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.
I realize the question is for me. I turn away from the airplane window to the woman on my right, who is studying my face intently. Several hours ago, we’d exchanged pleasantries and I’d mentioned that I was a writer.
“No, not a novelist,” I say.
She and her husband both look terribly disappointed.
“What do you write, then?” she wants to know.
“Whatever people will pay me to write,” I say. “I’ve written for magazines, papers—”
The husband perks up considerably. “Anything we’ve heard of?”
“Uh, well, let’s see. I wrote for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Magazine,” I say. “And I’ve done a lot of marketing materials.”
He nods, but he is not impressed. I am seriously wishing I had ordered the gin and tonic.
“But no book?” says the wife.
“No book. I write plays, though. And poetry. But they don’t pay the mortgage.”
“No. I imagine they wouldn’t,” says the wife.
The husband clears his throat. “So…are you part of a pool? A team of writers?”
I just want to read my book, the book on my lap, the book written by a real writer. I want that gin and tonic very, very, very badly. “No, no team. I have a parenting blog, and what work I do find often comes through that. But there’s not a lot of work right now. Freelancers are in a tough spot.”
They continue staring at me, as if I am an exotic zoo specimen, and they are not quite sure they like what they see.
I change the subject. “So is Las Vegas your final destination?”
They nod. “It’s our thirtieth wedding anniversary,” says the wife. “He’s never been to Vegas, so we’re going.” She shrugs. “Why not?”
“Why not?” I echo, and return my nose to my book.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“San Diego,” I say.
“Work?” she asks.
“Well, no,” I say.
“Family?” she presses.
“It’s kind of hard to explain. There’s a fella. I see him every month.”
The husband frowns. “That can’t be easy.” He seems offended by my circumstances. I resist the urge to swipe his gin and tonic and guzzle it down.
“Well,” I say blithely, “it works for us.”
“But you have children?” asks the wife. “How old are they?”
“Two girls, eight and eleven. They’re with their dad this week.” Beads of sweat bust out on my temples. I am cornered. I hate feeling cornered.
They nod, waiting for me to continue. But I have nothing else to say. I have a hard time explaining my life to people I know, let alone to strangers at 38,000 feet.
I turn the tables. “Thirty years. Wow, that’s something. That’s really something.”
“Yes,” says the wife, primly. “We’re staying at the Golden Nugget. Just until Thursday.”
“Well…happy anniversary,” I offer. I want my book I want my book I want my book.
He leans forward in his aisle seat. “Do your girls travel with you sometimes?”
“Money’s a little tight, at the moment,” I say. I get the sense I am being judged, somehow. Single mom. Traveling alone, no kids. No book deal.
“San Diego,” he says. “You couldn’t get much farther away than that.” He laughs, not a particularly nice sound.
“Nope,” I reply, “it’s a funny world like that.”
“I guess it is,” he says. “I guess it is.” He shakes his head and returns to his gin and tonic, looking smug.
“Who knows what the future will bring,” the wife offers. With that, I am released, dismissed. Relieved, I return to my book. They say nothing to each other, staring straight ahead.
I glance out the window. Colorado? Nevada? The desert landscape below is surreal, crusted and caramelized by sun, split and torn by time.
I feel very small in my narrow seat behind my tiny oval window. What keeps people together for thirty years? Are they happy? Why don’t I have a book? Is this monthly trip a foolish endeavor? Are my girls okay?
A few hours later, in San Diego, I wait at the baggage claim for my beat-up luggage to arrive. He arrives before the luggage does. He is grinning. I hug him and he hugs me back, for a long moment. I forget to worry that anything should be anything different from exactly this, exactly what is.
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