On Monday night, we walked along a dark, small street that was sandwiched between the 10 freeway and the high school. I powered along holding Mina's hand. I called for Maya to stay close. I checked to make sure their jackets were zipped. We were behind the tennis courts and near a large, building-like trailer that was unhitched and read "Santa Monica High School Viking Band." I pointed out the baseball field, told Mina about the good tennis program. But I pulled them forward. We didn't lightly flitter around in our wondering and curious conversation like we normal would. I was aware of the darkness and the cold, the presumably empty street. We had a few more blocks to go. The girls didn't complain, but settled into my intentional grove. They stayed near and alert. We talked a bit, but they sensed I needed them to stay on task.
Forty minutes before, my car had been towed from a meter behind the Santa Monica library. I was so happy to have found a 2 hour meter open that I failed to see the tiny sign below reading that a restaurant valet would tow after 5pm. It was shocking to see my car gone, disappointing more especially when I had just told two people last week how it made no sense to drive in Santa Monica. But on the fly, after picking Mina up from an after-school reading program, I decided to drive to the library this time. It was cold. We had trumpets and heavy back packs. Why wait for the bus tonight? The blanket of disappointment was suffocating when I looked at my girls with backpacks on shoulders lit yellow by a street lamp. I am good (especially when I was younger) at hunkering down, alone, to solve things; muscle through anything that seemed like an obstacle. Alone, these things could roll off me and a mechanical-like track could take over where I simply do what had to be done. With the girls, I softened a bit knowing that I'd have to stretch and spread this hunkering over them; I'd have to pull them in tight and show them how to handle their shit. The thinking was over dramatic really, but it's the process I put myself through. They put their hands on my coat sleeve and said, "I'm sorry, Mami." And I shook off the disappointment and said, "Well, this kind of stuff happens, but we have to take care of it. We have to stick together and just knock it out, ok?" They nodded. They were ready. They knew not to be goofy or jokey.
Cars are so often towed from this spot that the valet had many slips of paper in his drawer where he had written the number to call to find the car. First we'd have to go to the police station about a mile away. We caught a bus traveling that way, and the driver, close to the end of his route, didn't charge us. The policeman at the counter took his time He called the back impound lot to see if my car was still there, "No?" he said, "By the way, that sandwich you brought me earlier was really good. Yea, fantastic," he said before he hung up and picked up my paperwork again. He then charged me a police pimp cut to release the car. Over $100. I didn't flinch or sigh. There's no use in that. As I waited for the release slip, I looked back at the girls. They had both retrieved a book from their backpacks and read quietly until I was done. The tow yard was another mile or so away, a straight shot behind the high school, over the 10 freeway overpass, past the Salvation Army and industrial buildings. The tow yard attendant told me through the intercom that there would be an extra fee for opening the gate after hours. "Yes," I said, "the police told me. Thank you." The gate clicked and rolled back to reveal a grave yard of cars and mopeds. A small Christmas tree stood on a box on the porch of the office, lit and lopsided. The man rang me up and we stood behind the chipped linoleum counter, the three of us with Mina just peeking over the counter and Maya standing erect, not moping or sighing either. I stared over the man's head looking at a collection of toy trucks displayed in a neat disarray on slanted shelves. I was calm and to the point. And these men that you sense could be rough and rude were soft and apologetic. I took the keys and we traipsed over to the car. I peeled a parking ticket -- on top of it all! -- from under the windshield wiper. Safe in car, my guard went down a bit as did the girls. They were new to the fact that hunkering down together pulls the strings closer. I let the high price tag of the night go. It would be fine because at least I had gotten a holiday bonus on Friday.
But about the bonus:
Friday, a holiday bonus from the job hit my bank account without announcement or forewarning. There is was. I only looked because Mitch my partner at work asked if I had noticed any money falling into my hands that morning. It was a good bonus. A validating one; one that made Mitch and I feel valued for all the hard work as of late. I have to say the bonus put a wind in my sails. All was well. I worked hard, my family is perfect, I had a little change in my pocket for the holidays.
Yesterday, Mitch asked me again if I had checked my bank account. Half of the bonus had been reversed, taken out of his account, he said. I said, "Shut up." But he said his account was now negative. I raced online and it was true. Half was gone, sucked back out on Monday. It turned out that it was an accidental double deposit. My Job had really only wanted us to have half of the amount that we thought was validating. I was light headed. All the air in my guts had let out. I wasn't angry. I was embarrassed that while that really nice bonus sat in my bank account for the entire weekend I felt I deserved it, that they understood what we were doing; that they recognized all the hard work. And that was not true. It ended up being the same bonus as last year. This year there's no party. And sales are up. I left the office for lunch, still feeling a little sick, and I noticed the sparkly new black Jaguar with no plates sitting in one of the owner's parking spots.
I let it go then. Seeing the Jag reminded me that I need nothing. I have everything. I need nothing more to make me feel more loved or complete. I have perfect girls who are sincere and honest and good people, my loving dogs, my favorite cat, my friends, and my Husband who immediately said to me after the half-bonus news, "I appreciate you and everything you do to make our family the best." This is all he said. It was all I needed.
So what is disappointment? There is none, really, is there? Feh, the car, the money. Who cares. The rent is paid, there's food in the fridge. Most presents are bought. I got a bike! (And I deflect that guilt!) The tree is lit, the fire goes on and all I have is the love that fills me and the love that surrounds me.