I was jolted awake to the plaintive strains of Incense and Peppermints. I lay still for a moment before I reached over and turned the volume up in time to hear that I had little to win and nothing to lose. I turned on my light and was greeted by Bobby Sherman sweating shirtless on my wall. The Monkees shared space with him and the other teen idols of the day. I walked over to my mirror and greeted the day’s new zits. I bared my teeth at my reflection and braces snarled back at me. Glancing over toward the window, I saw webs of frost on the inside of the pane which assured me of what I already knew: today would be another sub-zero day. The clouds outside sulked grayly in a low ceiling. The dee-jay announced the imminent arrival of yet more snow. I was fourteen years old, I didn’t want to go to school and my mood was now set for the day.
I was slowly working my way through my morning ablutions when my mother stuck her head in my room. “Good morning. Could you turn your radio down so it doesn’t wake up your sister?”
I sighed and rolled my eyes in the mortally wounded and exasperated manner that teenagers master so well. “Okay! Would you just quit nagging me and leave me alone so I can get ready?” I had found my first target of the day.
“Don’t you snap at me! Just do as I say and knock off the smart mouth!”
“Just leave me alone and I’ll do it!” I yelled.
My mother left, knowing it would be fruitless to try to discipline me in the mood I was in, unless she was willing to risk a major explosion before her first cup of coffee. I grudgingly nudged the volume control down a fraction of a hair and finished dressing. I brushed my hair back over my shoulder and slicked on a layer of white lipstick. From the next room, I heard my baby sister, Suzy, cry herself awake. I guiltily turned my radio down before looking for my shoes and books under my bed.
Downstairs, my guilt over waking the baby turned to satisfaction as I witnessed my mother trying to soothe Suzy’s screams while simultaneously making oatmeal for me and warming a bottle for the baby. I knew her juggling act was made even more difficult due to her lack of a wake-up cup of coffee. It was her fault anyhow. If she hadn’t nagged me about my radio, I never would have left it playing so loud and she wouldn’t have to be holding that screaming baby right now. Everything was her fault.
She put a bowl of oatmeal on the table for me. I glared at it. “I’d rather have that leftover cake for breakfast.”
“You’re not going to school with a piece of cake in your stomach. Eat your oatmeal.”
“I don’t like oatmeal anymore. I’m sick of it,” I whined.
“I really don’t care. Just eat it.”
“No, I won’t. I’m not the baby in the family anymore. You can’t just stick food in my mouth and make me eat it,” I snapped. The look on my mother’s face was enough to tell me that she was about to prove my last statement wrong. I knew enough to shut up and at least pick at the cereal.
Suzy continued her wailing until Mom finally poked the bottle into her mouth. She was about to sit down with her coffee when the sound of a horn in the driveway signaled the arrival of the carpool. Mom hurried to the door to wave to the driver so she would know she had been heard while I grabbed my books in one hand and my coat with the other. I headed for the door. “You stop right there and put that coat on, young lady,” my mother ordered.
“I don’t have time! My ride’s here!” I spat. I could feel the cold air from the open door working it’s way across the room.
“They’ll wait. Put your coat on!”
“I would have been ready by now if you’d let me skip that stupid oatmeal,” I snapped as I threw down my books and pulled my coat up over my arms. The driver honked impatiently.
“Zip that coat up,” my mother sighed.
“I don’t have time!” I screamed back. Suzy jerked in her playpen and started crying again.
“Don’t push me, now, young lady! Zip your coat and get out that door!”
I shot the zipper half way up, grabbed my books and headed out the door. Half way down the icy steps leading down from our front porch, I grabbed the rail and angrily turned back toward my mother. I knew the watchful eye of the carpool would keep me safe from any maternal backlash. She would never yell at me in front of others.
“You know, you just feel you have to control me every step of the way, don’t you? You don’t have any control over your own life, so you have to control everyone else’s” I knew a smug expression was adorning my face as I carefully picked my way down the icy steps and over the mounds of snow toward the waiting car. I grasped the cold door handle in my hand as I turned back for one last twist of the knife before making my grand exit. I really knew how to impress my friends.
“I’ll never make all of the mistakes you did! I’ll always have total control over my life!” With that, I roughly yanked the car door open, lost my footing and slid entirely under the car, all in one smooth, effortless motion.
As I lay staring up at the salt and slush covered underside of the car, I became aware of the peals of hysterical laughter coming from the inside of the vehicle above me. What was worse, I could even hear my mother guffawing from inside of the house. I felt snow from the driveway in my underwear, and I realized with horror that this was a good indication that my skirt was up around my waist and my pantyhose were ripped.
I slowly backed myself out from under the car while trying to pull my skirt down before I had to stand up. Everyone in the car was in hysterics. I sneaked a look toward the house and saw my mother nearly doubled over with laughter. She was holding her side with one hand and the door frame with the other, trying to keep herself upright as she received her reward for having to be my mother that morning.
I gathered my scattered schoolbooks and slid my wet behind into the backseat of the car. When the driver had calmed herself enough to handle the car again, she backed out of the driveway to take my thoroughly humiliated and chastened self, along with my still giggling friends, to school.
This, my mother contends, is absolute proof of the existence of God.