My parents-in-law are living with us for a week: communal living at its finest. We’re remodeling our master bedroom together–‘we’ as in I’m cooking the lunches and riding along to Home Depot. And asking good questions of course. And there may be a few other things I forget, like handing a tool to someone and painting three drop ceiling tiles. It’s what I do best.
Confession: I pulled off a personal meltdown right before supper last night.
Of course I wasn’t the only one melting down. Child C had about five meltdowns simultaneously in that gray hour before dinner. Child B was beside himself—in and out of the room, even after I said very firmly Now son. You are going to stay right here where I can see you until Mommy is done cooking supper. The convulsions of protest he went through would have put an eel to shame. I got him a book to read. He wept and lamented sore. I stayed calm and cheerful (the thin-stretched calm-and-cheerful-on-purpose variety). He was unmoved. I turned my back; he sneaked out. I fetched him hither; he came yon, dragging his tail behind him.
And meanwhile the supper would not get cooked. Despite my lovely mother-in-law right there helping me, helping my kids, helping the food. The quesadillas kept wanting to burn (probably because I left them for brief forays after errant sons), the corn was still frozen, and the eggs for the salad needed to be peeled.
Convulsions on the barstool. Exit plans being hatched in small brains. I felt them behind me, rising like vapor, heavier and more foreboding by the minute until a mushroom cloud ascended to the drop ceiling and I was uncertain whether the smell was burnt quesadilla or bad attitude.
I fielded a simple three-minute phone call and flipped a quesadilla while talking. Bad mistake. Some of the filling spilled out and began to blacken on the bottom of the dry skillet, an adhering from which there was no return. I hung up, pulled the pan over to the sink and began scraping desperately.
Child B threw something across the room and narrowly missed Grandma.
Nothing I do or say can fix this. What will happen if I just start to cry?
And suddenly I am, so hard I cannot breathe, my hand clamped over my mouth and my ears flaming.
My mom-in-law is right there with her arm around me. Oh Shari. I’m so sorry. Do you need to go take some time? I’ll finish frying the quesadillas; you go lie down a little. I cannot move, choking there at the sink. And then Ryan is there too, and takes my son and sits to read a story with him. I step out into the cold air and breathe, shuddering.
Sometimes I really think communal living is the way to go.
Our house has seen many suppertime meltdowns, but never has there been a woman to take the spatula from my hand and send me gently away.
There’s unspeakable comfort in knowing that if you really have to step out for a minute, life can go on. The errands can be run and the three massive loads of laundry folded, all at once. The children can be occupied and the major paint job move forward simultaneously. There are two good women to train the children and learn from each other, and two good men working upstairs.
Five or ten minutes later found me back in the kitchen, red-eyed and quieted, peeling those eggs.
What do you think? It takes a village to fry a quesadilla?