Valerie Ihsan

author, editor, dog lover

This is from my pre-gardening days, when I was homeschooling my little ones, who are now teenagers.

So I’m in my robe and hard-bottomed moccasins. It is late morning and I’m lounging with my mother-in-law losing Scrabble to her. She’s up from Roseburg visiting for a couple days. This is the only time we play word games -- when we are both together. The game closet spills out Scrabble, Boggle, Scattegories … any writing game.

Through the window I see a huge truck pull up in front of the house and a man with a clipboard and white beard down to his heart walk up to the door.

“I got some leaves here. You ordered some leaves to be delivered?” He points to his clipboard.

I am dumbstruck. Leaves? My roommate said something about cardboard and leaves a day or so ago. We’re going to kill our grass and plant food instead. Food Not Lawns.

I look at the clipboard and there’s Roomie’s name. Yep.

“Just dump it in the street, I guess.” I tell him. I mean the place that would be curb-side, if we had a curb.

“Oh no.” He shakes his head . “I can’t dump ‘em in the street! No ma’am.” He seems both appalled that I’d suggest such a thing and sorry that he can’t perform my request.

“Well the yard then. Just dump them on the grass.” I look up at him, wondering if there will be an impediment this time. “Can you do that?” I am worried now, wondering where else I could suggest he put them.

He stared at me for the briefest moment.

“I’d need ya to move your car.” He is solemn now, like I’m slow and he needs to spell it out to me.

Maybe in my pajamas, I do look slow.

“Ok, I’ll just tell her!” And I turn to run in the house, because -of course – it is my mother-in-law’s car, only he doesn’t know that.

In the house, I quickly explain to her and, as she’s moving especially slow to find her shoes, I offer to move her car for her. Remember, I’m still in my robe and slippers.

I’m driving up the street to turn around. I’ll just park in front of my house across the street. I pull into the neighbor’s driveway, brake, put it in reverse and … it goes forward.My face wrinkles in concentration. I know how to drive a stick shift.

I try again. Up all the way and left all the way. That’s what the diagram says. I apply the gas. Nope. Forward again. And now I am completely flummoxed.

Up all the way, left all the way. Gas. No. I shake my head. My eyebrows are closer together now, though this is not helping me get into reverse.

Up all the way, left all the way, gas, No. Up all the way, left all the way, gas, No.

I look towards my neighbor’s window. A woman is leaning over her kitchen sink, peering out the window, straight into my mother-in-law’s bright yellow hatch-back.

Up all the way, left all the way, gas, Shit!

I chuckle to myself, in a sort of self-preserving way. This really must look entirely inappropriate.

“What is this woman in her pajamas doing in my driveway, revving her car?”

There is nothing for it. I must run home and ask Anna how she puts her car in reverse.

I leave the hazard lights on, hoping this will send telepathic messages to the neighbor that I am not permanently parking my car there and will be back soon.

I trot across the street in my blue fuzzy robe and slippers, laughing, hoping not too many people are looking.

I burst in the door.

“How do you put your car in reverse?!”

“Oh,” Anna says. “There’s a ring on the stick shift. You just pull it up while you shift.” She demonstrates with, under other circumstances, and with other people in the room, a gesture that might possibly be considered suggestive.

I trot back.

Now my neighbor is hovering out her front door.

“Do you need any help?” she says, in quite the same way the man with the leaves was speaking to me.

I almost laugh when I have to say,

“No. Thank you. I just didn’t know how to put the car in reverse. I’ve got it now!” And I scuttle inside to hide my blue robe. Just in case she didn’t see it through the windshield, or when I ran home, or when I ran back to her front yard.

I maneuver through the five car traffic jam caused by the leaf man’s truck in front of my house, successfully putting Anna’s car into reverse two more times. Walking to my door, I pretend the leaf man and the high-schooler’s walking to school don’t see my blue robe and I try to remember if I’ve brushed my teeth yet that morning.

Though why freshly brushed teeth would make my robe less conspicuous to the pedestrians walking down the street, I don’t know.

I hand Anna her keys and tell her a condensed version of my antics, panting from the trotting I’ve done and the laughing at myself.

“Did you lock the car?”

My mouth stops in mid-word and flaps open.

I hold my hand back out for her keys and go to expose my robe to the leaf man one more time.

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Find more articles on my archived blog, Dust Yourself Off (also known as Insane Parents Unite!).

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