“we are more often involved in farces than in tragedies.”
-Dharma teacher Randy Harris
a week or two ago, Ryan and I were taking a load of boxes from our old rental to our new home. He was driving his scooter, and I was following behind in the fully packed station wagon. Assata was riding shotgun, and the kayak was strapped to the roof.
The car was lagging on hills, which I attributed to our gradually failing clutch. We were hoping it would last through the move, and driving gingerly. I failed to notice the car was also running out of gas.
On a long, S-curve hill, it gave up the ghost. I hollered Ryan’s name out the open window, but he couldn’t hear me with his helmet on. Assata and I coasted to a stop. I put the emergency blinkers on and called Ryan’s cell a half dozen times, knowing full well he wouldn’t answer till he’d gotten off the scooter at the new house. Feeling tired, vulnerable and overwhelmed (read: pregnant in the not-fun sense), I left a message and spent a few minutes crying and swearing and smacking my fist against the dash.
He called back in a few minutes, and promised to race to my rescue with a gas can. I took deep breaths, and apologized to Assata for my meltdown. She witnesses me like this more than anyone else does, and I wonder what runs through her head as I sob or rant at the walls. I am hoping she understands that something is different right now, in her intuitive dog-way, that the hormonal tide is running high and the fuses are short and these outbursts have nothing to do with her.
She regarded me seriously from the passenger seat for a moment as I petted her head, then began to retch and dry-heave. Panicking, I leaned across her, trying to unlatch and push open the door so she could escape to the roadside to vomit.
My pregnant belly smashed up against the gearshift, and the angle of the hill worked against the angle of the door. i managed to heave it open, pleading with her to “go back, back, back.” Gagging, she chose to go forward instead, wedging her 95 pounds behind me in the drivers seat and smashing my six and a half months worth of baby bump under the steering wheel. From this position, front legs dangling between the door and the seat, she proceeded to vomit out the open drivers’s side window. Mostly. She couldn’t position herself properly so a fair bit ended up inside the car as well. It was a thoughtful effort on her part, though. Realizing there wasn’t much to be done, I sat tight and waited for rescue, patting her awkwardly over my shoulder. Like most of us, she hates throwing up.
It was at this time that the Good Samaritans of southwest Seattle began to pass by. We must have made quite the picture… stranded Subaru, blinkers flashing, woman bent over steering wheel with chin practically resting on dashboard, large dog vomiting out the window behind woman, kayak and full car of boxes, on side of steep s-curve hill. The aforementioned Good Samaritans would slow to a crawl as they passed, taking in the picture, then find a place to turn around at the top or bottom of the hill. They would drive by a second time, faces the picture of puzzlement, leaning out their windows to ask:
“do you need help?”
By now I’d switched from crying to laughing. How could I not? “No,” I merrily replied to each, patting the dog over my shoulder. “My husband is on his way.”
Once Assata finished her prolonged vomiting spell, i realized I had to convince her to stay put, given that any backing up on her part would result in vomit on my clothing and the seats of the car, a reality I felt I wasn’t up to handling. Continued patting her and calmly asking her to stay, as if the situation we found ourselves in was, in fact, quite ordinary.
It was, actually. Very ordinary. Cars run out of gas. Women are pregnant. Dogs vomit. People offer to help. A tiny debacle, easily resolved, and worth laughing about later.
There have been many such debacles as Ryan, Assata, Callum (in utero) and myself make the grand transition to our new 80-year-old home. The clutch failed a few days after that, and a few days later, we had to replace all four tires on the car. In addition to a fresh coat of paint, the bedrooms needed fresh wiring, insulation, walls and ceilings. The lovely pine floors were revealed to be contaminated with asbestos glue after days of backbreaking labor chipping up the tiles that had covered them, and we emptied the last of our savings to install bamboo flooring over the pine. Removing the trim around the doorways and baseboards to permit the installation of the bamboo ripped huge chunks of old plaster off the walls. The rewire job in our bedroom turned out to have been done incorrectly, tying in all four outlets to the overhead light switch. Easily fixed, but only after a week of calls to an electrician hesitant to make the drive back out to our house. The range was suspected to be a fire hazard, and at the very least, smelled toxic and acrid when turned on, so my folks bought us a new one (along with a lovely energy efficient new washer and dryer. Thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you a thousand times.) Sears didn’t have the new range in stock right away, so we waited two weeks, only to discover the range had been damaged in delivery, leading us to wait another week for delivery and installation. Hello takeout, hello crappy hot plate. First time I tried to make tea, it was revealed they’d improperly wired in the new range. I am waiting for the repair tech now. I had a cough for a month, which gave way to an allergy-induced sinus infection which has lasted ten days. We qualified for the first-time homebuyer’s credit, then discovered its taking twenty weeks for the checks to be disbursed, meaning we’ll have to make it through my maternity leave with very little in savings. We are tired, and the boxes are still piled high.
Each tiny debacle has reduced me to tears. They have not been tragedies though; mostly just farces, many with a fair degree of inevitability about them. Each one has been resolved, eventually, leading me to the refreshed knowledge that I am living in beautiful circumstances. The lament “things came up that necessitated we spend our savings” can be flipped on its head: “Things came up and we had money in savings to spend.” The car has a new clutch, and new tires. The money from the homebuyer credit will come eventually. We have lovely new bedrooms, lovely floors, and lovely appliances in our lovely new house, which we will live in fully for many years to come. Ryan has plotted out giant garden beds for us in the front yard, and Assata is the queen of a lot large enough to feel like a small farm, at least by city standards. My belly grows rounder and larger every day, and Callum passes the hours in there napping and entertaining himself afloat in the half-dark, hiccuping and kicking and stretching against my skin. Each time I outgrow another part of my wardrobe, one of the dear mamas I know randomly delivers a bag of adorable maternity clothes, rescuing me from the frustration of spending scarce funds shopping for clothing I will only wear for a few months. (Thank you Heather, Brandy, Samantha… every day, thank you.) The little boy will be here soon, sooner than we can comprehend, and our friends and families are providing us with practically every baby implement we need. These things, well-used and well-loved by their previous families, sit waiting to receive him in his brightly painted bedroom which fills with sunlight in the mornings and glows for most of the afternoon.
A parade of tiny debacles cannot be long mourned in the midst of beautiful circumstances. There is living to get on to.