My kids are at my mother-in-law’s house, visiting with their dad for the second time since October 1st. They were overflowing with excitement, and burst from the car before I had even turned off the engine, throwing themselves into his waiting arms on the porch. I watched, my throat tightening as Abby nestled herself in the hollow under his chin, wrapping her small arms around his neck. Those arms once meant safety to me, too. And now I stand back and watch, mindful of my heart and the minefield of broken dreams between myself in the driveway and him, standing on his mother’s porch.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We were different. He spent ten years convincing me to trust him before I finally married him, and in him I placed my heart, hopes, children and dreams. When I finally gave myself to him, I gave my all. This wasn’t supposed to be us.
Some days I’m like a second-day party balloon- without enough oomph to reach the ceiling, but with just enough air to linger in the middle, neither here nor there. I am not really married anymore- and yet I’ll never really be single again, either. I am a wheel out of true, softly gimping along. I cannot see what is next, and I cannot makes sense of what’s behind me yet.
I have three hours while the kids get their time with their dad. He is across town, and driving home seems a waste, so I head to the craft store. I am purposeless, just spinning my wheels and killing time. With a giant hollow ache where my heart should be, the tinsel and Christmas glitter just seem sad rather than festive, and the canned carols in the store only make me feel more alone. I leave my cart unobtrusively by the register, one skein of yarn half-heartedly left on the seat, and walked out the doors into the cold clear night.
The quiet echoes in my head. It’s a lonely quiet, not a solitude.
I’ve always loved the holidays. I love decorating, and would be chomping at the bit to put the tree up before even Thanksgiving, some years. This year, I can barely even think about it- although I know it will happen. I will get the decorations out, I will celebrate with the kids, and when the lights are all out, and I think no one is looking, I will be utterly swallowed up by aching loneliness and the chasm of loss that hides behind my heart.
I know I can do this. I know the “firsts” are going to be the hardest of everything. I know we are all going to be okay- I just have to battle back the desire to see the end from the beginning. It doesn’t work that way. Each day, I must pick myself up, dust myself off, and take another step. Eventually, I will have walked a mile. Just for today, for today only, all I can do is that one little step.