A Moment of Panic

Sonia’s silk nightgown draped attractively over her slender figure as she brushed her long hair. Her husband, Victor watched her for a while. He always loved how her dark hair complimented her pale complexion. He could not resist her any longer. ‘Come here, honey.’ He beckoned her with his pointer finger.

Just then her cell-phone began to ring. It was Sonia’s mother, calling from San Jose. ‘How are the little ones, dear?’ ‘Mom, they are fine! Just hard to handle, at times. Yesterday, it took me half-an-hour, literally, running behind Anna and Ronnie to feed them breakfast. They only take a bite or two if it’s their favorite food. Now, I cannot just waste the rest of the breakfast. Besides Mom, I worry that they will be hungry at daycare or school.’

‘Sonia, you worry too much! How is your new job? Are you able to put in enough hours?’ Last year, it had been hard for Sonia to manage her job along with all the responsibilities at home. ‘Luckily, I am getting into a smooth routine so that I can get to work, on time.’

By the time the two ladies were done with their conversation, Victor was snoring. It must have been the at least a hundred times that Sonia had complained about feeding their kids. The sheer novelty of the discussion relaxed his nerves, better than any prescription sedative.

Victor and Sonia had been married for seven years. Victor was a manager in an IT company. He had regular conference calls with the overseas departments, in the evening. He usually attended those calls from home and expected the house to be quiet. With two kids, a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, it was not long before one was crying or the other had created the most unexpected mess. It was a challenge for Sonia to keep peace in the house. She had to be constantly watching them. If she left them by themselves for a brief period, it was easy for them to get into a fight. On the other hand, there was no comfort if both of the kids decided to work together as a team. That usually meant that they were up to something shockingly unpleasant for the parents!

Sonia was a software engineer by profession. For the past few years, Sonia’s career had taken a back seat. Last year there was hardly a week that went by without one of her kids waking up with a fever or upset stomach. On many such occasions, Victor had already left for work by that time. At that point, Sonia had to wait for a better day to play her professional role. She had to be the mother. She would take time off from work to take care of her sick children.

This year, the fortune had turned its course, the kids were developing stronger immunity and staying healthier for longer periods. It finally seemed that she could follow a routine and focus on her new job.

Sonia usually woke up, early, before the alarm. Coincidentally, Victor often felt romantic right when it was time for her to get out of bed. So, she set an alarm on her phone at 6:30 am, just to avoid the temptation of getting late.

That night, after talking to her mother, she had left the phone on the dresser, without charging. With the battery draining out, no alarm rang at 6:30 am. Sonia let Victor cuddle her, unaware of the time. When she turned to kiss him back, her eyes froze at the clock, it was quarter past seven. She jumped off the bed in a hurry. Her lingerie strap slipped from her shoulder, revealing her supple roundness. She covered herself, feeling quite clumsy. ‘Oh, God! I am so late.’ Victor felt guilty and tried to soothe her. ‘Don’t worry. I will get the kids ready before I leave. It will be fine.’

Sonia had a unique morning routine. She fed the fish in her aquarium and watered the house plants. She then took a warm shower and got dressed for work. Right afterward, she sat down to pray before her God. She wished well for all her friends and relatives. She then ran down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for everyone. She finally packed her lunch.

Sonia tried her best to try to fit in everything even though she was rushed. She tried to make a healthy lunch. She decided to put together a bowl of salad with mixed greens and delicious condiments. She cut up some boiled egg, boiled beetroots, and carrots. Then she added a handful of peanuts. To add an element of sweetness, she quickly grabbed a box of raisins from the pantry shelf. The red paper box bent under pressure of her hands and the lid popped out. The next moment the kitchen floor was littered with tons of California raisins. Poor Sonia, sighed and grabbed the broom. She cleaned up the mess with a frowny face.

Victor let little Anna take her own time to choose her clothes. The princess changed her mind a few times before deciding on a pink dress and leggings. Victor put them on and brushed her hair. Ronnie was easy going. He wore what his Dad asked him to wear.  By 7:45, the kids were seated at the breakfast table. Victor gobbled up his breakfast in minutes. ‘Sonia, I am heading to work now. Have a good day!’ He kissed everyone before he picked up his laptop.

On the sidewalk, a squirrel-faced lady was walking her dog. She gave Victor a big smile. Victor also smiled back at his friendly neighbor while he was getting in his black luxury sedan. Sonia closed the door that led to the garage, reflecting how handsome Victor looked in his business clothes. She hoped someday she would also climb the corporate ladder. She knew she had the capabilities but she needed to put in sufficient hours. Then she would also dress up professionally, to work.

The kids were slowly munching on their morning meal. Sonia thought she could quickly unload the dishwasher by the time they get done. Sonia took a deep breath. She regretted not being able to spend more time with Victor.  ‘If it was not for this crazy routine, I would have been in bed with him.’  She took out the bowls, lined on the top rack, in a hurry.  A white bowl slipped out of her hand and landed on the floor dancing sideways in both directions for half-a-second. ‘It was the perfect advertisement for Corelle unbreakable dinnerware!’ She could not help giggling to herself. She was glad that it did not break.

After several reminders, the kids finally finished their breakfast. She sent them to brush their teeth. Everything was done by 8:15. ‘Phew, if I were ten more minutes late, Ronnie would have missed the school bus, that stopped at Anna’s daycare. Hopefully, today, I will be at work on time.’ A sense of accomplishment filled her heart.

It was September in Colorado. The mornings were getting chilly. It was a good idea to put on light jackets. Rohan wore the jacket that was laid out on the sofa. Anna refused to wear the fuzzy jacket that Sonia had picked out for her. ‘No, this one…the pink one.’ She had opened the closet and was pointing to a different one. Anna also fished out a woolen cap from the box of winter accessories. Sonia though it would look ridiculous as it was not yet winter.

It was quite difficult to reason with this three-year-old, probably a little more than other toddlers of her age. However, Sonia in her best judgment decided to pursue the matter of propriety with Anna that morning. Anna simply shook her head at her mother’s patient reasoning. After, several failed attempts, Sonia was about to lose her mind. She hated it when her words were ignored by anyone, especially her little girl. But, she finally, had to give in.

In a few minutes, they were all in the car. Sonia went to the other side of the car to buckle Anna in her car seat. The cute princess sat there looking silly with the woolen cap on her head. It irritated Anna’s perfectionist mother, who was fuming inside when she remembered her fruitless attempts to convince her daughter, otherwise.
Sonia started to slowly back out of the garage. The driveway had a bit of a downward slope towards the street. It was not too steep though. For some of the other houses in the neighborhood, if you did not keep pressing on the gas while getting into the garage, the car would actually start to go back. Sonia was glad that her driveway was flat for all practical purposes.

Within a few seconds, Anna clearly articulated her position. ‘Mommy, I need to go pee-pee.’ Anna had gotten toilet trained a few months back. She was also starting to talk in full sentences. Anna turned to Ronnie, feeling proud of her accomplishments. Ronnie smiled at his sister. Anna’s mother, however, did not see it quite the same way. She pictured the painful situation if Anna actually had to pee, right then and there.

For starters, she would have to change Anna’s clothes and clean the car seat let alone getting rid of the smell. Ronnie would miss his school bus. She would have to drive to Ronnie’s school after dropping off Anna at her daycare. Going to work on time would be, at least, a slight challenge for her. Her head hurt to think about the disastrous possibilities. Being already hard-pressed for time, Sonia felt herself, completely and utterly losing her temper.

Sonia got very unmindful when she was angry. In a hurry, she tried to stop the car, by turning off the ignition. She forgot to change the gear position. As a natural consequence, the car key simply refused to budge, in spite of her best attempts at pulling it out. She was puzzled and annoyed. Little did she even remember that the car key was in a bunch that had the house keys, too. Her only focus at that moment was that Anna should not wet her pants before she could get her to the bathroom. In her frustration, she got out of the car to get to her daughter.

Sonia could not believe her eyes when she saw her hatchback very slowly but surely rolling towards the alleyway. It was about to hit the fence any moment. Being at her wit’s end, she got behind the car and tried with all her might to stop it with her hands. The car was a mid-sized wagon and Sonia wasn’t actually a bodybuilder. So, the car did not stop.

There was no way to get to Anna, sitting on the other side, without risking getting run over by the car. In desperation, Sonia sprinted forward and pulled the front-door-handle. The slow speed and low ground clearance allowed her to put her closest foot inside the car. She then forced herself partly upon the driver’s seat. As soon as she got her right foot inside, she decided to hit the brakes with that very foot. The car slowed down. This was a positive turn and momentarily relaxed Sonia.

At that quintessential moment, she was struck with a spark of intelligence. Sonia understood exactly what she had done wrong. She sighed heavily and changed the brakes to “Park” position. She also engaged the emergency brakes. The car stopped like any good car would. Everything about the car was now making sense. At that point when she tried to take out the car key, it came out without any further resistance. She now spotted the house keys in that bunch. ‘Darn! what was I thinking?’

Sonia scrambled to the other side to unbuckle Anna. Fortunately, Anna’s pants were still dry. Sonia sprinted with her three-year-old daughter in her arms. She opened the rear door, that led from the garage into the kitchen nook. The house alarm keypad was conveniently placed on the right wall next to the door.

On opening the door, the alarm went off, immediately. Sonia had to put down Anna and punched in the code to disarm it. She then took Anna to the nearest bathroom. But she was not done yet. Anna was just three. She needed help with each and every step. Sonia helped her pull down her pants. She then put the potty-training seat on the toilet. Finally, she lifted her up and put Anna on the toilet seat.

Sonia waited at the bathroom door for Anna to get done. Standing there, she noticed that she was breathless and sweating. She was furious about the whole situation. It seemed like that world was stealthily working against her. Anger and frustration made her dizzy. Suddenly she noticed her hands trembling, uncontrollably.

Like the morning alarm, it made Sonia wake up to reality. She was, after all, an intelligent girl. She immediately switched her attention to get herself on the path to recovery. She closed her eyes and her fists. She then took in several deep breaths. She felt the calmness spreading through her whole body and mind. She relaxed her hands. They were steady now. She paced up and down the hallway for a few minutes. She wiped her sweat and felt better. Tranquil wisdom relaxed her nerves.

Anna called sweetly from inside the bathroom. “Mommy!” Sonia went inside to help clean up Anna. Anna pulled up her pants and stood on the stepstool to wash her hands.

All of a sudden, in a wild instinct, Sonia snatched the warm cap off her daughter’s head. The toddler started to giggle out of sheer relief. The woolen cap was causing her discomfort but she had not understood it, until now. Sonia’s anger and frustration disappeared. Together, they laughed their hearts out.