Last week, I was on swing shift for the first time which made for very long days and a very long week. My boss was headed to Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia on a work trip Wednesday which meant I ended up working late Monday and Tuesday nights and had to come in early on Wednesday to get him out the door and on the plane on time and fully prepared.
When I walked the boys to the bus stop Monday morning, I told them I would be home just as they were in bed falling asleep—in time to tuck them in and say goodnight. I knew before I even started the job that the swing shift was the wild card shift. I had been told that opening shift pretty much always got out on time at 2:00, and that though closing shift went until the last person was in the office or all the work was done—which is a very fluid finishing line—it never started before 1:00. Swing shift gets to leave “when the closing person is in a pretty good place”—which is incredibly subjective. Moreover, at the beginning of the week, there was a lot of work to do. I guess I should have known all this before the boys got on the bus Monday morning, but I didn’t realize just how much there would be to do to get my boss ready for his trip. I would just miss bedtime Monday night, and not even come close Tuesday night…not leaving work until 9:00, it was close to 10 by the time I walked in the door.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Clementine took a nap Monday after school, so at least she was still up when I got home. I slid onto the couch next to Elise—work clothes on—and pulled Clementine into my lap. Twice last week, Clementine asked about our old houses. Monday night she asked to hear about our old house in Brazil—the pool, the backyard, the fruit trees…lime…mango..and jabuticaba, the garden, and the churrasco. Thursday night she asked to hear about our apartment in Ballston, not a place that initially brings with it a lot of happy memories, but it’s become some a transformative, seminal chapter in our journey it’s become difficult not to think fondly of it while at the same time understanding what a difficult transition we experienced there. I told her about the neighborhood, the loud street grates, the sirens, how I would walk to work, then pause a block away to look back up to see if I could spy my family waving from the 18th story window, the construction site, Peter crawling and squealing down the hall trying to escape the apartment.
The rain has yet to stop. Though we got a brief respite yesterday—Mother’s Day. Neither of the boys had soccer practice this week, and all their games this past weekend were cancelled. But they need soccer badly. Like an addict needs crack. They are experiencing acute withdrawals, basically just beating up and wrestling with each other which no one seems yet to recognize unerringly, without fail, always results in someone getting hurt or crying. We went for a six mile bike/run yesterday (I ran three miles, while Sam and Elise, pulling the trailer with Peter and Clem in it, followed, then we traded places), and the wind in their hair for an hour or so seemed to sufficiently siphon the ennui from their systems. Mandatory naps helped, too. By dinner, a Mother’s Day treat at our favorite, within-walking-distance Indian restaurant, all were calm enough to fill their bellies with rice, butter chicken, and naan. Pete has been clamoring for Indian food, licking his plate (literally!) clean when Elise has made steak rogan josh and shrimp masala.
The good news is I only have swing shift every third week, about once a month. As someone once said, you can pretty much put up with anything for a year. Knowing this job is finite helps. I look at my fellow passengers on the Metro (now staring into the face of a year of gradual track closures) and can feel sorry for them knowing they have known or will know nothing else. For the most part, this is their lot in life.