Work brings Phil to New York for the next two weeks. He left yesterday, so today was day one as single mom. I’m happy to report that I avoided both wine and drugs—aside from the hormones I’m taking that make me want to yank people to the ground and kick them in the labia. It’s actually, and I’ve felt this before, liberating. I feel slightly guilty for having these giddy feelings, enjoying so much not having to compromise. I feel free. I don’t think this is how I’m supposed to feel, relieved. That can’t be good. But it feels like pudding time.
First thing I did when Phil left was sat the beans down for a chat about rules. With Papa gone for two weeks, things are going to change. Mama has her own way of doing things, and one of those things involves “no TV.” I was wholly surprised that I was met with no resistance. I’ve placed all the remotes in a high cupboard and it’s understood that we as a family won’t be watching television. They in no way feel it’s a punishment. In fact, I think they’re excited. Instead of their nightly “just one quick show?” it’s become “you mean I get to choose whichever book I want, no matter how long it is for a bedtime story?” And I love it. I feel like I’m nourishing their souls. It just feels right. It’s night two, mind you. I might want to drop-kick them on night thirteen.
After breakfast, I scrubbed floors and cleaned toilets. Very chic. Wiped noses, packed lunches, wiped an ass, washed hands. Did a French braid twice. Other accomplishments today: I researched kids lunches because they need more variety. Unsuccessfully shopped for jicama (really Whole Foods? Get it together). Fruit skewers. Bento buddies. Laptop lunchboxes. I’m giving Lucas an ice cream cone with a scoop of peanut butter, swirled with fresh sliced strawberries. He asks for peanut butter on everything; he’d eat it off a napkin. Tomorrow, they’ve chosen “Breakfast for lunch,” so we packed their lunches together. Granola, Greek yogurt, strawberries, waffles and the faintest trace of syrup, just enough for them to think they have a “side” of maple syrup instead of what it is: a single lick. Tomorrow night’s breakfast? Omelets and bacon. Dinner? Spaghetti tacos. Also up tomorrow: L&A begin gymnastics classes at Twisters after school. We’re all really looking forward to it. The place is truly kid (and parent, given their weekend drop-off hours) paradise.
I reorganized the fridge. It might not sound like a thrill ride, but I can tell you this much: it had me yodeling. Well, no. But I was likely singing show tunes as I rearranged, not needing to justify why I hauled all the fruits out of their bin, so they could be in plain sight for me (because I always forget shit is in there). With everything in it’s Stephanie-appointed place, I feel like I can breathe. Order, odd bits tucked away. It feels peaceful, and here’s this word again, freeing. No cluttered night table (I moved all of Phil’s stuff off his bedside table, so I don’t need to look at stacks of mail and work papers). It feels restful.
Without him here, I realize that I sometimes take Ambien because I resent always being the last person to fall asleep. What a strange thing to realize about yourself. I get irritated that he can fall asleep so easily, and that I toss and turn, with a day running through my head, thoughts pinging. And maybe I just want to avoid the TV/computer/iPad existence we’ve co-created. There was a time in my life when slipping into bed meant music and talking and sweetness, but maybe that’s just the beginning of things. Because all relationships start that way. Then eventually you’ve already heard their stories and fears and thoughts, or you don’t want to ask about them because they involve you and why they’re frustrated. This sounds sad, feels mean, feeling this. But without Phil here, bedtime feels delicious. I can slip under the covers, burn a candle and read a book. No fcuking sitcoms or channel surfing or basketball game in the background. If I’d like, and I do, I can fall asleep, as I used to do so long ago, to one of my favorite chick films, the ones I watch over and again, to the point where I don’t need to look up to know what’s happening on the screen. I’ve memorized every gesture and eyebrow. And I hope he’s enjoying not having to compromise, that he’s relishing his “Phil only” time.
I composed a kale, swiss chard, white bean chicken chili with curls of Parmesan. And Abigail devoured it without a single complaint of too many greens. Lucas didn’t want dinner−sweet boy has a cold, and he opted for bed, early. He is such a love, just sugar. After reading him his choice of bedtime story—and he did manage to find the longest book we own—he slipped beneath his covers and sighed. Abigail crouched beside him and pet his head before giving him a good night kiss. Then I sighed. Then Lucas said, “Your turn Mama because I could use more kisses.” Swoon.
Then I assembled the trash, yanking up garbage bags, at the ready for tomorrow’s AM collection. And then, quite catastrophically, the garbage disposal crapped out on me, stuffed and swampy, with floating strawberry greens and general nastiness. So I phoned Phil to complain, which no doubt made him sigh, if only to feel needed or useful from even far away. Though, he might say “There’s always something; why must you involve me? Can’t you just take care of it?” Or his favorite line, “Why when I have to do something, I do it, but when you have to do something, Stephanie and Phil have to do it?” But he said none of these things. He texted me the handyman’s contact information, and that was that. Just shows that my “intuitive knowing”—those back and forth conversations I play at in my head—have to add to the shackled dynamic, the one I feel (mostly) free of when I’m alone. We all play a part, even when we pull double duty and play both of them.