I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my Honda Odyssey minivan, with my feet up on the dashboard. I’m parked in front of the theater in the east side of town, where my 11-year-old daughter has her acting class every Thursday evening from 6 – 8:30 p.m. It takes us about an hour to get there because it’s rush hour, so my daughter took her laptop with her to work on a “book” she’s writing while we’re driving. Now I’m using it while I wait for her to be done. I was reading a book earlier, but it got too dark to read. Since it’ll be late when she gets out, we’ll stop by a McDonalds so she can eat something warm on the way home, to save time. Then, when we get home, she just has to brush teeth, call Daddy, and hopefully she won’t get to bed more than 90 minutes later than usual.
This is pretty much our life. The kids doing homework on the way to and from places, and me doing things while I’m waiting for them. Home is where the laundry is. Sometimes I think we should just get a motorhome and save the mortgage money. I read books in the car; I read the New York Times online on my smartphone in the car; I check my email and Facebook posts in the car–also on my phone, and I catch up with my husband on the phone while I’m driving.
It starts at 6:55 a.m. We leave home that early because my daughter has language therapy from 7:15 – 8:15, twenty minutes away, luckily in the direction of my son’s school. So we drop my daughter off at 7:15, and since the constant chatter has then left the car, and in the winter it has by then become light enough, my son can focus on the latest book he’s reading for World Lit. We get to his school almost an hour before classes start and about fifteen minutes before he can go in, so we sit in the car, either both reading, or talking, until he gets down around 7:50. Then I turn around and go back to the language therapist, listening to National Public Radio on the way. I arrive fifteen minutes early, so I continue to read or check my email and Facebook posts. Sometimes I post something from my phone. When my daughter comes out, we drive back home, where her school day starts.
On Mondays my son has math tutoring twenty minutes away from school, at 5 p.m. So I pick him up around 4:30, we stop at a convenience store on the way for a snack, and then I drop him off. I usually go to the shopping center nearby and park in front of the Barnes and Noble and read. I suppose I could also read in front of a hairdresser, but reading in front of a Barnes and Noble feels more appropriate. At 6 p.m. I pick my son up, and we make our way home in rush hour traffic. He reads or does homework on the way.
My son has basketball after school once a week, but luckily it’s with school, so they provide the transportation to and from the gym where they practice. But it does mean I pick him up around 5:30, which means rush hour traffic again. It can easily take an hour to get home. And my daughter has soccer practice in a small town fifteen minutes to the west, so in the opposite direction. We always keep or fingers crossed when the scheduling for the sports practices and acting are planned at the beginning of each semester, because if they’re ever at the same time, tough choices will have to be made and they’ll be scarred for life. “…and remember that time when he got to go to basketball, but I couldn’t go to soccer? That’s proof that you love him more…”
Oh boy. Sometimes I think what our life would look like in Holland. The kids would cycle to school, or take public transportation. They would cycle to any therapy, tutoring, sports practice, or acting class themselves. All I would do is greet them when they come home from school, ask the how their day was, give them a snack from my very own fridge, remind them of the stuff they have to take with them to their various after-school activities, and kiss them goodbye. I’d have dinner ready for them when they came home. Or they could have a key by this age, and I could have a job. And I’d still be 125 pounds, because I, too, would be cycling, walking, and taking public transportation everywhere I needed to go.
It’s partly because it’s such a darn big country. We live in a mid-sized town in America, and sometimes I forget that to Dutch standards that’s huge. Imagine having to go from the outskirts of Amsterdam in one direction, to the outskirts on the other side, just to go to an after-school activity. But here we think nothing of it. Distances are all relative. My husband has to drive almost 300 miles from our home to the town where he has his business and then back again. In relation to the size of the country, it would be the equivalent of living in Amersfoort and working in Amsterdam, or Apeldoorn, or Arnhem. An hour traveling tops, in a comfy train, with a nice cup of coffee. He could be home every evening, like everybody else. In any case, I now totally get the American love of cupholders in cars. Now if only they also had a little microwave, a mini-fridge, curtains and completely reclining seats…