Darrell Huckaby - Empty calendar doesn't mean an entirely stress-free day

I've had a pretty busy schedule this spring - and so has the rest of my family - which means we have all spent way too much time on the road and not nearly enough time at home with our feet propped up.

I used to rationalize my busy life by insisting that it would be better to wear out than to rust out, but now I am not so sure.

At any rate, last Monday, before leaving for work, I looked at the appointment calendar we keep posted on the front of the refrigerator and it was completely clear. I was free of any and all obligations and so was my lovely wife, Lisa. In fact, Lisa had a rare day off from work, which meant she could sleep late and relax a bit - before cleaning the house, shopping for groceries and cooking supper, of course.

Unless you have followed me around for the past 10 years, you can't imagine what a rarity a free evening around the Huckaby household really is.

I was in the best mood ever at work. All day long I let my mind wander - looking ahead to a glorious afternoon at home. Perhaps I would be met at the door with a glass of lemonade and a plate of freshly baked cookies. Perhaps Lisa would invite me to sit in my easy chair and watch Oprah while she massaged my shoulders and asked me about my day. Maybe we would even have fried chicken for supper - with mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas and homemade biscuits and gravy.

Perhaps pigs would fly across the eastern sky, too, but I can dream, can't I?

At any rate, my fantasies made the day much more pleasant than most Mondays.

And then I got home.

Lisa's car was not in the garage when I pulled into the driveway. Ever the optimist, I said to myself, "I bet she is at the grocery store now - buying the chicken to fry."

When I opened the door and walked into the house, our dog, Rachel, eager to get outside to her favorite bush, rushed by me like she had been shot out of a gun - a sure sign that he had been cooped up inside all day. This is not a good thing, understand, because it meant that my lovely wife hadn't just left to run to Publix. It meant she had been gone for a while.

The house cleaning that I had envisioned Lisa doing while I was slaving away, trying to help the future leaders of the free world understand the social turmoil of the 1960s, had not been completed.

Nor had it been started.

The breakfast dishes were right where I had left them.

In the sink.

On top of Sunday night's supper dishes. The living room was still strewn, with cat hair and newspapers competing for space with partially graded term papers and the remnants of Lisa's latest sewing project.

And the refrigerator was still as empty as a school teacher's wallet on the last day of the month.

But there was a note on the kitchen table. It read "Gone to the mall."

Gone to the mall. The four words that strike fear into the heart of every man alive. My wife at the mall - all day. I can think of few things worse.

I bravely picked up my cell phone and punched in her numbers. "What cha doin'?" I bravely asked when she finally picked up.

"Oh, hey," she said. "Where are you?"

"I am at home," I answered.

"Why aren't you at school?" was the response.

"Uh-because it is 4 o'clock in the afternoon," I offered.

"Already?" she asked. "I guess I've been so busy shopping that I didn't notice the time."

Y'all know that's not a good sign.

"Have you started supper?" she asked.

I'm a quick study. I knew right away that there would be no back rub - or fried chicken - so I ignored the question and asked, "What have you bought?"

"Oh, just one or two spring outfits for Jenna and myself."

Now, those of you who have been married as long as I have know that a "spring outfit" consists of a top or two or three, shorts and/or a skirt, or two, sandals, as well as tennis shoes, as well as flats, plus underwear and accessories, which means matching earrings and a necklace, bracelet, anklet and purse. And sunglasses. And one or two outfits means "Clean out the closet. I have a new wardrobe."

When I was a kid, getting a spring outfit meant cutting off my blue jeans to make shorts.

I didn't comment, though. It wouldn't have done any good. I just said goodbye and sat down for a long cry.

No massage. No stimulating conversation. No biscuits and gravy.

And Oprah was a rerun.

Oh, well. I checked our schedules and Lisa and I both have another afternoon off together on May 14.

In 2009.

Maybe I'll have better luck then.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.