Our Christmas tree will stay up for a little while longer, not because we keep it lit through any day in particular, but because I am refusing to pack everything away just yet. I say it's because lugging storage boxes to and from the attic is awkward and trying, but really it's because I find myself absolutely dependent upon tiny multicolored lights glowing against haphazardly placed shatterproof ornaments.
She knows she has another brother, one she can't play with or see or talk to or torment. One who won't torment her back, the way her eldest brother does.
“He's in our heart,” she says, pointing to her chest.
“Yes, baby,” I tell her. “He's in our heart.”
“I'm not a baby,” she says forcefully. And she isn't, of course. She's four. But she doesn't only mean that she's too big to be called baby. She knows she'll always be my baby. Daddy's baby. Our baby.
I'm having a tough time lately. And by lately, I mean always. I can't remember a time that wasn't tough. That I didn't struggle.
I do well sometimes. So well that even I don't believe that I'm on a tightrope of depression and anxiety. I feel like I'm walking that line so perfectly, so capably, that I am keeping my thoughts of doom and wrongness away. But after awhile, in they seep and I realize they've always been there. I've just been good at ignoring them. Ignoring the tightrope. The trepidation.
The strawberries have going berserk in the front yard. The bean plant I unceremoniously ripped from one back yard container garden survived its relocation to the front yard as well and one long reaching vine climbs happily up a shepherd's hook I'd been keeping in my I swear I'm going to do something with that pile for years.
This morning I asked my sister if it was okay to have hot dogs and saimin for dinner tonight. It's Dad's birthday so we're skipping our usual Tuesday fare of carnitas and fresh-made tortillas pressed by Iliana's busy little hands. I know that changing the menu isn't a big deal, but today it might be. I mean, it is. After all, this is Dad that we're talking about.
Already a legend before I met him on the first day of my senior year Drama class, Mr. Bright was the kind of teacher every teenager should be privileged enough to have at least once in their young lives. Demanding, encouraging, and above all filled with a genuine love of his craft and his students, he made fifth period a retreat for me during a long, difficult year.
I am excited about the trip, but still I am angry. Taking my children home is important to me, but this is not just a homecoming. It is a fact finding mission. One I resent having to make.
We fly on Tuesday and are in Target on Saturday to find things to entertain the children on the plane. The youngest gets activity books and the oldest gets novels. I am not getting anything because I already have three non-fiction titles packed away. I don't expect to actually read them, of course. After all, this is traveling with children.
I'm early for my appointment so I sit in the waiting room. Usually I wait in the first floor lobby, alternately checking my phone and people watching until it's time to go upstairs for my session. I also hang back from the bank of elevators, waiting to catch an empty one. It's a busy building so I'm hardly ever successful, but still. I try.
We get out of the car and Ian carries Iliana across the parking lot, grateful she's not actually asleep. The drive to Shoreline is just long enough to make her drowsy and she's at the stage where a nap will ruin an already tenuous bedtime; afternoon errands like this are always a gamble.
I sit with my back to the Christmas tree, a roll of wrapping paper on the floor in front of me. There are a dozen or so gifts to wrap for the children and I am excited. This will be the loveliest Christmas we've had in years.
I roll the thick paper back onto itself and press it down to give myself a crease, the way my mother taught me when I was young. I slide a knife through the fold to give myself a good cut edge, and then flip the paper over. The first gift to be wrapped is a darling Playmobil set I would have adored as a girl. Who are we kidding? I adore it now.
The easiest way to keep up with all my posts is to subscribe to my newsletter. I'm not gonna share any of your information, and an unsubscrbe link is included in every email. Thank you for joining!