Friday, July 18, 2008
Our Friend Murphy by Barb McKone
Our Friend Murphy by Barb McKone
My daughter is at this very moment sitting on the couch with two of her friends, moping. They took over an hour to get ready. My bathroom smells like Bath and Body Works. Hair straighteners, a half-spent bag of chips and smudgy cotton balls now litter the counter I wiped with care this morning. Their summer dresses are frighteningly adorable and their bronzed summer skin is way too exposed for my liking. After all that prep, it turns out that there is nothing to do on this beautiful summer night. They've been in a huddle for a half-hour, working the phones. I've suggested Ben and Jerry's, going to a movie, or perhaps just staying home and baking a peach-blueberry cobbler with The Mama. Aprons all around! I hadn't realized that the stress of the situation had drained all humor from these normally witty girls. My daughter rolled her eyes in such a drastic arc it looked like it actually hurt. They are, literally, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
I'm not surprised. My daughter is my daughter, after all, and my relationship with our friend Murphy naturally follows her on her daily journey. She's the map of Ireland, and Murphy's Law is her birthright.
Murphy lives with me. He follows me to the grocery store and makes sure that, only when I'm rushing to meet a client, the lady in front of me has left her purse in the car, or the receipt paper roll has to be refilled "for the first time in ages."
The grocery store isn't nearly as bad as the check-out line at Michael's. Michael's, in case you don't have them in your community, is a hobby store chain. Arts and crafts supplies. I believe these stores actually specialize in stocking guilt. They're filled with scrap booking supplies that remind you of the shoe boxes of kids' photos in the basement that are not yet in albums. The photos date back to kindergarten; your daughter is getting ready to leave for college. You are seriously behind.
Checking out at Michael's is death by Murphy. The person in front of you is has a cart full of silk flowers for a wedding, all at different price points. Some are invariably not tagged. Price check. On the worst Michael's trips, I get the checker with the black up-do that sighs with each scan. She looks for the bar code. Can't find it. Sighs. Ever so slowly, she turns over the silk flower, finds the bar code and swipes it. Misses. Sighs. Repeats. All the other lines are zipping along, mind you. I'm late for a rehearsal. I just ran in to Michael's to get poster board for a school project. I'm certain that Michael's has a contract with Murphy.
And why is it that all of the best social options in any given month fall on the same nights? Or when a distant cousin happens to be motoring through town and calls for an evening on the couch? And, of course, we all know that sick children get well in the doctor's waiting room and cough up God-knows-what an hour later on the way home. Murph's handiwork.
I decided to accompany my son to tennis camp one morning last week in my pajamas. They weren't cute pajamas. They were old, mismatched, and tattered. (The best kind, in other words.) In a terrible who's-gonna-see-me-anyway moment, I grabbed the keys instead of changing my clothes. I didn't want to be late. Well, we didn't exactly break down, but my car had some strange, sluggish moments on the way home that made me realize how important it is to try to remember to put on a bra before leaving the house.
I swear, I've always been a glass-half-full kind of person. But every day lately, it seems that Murphy is trying to singlehandedly squelch my optimism.
The worst of Murphy's tricks are the ones that fall into the cruel "Pride Goeth Before a Fall" category. I remember each time I've felt extra-great about myself or one of my children, only to be smacked down before the prideful glow can even rise on my cheeks. I'll share with you just one, very true story.
Seven or eight years ago, we added a master bedroom to the back of our house. Our contractor tended to disappear, leaving the work to a team led by a grouchy, glass-always-completely-empty guy named, well, let's just call him "D." "D" had been giving me the runaround for weeks, saying that things would be done that weren't even started, and not even showing up to work for days at a time. We'd had to move to the basement. I was trying to get my little family through a summer of total chaos, furniture and belongings scattered into different rooms and our lives turned upside-down, and "D" was pushing all of my buttons. One sleepless night I decided that come sunrise, (if he actually showed up) I was going to give that "D" a piece of my mind.
I awoke to the stirrings of workmen in the driveway and leapt up from the futon on the floor. I didn't want to miss out on my opportunity to set "D" straight. Eyes not yet adjusted, I felt around in the dark basement for the stack of clean clothes I'd laid on the coffee table and came up with my favorite jean skirt. I was happy to also find a favorite t-shirt nearby. Things were going great! I threw them on and marched upstairs and out to the driveway. I wouldn't call the next few minutes a tongue-lashing, exactly, (I almost always wimp my planned tirades down a little) but I certainly made my point. I call these moments, when a woman feels like she can shake down the whole world by it's tail, "I am the tigress" moments. It has to do with an episode of Murphy Brown. Anyway, I was the tigress, and my victim was rendered temporarily speechless as I turned and led him by the arm to all of the things around the site that were not finished to my specifications. I was ON. I was powerful. I was the tigress. When he found his voice he agreed to get to setting things right. Triumphant, I marched back inside to my children, whom I had left at the table eating Cheerios in front of "Arthur."
My daughter looked up at me like the sweet cherub she was at age seven and said cheerfully, "Mommy, what's that on your shirt?"
I looked down. There was nothing on my shirt.
"No, Mommy," she said, "on the BACK."
I ran to the mirror in our remaining working bathroom and craned my neck around to see the back of my shirt. There, stuck to the back of my t-shirt, was a mini-pad. Clean, thank God, but adhered firmly, just below the left shoulder. To this day, I have no idea how it got there.
No wonder he'd been speechless.
Oooh, that Murphy.
Now, when I feel annoyance about my Murphy moments, I think of the ultimate "if something embarrassing can happen, it will" moment and try to just leave extra time for that grocery store line. I'm going to need it.
And by the way, here a social update:
The phone finally coughed up some action. Two parties have just popped up! Two! Lip gloss reapplied, the surly girls on my couch are out the door. Murphy must have retired early tonight.