MY HISTORICAL CLUB has renovated an 1801 miller's house on the Canal. As treasurer, I announce that the Pepco bill has jumped from $30 to $840 a month, and unless we fight it we will be bankrupt by summer. I promise that my husband will review the contract with the National Park Service; everyone looks relieved. Fifteen of the 20 board members are widows. (I must make a good dinner.)
The boys are one short on the Evening Star route so I go buy a copy at the drugstore and deliver it. They phone in a START.
Board meeting of a school for handicapped children. It was founded a hundred years ago to care for Civil War orphans.
The last meeting was cancelled due to snow, so the agenda is too long. The chairman has forgotten her gavel; she bangs with her shoe; she is frantic. So is the group she catches talking. We report on teaching contracts, budget, playground equipment, recruiting pupils in Maryland and Virginia, the spring fund-raiser and new officers.
I stand at the door with the sign-up sheet for stuffing, stamping and addressing 2,000 invitations. Fifty women file past me saying they have signed up; there are 10 names on the paper. I will have to send postcards.
The boys have two extra Stars at their drop corner, so they phone in two STOPS.
With a friend at her children's school. It is the annual Parents' Luncheon. Three fathers, a hundred mothers.
We fill out a poll at the door on "Time Management of Children."
I sit next to a panelist, a professional time management consultant. She and her husband adopted three children in India. She has color-coded (green, red and yellow) their rooms and belongings. She suggests color-coded plastic rings put in dirty socks will make sorting the clean laundry easier.
The moderator announces the poll results. 65 percent of the women have said they get their children in bed before 8:30. No one believes this. 85 percent have said they control their children's TV-watching. No one believes this, either.Giggles.
The boys have a pink complaint attached to their bundle for a miss yesterday. I phone to offer our used one, but a maid tells me she went to the drugstore to get one herself.
My shift at the Thrift Shop in Georgetown. The store proceeds go to five children's charities.
I bring a box of clothes for which I hope I won't get a card saying "out of style," "ruined in packaging" or, simply, "armholes." I have cut the sizes out of my dresses but still worry that a friend will tape-measure and price them.
The manager asks me to clean up the shoes, so I spend the morning reuniting pairs. I make a rainbow row of four-inch-high, pointed bridesmaid shoes; palest pink to fuchsia, faintest leaf-green to hunter, dawn blue to cerulean.
It is raining. The boys are out of plastic bags so I drive them over the route. At one house my older boy says, "Watch this." He waves to the dog and throws the paper. The dog rips the paper apart like a pinata. "That house never complains," he says.
School. Lice again.
Five years ago the boys brought home "Welcome to Our Pediatric Nurse Temporarily Hired to Assist in Problems Related to Pediculus humanus capitis." Since then we have clobbered cooties on a regualr basis with Kwell, vinegar rinse and Camp Pendleton haircuts.
But a fresh note had come, addressed to the "head louse" (meaning me). I volunteered to go help pick nits.
We mothers position ourselves around the library as class after class files by. We dip our fingers in alcohol and part heads of hair with wooden tongue depressors. We watch, as if in a jungle, for anything moving or clinging.
I have the courage to let another mother check my own boy. He is clean. He also, of course, has very little hair left, and what these pesticides will do to them all I can't bear to think.
A blue STOP has come attached to the bundle for an address which was never on the boys' list anyway. I remind them to start collecting for the month; they are already in debt for the carrying bags, the rubber bands, and the plastic bags, all of which they must buy from the Star.
At 10 p.m., my friend Edie calls about our college club.
People active in Washington alumnae clubs tend to have fascinating jobs, husbands in high government positions and regular shuttles to New York and Boston. I have none of these things, but I am wary.
"Laura, it's been ages! I know how busy you are with the boys. How old are they now?
"Very, very young."
"Yes, but surely out of diapers?"
"They're 9 and 11."
"And in school all day?"
"They get colds and come home."
"Oh well, don't we all. Actually, I was calling about Sunday's symposium. The one on Female Power in the Nuclear Era. Would you make cookies?"
"I'd be delighted to."
A month before, a dozen policemen had sprung up around my car along the Tidal Basin. Jello-kneed, I had handed over my registration, which is filled with facts, and my license, which contains some goals. My weight, for one. My hair color, for another. (After all, "blonde" fits better than "silver strands among the mouse-colored.")
So today, along with 160 other offenders, I file into a lecture room lined with photographs of mangled cars and mutilated bodies. There will be two three-hour sessions of lectures and movies followed by a test.,
Making the cookies. I put neat stacks of laundry on the boys' beds, socks matched.
My aunt phones. Would I go to church with her and why not bring one of the boys? Why not?
At the kitchen table the boys are hunched over the funnies, shoulders rigid, cheeks like nectarines.
"If you don't finish the cookies, you will choke. I will forgive anyone who will go to church...I might also make his bed...put his laundry away...a good lunch...a movie, yes, I saw there was one about a fox..."
My younger boy: ""G" is for babies. Would I get McDonald's and a "PG"?"
My older boy: "Shakey's, at least "PG", preferably "R," and Uptown Coins afterward, or I don't do it."
I go alone to church with my aunt. The minister has been sent by President Carter on a special peacekeeping mission to the Middle East. My aunt comments what a nice young man the assistant minister is. She does not ask after my young men.
Home again. My husband has left a note: "The boys wanted to see "Murder by Decree" so I thought I'd take them to lunch first."
The cookies are all gone and the clean laundry is heaped in mountains on the floor. So I mix up more dough, fill the pans, and rematch all the tube socks. At least I have the funnies to myself.
The route man comes by. The boys owe the Star $91; they have collected $40. I explain there will be a delay of a day or two.
I box up the cookies and decide to walk rather than wait for a Sunday schedule bus. It takes me one hour, but I arrive as the other guests are filing in to the symposium.
Labels are spread out on a card table in the front hall: ERA, ABORTION ON DEMAND, MARVIN vs. MARVIN, DIVORCE WITHOUT A LAWYER, ASBESTOS, and SEX DISCRIMINATION IN THE CORPORATE WORLD. I explain that I brought the cookies.
"Yes, but we're sectioning off for the study groups and you have to choose a focus."
So I deposit the cookies and put on a Corporation Sex label, figuring there should be a sofa in that room, at least.
A similarly labeled female greets me at the door. She is radiant.
"What do you do?" she asks. She is nibbling a cookie.
I tell her that I made the cookie she's eating, but beyond that, if I didn't keep a diary, I wouldn't know. My days are filled with STOPS, STARTS and COMPLAINTS. There really is no reliable job description for the position of housewife-volunteer. CAPTION: Picture, Laura Haines, 39, is a 1961 graduate of Radcliffe who lives in Northwest Washington. She was born in Easton, Md. Her father, William Wister Haines, wrote the World War II play "Command Decision," and the scripts for several John Wayne movies.