"Wear your good underwear in case you get in an accident. . ." Ever heard that one? In the event of an accident, is anyone seriously going to care about the status of your under-attire? Hopefully not, but that's probably not why your mama gave you that bit of advice. In my experience, bad things rarely happen when you are "put-together." Nope. They happen when you look your worst, when you're bone-weary, you're hair is dirty, yesterday's make-up is smeared and you're wearing your holey, crusty, painting clothes. Allow me to divulge a few personal experiences that illustrate my point.
A friend was painting and I offered to help for two hours. I dressed in an old pair of tattered hospital scrubs and a t-shirt that served as a timeline of every color every stroked across my walls. I pulled my hair back in a band and ventured out with my two pre-schoolers, right after the older kids hit the buses. On the short four-mile drive, my multiply-questioned two-year-old who swore he didn't need to potty suddenly decided he did after all. "It's a 'mergency," he cried. Horrified at the thought of being seen in public in my current state, I nonetheless sucked it up, pulled into McDonalds and hurried in, leaving my wallet in the car.
As we headed back to the car, the essence of Egg McMuffins overwhelmed my children who began to cry out in hunger. Now, of course they had eaten breakfast at home, and they had probably left food on their plates, but interestingly enough, the section of their stomachs reserved only for McDonald's fare was miraculously vacant. "I fed you at home," I whispered. "And mommy left her wallet in the car. I don't have any money." In a pitiful, dramatic voice that would have landed my son the starving-child role in Oliver, Adam cries out "Oh, Mommy. . . don't you have any money? I'm soooo hungry. . . ." His brother Josh immediately added a pathetic wail to the mix, and soon senior citizens were reaching for their clutch purses, searching for change. I dragged my waifs to the car knowing this would never have happened if I was clean, dressed nicely, and carrying a leather handbag on my shoulder.
Later that same year, I was wallpapering in another of my many splendid home improvement outfits when the hour arrived to meet Amanda's kindergarten bus. I scooped the little boys up in their under-roos or Superman pj's, and we hurried to the bus stop. The children got off, but Amanda was not there. Racing home in a panic, I called the school when a call arrived from the local minister's wife who explained that Amanda had followed her daughter on to the wrong bus. I buckled the boys in and headed, in a complete dither, to the parsonage which sits next to an old historic church, looking as if my entire life was spent in a complete dither. While there, the minster's wife invited me in for a moment. During that brief exchange, Adam unbuckled his car seat, somehow engaged the key in the ignition and released it. As I walked out the door, I saw his panicked face pressed against the window, crying for me as the car rolled down the driveway, executed a turn that totaled the church secretary's car, rolled back up the parsonage hill, and back down into the grand, historic church's ancient steps. And who drove by at that exact moment? A state trooper. And did I mention that my broken glasses were being held together with tape. Yeah. . . .
So yesterday Amanda and I began our walking program. She buckled 6-week-old Avery into her Baby Bjorn thing, and I pushed 2-year-old Brady in the stroller. There was no time to tidy our appearances before racing to the lab for Amanda's monthly blood tests for her kidney. While she was in the lab, I sat in the car with the kids. Brady pooped his diaper and threw a Baggie filled with goldfish crackers all over himself and the car, while Avery commenced a wail that resembled an emergency siren. I tried to comfort her and Brady began to cry. The look on my face must have unnerved Amanda as she arrived. She immediately took Avery and decided to nurse her right there in the car in the parking lot. She's very discreet, but despite her discretion, a beautifully-coiffed and attired young pregnant mommy, (who could have been a cover model for Parents magazine), glanced at our sweaty, Pepperidge-Farm-goldfish cracker-encrusted selves with Avery at her mommy's breast, and scowled.
Oh . . . you just wait, sister. . . I thought to myself. I looked at Amanda and pled, "Please don't get in an accident on the way home . . . not when we look like this. . . ."