My mom’s carpool day was Thursday. Plagued by a lifetime of anxiety that manifested itself most pervasively in her phobia of being late, she would arrive at school no later than 2:30 pm, a generous cushion before our 3:30 dismissal time. She would sit in the car, waiting for us to emerge, soothed by that extra time.
Some Thursdays she was too tired to pick us up, which happened with increasing frequency as time went on. On those days, she would send a taxi to take us home, four of us kids squeezing into the backseat of a Crown Victoria or Honda Accord. I remember feeling a vague sense of shame as everyone else was greeted by moms, regular carpool moms with exercise clothes or work clothes or any clothes at all. Moms who weren’t too tired to do carpool.
The cab would drop me off last and I’d slip into the house quietly, not to wake her; the Rosie O’Donnell Show kept me company while I waited for my dad to come home from work and tried to erase the scent of taxi-cab air freshener from my nose.
When my mom wasn’t too tired to pick us up, though, she brought snacks. Not just any snacks; she knew each child’s favorite and made sure to have it every Thursday. A sweet blond boy named Jonathan loved Hostess salt and vinegar chips; they came in a shiny yellow bag. If they didn’t have the right brand, she would go to a different store to find them for him. She did the same for all the kids in the carpool. I have vivid memories of the smug knowledge and pride: maybe she didn’t always show up, but when she did, she brought the best snacks.
The weird part is this. I know she brought me my own special treat. She did it for everyone. But I can’t, for the life of me, remember what mine was.