We traveled up a gravel road, down a long forested driveway, across a moat, ushered by labradors to a door that opened onto a high fireplace, lighting the hearth. A guest brought her knitting. The son of the hosts sat knitting a scarf for his friend. The host brought back oysters from the shore. Such charmed lives. Everyone is so lovely, so productive, what with their knitting and pumping their own natural gas and traveling, all with the same job I have. Coming from the scorched earth that I live on, I am stunned that this sort of living still goes on.
Couples and I sat around the table. They shared stories. Occasionally someone landed a perfect one-liner. That used to be husband’s job. I smiled and nodded politely, hoping no one would ask me a question. If I spoke, I’d lose my composure. Once people moved from their plates and began peeling the clementines and cracking the nuts that decorated the tabletop, I slipped away to clear my plate. I stepped outside and found a place to sit in the dark. I cried out the tears I’d held in. I looked up. The moonlight showed me that I was sitting on top of a ridge, trees all around. People make such beauty possible in their lives. I am able to acknowledge that now without cursing my husband for not realizing that all this is possible. Instead, I am touched and happy for the family that has made this beautiful home and am grateful to be received into it.
My children had a lovely time. Son was caught up in a game of Magic, while an out-of-town guest enlisted my daughter and other kids in a card game. Card games. I completely forgot about card games. Engaged in their games in the glow of the fire, my children were flushed and beautiful, like all the other beloved children there. I am grateful to be included at this party, even if it’s a gift I can hardly bear to receive. I take care to be gracious. I share a funny story about my research, about a movie I’ve seen, book I’ve read. I remember how to engage in such niceties. They are nice.
I spent a long, dark night trying to fall asleep, reminded of how lonely I am, how bereft we are, but I woke up this morning feeling refreshed enough. My poor son, however, launched into a series of anxiety attacks. We tried techniques the therapist recommended, but he passed his difficulties onto the rest of us, until we were all a crumbled mess.
I tried a yoga nidra meditation. My intention was compassion for myself, compassion for my son.
By the time I finished, fencing class had already started. Son admitted that he hadn’t gotten his act together. I told him that, given the hardships of the day, I couldn’t get him there. It was a gently delivered punishment. We hugged each other, arms wrapped tightly around one another, holding. I added that, too, that plans for a hearty meal following his class were also canceled. It’s gotta be pizza night. Hooray, the kids cheered.
After eating, son thanked me for pizza. I told him to consume some spinach and asked him to bring me the last can of sparkling water. I heard rattling downstairs and “just a minute!” He appeared with a plate topped by an upside-down silver mixing bowl. With a flourish, he lifted the bowl to reveal my bubble water. I took a sip and declared it the most expensive tasting bubble water, ever. He laughed and tumbled onto my bed. The bowl clanged into the plate and the plate cracked in two.
There was a pause.
I was worried he’d cry.
He was probably worried I’d freak out.
“Cheap Ikea plate,” I offered. We all laughed in gratitude.
Son put the two halves of the plate on my nightstand. Daughter added a shard she’d carefully picked off the bed.