I remember those jeans. Gap, circa 1998 and I never found another pair like them. They were retired in 2012, knees ripped out and patched at least twice, faded to almost-white, and definitely threadbare.
The shirt is unremarkable if you weren't around for all that green. He'd just hit the green phase that probably stretched a good ten years. There was a year, maybe he was fourteen, when he would wear nothing BUT green. Consider the implications. It was a logistical nightmare.
That's the doll. The creepy twin doll. You select attributes from a menu: shape of face, hair color (sorta), identifying marks. Moles and birthmarks, missing fingers, that sort of thing. I guess. I penciled in three dots on the neck, selected the closest hair color, and bought her a matching outfit.
I can almost recall the conversation. OK, maybe not. Maybe I remember the energy and intention that drove every decision, conversation, and action in my life. Later, I heard a lot of this: impulsive, emotional, thoughtless.
He's still smiling because he's happy. Just because he's happy, although the defensive smile had been in place since he was four. I never met a kid who worked harder at holding the world together. Except maybe me.
This is her most misunderstood face. Hard stop.
It wasn't the first time I'd figured out how to generate a good amount of cash and it wasn't the first time the ability to generate a good amount of cash was a life or death skill. But it was the first time I felt good about it.
I don't know if he felt good. I do know that the age of innocence was over. Abruptly tossed from the last bastion of safety the day we asked him, when he was eight, to make a horrible choice for himself and for his sister. We thought we were doing the right thing. Does that count? I guess it should but in the end intentions don't hold a lot of weight if the result is less than stellar. In truth, I don't think there was any other way. In truth, we put it on him.
Oh, Lucia. If I could, sweetie, I would. But that's not enough, is it?
This is the beginning of the end. I am happier about most things than I've been in my life. My head is above water and I think my kids are going to be OK. It is the first time I am asked the 'where do you see yourself in five years' question and the answer remained exactly the same until just this year. The answer was: Alive. I am alive. My kids are alive and I haven't the bandwidth to look any further than that.
That's bleak as shit, isn't it?
I don't want it to be and I know perfectly well there's another story. There's always another story but we get attached to the story we think we need. We get attached to the story we think we can live with. We get attached to the stories that we believe align with what we hear the world saying.
I'm not the mother they've been instructed to expect, but I am the mother who presented possibility as fact. That's a foothold in the door to the past. Life is a series of events and we make up the story. Looking back, through the crack in the door is an opportunity to make up another story which isn't the same as rewriting history although we do that too, constantly. We can't help it. The need to bring the past into alignment with the current state of affairs (how the hell did I get here anyway?) is the thing that keeps cognitive dissonance at bay.
It's really hard to make up a story that is not in alignment with the stories we hear around and about us.
Here's a slap upside the head:
I did four things in June. Four subjectively small things:
- I accepted a contract to do a job I know I can do, but I don't really remember how it's done. I seem to be working it out.
- I chose to stay home. To not go to the beach so my dad could go to the beach (the beach is a really big thing in this wing of the family). I stayed home because somebody had to be here.
- I managed to not mangle the visit of family from far away. All it took was surrender on my part.
- I got an old woman to the hospital in the middle of the night and slept on the floor of her room because that's what was wanted and needed in the moment.
These four things happened at exactly the same time.
There are two stories, diametrically opposed:
- NOT enough, Heather. Not nearly enough.
- More than enough, Heather. Way more.
Take door number two. Every time, take door number two. If it's there, take it. If you take door number two you can look back and tell another story. Not just to yourself, but to everyone. How different would their lives have been if the story I'd told was a good one? How different could all our lives be if I told a good one now?
I'll come back to this snapshot next year. I'll set a reminder. I'll come back to this snapshot and see if I can't tell another story; the one that says, we made it. We really did. What you choose to believe is up to you. I can't help that. I never meant to take that power from you.
Here, have it back. Be kind, mostly to yourselves.