Your mission, Phyllis, should you choose to accept it, is to drive the grandchildren to and from school. As always, should you be responsible for any misfortune, you will be saddled with lifelong guilt, because these precious beings are your daughter’s children, not your own. (This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.)
Mission impossible, well, not quite. But mission stressful, oh yes.
My assignment is clear: I have the task of driving my six-year-old grandson and my four-year-old granddaughter to school while their parents are taking a much-deserved vacation out of town. We leave the house promptly at 8 a.m. and head towards my car which is seconds away from the front door. What could go wrong?
“A kitty-cat!” Lyla exclaims as a cat runs across the driveway. Lyla is in heaven because cats are her obsession. She has a collection of toy cats of all shapes and sizes and cat motifs adorn many of her dresses. If a book, game, or toy has a cat theme, she is delighted. As well, to the puzzlement of her parents, Lyla has informed her school friends to call her Kitty, and many of them do.
The cat scurries down the sidewalk. Lyla runs after the cat. Her brother Max yells: “We’ll be late for school!”
She chooses to ignore his words. I run after Lyla.
The cat leads the race. A close second is Lyla. Following on her heels is an out-of-breath and frantic me. Max waits by the car. He is not going to waste his energy.
I am not without guile. I plan for all emergencies. “Lyla,” I shout. “Would you like a banana muffin?”
She turns and smiles. I know my granddaughter. Banana muffins are her favourite. “No muffin until you are in the car, honey," I say.
The children are buckled in and we are on our way. I am conscious of every vehicle within blocks of my car and my eyes dart in every direction in case of …. well, just in case.
We arrive at the school, safe and sound. I take a deep breath. “Remember to use the car door closest to the sidewalk,” I warn the children. They roll their eyes. I say this every time I drive them.
I park in between the signs that seem to indicate that stopping is allowed. However, this is Toronto and the signage is designed to be confusing. There is a 50/50 chance that my car will be towed away while I’m bringing the children into school.
They run towards the school entrance which is adjacent to a small playground for the younger children. Lyla decides now is the time to play. I do not have another banana muffin. Max, thank goodness, saves the day. “Lyla, your friends are waiting for you inside,” he says. He is a smart boy. A genius, actually.
Max leads us through the maze of hallways. Max has a good sense of direction, for which I’m thankful. I leave him at his classroom and he waves good-bye. Is he too old for a hug in front of his friends? I won’t risk it.
Lyla runs towards her classroom and I’m close behind. She heads to her girlfriends and doesn’t glance in my direction. I won’t take it personally. At least I try not to.
As I walk back to the car, my heart pounding and the sweat dripping from my brow, I realize that it is too early in the day to have a glass of wine. I ponder on why this assignment is so difficult. I drove my own five children to and from school and to and from lessons for years and years. (My huge Suburban, grey with a red stripe, and an exterior backup alarm, was legendary at Earl Kitchener School.)
My grandchildren are so dear to me and I play a special role in their lives. My love for them is limitless and caring for them is a privilege. But, yay, I have the rest of the day free until I have to pick them up!
My cell phone rings. It’s my younger daughter who lives in Burlington. “Mom, can you pick up Will from daycare on Thursday?”
“Of course,” I say. Now where is that glass of wine?
Phyllis Shragge has three grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. She lives in Ancaster.