The day in question started off with an early morning check of my BlackBerry and the upsetting news that a family history of breast cancer had caught up with a childhood friend. My heart sank. I looked outside at the dark morning. It was mid-June and the rain poured down. I tapped off a quick email of support and tried to stay positive about how the rest of the morning would unfold. But something in my gut told me this day was already shaping up to be what my kids would call “a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” The apt description comes from the title of a classic storybook by Judith Viorst. My mother used to read it me. In the story, a young boy named Alexander endures a day in which nothing goes right from breakfast till bedtime. It never occurred to me until I read aloud from it to my twins recently that its message about facing down adversity could resonate with anyone of any age.
We tried hard to turn the day around. After their usual eggs and toast and some coaxing to put on their Thomas the Tank Engine and Hello Kitty raincoats, my son and daughter climbed into their stroller and we set off for the ten-block walk to their nursery-school summer program. For weeks, the weather in New York City, our new home, had been uncharacteristically soggy. More than once, I heard people on the street complaining that it felt like we’d been transported to Seattle. Still, rather than take a taxi or try to find one in the rain, we saddled up the stroller with our wet weather gear and set off into the gray day just like every other mom, dad and nanny, hoofing it in the elements. If this is what it means to be a New York City mom, I thought, then I’m tough enough to handle it. Bring it on.
By 8:45, I thought the rain might have lightened up enough so that I could get the kids to school mostly dry and still walk back up to the gym to catch a 9:30 exercise class. But that was before we hit The Hole.
No sooner than the moment we left the safety of our lobby, the rain started coming down in sheets. I was completely drenched. My daughter whined that the clear plastic cover shielding she and her brother was ugly and she furiously tried to kick it off. My power walk picked up speed. I wasn’t going to let this unrelenting shower keep us from staying on our schedule.
With two three-year-olds in the double stroller, it was tough to push in the wind. I pulled my baseball cap down low and threw all of my body weight into a furious effort to move the thing down 2nd Avenue, zigzagging around those lucky enough to have hands free to carry an umbrella.
Then, without warning, we slammed to a halt. The front wheels had hit a deep groove in the middle of a crosswalk and the entire stroller flipped over, almost taking me with it. I screamed and pulled with every ounce of my strength to right it before the light changed. People rushed over to help me. My children thankfully stayed strapped in their seats but they were terrified. We all were. I wheeled them on to the sidewalk and pulled up the plastic and scanned their tear streaked faces and shaking bodies for signs of injury.
A fellow mom rushing somewhere with her own toddler stopped to ask if I needed help. “No, no,” I said and waved her off. But then in shock, I guess, I started to gush about how we just moved from California and we’re just not used to this weather and dealing with the potholes in the streets. There, in the downpour, she kindly offered that she, too, was a recent transplant from Alabama and that she completely understood. That’s when I started to cry.
I decided we weren’t going to the school. The kids were freaked and cold and wet. So was I. Trembling and defeated, I turned around and walked back toward our building. I tried so hard to hold back the tears as we walked through the lobby. But once we got into our front door, I lost it. I couldn’t help myself. My son and daughter, who had calmed down by that point, didn’t know what to make of their blubbering mess of a mom. They asked why I was crying as I peeled off their clothes. I told them I was just so scared that they were hurt and so happy they were okay. My son hugged me tight and said, “Mom, I really didn’t like it when we hit The Hole.” “Me neither, Buddy,” I sniffled. Just then, my stoic little daughter reached for my hand and told me everything was going to be all right.
We warmed up in sweat pants and snuggled on the couch for a little while as I allowed an unusual midmorning treat—a Curious George video to calm all of our nerves.
The rain still wasn’t letting up. But after a half hour and a pep talk from husband, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this bear of a day go by without a fight. Damn it. I thought, If the kids weren’t going to school and I wasn’t going to the gym or writing this morning, we weren’t going to let this time go to waste. We’re in the Big Apple—there are millions of things to see and do.
“We’re going out,” I told them, “And we are going to start this day over.”
And we did. Somehow, despite the showers, we managed to flag a cab. There were a few anxious moments when I wasn’t sure we’d make it to our destination in time for my daughter to make it to the bathroom. But we triumphed. We made it across town to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to spend the rest of the morning and then ran around the corner for lunch. It continued to pour. But at least we were out of our apartment on an adventure in our new surroundings. And that’s when my Blackberry fell into the toilet. All of my contacts, photos, appointments (basically, my life!) were pretty much erased when the thing plunged into the bowl as I was helping my son in the restaurant bathroom.
All I could do was laugh.
It really was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But as Alexander learns in the book, some days are like that. And there’s always tomorrow.Originally published on The Well Mom
Photo courtesy of The Well Mom