Bad to Good, Good to Bad

Yesterday I saw an ad in an old magazine at the dentist’s office for Tylenol PM. The ad has a calendar and asked you put your mood down each day (happy face, angry face, neutral face, etc.) as well as how well you slept the night before to track how sleep and mood are correlated (and to take Tylenol PM if you couldn’t sleep, naturally).

However, I find that I am not just one face all day. Is anyone?

Does anyone just have a day that is 100% happy, or 100% sad? I never do. Unless, you know, there’s a big event or something incredibly tragic or incredibly joyous.

Take today. This morning, Elyse was going on a field trip. She got her swimsuit and towel and sunblock to go to a pool. When we got to school, she turned about and ran to the car. “I forgot to pack a lunch!” she yelled.

Oh, crud.

At that moment, I realized that I HAD written on the calendar: Field Trip. Pack Lunch.

And I had not read it the night before.

Nor had her father, who had the putting-to-bed-making-sure-they-were-ready-for-next-day duties last night.

Nor had she.

“What time are you leaving?” I asked, wondering if I had time to go home. It would be at least 30 minutes.

“I don’t know. I’ll text you.”

I did not have my phone.

In a paroxysm of guilty and panic, I drove to 7-Eleven, a few blocks away. Tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, I thought, would surely be disgusting by noon without a cooler. I settled on peanut butter and Nutella with banana, a Gatorade, and a bag of Bugles. Nearly $7 for this sub-par lunch, but at least she wouldn’t starve.

I got to the school at the same time as the field trip buses and ran into the office. They took care of it, then I walked back to the car.

And remembered that the school is nut free.

Darn it! None of the other two schools are nut free. Because my kids don’t have these allergies, I don’t think about it too much. But I surely would not want a kid to die because I couldn’t remember.

I started running back in. One of Elyse’s teachers intercepted me and asked if I needed help. I explained the situation to her and she said, without missing a beat, “Can she have chicken salad? I have an extra I’ll give her.”

I thanked her profusely. This teacher has been at the job 30 years and teaches with the enthusiasm of a brand-new teacher. I love teachers like that.

Now, a couple hours later, I’m sitting in a cafe I’ve never been to before. I’ve written 1500 words and am overlooking the water. I have a breakfast buffet in my belly and a cold latte at my side.

And my day has improved considerably.

And it might turn again. Or it might not.

Rarely are days all bad or all good. The only thing to do is watch and see and not lose your mind while the bad is happening, and take a breath and appreciate the good as much as you hate the bad.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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