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the mysterious Mrs. A


Today is my favorite sister's birthday. Kim is 49. Yaeh, Kim! (Well now, doesn't that read like a "Dick and Jane" book? I must be spending too much time with my kids.)

So I have developed a semi-fascination with a woman I have never met. And she's not a celebrity. Well, maybe she is to her family, but I'm sure you don't know her. She is my doctor's wife and over the last five or six years I have learned small tidbits about her from him.

I mean, they're throwaway comments to illustrate a point. For example, I recently mentioned I am always tired. I routinely take a quick cat nap from 2:30 pm til 3:00 while the baby is napping, the middle child is watching TV and the oldest is at school.

In the past he has mentioned they have five daughters, so I asked, "Is this normal after getting eight hours of sleep overnight? Is your wife tired? Please lie to me; just tell me she's tired even if she isn't. Is she tired all the time?" And he said yes, she's tired and every so often she takes a nap during the day. Taking care of small children is a lot of work.

Now I find myself occasionally questioning "I wonder how Mrs. A handles this?" as I have no idea what her first name is. It's like a maternal spin on WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) except it's WWMAD (What Would Mrs. A Do?) I don't know what she looks like or what her favorite color is. I do not know her.

In my head she has kind of become like Mary Poppins -- a mythical woman who has a tight answer for everything child-related and a constant upbeat demeanor. I'm pretty sure this can't be accurate, but I'm not positive. In my head she doesn't have an umbrella she carries all the time or soot on her face like Mary P. does; that would just be unrealistic.

So when I am faced with the mountains of laundry that I have ignored in an effort to make it all go away, I think, "How does Mrs. A handle doing laundry for seven people?" In my head this is how I imagine she does it. She creates this fun game of laundry where the children are involved and everyone is dancing and laughing and they break into song with a full orchestra backing them up. They stand in a long line, like the seven dwarfs, and hand clothes to each other in rhythm (to the beat of the song they're singing, remember?) until it gets to the washing machine. Did I mention there is much laughter and hilarity ensuing?

When we attempt to go to church together as a family of five I start out feeling like a good Catholic. My girls are in cute dresses; my forehead is damp with holy water and my husband is with me providing the barrier at the other end of the pew in an effort to corral the kids between us. For the first five minutes I do feel like a shining example of a semi-young Catholic family. Ooh, look at us shine. I even admire my children as the miracles they truly are.

And then it kind of falls apart.

The kids get antsy. The baby starts trying to climb out of the pew. We frantically dig through the diaper bag to find dry cereal, fruit snacks, raisins, crayons, what have you. Eventually one of the kids has to go to the bathroom. If I accompany the child in question, all three girls are coming with me because going to the bathroom during Mass with Mommy is F-U-N. If my husband offers to take them they want to stay in the pew with me and then the girl who has to go to the bathroom starts to think about crying because she wants to stay with Mommy, too, but she has to go to the bathroom.

After the bathroom break we end up hanging out, alternating between walking and jumping, at the back of the church. Because when the organist starts playing somber church music a girl just has to jump and dance. This is when I roll my eyes and wonder why God gives me so many opportunities to learn the art of patience.

And then my mind wanders and I inevitably think, how does Mrs. A handle five children at church? (Let me say right now I have no idea if they are Catholic or if they even attend church. This is my head and in my head they do things the way I do them but they always have fun. I know, my head is a weird place.) Now, presumably Dr. A is with her at church helping out, but if her girls are like mine they all want to sit on her lap and be with her even though Dad is right there.

So my thoughts on church for Mrs. A go thusly. Because she is a good Catholic (I know, we already established I don't know her religion, but again, this is my scenario) she says the rosary daily with her girls, they know all the prayers by heart and they read that week's scripture readings ahead of time. Then, while sitting quietly in the pew, they all listen attentively to the readings, as they already know what to expect. After Mass they go home and make donuts from scratch. Later that day they drop off the left over homemade donuts at a homeless shelter.

I know it's not quite that perfect, but I often wonder how other mothers handle stuff. I think I focus on her particularly because she and her husband are basically my age, they have a lot of small children and we seem to have some stuff in common. I imagine her husband works long hours and gets paged a lot for work (like mine does, although my husband ain't a doctor) and that (like me) she doesn't have family around to help her out. I sometimes think she and I would be good friends, if not a good sounding board for each other regarding day-to-day tribulations.

But then reality sinks in. I can't be friends with her, because her husband is my doctor. He knows how much I weigh and what kind of medication I take. Hell, in a sense he's my drug pusher. And who is actually friends with the drug dealer's wife? It's just a business transaction.

But he seems so normal and by extension, I assume he is married to a woman who is normal. You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find new, normal friends who have kids once you are a stay-at-home-mom. You've seen what my options are like regarding the neighbors.

So instead I ask a question here and there about how his wife handles the kids and adjust the Mary Poppins image as necessary.


Addendum: It's funny how your feelings trickle out when you write. If you had asked me (before I read Judith's comment) what my bottom line on Mrs. A was, I would say if we were friends maybe we could help each other out with tips and tricks regarding child-rearing -- perhaps we could give each other validation as mothers.

But after reading Judith's comment which, in part, said, "don't let anyone make you feel inferior" I realized my self-doubt is showing. I'll just have to tuck that back into my pocket before it seeps out again.


2007-06-22 at 8:20 a.m.

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