41: Can’t See the Forest for the Keys

41: Can’t See the Forest for the Keys

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Can’t See the Forest for the Keys

The existence of forgetting has never been proved: We only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them.

~Friedrich Nietzsche

The Lost Keys Curse came upon me at the same time as motherhood. When it struck, I was basking in the glow of my eighth month of pregnancy, sorting through names for my soon-to-be-born son. It was one of those mornings when the weight of the watermelon-sized bump in my middle had me feeling a bit sluggish. I’d gotten up late for work and was rushing around — as much as you can with an eight-pound baby boy practicing karate in your womb. I was ready to leave, purse in hand, when the urge pounced upon me — as it had about ten times in the past hour — to pee. I dropped my keys on the table in the hallway, made a quick bathroom stop, headed out with my purse and pulled the door closed behind me on my way out. No sooner had the door clicked than I realized what I had done. Peering through the sidelight, I could see them in plain sight. My keys were sitting on the table.

I did not panic because I, the brilliant and organized woman who had thought through all possible pregnancy-brain scenarios, had a spare key. I probably got the idea from one of those Paranoid New Mom books and I had hidden a key around back. I trudged through the shrubs in my one-size-larger-than-I-usually-wear-but-my-feet-are-so-swollen shoes and felt the underside of the deck. It took a pregnant woman’s version of downward-facing dog to grab it, but I eventually nabbed it and went back in the house. My bladder situation being what it was, I figured I’d better make one more trip before heading off for my twenty-minute commute. So I used the bathroom, headed to the garage, locked the door behind me and… left the spare key on the table next to my other keys!

When I admitted to the dispatcher that I was almost in my ninth month, she sent a very amused locksmith to the house right away. He didn’t know it yet, but he and I were going to become very good friends.

Certain that pregnancy had permanently altered my short-term memory, I gave spare keys to everyone I thought might be able to rescue me if I managed to double lock myself out again. Even so, I learned how to appropriately tip the AAA guy who jimmied the car door open for me from time to time.

Fortunately, the Lost Keys Curse lost its mojo over time. The space between incidents gradually lengthened until it seemed that the curse might be broken. Each day, I was beginning to feel more like that brilliant and organized young woman who hid a key under the deck so many years ago.

Though the foggy New Mom Brain was a thing of the past, I began to face a new challenge in Motherhood Stage Two: The Attack of the Killer Schedule. One kid at soccer, another needing a ride to a friend’s house, volleyball at 6:00, the roast in the Crock-Pot, my dad’s doctor’s appointment, rounding up volunteers for the class owl pellet dissection, and squeezing in a haircut. Over time, I’ve learned to handle it with the skill of a circus fire-torch juggler — unless I’m distracted.

And kids’ illnesses can be pretty distracting. One fateful day, I had one child waiting to be picked up from kindergarten, one at home recovering from the flu, and I was on the way home from the pediatrician with child number three and a second flu diagnosis. Would I make it to kindergarten pickup on time? Is it okay to leave a still-sick middle-schooler at home alone watching TV? How were we going to make up all the missed homework? I stopped at the corner store to pick up some chicken soup for my newly diagnosed daughter. As I headed back to the car, I felt in my purse for the keys but they were not there. How could this be? I used the keys to get to the store, didn’t I? I searched my purse, the car, every aisle and checkout lane in the store. My feverish little one was in the back seat slumped against the window. I couldn’t call my dad for a rescue — I certainly didn’t want him getting the flu. Could I wait an hour for the AAA guy? Would we have to walk home?

It was all just too much in that moment, and I started to cry. My poor, sick daughter tried to comfort me. “Just relax, Mom, and take a deep breath,” she said. “If you slow down and say a prayer, maybe you will find them.”

Good advice for lost keys — and much, much more.

After a few moments of meditation, I decided that they had to be in the car. I had undoubtedly dropped them in my purse on the way into the store. Another thorough search turned up nothing. So I shook my purse and heard the faintest jingle. As I scrounged around in there, I noticed that my sunglasses case had taken on an odd shape. I opened it, and there they were. Smiling at me, it seemed. I suppose I had the case open in my purse, and when I dropped the keys in, that’s where they landed. When I had slung my purse over my shoulder, the motion must have closed the case back up.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so worried about the flu. My daughter would get better in a few days. Missing after-school activities were not a big deal. And homework would wait until everyone was feeling better. The Lost Keys Curse was not some mystical curse of motherhood. It was my own doing, and I vowed to undo it. Clearing my schedule — and my mental to-do list — would give me the space to pay more attention to life’s little things. And to where I put my keys.

~BJ Marshall

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