Ode to the Drop Off Line by: Hattie O’Brien
Ode to the Drop Off Line
By: Hattie O’Brien
“As she pulled her Escalade around my ancient 15 passenger people mover we made eye contact so I was forced to exchange a bright smile. I’m pretty sure in my half asleep state it came off as more of a snarl. I smiled back, wondering how much of my morning breath she could see. She apparently pops out of bed at the crack of dawn just to prepare herself for the school drop off line. Beautiful coiffure, flawless make up, polished teeth, coordinated blouse/scarf/jacket combo (not a t-shirt, a blouse) and perfect manicure all worked their magic to create a truly dazzling image of stay at home mom I have never even attempted to lie about.
I watched her drop off her kids. They were calm, well rested and smiling- all 5 of them. Though not in uniforms they had a certain coordinated style, inexplicably bringing to mind images of family Christmas photos taken at home in front of the fireplace with the family dog. I wondered if they’d had a cold bagel tossed to them on their way to the car as my kids had. I was at least glad my kids hadn’t had sugar cereal for breakfast. I’m sure she lovingly serves her children a three course breakfast every morning she herself prepares from scratch. Her kids calmly took their things and were smiling and shining as they waved goodbye to her when she did the unthinkable.
She. Got. Out. Of. Her. Car.
Even as a homeschooling parent who is a just now learning the ropes of school drop off/pick up etiquette I knew that she had done the unspeakable. She had broken all of the rules. Some moms pull off the fact they haven’t spent much time awake by at least grabbing some mascara and throwing in a pony tail. That they still have their holey sweats and slippers on is a given but they look good above the window line at any rate. Nobody gets out of their car. Nobody. At least we don’t get out intentionally, and only then do we show our whole selves under extreme duress after realizing we’ve forgotten to drop off a note or speak with a teacher. As expected she was completely pulled together from head to toe. While she gave her kids a tender hug goodbye complete with wishes of a good day and reminders about where to find their lunch money, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror.
I had chicken hair. My waterproof mascara had run out a few days before so yesterday I had used my back up tube, the kind that drips down your face in the morning giving the illusion of dark circles. I didn’t need that particular illusion as I had not slept well, in fact I may or may not have had dried drool on the side of my face as evidence of the mere 20 seconds I did sleep. Maybe it was just dry skin. I also pulled off the splotchy and pale look. I won’t mention which parts of my wardrobe were missing but they were indeed quite missed upon closer examination. I had my most beloved comfy sweat shirt on, the one that but for my emotional attachment to it might otherwise be spending it’s last days in the rag pile, being unfit for even the charity bag.
As I watched her jump back into her car I felt profoundly grateful that I would not have to do an unexpected run into the school. My sweat pants, which in no way matched or coordinated with my sweat shirt or flip flops, have had the elastic band taxed beyond usefulness by the twins my body is currently hosting. These comfy of comfies don’t even make the effort to cover my seemingly due-next-week belly, revealing the fact I truly need to buy some maternity clothes soon. Though my sweat shirt is at least clean and right side out, it doesn’t quite cover both babies at the same time so I have a nice 2 inch belly gap sticking out showing off the markings of just exactly how many children have been partially covered by the same beloved sweat shirt.
Thinking the Starbucks drive thru lane would have more of my kind of people, I pulled away from the curb to go around her as she seemed to want to relish every last moment of her children’s walk into the school. Perhaps she was journaling the moment? I was in a hurry to partake of my one day to freely complete my to do list in peace. As I took my place in front of her in line I caught a glimpse of her in my rear view mirror that made me stop short. She had assumed the older-side-of-thirty-something-mom-position in front of her visor mirror and was trying to pull out her crow’s feet. I had to take a moment to stare as she examined her chin waggle, scrutinized her pores, pulled at a stray eyebrow hair and tried to smooth the lines and spots her children had gifted her with. In her reflection I saw the very expression my mirror had shown on my face just minutes before. At that moment it hit me. We’re all just trying to make it through. All of our hoping and praying for our children, using our greatest talents and abilities to destine our children for greatness (or in my case at least for clean clothes), has taken the smooth skin and cute bodies of our youth and has replaced them with full hearts and interesting skin complications instead. Every once in awhile we still catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and wonder exactly where we went and whether we are still ourselves. While we know without hesitation that of course it is all worth it we still have moments when we ponder and sigh.
Suddenly my heart longed to have coffee with this woman as I knew we would be great friends. I decided right then and there I would invite her as tribute to our former selves in sisterhood and in solidarity to come on my search for more of our kind at Starbucks. I put the van into park and reached for the door handle when my mirror once again became my friend and ally. I smiled at my reflection as I pulled back into the parking lot exodus line. I would talk to her after school. First I needed to shower and at least put on some jeans, perhaps find better mascara and maybe a cute scarf. A trip to the salon for a wax and haircut wouldn’t hurt either!
See the rest of the Pregnancy and Children Short Stories