"Hi Donna! Jack, here! I got a call from that lineage organization....They told me I was approved, but some of their paperwork got lost. You wouldn't happen to have all those documents would you?"
"Of course!" I told my current client whom I absolutely adore. He is down-to-earth and funny and really interested in his roots. I had spoken with him earlier in the week at which time he told me he had three referrals for me.
I glanced to the backseat as my five-year-old and I were waiting, impatiently, penned in at his elementary school, behind a car with no driver.
"MAH-AH-UM......." My son whined. "WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG? Let's get out of here."
I had just been inside for his 100th day of school celebration, videotaping him as he rounded the corner with a huge grin, waving, excitedly, to......his soccer coach. He didn't give me the time of day.
I should not have answered my phone. Putting my finger to my lips, I was begging my son to be quiet.
Somewhere along the way, probably in the pro-feminist 1970's when I was a five-year-old myself, it was ingrained in me by my mom and my maternal grandmother that it's pretty damn hard to come off as a professional businesswoman when your kids aren't cooperating.
Karma was coming full circle. My Kindergartner was jumping from seat to seat, rolling down all the windows of the vehicle, and whining loudly. He began pulling my hair as fire shot from my eyes.
A small voice in my head from my 1930's college graduate grandmother said, don't, under any circumstances, let your boss, man or woman, know that your kids may in any way affect the quality of your work.
As I tried to focus, I felt more and more like an idiot.
Instead of getting off the call quickly, I opened my big mouth.
"I have exciting news!" I told him. "Your third great-grandmother, Lucinda, wait a minute, I can't think of her last name....."
He tried to help out since Lucinda was a name used very frequently in his family tree. "Jackson, Martin....?"
"No.......Oh yeah, Wharton! Lucinda Wharton!" I told him as my son was about to have a melt down and my stomach was in knots. "She was represented by Colonel Travis, you know, William B. Travis, from the Alamo?" Oh my God, I sound like a third grader. Of course he knew who Colonel Travis was!
My son seemed to be falling asleep! I was hoping he would drop into a deep slumber and I could try to salvage this disaster of a conversation. Then, maybe I could come across like a smart, knowledgeable, human being on the short drive over to the intermediate school to pick up my daughter.
No such luck.
"It's HAHT in here!" My son whined.
"There's a book." I said into my cellphone, trying to ignore what, in my mind, was something akin to the Titanic sinking.
"At Wayland University about Lucinda's dad. It's no longer in print, so I will drive to Waco to the library there."
"I didn't think Colonel Travis was at Stephen Austin's settlement." He told me.
"Yes, the story is that Travis left.....Tennessee...." I felt like I was going to throw up. I am a walking Texas history buff. What the hell is wrong with me! "Not, Tennessee, ALABAMA! I get all those Alamo guys mixed up." Holy shit! What did I just say?"
Then, to make matters worse, I realized I misspoke earlier. "Did I say, Wayland University earlier? I meant Baylor University." I told him, with teeth clenched, as my son turned up the radio full blast.
I gave in. My three foot, I don't know how many inches, tow-headed, dirty from the school playground, innocent, not a clue in the world that he sucks the ever living life out of me broke me down into tiny, mind exploding pieces.
So, I broke my grandmother's cardinal rule.
"I'm picking up my son from school." I said flatly.
"You just keep at it!" Jack told me, not missing a beat.
He was a saint.
That was yesterday. I had breakfast with my oldest sister this morning. She's turning forty-six tomorrow and as I handed over her birthday gift, I asked,"How did you ever do it when Carter was little?" She seemed to be in perfect shape, mentally and physically, now that Carter is in college. I told her about my struggle between Ms. and Mrs. and she laughed.
Just like my maternal grandmother used to be, my sister always seems so strong, confident, and professional.
I said, "I hate to tell you this, but there's a time in your life that kind of keeps me going. Carter was a baby and you and I were talking on the phone. I was pre-kids, corporate career rocking, climbing the ladder, about to break the glass ceiling.......false sense of knowing it all. You were in the throes of motherhood and you left your purse in a shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot. At the time, I thought how hard it must be to be a mother. Now, as a mother myself, I realize that you, somehow, survived."
She laughed again and had no magic answer, but like any good big sister her words were the perfect mix of soothing, funny, and helpful.
Pro-Feminist 1970's my sisters and I were told we could have it all. The reality is that sometimes certain things have to give and maintaining a perfect balance, some days, just isn't possible. The choices aren't any easier now than they were back then, but progress is still being made.
For me, I think there will always be that fear of a male chauvinist man or back stabbing woman who want nothing more than to see someone fail. However, it's the strength of good women who came before, who had so much more to lose and very little to gain, that keep me keeping on. To all of them, I'm forever grateful.