Just My Type: Tight Schedules

Another year wiser?

The fact that it was my birthday made the day even more ridiculous.

It was Friday, April 26. Instead of going on the surprise getaway to Cape Cod that my husband tried to plan, I had to work. I work for the Girl Scouts, and one of my tasks that day was to deliver a prize to a girl in a troop meeting in Sheffield. Here’s how I had it planned: I would pick my daughter up from school at 3:05, be in Sheffield by 4:15, be out of Sheffield by 4:20 and back in Williamstown by 5:30, when Noelle’s baseball practice was schedule to start. I had the prize ready to go (I purchased a helium balloon earlier in the day to attach to it), I had snacks for Noelle to eat in the car and her baseball clothes ready to go.

I could do this. 

Of course I could not do this. What was I thinking?

Every traffic light turned red. Every car in front of me was slow. And then, the coup de grace: I roll down the window of my car to toss Noelle’s banana peel out and the wind sucks the helium balloon right out the window, too. (At this part of my retelling of the story to my mother, she says to me, “Why were you throwing it out the window? You never throw things out of a car window.” To which I replied, “It’s a BANANA peel. It’s food for the wildlife. It’s COMPOST.”)

In any case, now I have no balloon. Noelle is crying, even though it’s not her balloon. “We have to get another one!” she wails. Although the balloon was not part of the prize itself for the little Girl Scout, and she would not have missed it, I heave a sigh and pull into the parking lot of a grocery store I know sells balloons.

It’s 4:18 and I’m still about seven minutes from the school. The meeting ends at 4:30 so if I don’t get there quick the whole trip will be for naught anyway.

We rush in the store, buy a balloon, rush back out, and fairly speed to the school, getting there at 4:27. The leader says to me, “I was worried you weren’t going to make it.” If only you knew. I do my little presentation to give the winning girl her prize, which was a surprise. She’s thrilled. One of the other girls – not so much. She bursts into tears and the leader and I spend the next five minutes trying to comfort her, explain to parents arriving to pick up their children why she’s crying, and so forth.

It’s now 4:35. Noelle and I excuse ourselves and head out a different door of the school then we had come in. Unfortunately, this door led us to the back of the school, away from the parking lot, and after finding all of the doors locked, preventing us from going back into the school, we have to walk around the entire school to get back to the car.

It’s 4:45.

I hustle Noelle in the car. I tell her to change from her dress into her baseball clothes as I’m driving out of the parking lot. Once she’s settled and buckled, I head north. Of course, now I am going through Great Barrington and Pittsfield at the Berkshire version of rush hour, and look … there are all those red lights and slow cars again.

We finally pull into the baseball field parking lot back in Williamstown at 6 p.m. I bring her over to the coach, apologize and then head to the bathroom. Of course it’s locked, because even though it’s my birthday that day has pretty much stunk and now I really had to pee and there was no toilet to be found.

And so I made “the decision.”

Our home was only a couple minutes away. Noelle was fine. Her blood sugar had been fine, though I had not tested her since her snack. Surely I could run home and pee and be back within 10 minutes.

So I did. And I checked the voice mail and my email while I was home, actually kind of relishing a few quiet minutes to myself. I headed back to the field, scan the kids … and don’t see Noelle.

My heart starts to pound. I scan the kids again, though as one of only two girls on the team she’s kind of hard to miss, especially with the pink glove. She’s not there. I turn and start to walk across to the bleacher area, when a small figure wearing a large dark sweatshirt trudges slowly toward me.

It’s Noelle, looking very sad, and very tired, and wearing someone else’s adult sweatshirt.

Relief and fear surge through me. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “I was cold and I think I am having a blood sugar low. I looked for you and you weren’t here. Finn’s dad let me have his jacket,” she replies, her voice wobbling a bit and her eyes shiny. I pull out her test kit and sure enough, a 61 fills the screen. (Anything below 80 is low for her.)

The guilt courses through me. How could I have left my diabetic 7-year-old alone for even 10 minutes? I am a horrible mother, I am thinking as I feed her a roll of Smarties, give her her own jacket and watch her spring back to life five minutes later when the sugar from the candy hits her bloodstream. I give Finn’s dad his sweatshirt back and thank him, and then watch Noelle take some of her first swings of the spring – and her first coach-pitch swings.

She does great, and afterward, we meet up with my husband at our favorite local Mexican restaurant for my birthday dinner. Noelle and I both have virgin strawberry daiquiris to celebrate. I watch her laughing and eating and living and know deep down that no permanent damage had been done that evening.

Not to her, anyway. The guilt still stays with me, because I know that damage could have been done. One crazy afternoon, 10 lousy minutes.
Happy birthday to me.


Rebecca Dravis

Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.

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