I was at the movies this weekend and it was crowded, so crowded I had to sit in one row with my first-born while my husband sat a few rows up with our second child. It was a funny movie and I found myself glancing behind me and up, trying to catch my husband’s eye—searching, I guess, for a shared moment.
Afterward, he said, “didn’t you love the Isaac reference?” We had seen Despicable Me 2 and it was loaded with in-jokes for the parents. Brilliant, really. “I did,” I said. I didn’t tell him that I had tried to get his attention and not just because of the Love Boat thing, but others, too. I didn’t tell him this, because what a luxurious life I lead. And I don’t mean physical luxury like a house and car and a being able to afford to take our children to the movies on a Saturday night.
The luxury for me, is having a partner in these things. Someone who will continue with the math lesson when I have to leave and throw something against a wall, someone who will figure out if we should re-finance our house, someone who will run to my child when they fall off a swingset because I am too chicken to look. Someone who will find ways to keep me writing and thinking when I can’t see the story through all the backpack flyers and dishes to do. Someone who will call 911 if I can’t get to a phone.
There is a scene in an old Sex and the City episode where Miranda almost chokes to death by herself in her apartment, triggering a big worry over whether or not anyone would have known. My mother always references this when she tries to explain what it feels like to live her home life all alone. We laugh at this because it’s funny in an absurd way. It could happen to any of us when we are home alone—it doesn’t really mean anything except to the person who is actually alone. The person who has to do most things by themselves.
We tell a funny story in my family about the time my mom took my brother and me to see Scarface in a movie theater when we shouldn’t have been allowed past the ticket counter. She loves Al Pacino, my mother—then and now. What I think is that she did not have a sitter, did not have a date either, and decided to take us along for the ride. A ride that ended not so far into the movie with my mom yanking us out of the theater all at once, and coping with the new middle of the night concerns of her children. Concerns like how to get blood off of a shower curtain.
And by and large this is how we lived, with one parent trying to do the emotional and physical work of two. One parent, trying to make it to carpool pickup on time in the wake of starting her own business, finding some semblance of a social life, and also knitting herself into the fabric of a community that was built on the backs of couples and families with long legacies, and not single mothers.
She has never had another person with whom to exchange knowing glances, to talk about what’s going on at work, what’s going on with the kids. She has had people, but not one person and it’s different. And lately I’ve been thinking more about this. Every night, when the lights are off and the kids are asleep and the dishwasher is running (having fought about who should load it, run it, unload it again in the morning) my husband and I talk in the dark, sometimes very late into the night—what starts out as a grocery list might turn into a list of where we want to go on vacation, where we want to go in life. It’s all a big gossip really, but when we fall asleep, him deeply, me less so–angsty about mysterious noises and potentially waking children–what luxury to have him to call on, just in case.
You are not alone, I always tell my mom. Because you carpooled us and took us places and showed us new things (the plantations of the South! the Freedom Trail! Andre Agassi! Gary Hart! Israel! Bloomingdales! Scarface!), and picked us up when we were belly-flopped on beds (me, sobbing through most of my teenage years) and found ways to build us up without someone else to help with the heavy lifting–to consult with, fight with, laugh with, sit on a sofa and breathe with. Because of all that, you have us.
I seek you out every day, and today especially because it is my birthday and because every ounce of who I am has to do with the things you did and the things you still do on my behalf. Sadly, I have to do more than glance a couple of rows back—I have to dial my phone, or find a facetime opportunity, or book a flight, but when I do and when our minds meet, or our eyes meet, I know that because of the balls life threw in your direction—the ones you caught and the ones you missed—in many ways we have always been partners, always will be–always finding ways to sort it out all together when the movie ends.