six more years until Zeke was born and we felt compelled to get a minivan because we needed the space. So I know Randy and I must’ve been driving Ella on great dates and road trip adventures and who knows where else. But the pandemic has caused significant sections of my brain to fog over, so the details are murky. I know in my heart, though, that Ella was a good car and served our family well for a long time. And I always enjoyed feeling the breeze through the sun and moon roof.

We saw more crashes, more cars immobile on the side of the road, some with drivers investigating a problem and some abandoned, during our 500 miles yesterday than I’ve ever seen on one trip. Every wreck seemed like an omen. At once a reminder to be careful driving this car that isn’t mine and a mixed metaphor for our civilization right now–either broken into pieces or stuck.

I was driving my kids back home from South Carolina after visiting someone who I love very much whose heart is failing. We left my parents there to spend more time. Some cousins and their kids were there too, in two houses, and several dogs. Zeke bonded with one of the black labs in particular. Zoe rekindled the friendship she had with one of her second cousins when they were little. We dismantled ancient scrapbooks and photo albums filled with pictures of our relatives and the occasional stranger. We read news clippings and heard stories about who these people were and what they did and how they lived. We wondered why people put so many terrible photographs in albums and gave thanks for digital cameras and vastly improved quality of prints. We reminded ourselves to label the photos with names, because someday our descendants will be looking at our photo books and their contents won’t be as obvious then as they are to us now.

So much of the conversation revolved around food. What would you like to eat? What do we need from the store? Can I make you a plate of something? Thank you for preparing this delicious meal. Are there snacks? What can I have that’s sweet? If you’re not going to finish that, I’ll have it. Refrigerators crammed with whatever you might want, and if whatever you might want isn’t in there, we’ll run to the store and get some.

CNN provided 24-hour Coronavirus coverage. We interrupted it to introduce my cousin to Queer Eye, with the episode about Mama Tammye. We drove back and forth on 2nd Loop Road between air-conditioned houses, between branches of the family, between lives going in different directions.

Tonight I spent a couple hours driving around Northern Virginia—probably more time in the car than the past five weeks combined—because my daughter is incredibly thoughtful.

A few weeks ago Zoe decided to make coronavirus care packages for a few friends. She gathered some little surprises and we bought candy. She made each friend a necklace and I picked up a few treasures on my Target runs. Today she might chocolate chip cookies and we were ready to deliver.

Her friends were so surprised and delighted. At our last stop, the whole family came out to say hello and thank you. For a few minutes, Zoe and her friend and her friend’s brother were running around the yard laughing, so excited to see each other. Their parents invited us to come back on the weekend and sit in the driveway.

I know it was hard for Zoe not to hug her friends when she delivered their packages. It feels so weird to see someone you love and stop short.

Earlier in our outing we stopped by the home of another thoughtful person who I know from high school who is sewing dozens (hundreds?) of masks for whoever needs them. In return she is accepting donations of food or funds for the food pantry at her church where she volunteers. I dropped off a bag of beans and pasta and reusable tote bags at her house and she handed over several beautiful masks. We delivered some to my sister, gave one to a friend, and will bring some to my parents this week. This mask maker is still working her full-time government job (from home) and sewing at night and on the weekends.

I am super proud of Zoe for spending so much time and energy thinking about exactly what would bring joy to her friends. I know my Nana would be proud and my parents will be proud too. We have learned from our parents to always be generous and share and do what you can to spread joy. I know my kids have learned this too. This is what I love about my family.

The ideal person to be quarantined with would be my Nana. She was born in 1911, grew up on a farm, survived the Great Depression, and was smart, industrious, patient, thrifty, and a phenomenal baker and cook. My Nana always had two refrigerators and freezers filled with food enough to last forever. She washed clothes in the sink and sometimes in the washing machine, and dried everything on the line. She washed and dried the dishes by hand. Somehow I feel like she wouldn’t have run out of anything or would’ve known how to make what she had on hand last and last. She never learned to drive and would’ve been content to stay at home taking care of her family, reading her devotions, sewing, and playing Scrabble as long as was necessary. She might’ve been sad that Major League Baseball was canceled because she enjoyed watching the Atlanta Braves play. She would’ve missed going to church every Sunday, but she wouldn’t have skipped a single day reading the Bible. She would’ve called to check on the women in her Sunday school class and people from the church who were homebound (of course we’re all homebound now, but the people who were sick or incapacitated). She would’ve made meals and pound cakes and asked my Papa to drive her to deliver them. I am confident that Nana would have remained calm during all this craziness.

Perhaps because I’ve been thinking about my Nana so much lately, I had two terrible dreams last night in which she had just died. In one dream, I was in the house on Chestnut Street in High Point, North Carolina where she and my Papa lived for most of my childhood. I dreamed that she had died and the entire rest of my family had suddenly vanished. I had no one there to talk to or who could console me, except for an acquaintance I didn’t really trust.

In the next dream, I was in another city–maybe Arlington or DC at night and I was hysterical about her death. I was parked very tight between other cars and was trying to figure out how to get my car out of the lot. My friend Elizabeth appeared, along with a guy who sported an unfortunate Prince Valiant style haircut. Elizabeth asked if I could give her and Prince Valiant a ride somewhere because it was raining. I said I would, but then I was driving up absurdly steep walls, like in a skate park, and I couldn’t seem to get anywhere. I was crying and told Elizabeth I couldn’t drive because I was so upset and she would have to drive, so she did.

When I told Randy about this he suggested the steep walls I was trying to drive up represented the nightmarish graphs we keep seeing in the news, of the rise of coronavirus cases and deaths, and the unbelievable unemployment numbers.

My Nana died in 2005. I wonder if I am suddenly missing her more than usual because in all this terrifying uncertainty, I am longing for her steady, reassuring presence. She would know the right thing to do. I wish she were here so she could meet my kids. And so I could bake her a cake. I think she would like that.

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