Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taming the Hulk (Part 1) by Karen Cantwell

Mothers can relate to The Incredible Hulk.

We all have those gentle Bruce Banner moments where our lives and children are calm, enriching and fulfilling. Birds sing on our shoulder while we bake cookies and our well-mannered kids sip lemonade on the front porch. Life is good.

On the flip side are the moments that initiate the Hulk sequence. Kids fight over the remote control while the dog relieves himself on the new carpet.
Simultaneously, the brutal rainstorm outside reveals more holes in the already-leaky-roof and little Johnny’s teacher is calling to ask why he hasn’t turned in any homework for two months. Mothers lose control during those darker moments and the thrashing green monster is unleashed. It’s not a pretty sight, but it happens to the best of us. In fact, if any mother ever tells you she’s never had a Hulk moment – she’s lying.

My name is Barbara Marr and I am a mother who understands the Hulk phenomenon. I have been known to Hulk-out. But one frustrating day, not too long ago, I stumbled upon an unlikely antidote: cheese balls.

At 5:25 p.m. on that fateful day, I had one headache, two doctor’s visits to reschedule, three daughters giving me the evil eye, four piles of clean laundry screaming to be folded, and five minutes to get to ballet class which was twenty minutes across town. Husband Howard had called to tell me he would be working late for the twentieth night in a row. My pulse was increasing exponentially and the Hulk countdown had begun. My veins were turning green.

“I don’t want to go to ballet today!” wailed my usually good natured Amber, her blazing red curls accentuating her current temperament.

“Those lessons are expensive, young lady – you’re going. I was dollars away from having to sell a kidney to pay for them.” I pointed to the stairs. “Go get your bag.”

I picked up the phone and punched in some numbers. “We’ll go as soon as I reschedule these appointments.”

Amber crossed her arms across her chest, stuck out her lip and glared me down before turning to stomp away.

A woman answered after three rings.

“Schmenck, Schmenck, and Yang Pediatrics, can I help you?”

“This is Barbara Marr. My daughters, Bethany and Callie had appointments with Dr. Yang at four o’clock. You’re not going to believe this – it sounds crazy, I know – but I couldn’t find my car keys for over an hour. I turned the house upside down. That’s why we missed those appointments. I have them now though – the keys that is.” I ended with a chuckle hoping to add some levity to an otherwise gruesome tale. “Can I resche . . .”

“I confirmed those appointments myself yesterday, Mrs. Marr. You should have mentioned then that you would be unable to keep them today.”

This woman obviously didn’t understand my situation. The Hulk doesn’t like to be misunderstood. “No, I couldn’t find my—“

“Our next available appointment is October 20th.”

“But that’s . . .” I counted on my fingers. “ . . . five months away!”

“I can put you on our waiting list.”

I sucked down a deep cleansing breath to hold the Hulk at bay. “But they need physical exams before they can go to summer camp. I have to turn the forms in next week.”

“I can put you on your waiting list.”

“You think I’m lying. I can tell you think I’m lying, but it’s the truth. You should have seen me tearing the house apart looking for those keys. I finally found them in the freezer next to the peanut butter.”

Bethany, my ten year old plopped down in the chair in front of me, ballet bag over her shoulder, pen in one hand and notebook in the other. She leaned patiently against the kitchen table. Meanwhile I kept fighting with the Nazi receptionist to secure appointments sometime sooner than the next solar eclipse.

My voice was starting to shake. “I was a freaked out lunatic. Here, my daughter will tell you.” I shoved the receiver in her face. “Tell her, Bethany.”

“She was a freaked out lunatic.”

“It’s true. I would never tell my daughter to lie for me. I need your help. I’m begging you.”

“Would you like those appointments on October 20th?’

“No, you see, October is AFTER summer. We need the exams BEFORE summer camp. Isn’t there anything you can do for me?”

“I can put you on our waiting list.”

Schmenk, Schmenk and Yang were celebrity pediatricians. Women got on a waiting list to be in their practice before conceiving. Northern Virginia Monthly ran an exclusive five page article exalting their medical brilliance and business savvy. Supposedly they were the best in the area. Personally, I didn’t see much difference from our other pediatrician. I mean, they gave the same shots and the same advice. It’s not like they were handing out designer antibiotics. But I had pulled some tricky political strings to get in with these people and I wasn’t going to lose my prime status now by flipping out and upsetting the staunch gate keeper.

“Yes, thank you. You’re so kind.” I hung up the phone and squeezed my head like a melon trying to relieve the constant throb.

“Mom, I need you to answer a survey question for me – it’s my homework.”

Dropping my posterior in the chair next to hers, I peeked at my watch before laying my head on the table. We were now officially late for ballet lessons.

“They’re still giving homework?” I asked. “School’s almost over.”

“Mrs. Pratt says she’ll give homework right up till the last day. She says we have to constantly be learning because soon we’ll have SATs to take and that could make or break our choice of college which could affect our entire future.”

“But you’re only in the fourth grade.”

“Mom, stay focused. What’s your idea of the perfect day?”

“That’s the survey question? Nothing about hypotenuses or the Big Bang Theory?”

“Mom . . .”

“Okay, give me a minute.”

(to be continued in tomorrow's post)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too funny! (and frightenly true!)