Right now, the sky is very blue, and the trees are blooming with pink, yellow, purple flowers. It’s still only 44 degrees outside, but it’s beautiful. I was happy to have a respite from what we’ve been dealing with during the past week here in the Boston area, to take an hour (or so) for a walk through the hills in town. Despite living here for almost 10 years, I got lost. I saw parks I’d never seen, and streets I’d never heard of. Then I saw them again, because those streets were all called “Circle” or “Crescent” or something else that meant “you are walking in circles.”
A week ago today, I had scrambled to meet the latest in a string of intense and nearly humanly impossible deadlines for work, and got in the car at 11 a.m. to pick Emma up from a race. She didn’t row in that race, so she was able to leave early. She got in the car and promptly fell asleep while I drove us to Western Mass., to the first in a string of college tours.
I felt bad leaving Jules behind. We invited her, of course, but she really didn’t want to come. She’d done one college tour with us, and said it was just so boring, it made her feel snarky about the school, and she LIKES the school (Wesleyan), so she doesn’t want to feel snarky about it, and she thinks doing college tours when she’s a Freshman will be detrimental to her own process, when she’s ready. Seemed reasonable, and David was staying home, so she did, too.
However, for the 10 days prior to this trip, Jules had been at home alone a LOT. Because 10 days before, she got beaned in the head by a softball. That was awesome. She called me after softball practice and complained that she had to just SIT there the whole time, because her coaches “freaked out,” and asked her all kinds of questions (what’s your name? what’s your address? what year is it? who’s the president?), and made her go to the trainer to get some ice. She said she felt fine. She seemed fine, although she had a bump on her head.
But then, mid-day on Thursday, she called me to say she felt dizzy and nauseous and couldn’t focus in class.
Then I had a freak-out. A working-parent freak out. It was 11:30, my kid obviously had a concussion, and I had a major filing deadline and a court hearing. I called David, but I couldn’t reach him. I called the doctor, and they said, “she shouldn’t be home alone, if her symptoms continue to escalate, she could slip into a coma.” So I promptly closed my office door, sat at my desk, and started to cry.* David called me back, he left work, he took Jules to the doctor, and hung out with her for the rest of the day, and the next day as well. And I met my deadlines. Over the following week, she was able to escalate her activity, and by the time I left on Sunday with Emma, Jules was back to 100%.
So – Emma and I got on the road. We did one college tour (Amherst College) that afternoon, and drove through 2 other campuses – UMass Amherst and Smith College. Then we went to my parents’ house, and had steak and baked potatoes and broccoli, and Emma made cookies, and I drank my father’s wine.
Monday a.m., my mom made Emma and I breakfast, and we got back on the road. First, a morning tour and info session at NYU. Then, in the afternoon, a tour and info session at Barnard College.
And that’s where we were — on the lawn at Barnard College, standing right outside the library, listening to our tour guide talk about her creative writing class, when my phone vibrated. I took a peek, and it was an NBC news alert. “Reports of Explosions at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.”
There was quite a moment of disconnect. I get news alerts all the time. Shooting in Colorado, shooting in Newtown (the town next to where I grew up in CT, by the way), earthquakes, actor deaths. Always somewhere else. This time it was “somewhere else,” but “somewhere else” was home. [not to say that Newtown didn't have that kind of feeling, too. It did, but still different.] My brain made some very obvious “clicks.” Like I could feel them. Boston. Home. Juliette. David. I texted J immediately “you okay?” She texted back “yes, I’m at home” and then instantly called me. I pulled myself away from the tour to talk to her, and she was a little shaken up because (a) 2 bombs went off 3 miles away from our house, and (b) if her day had gone as she initially planned it, she would have been a block away from the explosions - shopping on Newbury Street. If she had been on Newbury Street, she wouldn’t have been injured, but she would have been in the midst of the chaos, and I think it would have been horrible for her.
I had determined not to tell Emma until after the Barnard tour/info session, so she could focus. But then I blurted it out anyway. It was a struggle for both of us to listen to the virtues of Columbia’s sister school, and we bickered during the info session when I made her put her phone away. 10 minutes later, though, a woman yelped and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there was a bombing Boston, and I need to leave!” She ran out to call her family.
Emma and I had intended to stay in New York for a couple of hours after the tour, but we were in no frame of mind to wander the city. We got back in the car and drove to my parents’ house, listening to the news the whole way, where we could watch the news, and try to piece together what was going on. It was so surreal, and so horrible.
Nevertheless, we were able to focus on Tuesday’s 2 tours/college visits, and were very happy when we got home to be with David and Juliette, and to be back home. Funny how despite the horror and pain that was taking place at home, we both wished we were there. You’d think we’d be relieved to be out of town, but we were not.
When i got back to work on Wednesday, it was to continued pressure of deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Things are so busy in our firm right now, and the vast majority of the 30+ lawyers are working at break-neck speed. I’m personally not happy with this pace. I like to be busy. I like deadlines. But this has been all-out for over a month. It’s not ok.
I thought I’d have everything under control in time for the weekend, though. My Friday would be busy, and possibly long, but I’d be able to go to Emma’s regatta on Saturday, and I was thinking maybe – just maybe – I could take Sunday off, too.
On Thursday night, David had to work late. He is managing a campus book store at a nearby college, and they were having a 7 p.m. event. He left work at 9:15. but then something happened, and he thought he was going to have to go back. In the end, he did not. I was exhausted, and knew I had a long day in front of me on Friday, so at 10:30, I went to bed.
At 4 a.m., I woke up to pee. I looked at my phone and saw 2 seemingly disconnected items (gotta love these NBC alerts): (1) a campus police officer was shot, a mere HOUR after David left the exact address where it happened, and (2) there were gun shots in another town – the one where we go to Target. “Weird” I thought, and went back to sleep.
At 5:30, my alarm went off, and then another NBC alert came through: The T was shut down. Then the pieces all came together – everything was related, and the world was GOING INSANE!!! I woke David up, and we were trying to figure it all out – first the big picture, and then how it would impact our days – with sirens going off in the background, with new reports of police activity taking place at one of the neighborhoods that borders our town and Boston, and where I almost NEED to drive, bike, walk, commute through to get to work. It was feeling very close to home.
How could this be real life?
And I had panic over the fact that one of the deadlines I was dealing with that day was some initial appeal filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. While federal and state courts in Boston were closing as quickly as the T and the cabs and the businesses, the court I was dealing with is in Philadelphia, and is known to be rather unforgiving when it comes to deadlines. I was thinking that I would have to drive to work, since I couldn’t take the T. At that point, my town was not on the list of areas being told to stay inside. My firm had sent out a robo-call saying that while the office was open, everyone in the areas being told to stay inside should NOT come in, and anyone who takes the T to work was excused for the day.
Then my town was added to the list.
Our managing partner sent an email saying he really wanted everyone home. Please let him know if you have critical deadlines. I had to write back with a pretty lengthy email with my 3 critical deadlines. While I was drafting it, my assistant called my cell, equally stressed about the Third Circuit filings. Two of the partners (the managing partner and the partner who’s on the appeal with me) wrote me to say “call the third circuit, they’ll give you an extension.” Then a client called me to say “I know things are crazy there, and you might not be able to get to work today, but what about meeeeeeeeeee?” I gave him the finger while talking to him as if I gave a shit.
The Third Circuit gave me the extension without batting an eye. Then they told me that if I’d missed the deadline without calling, the result would have been a letter, along with an extra 2 weeks to get my act together. Huh.
I worked some for selfish-client yesterday, and again today – but it seems like Friday’s shut-down otherwise took place without the world ending. I was a little frustrated that we were included in the lock-down zone, because we weren’t THAT close, but then I just reminded myself that they found a BOMB near a T Station that I go through twice a day. And that’s why we were in the zone. I thought it was possible that they were keeping us in our houses while they were sweeping the larger area for more bombs. So I got over my frustration, and took a nap.
At 5:30, though, after a full day of constantly fluctuating news reports and stir-crazy teens, I said, “I’m going for a walk.” David came, and we slowly strolled around the block. We live about 2 blocks from the T tracks, and as we were walking toward it, David said, “it’s so weird not to have the train going by” – and then the train went by. We were surprised, and I guessed they were staging to resume service.
We ran into a couple of dog-walking neighbors (one of which is married to a Cambridge Police Officer, and he was – at that moment – at the apartment where one of the bombers allegedly lived, and where they kept saying they’d be doing a “controlled explosion” – but never did), and another friend saw us out the window and came out to say hi. While we were chatting with them, we could sense activity picking up; a bus went by, a pair of teens walked by, more people were on the sidewalks. Then David got a text from work saying they’d be open on Saturday, and we knew the lock-down had been lifted.
It was kind of disappointing that we’d spent the day inside and the 2nd suspect still wasn’t caught. But it was also nice to be able to leave the house. A friend texted and invited us over for dinner, and we instantly accepted – happy to be with others, and happy to be out of the house – during this trying time.
And then – more news. They found that boat, and there were gunshots, and I texted my friend to say “but I can’t leave the TV!” She responded with “oh, please, it takes 5 minutes to get here! Come watch with us!”
So we did. We cooked together, and chatted, and nibbled first while the suspect was captured, and then while we watched Across the Universe (awesome movie) with the kids.
My hope is that this week, things start being calmer. On all fronts.
* Crying at work. A working woman’s scarlet letter. My tears are often family-related, not work-related. I think the last time was when David was the one to take Jules to get her braces off. I wanted to do it.