Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘husband’

Sitting on the couch watching telly, M turned to and very casually asked, “So, what do you want for your birthday then?”  It was Wednesday of last week, and my birthday — a very Significant Birthday — was only a few days away.  The sound of the telly faded from my consciousness abruptly as I looked at him, dumbfounded.

M has not had a good track record these past few years when it comes to my birthday.  He started out just great a decade ago, when love was fresh and the stakes were high, but these days… Well, I haven’t had a birthday or Christmas present from him for about three years running now, except for one book that he grabbed at the grocery store on Christmas Eve.  And not wanting to continue this trend, I have been reminding him of the Significant Birthday almost every day for the last four months.  So it really did stop me cold when he asked his question.

“Youuuu… ummmm…”  Paused, dumbstruck again, and then found my words, “You haven’t bought me a gift yet?!?”  It was said with calm control, but with a rising irritation he could hear plainly.

He decided to play with fire.  “When have I had time to go shopping for a gift?!?”  It’s true that he works practically every hour God sends, but if he thought that kind of logic was going to help his cause in any way, then he clearly did not understand what he was walking into.

I will spare you the full transcript, but suffice to say I flew almost instantly into a full-blown rage, and proceeded to tear strips off him in a manner that he never saw coming.  Honestly!  When did he have time?!?  He’d had the past four months that I’d been reminding him every other day!  No, he’d had the past YEAR, because — conveniently enough — my birthday rolls round with stunning predictability.  I’d even made a wishlist for him and emailed it to him, as well as my sister and my mother.

He made more feeble attempts, pointing out that he barely knows how to use the computer, let alone how to buy off a wishlist…  and I blasted back that he could have asked my sister, my mother, or even ME to walk him through it.  He made noises about me maybe helping him now…  and I nearly spat that it was too late — most everything on my list was obscure enough to need to be back-ordered, almost nothing could be bought now, with my birthday only a few days away.  He’d blown it!  He’d blown it AGAIN!  And that realisation motivated me to really rip into him in earnest, at full volume and with hands waving wildly, and — I’m quite sure — steam blasting out of my ears.

There was no stopping me and he didn’t fight it.  He sat quietly and let me go on and on and on.  And then, at a moment when I paused to draw breath, he said quietly — so quietly I barely noticed he’d spoken — “Could we…  could we just forget this happened?”

I stopped at that.  This is what psychologists call the “rescue moment” — he was trying to rescue this, to claw it back before it really went too far.  He was presenting me with a fork in the road and I could choose which way to go: to follow his lead and rescue this, or to carry on tearing mercilessly into my husband’s psyche.  I thought about it for a moment, and the sensible part of me decided to stop now, to go with the rescue.

But then, just as I opened my mouth to say something mature and calm, I realised what was about to happen.  I would forgive and forget this ever happened, he would rush out the next day and try to buy something… something…  some little trinket or maybe the easiest thing on the wishlist or, heck, a book from the grocery store again…  And on my birthday I’d stick by the bargain and say, ooooh thank you, thank you, and give him a kiss…  And the whole time — the whole stinking time — I’d know that, actually,  he’d forgotten.  Actually, he’d forgotten my birthday again.  So there was no “forgetting this had happened”. It couldn’t be done — the cat was out of the bag, the truth was told:  he  had  forgotten  my  birthday  again, even though this was an Important Birthday, even though I’d been reminding him, even though I’ve been a GOOD WIFE, DAMMIT!  He hadn’t cared enough about me to make as much paltry effort as was needed to just remember my birthday long enough to order a present off a wishlist.  And now I knew it, and there was no “forgetting” that.

And so when I opened my mouth, instead of going with the rescue moment, I let all of that fury and frustration  fall out instead — very loudly and for a very long time.  And when I was done, I turned back to the telly and just sat staring in its general direction and so angry my stomach ached.

M let out a little groan and I looked at him.  His face was twisted, his jaw clenched at an odd angle, and he was looking at the floor.  Then a glance at me.  And then, “No… wait.”  A pause, a deep slow inhale, and then very quickly, all in one breath: “Look, something’s been done.  It’s… it’s been taken care of.”  And then his eyes back to the floor, and an uncomfortable silence.

Suddenly I understood.  He’d got me a gift.  He’d remembered my birthday — not forgotten me at all.  And he’d just been winding me up and it went too far and he’d not known how to pull it back.  But he hadn’t forgotten me at all.

And it was only then that I felt the full strength of how hurt I’d been by his question.  The feeling took me completely by surprise, and churned violently in my stomach, and mixed with the relief and the regret that were washing over me like waves.  I felt suddenly nauseated.  And all that emotion rose up from my gut so fast that I couldn’t contain it — up through my chest and spilled out across my face, mouth open and pulled tight, eyes closed.  And I managed a soft  “oh no!” before it all escaped from me with a sound a little like belch, and I burst into sobs that racked my whole body and revealed, there for him to see, just how much the being forgotten has hurt these past few years.

“Oh no,” he repeated back, so lost for words that he could only borrow my own, and then sat there, helpless beside his blubbering wife, no idea what to do with her.  This what never what he’d intended — he’d only been taking the mick — and now he wasn’t quite sure how it had gone so far.  He’d never meant to hurt me.  He put his arm around me and pulled me in.  I needed that desperately, but there was no outward sign that it help — I couldn’t stop crying.  He let me go, except for one hand that he held, and stared at the floor.  Eventually, I calmed myself down.  We sat for a while, both a bit shell-shocked, and neither of us knowing what to say.

—————————————————

My birthday was absolutely wonderful.  There were balloons and singing and three cakes and my family all around me.  My children presented me with hand-made gifts.    It was not a big celebration, but it was exactly what I’d hoped for.

Led by M into the next room, I spotted a bouquet of balloons first and then, underneath it, a huge box wrapped in flowered paper.  I knew immediately — there was only one thing that would be in a box so big — and the realisation made my lip quiver.  I tore the wrapping off and spotted that I was right.  “Oh sweetheart, look!” my mother exclaimed to my father, “She’s crying!”,  and her announcement embarrassed me sufficiently to stop the tears before they really started.  But the emotion was the same, and I was overwhelmed.  “Something’s been done,” he’d said and, indeed, something had.  It was the Lendrum spinning wheel I’ve been coveting for a year; the wheel with an 18-month waiting list, and my mother had had to ring a dozen places before she found one in stock; the wheel we couldn’t afford.  I pulled to from the box, put it together there and then, treadled and felt the silky movement of the mechanism, wished for fiber and spun air instead.  Over the moon!  Over the bloody chuffing moon and not knowing how to really tell them all properly and just hoping they could tell by the trance I was in.

Later, after my family had gone back into the kitchen to pick at the leftovers and I was still sat treadling, M came in and knelt next to me.  “Do you like it?”

“Yes!”, with shock and incredulity plain in my voice, feet still treadling, hands spinning air.

“The thing is…  we, um…”  He took my hands.  “I have to pay my portion of it.  Ummm…  I owe your mum.  I don’t really know where that’s going to come from.”  He had to tell me, because I handle the finances and, when money has to be found, I am the one who finds it.

But I didn’t mind, because he hadn’t forgotten me.  He’d got me my heart’s desire, taken that plunge even when he didn’t know how he’d pay for it.  He could have been sensible and bought a book from the list, but he hadn’t.   He’d bought me what he knew I really wanted because he loves me, and love is not sensible.  It was never about the gift — it was about being remembered.

And that was what I’d needed — what I’d been needing for a long time.  And now, to his surprise, I could offer back a little of what he needed.  “I have something we can put toward it, ” I said, as he looked up with surprise.  “About half of it.”  Because I’d gone to my knitting group earlier in the week and cards had suddenly appeared, and some of those cards contained money from new friends who had read my previous post and had taken the opportunity to act like old friends.  “It’s for your Lendrum fund,” one had said, and I nearly cried there too, stunned by their generosity.

There were loud voices from the kitchen and then laughter, and I felt a warmth rush over me.  There is much in our lives that we have to worry about but, at that moment, none of it was touching me.  I had my family gathered around me, a husband who (secretly) loves me, and — after a long time — I have some friends.

And those things alone were gift enough.  But then, there was also the brand new Lendrum, whirring away softly at my feet.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

M was home yesterday when I got some bad news, and he got the full force of my anger and frustration.  It wasn’t fair to take it out on him — he’s got enough on his mind at the moment — but he was there.

He was there because his company had sent him home with no hours.  Again.  It’s become a regular occurrence these past four months.  Every week like clockwork, when the pay-week comes to a close on Thursday, he gets up and gets ready, gets in his truck and heads out for work, and then they send him home with no hours.   Since the beginning of December, he’s had only three weeks of full-time hours, only three paycheques that really cover the bills.

My birthday is coming up in the next couple of weeks, and it’s a big one.  Apparently, Life Begins at this age.  M may be all manner of wonderful things, but he is not good at remembering me when it comes to  important occasions — I have not had a birthday or Christmas gift from him for three years running — so I have been reminding him of this impending event almost every other day since before the turn of the year, like a count down.  This is a Big Birthday, and I do not want to be forgotten this year.

I had emailed out my birthday wishlist to everyone who would likely find it useful but, knowing that M uses a computer about as often as a camel uses an umbrella, I have been coaching him separately for a long time.  More than anything, I want a Lendrum spinning wheel to replace the ancient, second-hand wheel that I have been using (and which has served me well) for the past 12 years.  But a shiny new Lendrum is nothing to be purchased lightly — it’s $622 — and so I’d hoped that maybe if everyone pitched in together, then what remained would be more within our grasp.

And just the day before, I’d made a furtive phone call to a local yarn shop to see if there were any places left on the knitting class they were offering this month with knitting guru Brandon Mably.  I had already taken this same class  six years ago — it was a treat to cheer myself up after I miscarried our first child — and I had enjoyed it so much out of it that when I saw that he was coming to the area, I immediately began to muse over taking the class again.   It was an expensive class, at least for me…  The amount left each month for spending money for me and the girls rarely tops $50 — and that includes everything: shoes, clothes, magazines, coffee — and this one class would blow that out of the water, but how often does one turn…  erm…  How often does Life Begin?  I felt guilty making the call to the yarn shop and I felt guilty at the thought of booking the class…  But there were spaces left!  And I wanted to take it — I really wanted to!  I decided  I’d wait a couple of days to be sure the idea settled right, and then — damn it! — I’d do it!

Yesterday morning I received a bill from the doctor’s office which treated my sprained ankle.  It wasn’t for much — almost exactly the co-pay amount — and so I assumed it was an error.  Somehow, the insurance company must not have realised I’d paid the co-pay on the day, so I picked up the phone to sort it out.  It was a beautiful day, sunny day and my husband was home — I’d get this out the way, it shouldn’t take long.

The lady on the phone sounded weary.  “That’s your deductible amount,” she explained, and then added, slowly and with a tinge of irritation, “You’re responsible for the deductible.”

“Oh, I know!” I said with deliberate cheerfulness, because the lady sounded like she needed it.  “I understand we pay the deductible but… I’m confused…  Before I went to the doctor’s, I spoke to a lady in your office who explained that my husband’s employer pays the first $1000 of the deductible.  Have we gone through a thousand dollars in two visits…?”

She tapped on her keyboard and then paused.  Then a deep breath.  “No, but I’m afraid whoever spoke to you got it wrong.  You’re responsible for the first thousand; your husband’s employer pays the second thousand.”

Oh.

My stomach dropped instantly, and then my mind began tallying, very quickly: doctor’s visit, three x-rays, the airboot, follow-up visit, three more x-rays, the lace-up brace…   How much had we run up?

The lady was tallying too.  “We’ve negotiated a nice discount for you on that bill…”  I could see that they had indeed — they’d reduced the bill by 75%.  “And I can see that you’ll also be receiving a bill from a rehabilitation equipment company…”  Yes, that’d be the airboot.  She told me the amount, and I winced.  “And… let me see…  another bill from the doctor’s office…”  The follow-up appointment.  “And another… oh, from the equipment company again.”  That’d be the brace.  “Let me add that up for you, ” she offered helpfully, her irritation subsided now that she realised I wasn’t going to put up a fight.  The amount came to around $400.

Four hundred dollars…  for one moment of stupidity.  Four hundred dollars, after months and months of short weeks and short pay.  Four hundred dollars!  If I had known that, I never would have taken off the tape that was holding my ankle still and let them replace it with a brand-spanking new lace-up brace.  If I had known that, I would have paused at the offer of the airboot, and grabbed my mobile to ask my mother if her old airboot would fit my foot.  If I had known how much it would cost us, I honestly think I might not have gone to the doctor at all — certainly not to that follow-up appointment.  M had said it was only a sprain and it would heal on its own, and he was right.  I could have gotten by without the doctor.

The day had seemed to have suddenly lost all its sunniness…  I felt sick to my stomach (again! again!) and deflated.  My hoped-for birthday gift now sounded extortionate, and the thought of booking that Brandon Mably class seemed frivolous, if not downright irresponsible.  Spend money on my birthday like that?  Spend money?!? What fool thinks she’d get to spend money on a milestone birthday?!?

And with that, deflation turned to anger — real, seething, boiling, red-hot rage — and  so I yelled.  I yelled and I yelled and I yelled at this country, at this joke of a “system”, at the waste and the complication and the confusion and the callousness of it all.  I yelled at the lack of transparency, at the miscommunications, at M’s lack of hours, at his too-short paycheques when he works so hard, at the recession, and at the ludicrous idea that somehow this is all ok, that this is the American Way.  I yelled because, apparently, going to the doctor when I sprained my ankle was my birthday gift this year.

M thought I was yelling at him.  And he came up and held my hands and, with tears in his eyes, he said, “Your birthday will be alright.  We’ll make it alright.”  And then I felt terrible for all the yelling, and tears came to my eyes too.  Sod my stinkin’ birthday — what I’m really scared of is losing the house.

The door woke me when M left this morning: 6.11am.  That’s early, I thought, and then drifted heavily back to sleep, hopeful that it meant he had a busy day scheduled.  He was back home again just after 1pm, having worked three hours, and then hung around for another three in the hopes that some more work would come in, before he finally gave up and drove back home to us.

Read Full Post »

Now, I have waxed lyrical on here before about Trader Joe’s castille soap, and with good reason.  It is great stuff — in my opinion an absolutely perfect soap for a million uses, from washing my hair to body wash to adding to laundry to cleaning the kitchen floor.  And Trader Joe’s have got the balance of peppermint to the other ingredients just right, so it’s zingy fresh but still gentle.  I don’t ever want to be without this soap.

But the last time we went to TJ’s, there was none of their castille soap to be found.  I panicked and rushed to the customer service desk, where I was reassured that it was just out of stock, not discontinued, and they suggested I grab a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s instead.

Dr. Bronner’s was not quite the same.  Besides the initial shock of the label — so chock full of weird evangelism that it took a full 3 minutes to find the ingredient list — the smell took me by surprise.  It seems the ratio of peppermint is much higher and the result is much zingy-er, almost overpowering.  …Not something I’d want to be buying regularly.  Still, it would do in a pinch, so I paid for the bottle and went home happy.

The next morning, as I lathered up in the shower, I remembered that one of the commenters to my previous blog post about castille soap had warned me to take care when using it in the shower.  She had suggested it might be a bit strong for one’s tingly bits.  I remembered this just a moment too late, just as the aforementioned bits began to remind me.  My instant reaction was to rinse it off as quickly as possible but then…  I paused.  The sensation was initially a bit startling, to be sure, and the intensity increased rather alarmingly but then it had levelled off a bit and become perfectly tolerable and rather… um… intriguing.  Not necessarily in the way you might be thinking, but cool and fresh, a little like someone had turned a fan on.  I lingered a few moments before I washed it off.

When I came down into the kitchen after my shower, M gave me a good morning hug and kiss.  “Wow…” he said, his nose scrunched up a bit, “your hair  smells… minty!”

I put on a deliberately straight face  and then said, “Listen, there’s a soap dispenser on the edge of the bath.  I want you to use it and tell me what you think.”

“Uh, okay,” he said, and shrugged.

“No, I want you to use it on your… on your bits.”  Most of the time, my husband is not an adventurous man — he likes to have his day planned, he likes to do his job carefully from start to finish, and he likes to follow a well-worn routine.  But in some things — some things — he’s willing to try almost anything.

His face didn’t move at all, but his eyes darted to mine and then crinkled a bit into a smile,  “Ohhh-kay!”

Later that night,  after the chaos of the day had passed, we sat side-by-side on the couch, watching the telly and drinking an end-of-day cup of tea.  “So, did you try that soap?” I asked.

“Yep.”  His eyes on the telly.

I turned to face him.  “Front and back?”

“Yep.”  Still straight at the telly.

“Well… what did you think?”

He brought his mug up to his lips and took a slow sip, and then lowered it to his lap again.  Still in profile to me, his eyes never moved, but the corners of his mouth had lifted mischievously.  “You can buy that soap again sometime,” he said.  He paused, and then opened his mouth as if to say something more, but closed it again abruptly.  And then smiled a bit more, and took another slow swig of his tea.

Hmmm.  Maybe I will buy it again.

Read Full Post »

The snow, which has held us captive for over a month now, is slowly beginning to loosen its grip at last, revealing random patches of bare ground where the grass appears so yellowed and flattened in submission that one wonders that it will ever come back to life.

“Weather’s turning,” M observed as we pulled into the driveway.  “We’d best get some of that trimmed back now before Spring hits in and it all goes crazy again.”  This garden had taken us by surprise last year: the shrubs grew alarmingly fast, the ornamental trees at the back had seemed to double in size in one summer, and the grape vine had threatened to push its way right through one window.  This year, we had decided, we’d be on top of it.

Almost immediately we got in the house, the girls wanted to go out again.  They also know the snow is disappearing and are desperate to spend every day it’s still here enjoying it.  But getting them out there is a chaotic process that I don’t enjoy: changing into jeans, jumpers, coats, scarves, finding hats and wayward gloves, digging out socks, fighting reluctant boots…  There is tripping, falling, stuck zippers, shoes on wrong feet…   I slunk down to the family room and left M with the madness, with the good excuse that my ankle was hurting — which it was — but also with the enormous relief that I did not have to be on duty today.  The noise and chaos was just more than my head could bear today.

Eventually the din died down , and then I heard the door shut and the house fell quiet.  I sat for a moment and soaked it in.  Quiet.  Nothing.  Silence.  Even better than the silence of a nap, because that might be rudely broken at any moment.  This was the sure silence of emptiness, something I hardly know any more, and I was going to enjoy it.

Tea first.  A silent house called for a cup of tea.  And then, perhaps I would write an email to an old friend.  I smiled to myself — this was going to be really nice.

I had been sitting at the computer for only a few minutes — my thoughts only just beginning to gather — when the house rumbled for a moment.   Startled and not quite knowing what to think, I just stopped still, fingers suspended over the keyboard.  It came again, the whole right side of the house rumbling and shaking and sounding like it was about to come down.  I grabbed my coat and hobbled out the back door.

The girls stood with the neighbour-kids in a semi-circle around M, who was crouched by the side wall at the base of the grape arbour and cutting through the main vine with the electric reciprocating saw from his truck.  The arbour was shaking violently, the vine was resisting as much as it could.  I cleared my throat.

M looked up and grinned, proud of himself.  “I’m nearly done!” he announced, and pointed to the vine on the other side of the arbour.  “I’ve got through that one already, and I’ve done all the smaller ones on this side.  Just this last one to go.”  And then he spotted the shock on my face, and his grin slid away.

“Ohhhh…” he began, and the shape of the word lingered on his lips for a moment.  “Oh, I thought we’d agreed on this.  We… we had discussed this, hadn’t we?”  He pressed his finger to the trigger of the saw, and it whirled a little, hesitantly.

We had, but my recollection was that we’d settled on perhaps digging up the vines and moving the arbour, and then we’d left the matter unsettled…  His recollection, my recollection…  Husband-wife miscommunications are the stuff that marriage is made of.

“I’ll… um…  I’ll leave this for now, shall I?” he said, a bit sheepishly.  And then pointed to the sagging limbs on the snow-battered lilac tree.  “Should I…  well, how about those?  Should they come down?”  I nodded, and he turned away from the vine — a stay of execution at the last moment — and headed for the lilac.

The children had wandered back to the snow, all but the neighbour boy who, at the age of nine, had spotted the undercurrents in our conversation and was now watching me intently to see where this would go.  I looked at him and smiled.  “Jay, when you get older and get married… and you think you know what your wife wants you to do…  just be sure to go back and double-check with her, ok?  And then… double-check again.”  I winked at him, and he laughed.

And I turned and went back into the house, where everything would be quiet.

Read Full Post »

We went out on Saturday night and I didn’t have much to drink at all — I didn’t! — but I got myself to bed so late again and so, the next morning, I was hung over from pure self-made exhaustion.

M came in the room, banging the door and waking me up with a start.  Sunlight streamed mercilessly through the blinds, and  I could hear the girls downstairs, playing with their breakfasts instead of eating.  “Good morning!” he called cheerily and very loudly.  “It’s a beautiful day, so warm again for November.  Come on, get up!  Time to get ready for church.”  I peeled one eye open, caught his huge grin and felt the throbbing in my head, and collapsed back into the pillow.  “Come on!” he bellowed encouragingly, shaking my shoulder.

I pulled the covers over my head.  “I aaaaaam!”  It came out as a groan and a whinge and was patently untrue.

Ten minutes later, he returned.  He is a the ultimate early riser, a consummate schedule-keeper, and me still face-down in the pillow did not fit in with his plans.  “Come on!  Get up.  It’s TIME!”

I am all about the sleeping, especially in the morning.  Bed is my best friend.  I shifted a bit… couldn’t open my eyes…

“If you don’t get up, I’m going to…”  He paused, trying to come up with a big enough threat to pry me from my warm cocoon.  “I’m going to… ”  He paused again, and then he got it.  “I’m going to ring your mum and I’m going to tell her that she’s right and you’re wrong a-a-and… you really should be best friends with her and… um… you don’t share enough with her and you don’t really appreciate her they way you should and… um… if you were a good daughter you’d…”

Aw, hell!  I couldn’t take this!  He’d beat me.  I got up.

Read Full Post »

That I am an American has never been in question.  I need only open my mouth and — if you are a Brit — you will recognise the fact immediately.  If you are an American… well, twenty years ago you would have known right away — these days, you might be a wee bit confused.  But I was born here and grew up here, and — though I know am fully British as well (not half-and-half, but whole-and-whole) — my Americanness is not in question.

And yet my being American is just an accident of birth.  My parents, both Brits, were here only temporarily when I was born, working in the States for a few years — so the plan went — before moving back.  My father’s sudden death turned all that on its head and I ended up growing here… ended up an American.  And yet, if we had stayed in the UK and hadn’t moved back to the US last year, that fact would have become only an anomalous blip in a long and continuous line of Britishness: my parents and grandparents and all my ancestors completely British, my children and all my decedents just as British as well.  Indeed, when we go back to the UK, that will be the case again.  Pulling back and looking at it from afar, these two quick forays into America will become mere  interludes in a long line — generations — of  otherwise unbroken Britishness.

And that feels so very strange to me, because my Americanness is such a big part — such a real part — of who I am.    It’s really quite startling to think of it as an accident, as a blip…

We are going back — that is decided.  We knew it the morning before we left.  We both agreed on it a few months after we moved here.  We have been looking forward to it, and I have waxed lyrical here on my blog about it.  We are both quite settled.  We will all be Brits once again.

Imagine my surprise then when…  well, let me explain…

I was watching one of my favourite telly programmes — this was a couple of weeks ago, M had just got home from his trip to England.  It’s a property programme, a bit of eye candy, in which two experts guide househunters to their dream home.  I always watch it with a mix of excitement, jealousy, despair, and irritation.  The houses are interesting — the voyeurism is too — but the prices are ever eye-watering.  The house we bought here in the US would cost us five times as much in the UK.  And yet, their budget is always astronomical.  Where do these people get their money?!? It intrigues me, frustrates me — I can’t help but watch.

But as I watched it the other week, the sensation was strange, less voyeur and more uncomfortable than usual.  I was thinking about going home, thinking too much.  How will we ever move back? The figures never add up — even a two-up, two-down terrace in a questionable area of town seems beyond our means, and it always depresses me.  But there was more to it today… the sensation was strange…

And then the surprise, a quiet voice in my head: I don’t want to go back.

I stopped dead at that — every thought stopped as my brain tried to comprehend what it had just heard.  It had not been expected, not even suspected.  Had I really said that…?   Why would I not want to go back…?!?  I know I want to!  I didn’t believe it… it’s not true!  And yet… and yet…  I knew right away that it is true, at least in a little.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since, rolling that quiet statement around in my mind and trying to make it balance with all the other feelings I hold.  And I think I understand.  Our first year here was rough — we were fighting fires almost from the moment we arrived and we had hardly a moment to draw breath.  But, though we are still fighting a few fires even now, things have begun to slow down considerably.  There’s been a bit more time to to sit and relax, to enjoy the warm air of the summer, to go out and see a bit of the world…  to see a bit of America.

And I am beginning to remember what is wonderful about America.  We have been to fibre festivals, and driven through mountains and farmland and small towns to get there.  We have gone to lovely state parks, with deep woods and vast lakes, and sat in the sun watching the light dance across the water.  We have had dinner at grand and historic inns that sing out the vibrant history of the country.  We went to Gettysburg, and the place affected me profoundly, stopped my heart.  These past few months, I have seen the America that I had remembered, the America that I had hoped for.  These past few months, I have begun to fall in love.

But the problem is that when I say “we”, I mean my mother and I, with the girls.  The fibre festivals were daytrips during the week; the state park was a Tuesday with some old family friends;  Gettysburg was a quick break while M was in England.  My mother is so excited to have her daughter and grandchildren nearby, and she delights in taking us away like that.  M and I don’t have the money for getaways or dinner on our own — he toils away at work all week, and sees the same city neighbourhoods day after day, and then our weekends are spent at home, busy with domestic chores and conserving our pennies.  In the year-and-a-half that we’ve lived here, he’s got away for one weekend: it was a fibre festival that, yes, was set in some beautiful countryside but, to be honest, it’s quite possible he was too bored to notice it.

So we’ve been going on separate emotional journeys, he and I.  I have been discovering what there is to love — and loving it.  And he has been seeing exactly the same thing he’s seen since the day he arrived: the same dirty city from the same van, doing the same dirty jobs in the same dodgy neighbourhoods.  He is not much impressed and wants to go home;  I am being a surprised by that quiet voice in my head.

I’ve been honest with him about: told him about the voice, told him my feelings.  “We need to make sure we go on the same journey,” I said.  “When it comes time to go home, we need to have shared this, so we understand each other’s feelings.”  He agreed with a grunt.  But so far, we haven’t.  This weekend, I will take E1 to her tennis lesson while M works on the furnace.   Next weekend, he is working.  Perhaps in October…  I want so much to take him to Gettysburg…  and there’s another festival in New York, through some beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.  Oh, but the money… the money!

Money or not, I have to make this happen.  He has to get away — heaven knows he needs the break, and he needs to see America too.  But most of all, he and I must — absolutely must — go on this journey together, the same emotional journey.  Because when we do move back to the UK, and I do say goodbye to America… my America…  I will need him to understand what I am leaving.

Read Full Post »

I pulled on a pair of jeans yesterday that I’d bought on sale for £9 from Marks & Spencer’s in late summer 2005.  I didn’t fit into them then, but I had plans.  My first daughter was a few months old, my second not yet agreed to, and I was working toward…  oh, it makes me laugh now!…  I was working toward “getting myself back again”.

Women so often have this ridiculous idea that they can “get back” after they have their babies — back to their old bodies, back to their careers, back to their interests, back to their lives.  It’s only have you have the baby — quite some time after — that you realise it’s impossible to go back.   There is only going forward.  Even if you resume your career, work off the babyfat, start going out again, the truth is that you have changed forever — everything has changed forever.  There is no going back.

For me, the going forward meant not returning to work (a mix of unforeseen circumstances and my own choice), having another baby in quick succession, and  fourteen months of the most brutal sleep deprivation as we desperately tried to figure out what was wrong with this staving, screaming child.  Getting my figure back fell right off the agenda.  Getting my life back seemed… utterly impossible.  I’d try on the jeans periodically, but it was pointless — they only mocked me and refused to go over my thighs.  Plans indeed!

But here we are, four years later, and things are moving forward again.  E2 has these past few months begun sleeping through the night at last.  And sleep performs miracles: life is beginning to feel manageable — almost normal — again.  There are thoughts of a possible career, and long-untouched hobbies, and I have begun to work out…

As I was getting ready to go out last night, I tried on the jeans again and, to my utter surprise, they slipped on — actually loose at the waistband and with room in the thighs.  I wore them out with a pair of cheeky red heels and a huge grin — standing at the bar with my husband and feeling fantastic, feeling almost skinny, feeling… well, feeling  like myself again!

Getting ready for church this morning, we were late and in a rush.  I stepped out of the shower into a crowded bathroom as two little girls tried to brush their teeth (badly) and their father tried to brush their hair (even worse).  As I hastily rubbed the towel over myself, E1 stopped brushing and looked at me for a moment, before asking, “Mummy, why are your legs so big?!?”

My husband paused in his manic brushing and glanced at my face to gauge my reaction.  Sensing it might not be good, he rushed in to save the day, “They’re not big!  They’re muscular!”  It was a kind reference to my recent attempts to get back to weight-lifting, and it did make me feel a bit better.  Yes, it’s muscle, I reassured myself, looking down at my legs.  It’s all muscle.

“But look!” his daughter protested, still unconvinced. “Look how they go round and round!”  And she plonked a hand on either side of my thigh and began to rotate it back and forth, as you would a ball held between your hands,  and my thigh responded by jiggling  — jiggling! — round and round, just as she’d said.

I looked up at my husband as he looked up at me, pursing his lips to keep from laughing.  My thigh carried on moving back and forth with my daughter’s hands.  I smiled back at him, a little ruefully — last night’s happy illusion was shattered.  There may be no going back, but there is indeed a lot of going forward yet to do before I get to me again.

Or perhaps I am already there.  Mother, wife, jiggle and all… perhaps this is me.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »