with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
With their father’s help, they Skype me from the tenth-floor balcony of their paternal grandparents’ apartment. This is the longest they will have ever been away from me, nearly three weeks: a vacation, out West, to see his family, to meet cousins. S will even have a week of her first sleep-away camp, with horseback riding in the Rockies.
The trip has just begun. On the computer screen, suddenly, side by side, my daughters look more alike than I’ve ever noticed. It’s 11 am here, 9 am there. The morning sunlight out West makes their eyes glow—blue-green sea-glass irises in S’s pale face, a darker sea-green hue in H’s.
I think what I often think: they are impossibly, outrageously lovely. I think what I sometimes think: I wish I could be there with them. Impossible, outrageous.
This morning they are cranky with each other, jostling for my time and my face. They are still wearing their pajamas. Detente is quickly arranged: they will take turns on the balcony with the laptop, talking to me. S needs PRY-VAH-SEEEE, and H needs to be like older sister S.
H is first. S disappears and the balcony door slides shut behind her. I will myself not to peer past H’s shoulders, to get a glimpse of a place that used to be a second home to me. I can’t help but wonder if a similar curiosity is happening inside, for they are all there: my ex-in-laws, my ex-brother-in-law, my ex-sister-in-law. Do they wonder what I look like now, what I sound like, do they want a surreptitious peek at the computer screen?
I do not think they do. It is not their way. What’s done is done. I do not think they are curious about me, anymore. I imagine they visit the blogs, from time to time. But my ex-in-laws have all that they need: their sons, and four beautiful granddaughters.
They never asked. I think about what I would say, what I wish they understood. Then I let it go, again (when will be the last time for this?). I focus on the sleepy face of my younger daughter. Her new front tooth is starting its jagged descent. Her medium brown hair with its faded pink streak is long and tangled. Her arms have grown too long for her princess nightgown. This is seven, for her: still so petite, but on the verge of big girl, second grade. Again: impossibly, outrageously lovely.
They and their father were delayed between their two flights, she tells me; they had to spend the night unexpectedly in Chicago. “A fancy hotel with a POOL. We went swimming. AND they had those big carriages with the gold things!”
She screws up her nose, the tiniest one of all (and thus the hardest to place on the DNA “Whodunnit?” poster of our family). “Luggage carts? I don’t know. But you can’t ride on them. But they look SO FUN.”
“Yep. Luggage carts. They do look like you should be able to ride them.”
“Yeah,” she agrees.
“I miss you,” I say.
“I miss you too,” she says. “HUGS!” She mimes a hug in the air on her side of our Skype connection, and I do the same. I can feel her sleepy warmth, from here.
Her older sister takes her place with me, and the balcony door lurches slowly shut in the background. S rolls her eyes.
“H is driving me CRAZY.”
“But I met one of my cousins here, and she’s, like, my soulmate. She’s read all the Harry Potters and she’s all steampunk and even though she’s 16, she gave me her email address. She’s AWESOME.”
“That’s excellent, honey,” I say.
“She even wears those gloves without the fingers.”
“Wow,” I say. “That is cool.”
“I know. I’m going to spit on a tree now.”
She stands up and turns the computer to face the balcony railing.
“I don’t think you should spit on the trees below, kid,” I warn. But she is in Little Rebel Without a Cause and With Future Fingerless Gloves mode. “You could hit someone.”
“I’m just going to spit on the tree. It’s environmental. I’m watering it.”
And so I watch as her pixels spit on a western Canadian tree, from the tenth floor. She is full of piss and vinegar and EXPELLIARMUS energy these days. She wants to be unlike any of us, which I understand. There are days when I would like to be unlike any of us, too.
She spots two people on the street. “HEY, PEOPLE. HEY, HOW ARE YOU, PEOPLE,” she calls down to them, a smidgen of defiance in her voice. She wants to be Seen and Heard, darn it. She is a dissident, suddenly, with no particular cause in mind. I try not to laugh.
“Hey. Hey,” I say.
She sits back down. “I really want to squirt a hose down there. It’s a hot day. People might like it, but my father says I can’t.”
My father. This is fairly new, this my father. My dad, sometimes. No more Daddy or Dad. She makes it clear: he belongs to her, and he is nothing familiar to me.
“I tend to agree with your father,” I say. “Most people would not appreciate being squirted on the head from ten flights up at nine in the morning.”
“I think it would be fun. Refreshing.”
I cannot help but smirk.
“Oh, please,” I say.
An amused look scurries across her face and is gone. She knows she is being ridiculous, but she’s not going to admit it, at the moment.
It is time for them to start their day, there, that faraway there. They take turns saying goodbye, and with the snap of a laptop, they are gone.
I, however, am here.
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