School zones stress me out. I am not sure of how to behave when dropping off my children. I’m used to more of a free-for-all, of cars jostling one another over mere inches of space, of people turning off their engines and leaving their cars in the middle of the street while behind them, everyone else leans on their horns in frustration. In this environment, I knew that there was basically no possibility I would stress out those around me by my risk-taking. I knew I was the uptight one. But this orderly, patient, and above all quiet procession of mini vans and SUVs through a wide loop that passes in front of the school doors unnerves me. It moves slowly, so I avoid it and pull to the side of the street to drop off the twins. A woman parked behind me shoots me a glance, a hint of shock and wonder in it, and I wonder what I’m doing wrong. I run through possibilities in my mind and come up blank.

I know I look normal to those around me. A mother, unshowered and in yoga pants (Elliot has to be there by 7:30; I’m more put together when I take the twins by 9), driving a mini van that you can’t tell is borrowed. No one gives me a second look. If I were to open my window and ask a question of the man in the bright yellow reflective vest, who is gesturing impatiently at me to keep moving while I carefully obey the stop sign, he wouldn’t blink twice. I look American. I sound American.

When I go into the schools and talk to the people in the office, I feel the same way. Lost, adrift at sea, in the fog. I tell them we’re new, but they don’t know how new.

I saw a sign in the window of a trendy upscale shop the other day: Do something that scares you every day. I thought it was one of the stupidest bits of advice I’d ever seen, come in with by someone in a cozy office who probably drives a new car with new tires and has insurance for every possible outcome. Things scare you for a good reason probably, unless you’re unusually timid. And the reason these school zones stress me out is because there are a ton of laws associated with them, and also I don’t want to be known at the school as Crazy Driver Woman. Or, this being Oregon, probably something less family friendly but expressing the same idea. I’m fine with going 20 (20ish) when the yellow lights are flashing and not passing school busses when stopped, but I don’t know if I can just pull up into the bus zone to drop off my kids, briefly, me not leaving the car or turning off my engine, or if I’m supposed to wait behind the car with the slower kids hunting for dropped papers even though Elliot is already inside the school, and I would pass on the non-kid side.

Maybe I’m scared of their looks. Maybe I shouldn’t be. But I just want to fit in. I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed in Target. (I mean, who feels overwhelmed in Target?) I’m tired of feeling so strange and out of place when I look so right.

Once we move into our house, they’re going to take the bus.

***

Yesterday a friend dropped by unexpectedly and took me out for lunch. We discussed in the car where we were going–sandwiches, Mexican, Indian buffet, which? We chose Thai food—spring rolls, panang curry. Afterwards we had iced coffees at Starbucks and wandered round a store when they had a plethora of fabric shower curtains on sale. If I could remember what my new bathrooms look like (we looked at a lot of houses in a few days), I would have bought one. I hunted all over Rabat—I believe I visited every single store there that sold shower curtains, before finally finding one in plain white. The shop keepers obviously thought I was fussy because I categorically refused even a hint of neon pink and green flowers, ducks, or navy blue and gold stripes. Fabric curtains weren’t even an option, and I bought the store model, literally the only plain white one in the city.

Sometimes choice is nice.

What do you do that scares you? Drive without insurance? Forget to pay your bills, just this month only? Walk into your kids’ school wearing the completely-inappropriate Marie Antoinette costume I saw advertised for Halloween? Or do you think the shop was talking about buying a pair of red boots instead of black? And are red boots even scary? Discuss in comments.

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