As long as I can remember, my mother has dismissed matters of concern with the words “It’s fate!” Meaning: don’t worry about things you can do nothing about (although saying those words has never saved her from sleepless nights).
Recently, my eldest son was sitting a test at a random location (not for COVID-19, but important all the same). I drove him there and had to wait in a supermarket car park for over two hours while he ticked boxes on a computer screen in a bland office block. The only influence I had on my son’s success was the hit of dark chocolate I gave him before he left the car.
Fate (and/or my son’s preparation and performance) would be the decider.
I remember every second of that 120 minute test as I stared out my stuffy sun-baked car at the wilful abandonment of trollies. I concentrated on the weather (warm), and I sought the words I would say should my son not do well.
A voice told me that there was nothing I could do, so stop stressing. I tried. I stepped out of my vehicle and walked across a car park littered with face masks – the now familiar flotsam of our human existence.
Inside the shop I went through the motions, and I pretended to be interested in some bulk-produced cheese. As I paid, I smiled extra hard at the cashier from behind my mask, crinkling my eyes to ensure my gratitude showed.
Back in my hot car, I squeezed gel on my hands and settled down with my book. But the steering wheel compromised my ability to turn the pages. I shifted and turned, and I checked the clock – still sixty minutes to go. Heck. I hoped my son was okay.
My mum’s voice echoed again, “It’s fate! Don’t worry!”
I tried not to.
I’ll spare you the details of the following hour: the minutiae of a supermarket car park, mid-afternoon, mid-way through the week. There are only so many people you can watch emptying the contents of their trollies into car boots and wonder what they’re eating for dinner.
With ten minutes to go, I stretched and found a better way to read. Leaning against my car door, comfortable at last, the story gathered a reassuring cadence. And I almost forgot about my son.
But then he appeared, and his face told me everything that I didn’t want to know. A snatch of a brave smile, the resigned hurt in his eyes. A glance to the left at nothing in particular.
The words I had rehearsed – sympathy mixed with what I hoped would be the right level of positivity – were gone.
“Oh no! Are you okay?” I screeched.
“Not great.” he replied, shaking his head.
“Oh no!” I repeated (this was not going well). “I’m sorry.“
“It’s okay.” he said. He paused, and then he delivered his score with a painful slowness.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he grinned. “I think I did okay.“
I pretended to hit him, then I hugged him. I uttered an expletive and a tear rolled down my eye.
Call it fate or what you will, allow yourself to worry or not. If something is out of your control, it is out of your control.
However, my money is on dark chocolate. It works every time. And even if it doesn’t, it still tastes good.
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