In The Quiet Moments


Photo: One of the few nice moments of yesterday. The boys discovered a crazy-huge worm in the front yard. In their excitement, they lost it to the grass. The ensuing search was adorable and interesting! Of course, they had a rough morning before and then had an afternoon of no napping and lots of tantrums… so…. you know… 


As a stressed-out teacher a lifetime ago, I used to get up at 5am, be in the car no later than 5:45 and hit the road toward work. Not yet a master of parallel parking, and ever-impatient with my colleagues and their copy-machine use, I needed to make sure that I was the first (or second) body in the building. I’d get out of the neighborhood, get on I-93 south (which was more busy than you would think in such early morning hours…) and cruise while listening to the morning headlines.

Just before the breaks: Christmas, February, Spring, Summer, I’d have moments in the car. My work exit was right before the Expressway, which takes you straight to the bottom of the circle around the city, hooks up with I-95 and takes you to anywhere you want to go. My exit was, in my mind, the point-of-no-return. Boston in the rearview mirror.

In my moments of particular stress, as I would shoot out of the tunnel and make my way to the right-hand lane, part of my brain would start to wonder. What if you just kept on driving? What if you just chose to keep going straight?

Don’t you want to go south?

Or at least, get the hell out of here?

They were moments that always brought a little thrill to my heart. First-born and A-type that I am, to break so many rules with such a simple action would be catastrophic. I’d set the world alight with such reckless abandon. Who could do such a thing? Just not show up for work? Leave it all in one simple moment? Simply decide that you will be free of it all? That couldn’t be me. I could never do that. I’m just a little too chickenshit.

And besides, who would teach those students of mine their history? Nobody was going to be able to teach that history like I could. I couldn’t trust my colleagues to teach it the way it should be done. I had responsibilities and obligations.   

So I always made the exit. Always. Until my last day, I made that exit. 

I’m rarely in the car by myself anymore. Two little tyrants are with me, demanding to listen to the same 5 songs on my playlist (current favorite: Smooth Criminal. Killin’ me, boys.) and making observations about the millions of things they see out of their windows. We’re always going to the same places, I’m always worried about the same things. 

But on those rare occasions, when the windows are open and the sun is out, and I hit those country curves at just the right speed… 

I was invited out to drinks with three other preschool moms last night. They all teach, they all find the parent-culture at the preschool to be problematic, they were each fun for different reasons and I had joyful moments. We spoke about privilege and feminism and the things that make us cringe as parents. I had a single beer and took two bites of very poorly prepared lettuce wraps (and then promptly sent it away), and listened and spoke. It was a refreshing experience in so many ways: the good long shower to clean off the summer-mom grime, the care in putting my locs in a bun, the scrutiny of choosing an outfit different from my normal everyday wardrobe, the breezy feeling of walking to my car and away from my house with screaming children. 

And on my way to those drinks, I had to cross a highway. One way takes you south into the city, toward 95 and all of the places along it where I could surely find whatever I’m looking for. The other way takes you to 495. I’ve always had romantic ideas of finding some hippy commune in Vermont… 

Don’t you just want to drive away? 

Or at least, get the hell out of here? 

I wonder if there are other women who experience this. If there are other women, in the sweet quiet moments of any random day, who have a voice in their head that simply whispers, “go left instead of right today.” I wonder how many women feel more thrill than dread or maybe some guilt instead? I felt a combination of all three. I felt the tug of adventure, the paralyzing fear of the unknown, the guilt of the rippling consequences. 

And my “check engine” light came on. 

Because, clearly, God knows what I’m thinking all the time. He must have decided that I thought a little too hard about it. 

I’ve no doubt that I do not have the capacity to walk away from my children. I cannot imagine severing myself from them under any circumstances. 

So I kept driving toward my destination. Deciding not to go home because I really needed that outing. And I had an interesting time with three like-minded women. We spoke very candidly about the preschool that we’ve chosen and the culture of the school. I say “interesting” and not “perfect” because… it felt more like a competition to see who could be the more liberal, progressive mommy than a relaxed and natural outing of women needing a break. I suppose I just didn’t want to spend my whole night talking about white privilege and how to combat it in our households. And I didn’t really want to talk about books, either. I don’t actually know what I was looking for, but I can’t say that I found it last night. Square peg, round hole? Youngest person at the table (by 10 years) again? Only black person in a 5 mile radius? The reasons are endless, I’m sure. 

My mechanic can’t see the car until Saturday afternoon. I was going to go to a friend’s yard sale to help out. That isn’t going to happen now. We were also going to head up to New Hampshire for a beach day-trip on Sunday. That might be out of the question now, too, depending on the problem and the fix. I want to be upset, but then I remember that we got a big break with that bathroom and the front yard flowerbed… and Ursa Major’s lead test came back this week with low levels (so we only have to worry about Ursa Minor)… So I’m gonna roll my shoulders, take a deep breath, and pray.

I promise I won’t drive away. So see you Friday for Quiet Thoughts. 


(Bloggy question: anyone else hating the new WordPress post format? I have to manually put in my regular tags now and that is super annoying…)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Miriam Joy says:

    I didn’t notice a new layout when I was posting to my book blog earlier (which uses normal WordPress, not self-hosted like my actual blog), but they’re always changing stuff… :/

    I get that feeling sometimes. I mean, I can’t drive, but sometimes I get on a bus and I’m like, “Hey, I could just keep going!” But I’m always pulled back home because it’s safe. I’m perpetually Bilbo pre-adventure — I like things safe and comfortable and predictable, and I don’t like travelling or anything because it takes me out of my comfort zone. (Going to uni is going to be terrifying.)

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I figured out that I can find the old posting page if I go the long way through the admin page. Just a pain in the butt!

      I, too, feel like part of me could never leave because there is a safety in the predictability of routine. Then again, life with toddlers is SO unpredictable (today Ursa Major decided to take his diaper off in the middle of nap and make a mess of all of his bedding. He’s never done that before, EVER.) that I wonder if part of my runaway feelings have to do with FINDING a place that is RELIABLY predictable. You know?

      There is a lot of routine at Uni, or at least, it was in my experience. Classes happen at the same time every week. You’ll find a rhythm of studying, meetings, class, play, and the little joys in between. The kids who go to Uni who DON’T find a rhythm are the ones who struggle. At least, that’s my experience. And remember: Just because you have a routine doesn’t mean you aren’t having fun. You’ll learn to recognize when to step out of your rhythm and follow the wind… and those will be the exhilarating memories that you’ll tell in years to come. 🙂

      1. Miriam Joy says:

        Ah, yes, I’m still using the old page because I find it easier 🙂

        Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll do my best. So far all I can picture is sleeping a lot more than I normally do…

  2. That’s what exits are for. Fortunately for most, there are on ramps just down the road, so when you’ve finished your escape you can just turn ’round. I’ve never regretted leaving, only staying. But I also chose not to have children. Pretty big difference.

    Good luck with the car! Hope it’s something minor. I just ripped my front end off last night. Trying to back out of an apartment spot and got hooked on a carport pole. Not the first time, won’t be the last. Drove home like a champ. Made out way better than the guy who parked his new Mustang on a fire hydrant the other day. Ouch.

    Smooth criminal, excellent choice, childrens.

    Maybe next mom-meeting do a BBQ or take cabs so y’all can get good and snookered lol. Society dictates too many rules: be concerned about this, protest that. It’s time we all just started being, and stopped apologising for it. I wonder who those women are when they aren’t having to compete with social demands? And seriously? White privilege? Wth? How did you not laugh so hard you spit out your drink? Well done KC, I would so not have held up under the pressure of that one lol.

    As always, thanks for the glimpse. This one took me up and down and all around my travels, ending at the arrival of my latest move, opening the possibility of another. I think the day I stop moving will be my last.

    Until then, maybe I’ll go look up worms. It’s amazing how much ground they cover moving almost imperceptibly slow. Maybe that’s something I can fall back on when I’m feeling stuck, to remember than I might only be moving inches forward, but I’m still moving.

    Hope you have a good week 🙂

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Poor bumper! Poor chap in the mustang!!

      Your journey is just as fascinating to me. I think that you have a lot more capacity for growth and change, and you certainly have demonstrated more bravery than I ever could, if you can just pack up everything you have and want and go to a completely different place. Do you feel terror when you do, or just plain excitement and optimism? I wonder, sometimes, where the wanderlust comes from… Having a writer’s brain, I can’t tell if all of the other places in my brain are just fantastical fictions or actual missed opportunities. It can drive a girl mad.

      It’s hard to share, especially something like this. Society says that a woman should always love to be in the place where she and her children are. To want to leave, to fly away to another space, time, and life is something akin to betrayal. The tether is a double-edged sword: Safety net (I have a place, someone needs me, I have a purpose) and quick sand (this is who I am, this is where I am, and if it is going to change, won’t be dramatically). Sharing this type of stuff is going to eventually get me in trouble.

      1. Society can go piss up a rope so far as it’s favoured women’s individualism.

        Never worry about sharing; it’s the things we hide that cause the problems.

        Seems to me writers’ brains (the good ones anyway) are wired to explore. Look at the incredible journey you’re on now. Holy hell. Thank gawd you’re leading this mission; I would’ve knackered it All up. My kids would be in juvie by now.

        I was built for leaving and impermanence. Doesn’t make it easy to establish any retirement security, but I feel more secure without plans. I hate routine, I don’t like being in the same place all the time; I hope I die traveling (or at least not in Iowa).

        It is exhilarating to leave. That’s probably why I’m always so itching to do it. It’s staying that scares me, drains me, depresses me. It’s not a commitment thing either, as some would like to believe; and it’s not a fear of people. I just like moving. I like new scenery–all the time.

        I don’t know where wanderlust comes from. I get it from my great-great-grandparents on down. Every generation before me came from somewhere else, or packed up for bluer skies. It’s what we do, I guess.

        My brother is content to stay with his family; he is a father and responsible, unlike myself. I just don’t care. There is me, and there is my dog; everyone else is on their own.

        Every road trip for me is like Christmas morning, times a hundred. I read maps like archaeologists read strata. My little Saturn and I have crossed country over a dozen times. I love to be where everything is new. I still dream of crossing the pond again.

        Had I known I could have been anything contrary to my high-school, guidance counselor’s advice, I would have been rich as hell, and had houses all over the world. And I wouldn’t have invited the bastard over for BBQ. Ever.

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