The Guilt of (this) Working Mom takes shape in many forms. In the nutella with bread Zoey gets each morning despite the fact that it's not part of a balanced breakfast no matter what the commercial says. In the way I practically make out with Ozzy the minute I walk through the door, holding him while I shuffle around the house because my lower back has seized up. In the little dance I do in front of my house each morning; Zoey watching through the picture window as I blow kisses, then hugs, then I love you in American Sign Language which always makes me feel a little like I'm listening to Metallica, the difference only in the inclusion of a thumb. Three times mommy! Do it three times today! And so I do it while cars drive past, mwah, mmmhug, a flash of fingers, mwah, mmmhug, a flash of fingers, mwah, mmmhug, a flash of fingers. As if I am going off to war and not just walking to the bus stop.
Long ago I made the mistake of drawing on the napkin that I put in Zoey's lunch box, a princess or something, I don't know. The next day she asked for a pirate, and then a spider, a bat, castle, mountains, fish, stars, rainbows. Before I knew it I could not not draw a picture on her napkin, each night thinking what should I draw for tomorrow? 10 o'clock tired and realizing shit, I forgot to draw something, pulling out a pen and sketching a skeleton in October, turkeys in November, Santa and snowflakes, my favorite: elves having a snowball fight. And then last week I found a zippered compartment in Zoey's lunch box that I didn't know was there. I opened it and found a stash of old napkins.Those are my favorites, Zoey said when I asked why they were there. I can't throw those away because you're famous, she said.
I'm not famous, I told her, but she insisted I was. Said that all her friends loved my napkins, that at the beginning of lunch they crowded around her to see what it would be that day, that I was a famous drawer and a famous mommy, and you know where this is going, right?
I am not the best artist. Not the best writer or the best person, not the smartest, most beautiful, not even the worst or the ugliest, dumbest or sluttiest. Not the estiest of anything, really. But in that moment I was super-superlative more than most and then some. Because every day while I am in a meeting maybe, or eating a tasteless sandwich dropping crumbs on my keyboard, every day while I am on the 21st floor of a building my daughter is nine miles away at noon thinking I am a famous mommy, and that right there is everything.
So yes, it seems I will be drawing on napkins every weeknight until Zoey, and then Ozzy is out of school. Bunnies and cats, maps, mice, people with very big eyes and cupcakes. I will draw on napkins until they tell me to stop, beg me, mom, you have got to stop sending napkins to my dorm, to my work, to my husband, to my wife. And I will smile the smile of someone who knows she is good at what she does. Because I am their mommy, and they made me famous.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a napkin to go draw. (I'm thinking raccoon.)