Last night was strange. It was our daughter’s preschool auction/fundraiser. In my mind, it should have been fun. What’s not fun about getting gussied up and heading out without the kids? What’s not fun about mingling with people we know and like, chatting with new people, bidding on fun items in the name of an important, and dear cause?
I don’t know. But it wasn’t fun. It was fine, but it wasn’t fun.
Truth be told, the evening fell at the end of a tough and tiring week. Though we are finally all technically well, survivors of that pesky stomach flu plague, we all seem to still be recovering. Yesterday afternoon, the girls were tired after school. Tired and needy and whiny. Dinner-time and bedtime were soaked with tears and pleas for us to stay home. And maybe we should have.
But we didn’t. We got dressed and we went. We arrived and scattered hugs and hellos. It was nice to see people out of the classroom context, dressed up, sipping, smiling. And we sipped too but for us it was sparkling water with lime. We are still on this dreaded (and amazing) cleanse and so food and drink were off limits for the night. I found myself thinking about how much I wanted a glass of wine or two. I found myself thinking that this whole experiment is foolish and a bit masochistic even. Why would I deprive myself of a single cocktail on a night like this? Why?
I’m not sure. And last night, I was really not sure.
The hours marched by and I began to feel dizzy, lightheaded, like I was floating through the place and the people. It was odd. I felt like I was there, but not really there. I said many hellos, but found it hard to slip into conversations, even light ones. I stuck by my husband’s side and smiled a lot. I even got some cleanse-friendly food from the buffet. (Asparagus and beans are hardly exciting but they tasted good.) But the calories didn’t seem to help.
We debated whether to stay, or to go. I wanted to go. I wanted to want to stay, but I wanted to go. To slip out. To come home and find my pajamas and curl up in bed next to my man. This is what I wanted.
And this is what we did. It felt strange to leave. Like we were sneaking out, floating out. Did anyone notice as we walked up those steps to the street? And why do I care?
We talked and we snuggled and we talked some more. We fell asleep. And when I woke up, I felt good, still tired, but good. It was early but the baby was ready to go and so I went to her, pulling her from her crib, kissing her cheeks over and over and over again. We had a quiet stretch, the two of us. She had her bottle and I had my tea.
And the day has been good. Not pretty, not pristine, but good.
This morning, I checked my email and saw a message from my good friend that her husband’s father died suddenly this morning. My friend and her family were skiing in an area with little reception and when they finally got word that things were not looking good they hopped in the car to race home, but he died thirty minutes into the ride. I heard this and I was flooded with sadness for him. This boy, this man, this guy I know and like so much. Sadness that he went to bed last night with a dad, a dad who was sick but surviving, and that today, well, today is a whole different beast. My heart is broken, in pieces, familiar pieces, for him.
And this of course brought me back to the day my own dad died. I remember it clearly, maybe too clearly. I remember the red nightgown my mother wore under her robe as she walked the dogs that morning. My dad always walked the dogs until he got sick and the image of my mom on the sidewalk in crimson red clutching the leashes of the big dogs he insisted upon having, the dogs he loved like the sons he never had, crushed me and inspired me. She looked beautiful, my mother. And I remember tiptoeing up the stairs to see him. I was scared. Of course I was scared. But there he was in his own bed in a favorite t-shirt, his eyes closed and his mouth open. I held his hand and it was cold, but it was his and I said things, silly nonsensical things, but there was one thing I refused to say: Goodbye.
And I remember the gray tutu. When my husband came over later that morning, he brought our little girl (18 months at the time) and a bag of Starbucks pastries. And my little girl was wearing a gray tutu and I just remember her twirling and twirling around and this twirling saved me a little bit. It did.
The rest of today was good, inglorious, normal fare. Pajama moments, messy floors, a trip to the playground. This evening, I gave the baby a bath because she was fussy and I thought it would soothe her and kill a little time before bed. She was happy in the water, playing with toys, kicking about. I soaped her up and rinsed her and then I sat on the toilet quietly and watched. I watched as she studied the soapy film of the water, trying to pop the incandescent specks in the suds. She was transfixed, my girl. Her eyes were wild and wide and I could see her learning and discovering and thinking. At one point, she glimpsed her own pink toe pop up from the surface and she grabbed for it. This made me smile.
I’m realizing something: there are small gems everywhere if we are willing to look. They are buried in rubble which is gray, and hard, and not very beautiful sometimes, but they are there.