The weather today was beautiful.
Son and I snuck in a little tennis before the farmers market. We got to the market early. I explained that we could walk down the length of it, see what was good, and when the bell rang, we could grab our wares and go.
It wasn’t that easy.
As we left the car, we saw the parents of daughter’s friend. Both of her kids had a sleepover last night, the mom announced. Oh, how nice for you, I responded, with a smile. I walked away. “Do you realize that she was still talking to you?” son asked. I hadn’t. I was preoccupied thinking of the few times that happened to us. Husband and I–not believing our luck–would scramble to find a few people to meet at a bar. We’d come home and fool around. So, yeah, I didn’t feel like hearing what this couple did last night. Was I supposed to get more details while my heart broke into a million pieces? And what would I say? “Husband and I always enjoyed nights like that.” Or, “Last night I stayed in scouring the biography of David Foster Wallace for clues to his suicide.” No, better that I seem rude or socially awkward. Not many people really want to know what’s on my mind.
With the professoriate back in town, I’m surprised I only had two of the Step 1. furrowed brow Step 2. approach Step 3. condolences. “Thank you,” I said, as I exchanged $2 for my chard. “I’m fine, thank you,” I said, as I held a handful of loose kale leaves. (What am I supposed to say when I’m crouched down, clutching loose kale leaves?) I had already chatted with the farmer’s wife (before the bell ring) and stroked her fuzzy handknit sweater. As she handed me my change after the kale conversation she leaned over and muttered, “Are you doing all right with this, Fichereader?” I looked her right in the eye. I got this, I assured her. I could picture her coming up with some way to make this easier for me, but the thing is, just her being there makes things easier for me. She is one of the many anchors I have to help me through this awkwardness.
Let’s scram, I suggested to son. On the drive out, he said that I could stop and talk to people. I politely told him that after years of him pulling at my apron strings (i.e., whining), it became too disconcerting to stop and talk, so when I’m with him in public, I move fast. By the time we stopped in our driveway, he explained that he was like that because Daddy would stop and talk with people, ignoring his needs. I paused. “Daddy often treated other people much better than he treated me and you.” He raised his arms and hugged me. We stayed like that for awhile in the front seat.
So the market was difficult, but son and I make little breakthroughs in all sorts of ways.
In the afternoon, daughter had another party at a local festival. We met the birthday girl’s mom at the entrance. “Just get on line and the rest of the family will meet you at the other side of the entrance,” she explained, gesturing to the fenced line to get in. I saw the fences. I saw people arriving, one of whom might not know husband died, or knows and never said anything. I saw the fences that would trap me in the line. I looked the mom right in the eye and stated, “I have to get away from here.” She sprang into action. “I will take daughter in. We’ve got this. What do you need? Do you want us to take her home?” No, I could pick her up, I just couldn’t go in. I kissed my daughter. I felt like giving the mother a peck on the cheek, so grateful I was for her kindness.
At the designated pick-up time I stood outside the festival. A woman with a lovely voice was singing Jolene. The sky was so clear. People were so happy. People around here are so healthy, so happy. The festival looked a lot like any other year, and I expected husband to walk out of the exit gate and meet up with me. I can recognize beauty, but I can’t bear it.
I was spent, but daughter was involved in a boffer incident. I could tell she was holding in her sadness. She let it out in the car. One of the guests didn’t know the boffer etiquette, and then when she did, she fought with some malice and hurt daughter. I took note of that kid’s name for future reference. We took the back roads home. It’s a beautiful part of the county. By midride, she told me about the fun parts. By the end of the ride, she was asleep.
I took the dogs for a walk on the bikepath on the way to pick up son from his friend’s house. There was some small misunderstanding between two cars and a lawnmower on one of the little side streets. No one was angry, but I was confused. I pulled into the tiny parking lot and bawled. Then I walked the dogs, and the day got easier.
When I picked up son, he and his friends were chasing each other across the lawn. I was halfway up their long driveway, and he just leapt down a hill and right into the car. I reversed the car. He laughed, rolled down the window, and said his farewells. I haven’t seen him that lighthearted in a long, long time.
For dinner I served canned baked beans on toast. On the side was peanut slaw that I made, trying to knock off the delicious slaw served in a cafe in Nearby Medium City. I used my fancy new food processor, which maybe wasn’t overpriced after all, because it is so awesome. The kids didn’t love the slaw, but they each took a few bites and didn’t complain. I’ll take it.
I learned that the Swedish series, Wallander, is available on Watch Instantly. I’ve wanted to see that for a long time.
Son was invited to hang out with some high school friends tomorrow at the festival. I’m pretty sure that the mother put the kid up to inviting him, but I don’t care. These kids are wise and funny and son sent his own email in reply, after discussing it with me four times. In this house, that’s progress. And to top it off, the mother will drive.
Nice things happened to all of us today, but all three of us shed tears in the front seat of the car today. So when I say, “We’re okay, but we struggle,” this is the sort of day I mean.