Sometimes in the mental wanderings of a sleepless night I can still hear her.
“Hurry up and clean your plate.”
“Hurry up and get ready for school.”
“Hurry up with your homework.”
“Hurry up, you’ll be late for mass and don’t scuff those shoes.”
Mother was in constant motion and expected the rest of us to follow suit. She rushed through life on a mission to reach a self-imposed fastest and best finish line, as if being pursued by a posse of judgmental peers. As an adult, I fueled this propensity and continually mouthed the “hurry up” mantra, but I started thinking about changing my ways back in 1973.
I had just put the baby down after his 6 p.m. feeding. My two eldest children (eleven and twelve) were at the kitchen table writing their school supply lists for our shopping trip planned for the next day. Six-year-old Christopher was in the tub.
“Let’s get you washed and shampooed,” I said to Chris, as I knelt and leaned into the sudsy array of plastic boats and bobbing rubber critters.
“But Mom, I want to play for a while,” Chris pleaded.
“Okay,” I replied, “but hurry up.”
He froze. His blond eyebrows rose. His forehead furrowed into thin frown lines. He looked at me with wide, puzzled blue eyes. Wayward white tufts of Mr. Bubble beard floated from his face. And then Chris posed the key question.
“Mom, how do you hurry up and play?”
I froze in the warm water, the washcloth floating away from my hands. At first I was dumbstruck. Then I felt just plain dumb that I had never had the chutzpa to question my mother’s idiosyncrasy choosing, instead, to take on the habit myself.
“You know what, Chris, I don’t think you can hurry up and play,” I admitted. And for a long while I made a real effort to erase those two words from my vocabulary. But like so many good intentions, the application got pushed to the back burner, although not forgotten. Up until yesterday I couldn’t recall the last time “hurry up” infiltrated my brain. And yesterday’s incident was just a thought, I didn’t utter a word.
Since the Covid-19 quarantine, I’ve been going to the grocery store at 7 a.m. on Tuesday or Thursday. Those are the shopping days (6-9 a.m.) designated for old folks. Being considered an “old folk” is a huge annoyance and a topic for another blog, but does come in handy as a qualifier for shopping early sans crowds. So last Thursday I’m up at 5 a.m., have a quick cup of coffee, get my list together and get dressed. By 6 a.m. I’m ready to take Dusty out and then whip up morning meals for him, Will and Abner. I put on my jacket and yard shoes and we’re off. The yard is soggy from last night’s rain. Dusty isn’t fond of getting paws wet, so he’s poky about stepping off the deck. Once resigned to the dampness, he snoops around picking up bunny scent and peeing on each bush. He spots deer in the meadow, gives a quick woof and pees some more. Now it’s nose to the ground finding just the right spot, here’s pretty good, over there might be better, a little circle, but maybe not. I check my watch thinking let’s “hurry up.” Remembering a harried parent and my resolve to not be one, my lips are sealed. I get a sweet look and a definite squat as he leisurely empties his innards. We strut back to the house, Dusty anxious for food, me proud as a peacock, finding myself wishing Mother could have enjoyed, could have lived the idea - you just can’t hurry up and poop (or play).
She’s getting it, working hard on the patience thing. If truth be known, she’s really quite patient with all of us, even though sometimes we’re a handful. And another thing, I’ve noticed a crossword puzzle book in her bathroom.