Eight thirty-five. I glance at clock on the stove. Church doesn’t start for twenty-five minutes. Surely we can make it on time today.
It’s a fifteen-minute drive to church from our house. We have been driving to this little church in the country every Sunday for the past three months and we have been late every. single. time. It’s the only place that we go where arriving on schedule matters and yet we can’t do it.
I’m an organized person. In the days of diaper bags and car carriers, I would lay the children’s clothes out the night before. Bibles and backpacks went out to the car on Saturday evening. Stuart and I rose early on Sunday morning and got ourselves ready. We fed the children in their pajamas because they always spilled and slopped and dribbled and then hustled them into their clothes. We held small hands, balanced a couple of little ones on our hips, buckled them in the car and arrived at church about ten minutes before the service. Those were the days.
The children are spreading their wings and testing the waters of independence. Diapers and bibs and sippy cups belong to the past. The car holds booster seats instead of infant carriers with 5-point harnesses. The children can get in the car and buckle themselves. They can put on their shoes and gather their things. And because they can do these things, we have to add many extra minutes to arrive somewhere in the vicinity of “on time.”
Showers and the laying out of church clothes are relegated to Saturday night. Children are tucked in at a decent hour. Stuart and I rise early on Sunday morning. Father Time has left his mark so these days, applying makeup has become more of an art than a lick and a promise. Stuart contends with the children while I work my makeup magic. They rise, they dress, they eat. Stuart sends two or three messengers into John’s room.
“Papa says it's time to get up."
"Papa says it's time to get up, now."
"John! Get out of bed!"
I make it out to the kitchen fifteen minutes before we need to leave. I wet a washcloth and scan faces, searching for traces of breakfast. Claire and Charlie could use a touch up. I notice that Faith still has not brushed her hair. “Brush your hair Faith.” She wanders down the hall.
Lauren holds out the hairbrush and a ponytail holder. I twist her hair into a braid. She goes to get her Bible.
John stumbles into the kitchen dressed in his church clothes a few minutes before our scheduled time of departure. “Are your teeth brushed? Do you have your contacts in?” No. And no. “Hurry up. It’s time to go!”
“Claire, help Charlie into his shoes.” Claire and Charlie disappear in search of shoes. They are still searching ten minutes later. Lauren joins the search party and soon finds Charlie’s sandals under the sofa.
Stuart goes out and starts the car. It purrs in the driveway, air conditioning running.
The house is quiet. Must be most of the children went out with Stuart. “Everybody’s out in the car!” I call down the hall.
Five children answer from all parts of the house.
“I’m just brushing my teeth.”
“I can’t find my Bible.”
“I just need to get something.” The “something” turns out to be a bluejay feather, three rocks and a magnet.
I rush to the other end of the house and start herding children ahead of me toward the car, scanning all the while. Clothes? Check. Shoes? “John, get your shoes on.” Hair? “Faith! You never brushed your hair!”
“I had to go to the bathroom.”
“For twenty minutes?!”
I push a hairbrush into her hand and look around for John. Good. He’s got shoes.
The kids scramble over each other to get in the car and now we have five minutes to make a fifteen-minute drive. We arrive after the announcements and the handshaking and before the children’s sermon. No one looks up. They have become accustomed to this interruption at ten minutes after nine. I look down the row after we have sorted ourselves into the pew. Oh, she never brushed her hair. And for a moment I long for the sippy cup days.