You’ll have to excuse me if this column is rushed. I am fitting it in between a performance by the undertwelve bassoon quintet, the regional finals of the distance medley relay, and a field trip to the pet rock museum. This is the traditional end-of-school-year crush, which our thoughtful educators have designed to prove the truth of one of William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell.” You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.
What is more than enough? How about this: My scheduling book has become so densely packed that the other day, when I added one more event to its mass of engagements, it collapsed under its own weight into a singularity. And while, sure, you might think it’s cool to have a black hole in your house, it’s not. Nothing hassles your feng shui like having all of your belongings slowly sucked into a superdense region of spacetime.
There are advantages to living on the margins of a black hole. Time becomes mutable. Which is the only explanation I can find for how we regularly manage to make ourselves available in two places at the same moment. Soccer game and track meet at the same time in different cities? No problem. I’ll just give this little point a tug, match it up over here, and voila! A nice little wrinkle in the continuum that allows my right eye to watch Sam sprinting after a bouncing soccer ball in Roanoke at the same instant my left eye watches Ben sprinting after a personal best in the 800-meter-race in Philadelphia.
Okay, not really. In reality, there are no advantages to having a black hole in the house. All it does is snooze inside its secret event horizon, periodically stretching and yawning wide enough to ingest things like socks, TV remotes, and Dad’s supposedly secret cache of Peanut Butter Crunch.
Which means we are still stuck with the issue of how to be in two places at once, or, two places in such quick succession that they appear simultaneous to the human eye. Such feats can only be accomplished thanks to military-style planning. And I’m not talking about your regular military, either. I’m talking special ops. The kind of planning that requires the world’s foremost supercomputers to account for all of the variables, plan for all contingencies foreseen and unforeseen, and produce a course of action that is both elegant and precise.
This supercomputer is called Dena, a.k.a. – my wife.
Let’s just pick a random date. April 30, you say? I’m glad you asked. On this otherwise innocuous Tuesday evening occurred two events which demanded Sam’s presence, neither of which could be curtailed nor rescheduled. Soccer tryouts were occurring at Ukrop Park, located in the heart of the Southside. A few short minutes after the conclusion of tryouts, Sam was expected to perform in his school’s spring strings concert, conveniently located in a galaxy far, far away from Ukrop Park. But of course, the strings players were expected to arrive 45 minutes prior to the beginning of the performance to get situated and have their instruments tuned. Further complications included getting Sam washed up, fed, and changed into a coat and tie between venues.
After studying the tentacular logistics of the situation from various angles, sketching out a few diagrams on scrap paper, and considering the numerous permutations of wind and traffic patterns, I formulated a concise two-word plan.
And BAM! Faster than you can say Albert Einstein, she had produced a strategy that involved prior scouting of the concert hall to determine the entrance closest to the stage, advance delivery of the violin to facilitate tuning, unretiring a toddler’s meal plate to house a nutritional and properly segregated travel meal, and assembly of a triage packet of moistened wipes, deodorant, and breath mint. On the sartorial side, she had produced a pre-buttoned, pre-tied wardrobe ready to slip over, cinch up, and look like a million bucks. Along with these supplies came a timing checklist synchronized with exits off Chippenham Parkway. Belmont: cleaned and deodorized; Hull Street: main course; Midlothian Turnpike: fruits and veggies; Jahnke Road: pants and shirt; Powhite Parkway: tie, socks, shoes, breath mint.
On the appointed evening, Sam stepped into the car a hungry, sweaty soccer player, and in the blink of an eye, stepped out a well-fed, fresh-faced, dapper violinist. It’s not folding spacetime, but it’s the next best thing.
I wish I could tell you that this was, somehow, an unusual evening, but as any of you who have children of a certain age surely know, it’s not the evenings that require this level of planning that are the exception, but the ones that do not – especially at this time of year.
So, you teachers and coaches, you can try and crush us with your field trips, your tournaments, your concerts, plays, exams, and tryouts. We’re equal to the challenge. We’ve got our methods and our strategies, and some of us even have curvaceous supercomputers. The only thing we don’t have is time.
Oh, and my favorite pair of pajama pants. The black hole has borrowed them for its nap.