I hate sandwiches.

This afternoon I slipped on a mayo-slicked slice of tomato. A remnant of an abandoned sandwich in the middle of the sidewalk downtown.

I fell hard.

I got up. I walked. Then stopped when I realized that I couldn’t really walk. Then a friend stood next to me while I oddly answered work emails instead of addressing the fact that I was on a busy sidewalk with an effed up leg and pants covered in old sandwich schmear.

Then he helped me get in a cab–which took forever because I couldn’t walk and was swinging between laughter and pain-induced tears faster than I usually say “no” to sandwiches. 

I have always hated sandwiches. Clearly, with good reason. 

I’ve had some time this afternoon to reflect. Time is a gift given to you in emergency rooms, if you’re lucky enough not to be mortally wounded. 

Upon painful reflection, I have three main problems: (1) despite a recent change in job I am no less of a freak who hides from life in her work than I was 3 weeks ago; (2) my patella is cracked completely in half; and (3) I should really shave my legs more often. 

Thank goodness I’ve got a bunch of ready and able pint-size nurses waiting on me tonight. The perfect solution for problem no. 1. The other two  problems I leave to a higher power. Like an ortho surgeon who dabbles in laser hair removal.

No time to spare.

We herded three kids under 8 off the C train at 81st and headed toward the museum. The line was around the block, hundreds of rain soaked tourists and Spring Breakers, like us, at a standstill. We couldn’t wait. 

Our NYC day had been carefully planned. Natural History then lunch at Serendipity, followed by Battery Park and a cruise to Lady Liberty. Then back up to a Times Square much more kid-appropriate than the one of my youth, and dinner before crashing in a hotel room illuminated by the lights of Broadway. There was no room on the agenda for standing idle in the rain. No room at all.

Across the street Central Park beckoned. Not on the agenda, but it was a mere 2 mile stroller-less walk to Frrrozen Hot Chocolate bliss through the park. Why not?

We ran. Up and down rocks and trails and around the pond. We chased pigeons through puddles despite parental admonitions concerning wet socks and much more walking/running to come. We chased more pigeons and then had to stop.

The boy was sobbing. His feet were squishy, he was cold. His 4 year old face was covered in tears and rain and unsanitary park puddle water. 

We stood him on a bench and removed his shoes, then peeled his socks from his feet. As we wrung out his–carefully chosen in homage to our first intended destination–dinosaur socks he was still crying and now yelling, “There’s no time to spare…no time to spare!”

Like an end-of-days evangelist shouting on a street corner, he was expressing exactly what I was feeling, there is absolutely no time to spare. 

There was and is so much to do, and the most important of those things was precisely what we were doing. Not the pigeons and forced march through the rain, exactly, but the time spent with just the 5 of us. Time together not racing to or from activities or squeezed between work commitments. Real, uninterrupted, loud, messy, and sweet time. There is just so little, too little of that time.

We put the less-wet but still soggy socks back on his feet and headed off to pet horses waiting for carriage riders, chase more pigeons, climb more rocks, and continue on in our now less-scheduled day. 

We hit some of our agenda but mostly we roamed. We clocked a ridiculous amount of steps and a glorious amount of time together.  We laughed and hugged, and irritated city dwellers with our sidewalk stops to wonder at the sights around us. We took turns carrying exhausted kids on our backs, and my husband and I made a new plan. 

Our new plan is to stop. Stop ourselves and each other in those moments of parental and professional overwhelming stress–those times when we can’t see the forest of our beautiful family and life together through the trees. We will stop and remember that there is no time to spare.  At least we plan to try.