How a Mother Thinks

  The List

My thoughts join hands and swing in giant, dancing circles, tangled up and with their backs to me. They move together but not in any ordered way, all just jumbled up and touching but not connecting. I try to tap one on the shoulder, to coax it out of its swirl. Like those girls in junior high, it snubs me and I stand outside the circle, getting bumped and brushed aside and sometimes stepped on but no one notices.

I leave them.

On the fringes of those thoughts are chairs arranged all orderly. I sit and observe the dancing thoughts and try to make sense of one of them, try to tell it apart from the others, all of them a blur to my introspection.

It appears I'm doing nothing, so a child asks me a simple question. I try earnestly to leave those thoughts and believe they'll still be there when I return, still be gaily thrashing and mob-dancing around. I ask for a repeat from the inquisitor and find that he wants simply to know what's for dinner.

It's 7 a.m.

I don't know yet, but how about breakfast?  I reply and point to the toaster. He opens the cupboard and the bread bag holds one crusty crust, so I look in the freezer for more. By this time my thoughts have danced off to pick up dinner ideas, which easily swing into the circle and choreograph their own menace.

I think tacos or barbecue chicken. I wonder what's ready in the garden. I try to remember what's happening this evening that could interfere with  our dinner time, who will be where and when should we eat what.

Two kids will be at practices, which means they'll need the car. But I'm leaving at 3, with the car and another child. I don't know when my husband will be home from work, so I'll make phone calls for rides to and from practice right after I get some meat out to thaw for the dinner that I won't be here to prepare and they won't be here to eat, and then I'll check the garden. And cut some flowers. And fill the bird feeders and clean up the shoes in the garage. And then I realize that the only one home at dinner time will be my 9 year old...

And bread. The inquisitor wants toast.

I show him how to toast frozen bread and he gathers his toppings like an artist's tools. Butter first, spread thin and perfectly even - an event which takes 10,000 passes of the knife. Jam, flowing chunkily over the edges and dripping off the plate, shmeared on the knife handle, wiped across the cheek. I follow him up with a rag and shoo him to the table with a fork to eat his dripping breakfast. Who eats toast with a fork?

Chicken and jam and volleyball and groceries and phone calls and tacos and laundry and

paper. I must find my planner and dump those dancing thoughts.

Like a bar room bouncer I grab those thoughts and slam them onto paper. They squirm but ink pins them there, frozen and no longer dancing. Now that they are still, I realize some of them just need to go. I eject them with a swipe of the pen and move on to examine the rest of the motley crew. Every one is suspect. Any one could be axed at a moment's notice.

Havoc-wreakers. Peace-stealers. To-dos and not-to-dos. They all trade their party dresses for black and white and my simple mind orders them into place. Stay put. Make room for the others. No shoving. I'll decide who's first.

Another cup of coffee, a list-and-a-plan later, my thoughts are all untangled and wrangled onto paper and one by one, I dash their little selves through with a stroke of the Pilot v5. Extra fine.

That's how a mother thinks. Slightly exaggerated.