Mack was born a professional procrastinator. She waited until the absolute last second to do everything that needed doing. She penned school papers the night before they were due, crammed for tests on the day they were scheduled, and met important deadlines on deadline and not a day or a week beforehand. She never worried about unfinished tasks that were in front of her. She was never anxious about the consequences of putting them off too long. She never lost sleep because of them. And she certainly never let them interfere with the silly things she wanted to do instead. From her first days as a little elementary school kid to her days as a college student, Mack made a sport of putting off things until tomorrow.
Mack was no ordinary procrastinator, however. She possessed a very particular skill; and it was that skill that separated her from the amateurs. Mack had a talent for knowing exactly how much time and energy were required to successfully complete an undesirable task. In her mind, there was certainly no good reason to spend three hours writing for literature class an essay on, say, The Scarlet Letter, the weekend before it was due if in fact it could be done in an hour and fifteen minutes at 10:45 p.m. the night before it was due. Fortunately, Mack was a naturally good student. She would finish that essay at midnight or later and, usually, receive an “A” for her minimal effort. It was impossible to teach Mack about the potential consequences of procrastination for us mere mortals when the goddess of procrastination seemed impervious to them.
Maybe because of her amazing triumphs in procrastination, Mack was not a quiet or accidental procrastinator, either. She actively celebrated her willful procrastination and she encouraged her friends to join her. It was during the times when Mack and all of her friends should have been studying that Mack was the most ridiculous. Whether she was on a school bus with the basketball team coming home late from an away game, or working on a group project at Barnes and Noble, or studying with one friend on the floor of her bedroom, she was a goofy distraction to herself and to everyone in her vicinity. It was during these times when she told her silliest jokes, made up absurd poems and songs, and regaled her friends with her foul language and her unique sense of humor. Why keep your nose in a book or stare at an unfinished essay on your computer when you could dance in your bra and over-sized sweatpants, make a seven-ingredient omelet (eggs, onion, olives, mushrooms, cheddar, basil, and hot sauce) at 10 o’clock at night, play a game of who-can-text-the-silliest-word-or-combinations-of-words with Maggie, or sing a love song to a lamp?
Even more than the perpetual messy state of Mack’s bedroom, my younger daughter’s procrastination made me crazy. You see, I am the antithesis of a procrastinator. I complete unpleasant tasks as soon as it is humanly possible to do so in order to put the unpleasantness behind me; because as long as it is in front of me, I will do nothing but wring my hands and worry over it. On this point, Mack and I did not understand each other very well at all. She probably said to me a million times: “Don’t worry, Momma Bear, I’ll do it tomorrow.” She made me even crazier when instead of studying she would clomp up the stairs to my loft office with her computer to show me fifteen videos of giant baby pandas going down slides. The next thing I knew, an hour was gone and neither one of us had accomplished a damn thing but to fall deeply in love with those baby bears, to coo with syrupy sweetness over their adorableness, and to discuss a plot to steal one the next time we went to a zoo.
Mack was a genius when it came to sucking everyone around her into her personal plot to practice the fine art of procrastination. No one, not even me, was immune to the inappropriate timing of her amusements. She always put fun and laughter ahead of chores, and I think she always understood when the people around her needed a little levity. As far as she was concerned, everyone needed to be silly and to have a little fun when they were working on something serious and not fun, like schoolwork. And if singing to a lamp might provide the humor that was needed both for herself and others, then she was more than honored and thrilled to oblige us all.