I often wonder how Reenie Ann Mackler accomplished as much as she did, coming from a place like Agency, Missouri, where the last census recorded only 683 people, one of whom died the next day. (His death topped the Darwin awards that year.) I've watched her for years now through Facebook-posted pictures of her three beautiful and well-mannered children. Short pig-tails still on one while the other two, identical twins, sport chestnut brown hair down to their bums. And in the back of those photos? One exceptionally considerate, and very hot (I might add), husband. I've never met him in person, but you can tell from his posture--how he leans in to hug the girls or brushes their hair--that he's a keeper. Reenie won the lottery with him, lucky girl.
But Reenie also works full-time, in a position that takes up much of her days and evenings and weekends, and sometimes requires travel. One time last year, she flew to Indonesia for three weeks, posting her complaint on Facebook, over and over, that she didn't want to be away from her "babies" for so long. I remember mumbling to myself about her lament as I scrubbed at the cold oatmeal on my computer keyboard. Then don't go. If you don't want to be away from your babies, stay home with them. Quit your job. I know what Reenie would have said to me had I written that comment on Facebook. "We live in a very expensive part of the country. There's no way I can quit. And I didn't get my Ph.D. to stay at home." Reenie always was the sort to speak her mind.
It's the last part that gets to me the most. I didn't get my Ph.D. to stay at home, either, but I choose to do so. At least for much of my 168 hours of the week. And truthfully, I like it that way. Then, I don't have to complain about missing my babies or the fact that my child lost her first tooth at day care or how the kid in the next cot over has been a horrible influence on all three of my kids "since the time he walked into that place." Then again, I don't have three kids. I have four. Maybe that's the difference. Had I stopped with three wee beasts, maybe I'd be working full time, too.
I study her posts sometimes, wondering what she likes better: her kids or her job. She's just as likely to drone on about something her special snowflakes managed to do as she is to mention, over and over, that her Ph.D. has, once again, allowed her to such and such and such (insert award, or grant, or travel here). You see where I am? I don't even care anymore what that freakin' Ph.D. pulls out of the air for her or whether or not her children poop in the potty. Guess what? Mine do, too!
This morning, as I lurk once again on Facebook before the children awake, I take one more look at her profile picture, studying her face and eyes. What made her the way she is? Her life now is a far cry from what she knew back in high school, when Reenie and her boyfriend, Charlie, roamed the halls of St. Lucius High. As I tilt my head, trying to find the girl I knew, I can almost see her again: her dark stringy hair and eyes lined by black. How she clasps hands with Charlie Boxer, outcast extraordinaire.
Scenes tumble through my mind. The words come back in a jumble, not like the dialogue I write in my stories. "Charlie, you got a smoke?" Reenie says. "You know I do, babe." Her reply, "You ready then?" "You know I am, babe."
They'd lean in close then to one another, stick their tongues down each other's mouths, and swoop out the double doors of the school. Before those doors could close, spirals of wispy smoke drifted back into the hallway where I stood, yelling, "Don't forget
about the religion assignment!" I'd shake my head and walk away, knowing that by morning, Reenie'd be at my door, palm out, demanding a copy of that forgotten religion assignment. In exchange, she'd slip me a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, a treat I was forbidden to eat by my parents.
I still have copies of some of those assignments in my filing drawer, in the event one of my kids needs to discuss the questions that no one seems to know the answer to but everyone has an opinion on. My favorite essay answers the question, How can a group of fallible men elect a fallible man as their leader who then becomes infallible through the election? My answer to that essay even won an honorable mention at the state level the year I wrote it.
I haven't won anything else since then, but Reenie sure has. I think last week, she announced that her most current article was published by The Lancet. The Lancet! That's great news, I guess. And if I remember correctly, one of the girls is quite the artiste. Maybe one of her pictures will be featured in ARTNews someday. I'm sure I'll hear about it if it does.
I sip my once-again-cold coffee, ready to move onto writing a new blog post, when I spy something new on Reenie's timeline. I check the clock. Twelve noon here means that it is nine in the morning there. Isn't she at work? Isn't she supposed to be doing all that academic garbage she goes on about? Is she cutting out of a meeting? I check her last few posts, which have come in at various points throughout the night and day before. What the heck? When does Reenie Ann Mackler actually work?
And then, I check the actual post. Holy crap! She's complaining about a service she'd signed up for a while back. The service promises recipes and groceries (delivered to your door) so that you can cut out the pain and agony of planning and grocery shopping. Well. I sit back in my chair. Apparently there are some things Reenie can't get done now, aren't there. I feel a smile spread out across my face as I scan her posts, going back days, months, years. She not only pays someone to do her grocery shopping, she also has someone do her clothes shopping, laundry, cleaning, and school supply shopping. I bet she doesn't even compose her own posts; she's probably farmed that chore out to someone as well.
I watch as multiple people comment on what Reenie has to say, commiserating with her about how they'd tried the service and how the garlic hadn't been put in the box and so they had to do without the garlic and sub in garlic powder instead. Who doesn't have garlic in their fridge? Reenie, who must be on the computer at the time, writes back in a second. Maybe even less, going on again about how little luck she's had with the service lately. A second person jumps into the conversation and again, Reenie replies. This is it. My chance to find out if Reenie posts her own posts.
"Hey Reenie!" I pound the keyboard as quickly as I can. "Don't forget about that religion assignment!"
If it's Reenie, she'll know what to do and the reply will come back, lightening quick. My eyes flit away from the page for a moment as I hear a crash in the other room. I don't want to leave my perch so I crane my neck checking on three of the four kids. All seems okay...and it should be only a second. In that moment of looking at my kids, I miss the reply pop up.
It's a picture of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. My smile falters.
I'm not sure what I was hoping for. Not a single one of us can do it all. Reenie Ann Mackler has simply chosen to delegate duties she doesn't have time for. Or doesn't want to make the time for.
I close the lid of my computer, and stretch my arms above my head. Time to clean the house. I have plans for the kids to help. With four of them doing the dusting, I can sit back on the recliner and play the foreman, peanut butter cup in hand.
It must be said that this is not a true story. Reenie Ann Mackler does not exist. I never won an essay contest on that topic and I no longer eat peanut butter cups.