Saving Snails

June 11, 2009

in Conversations With Oliver

This rainy morning we are late for school (as usual) and practically sprinting the short walk to school. I don’t know how the time elapses exactly, but there seems to be a time-suck vortex I can neither see nor explain that only exists between the landing of our upper duplex and the front door downstairs. One minute it’s 8:23 AM and we’re getting our coats on, and I feel on time and in control, and ONE MINUTE LATER it is 8:41 AM and we’re barely on the front steps of our house. The boy’s school actually locks the doors at 8:45 AM, only to re-open for the late stragglers at 9:30 AM. One only needs to be late once or twice before one gets the drift that this rule is strictly enforced. Sucks as they often do, rules are rules. So we’re running.

If you could see or hear us on this walk each morning, you will note that a) we’re flying by in a whir and b) I am barking a litany of things like, “Let’s GO! Come ON! You have to RUN, my darling… Let’s GOOOO!” Rain or shine, this is how it is for us. The good news is, my son’s endurance is amazing, and he is the fastest kid his age I’ve ever seen. He’ll make a great distance-runner someday.

We are crossing the last quiet street before the school parking lot home-stretch… my watch says 8:43 AM and the second hand is on the six. Lord, we’ve got ninety seconds. Just then, the boy at my side is doubling back across the street, and crouching. I start shouting, being careful not to lose my shit in the street.

“What are you doing?! Are you crazy? You have to look for CARS, love! And we’re LATE! LET’S GOOOOOO!!!”

“But Mummy, wait!! Wait. I see… I think…”

I turn the stroller around and go back for him. He is plucking something off the road. It is a tiny garden snail.

“But, MUMMY! We NEED to help him cross the road or a car will totally squish him and you know, snails can’t move very fast even when they’re in a hurry like that… we can’t let the snail get squished. We HAFTA help him.” Far be it for me to get in the way of a little kid and his conscience… it’s nice to know his soul is intact.

My shoulders drop, defeated, and I look up at the raining sky, and I’m pretty sure I can hear the baby Jesus laughing at me.

“Okay, but hurry up and let’s go, okay? Now.”

“O-kaaaay.” He darts back across the street, and gently lays the creature in the grass. “He should be fine there, don’t you think?”

“Yes, yes… come on. Come ON! Run, Forest. RUN!!

We make short work of the rest of the route, baby giggling all the while, and find ourselves the last to arrive (again) but the door hasn’t shut just yet. We made it. We remembered all the daily provisions AND lunch for the day AND we saved a snail from certain death. The day is starting off pretty well I think, and it’s not even 9 AM. Victory is mine!

I reach into my pocket for a celebratory cigarette (‘coz I’m crap like that) and find it broken near the filter. It must have been crushed while putting the baby in the stroller or something. Balls. I tell myself I should quit this habit anyway, and dash my unsmoked smoke to the ground. And I think hear that giggling again…

Note: After lunch I collect my child from school, and as we pass the scene of the morning’s debacle, he turns to me, smiling, and says, “That was a good thing I did, saving that snail today, right mummy?” I hug him close and tell him he is an excellent boy. And I meant it with my whole heart. Sometimes I really love this little kid.

G.G.

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