2017-09-08 / Society

Let’s worry about tonight’s homework tonight

By Tammy Davis

I remember my first day of seventh grade like it was yesterday. I came home from school and announced I was certain I was going to fail seventh grade math. I flipped to the back of the book—the final review—and said, “Look at this! My math teacher is crazy! I don’t know how to do ANY of this stuff.”

My mother, in her quiet, wise way, turned the book back to chapter one—lesson one. She calmly said, “Can you do this?”

“Of course,” I answered. “That’s easy. No problem.”

“What’s tonight’s homework?” she asked.

“That,” I said, pointing to page one.

“Let’s just worry about tonight’s homework tonight,” she said in a way a woman who had raised three girls would say.

“But….”

I was about to go on and on, and she cut me off. “Let’s worry about tonight’s homework tonight.”

She walked out of the room and left me to do the homework I could easily do alone. I’m sure she was thankful I was the last child she would have to get through seventh grade math.

I think about that line often. Let’s worry about tonight’s homework tonight. The older I get the more that line seems to apply.

Just worry about tonight’s homework tonight.

It’s been almost two years since my daughter and I lived through Columbia’s Big Flood. We are settled and situated now. Most days I would tell you we’re fine. But when I started seeing the news from the flood in Texas for the first time, I was reminded how tough a time that was for so many in Columbia, myself and my daughter included.

Two years ago, Columbia residents experienced what the people in Texas are going through now. It’s tempting to try to think 100 steps down the road when your life is turned upside down, but in times of crises you are forced to be in the moment. During that hard time, I had to bring myself back to that day, sometimes that hour. I know the folks in Texas are doing the same thing.

I coined it “right this very minute coping” back during the flood, and I still use that strategy now. I’m through the flood recovery process, but as a single working mom, my life is still hectic. It’s still easy to get overwhelmed.

I find myself using some of the same coping strategies from my flood time. What do I need to do right this very minute? Teach a wonderful social studies class. Yes, I can do that. No need to think about taking the car in to the shop or the broken dishwasher. Right this very minute, all I have to do is teach a great class. The car and the dishwasher can wait.

Before I go home from school today, what do I need to do? Grade the quizzes and record the grades. Sure, I can do that.

Before I can go to bed tonight, what has to be done? We have to have clean clothes for tomorrow, and the dog has to be walked. Can I do those two things? Sure, I can.

I am taking care of tonight’s homework tonight.

My flood experience was like that seventh grade math textbook. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t like it, but I did it. I witnessed the destruction of a house and then supervised the demolition and then the remodeling of our home. I did all that while working full time and going through a divorce.

Sometimes I wonder how in the world I did it. I am reminded of my mama and that important lesson she taught me when I was 12-years-old. I didn’t set myself up for panic thinking about all the thousands of decisions that would have to be made. I focused on the task at hand. I worried about that day’s work.

“You never know how strong you can be until being strong is your only option.” That quote reminds me of the flood, and it reminds me of the people in Texas. They didn’t know how strong they could be, but they are learning now. I am sad for them because I know all too well what is in store for them.

Right now, they have no choice but to focus on immediate needs. A place to sleep, dry clothes, making a bottle for the baby They are taking care of tonight’s homework tonight. Eventually, I completed the my flood experience— just like I completed the whole seventh grade math textbook. Eventually, the people in Texas will do the same. They will rebuild. They will find a new normal.

I did things I never thought I could do. Same for them. When I see the Texas flood news, I realize how lucky I was. I was with friends or in a hotel or in a garage apartment. I never had to sleep on a mattress in a furniture warehouse. I never had to sleep in a shelter with thousands of strangers.

But the feeling of displacement is the same. My temporary apartment had a vaulted ceiling and leaded glass windows by the front door, but I still cried every day because all I wanted to do was go home. It will be the same for the Texas people.

But, they will get through it. It’s a lot like seventh grade math. It’s best not to look ahead. One page at a time, one homework assignment, one quiz, one test, one exam. One FEMA adjustor, one application, one appeal, one check deposited in the bank. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Just one step at a time. Tonight’s homework tonight.

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