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.
It's Thanksgiving and the house is full, both of people and the smell of roasted turkey. We loll back in our seats in that moment between being too full to move but too tempted by seconds (okay, thirds) to relinquish our half-empty plates.
After everyone else leaves the dinner table, my sister and I stay to finish our drinks. Our conversation, as usual, revolves around homesickness and the conflict of living excessively good lives so far away from home. It is just after six but it has already been dark for what seemed like hours. I mention having to remind myself that Seattle is much farther north than it appears on a map of the US.
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.
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.
The kids were on Spring break last week and we did all sorts of really great, really exhausting things. We took in the zoo, multiple beaches, parks, and a whole lot of just horsing around on our backyard trampoline.
It felt great. I felt great. It was, all of it, amazing.
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