It is 2:25 on a Wednesday, we have just tipped and are on the downward slide to weekend. Weekends make no difference for a mother's working schedule, if anything they are more work, but psychologically something does shift. Somewhere, on Friday evening, someone is having cocktails on the deck overlooking the sea. Somewhere.
It is pouring rain. In 35 minutes I will leave to pick my daughter off the school bus on First Ave. There are three other mothers who wait with me at the stop, and we chat. One is Italian, one is Irish, one is Japanese and I am American (and the loudest). We still all don't know each other's names or the names of each other's children. It's not much of a small town.
My daughter will get off the bus and hug me and say immediately, "Did you bring a snack?" When I insert a cracker into her mouth it's sort of like feeding the sheep and goats at the Central Park Zoo. They will eat a much as you insert into their mouth, this I'm quite sure. It's a long walk over to First Ave and every day I think: Wouldn't it be nice if I had a Real Job and then I could send someone over to pick up my daughter? But then, walking back together, my daughter talks and talks and talks and talks and though I sometimes don't hear a word she says, I know that I am there.
I am a housewife on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This morning I bought a replacement sponge for our mop. I had a conversation with the man---who was well-dressed and articulate---about the best sponges and mops. he had opinions (I didn't). On my way home, I had a conversation with the doorman who has been here 48 years, about some of the characters he has known in the building. He has some stories, he says, because there are some real charactahs.... And I believe him.
Later I had a conversation with the owner of the french cafe on 68th. She is French--looks like a young Meryl Streep. I hadn't seen her since her trip to France---she was glowing, renewed. She said it was 75 degrees every day, and sunny. Like summer! she said in her beautiful French accent. So it is depressing, we agreed, to return here (where I'm wearing the same boots that I wore in January).
Then I went here and there and my father called to say he had received a letter, addressed to me and written in 1982. This is weird because my boarding school recently wrote to me saying the same. What does it mean? What does it all mean?
On the way home I bought two hot dogs with my husband and we ate them by the Whitney Museum. Whoever wants the best hot dog form the nicest hot dog vendor in New York City go to Madison and 74th or whatever cross-street the Whitney is. These vendors----I know----can be real assholes, but this guy is sincerely kind and funny. Sometimes lines of children dressed in school uniforms pass by and say Hi Alex! Hi Alex! And older ladies too always lifting their delicate hands to wave. I often buy lunch from him on my way down Madison Avenue and every time I declare to myself there is no better lunch IN THE WORLD than a New York hotdog and a Diet Pepsi.
As we ate, my husband told a joke about the IMF guy (you can imagine how the UN people are talking!). Then he said, "Imagine: the Whitney is going to be the MET soon," because the MET has announced its decision to use the building when the Whitney moves downtown in 5 years or so. But I won't be here when that happens, I thought to myself, so I don't have to care. "I'm not crazy about the Whitney anyway," I said. "Too cutting-edge for me." Which is a way to contain the pain of change and separation, I suppose. (I'm actually a member of the Whitney and I love it because, I just do.)
When I returned home it hadn't started to rain yet and George told me about his wife's cousin who got really old and they had to put her away, but O yah then the relatives (his voice hushing) starting coming around, you see. Because she had some coins, that one...
Well what can ya do? he said. What can you do.