I was a single mom last week. Brian was in Memphis for the International Blues Competition. The mornings were the hardest - I got up at 5 both days but still barely made it to work by 8:30. Getting us both ready - with lunches packed - was nothing less than a miracle. In two days the house was an utter disaster. Work was - is - unusually stressful. By Friday night I was just exhausted, and found myself so thankful that my friend Linnea, mother of Dora's boyfriend Asher from school, offered to meet Dora and I for pizza. She'd had a day about like mine - a ruined dinner and a husband out of town all week. It was chaotic and loud with three kids, but very, very fun, and a well-timed reminder that life is messy and difficult but good.
Saturday was "girl's day". We got up early and went to yard sales, stopped by the bakery for a treat, and ran other errands. In the afternoon I cleaned the house - even the hard to reach spot behind the toilet - which felt very satisfying for some reason. We went grocery shopping. We made dinner together. We watched a movie. It was a very nice girl's day. Brian got home as we were reading stories before bed and Dora ran to him calling "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy".
On Sunday, Dora and I went to church and then baked cookies, since we'd gotten the grocery shopping done on Saturday. It was a rainy, cold day. After Dora's nap, we took her bowling, which was very cute and funny. After just one game (with the two worst bowling scores either of us have ever had), the serious league bowlers came in and we left, back out into the pouring rain. We took Dora to Dancing Bear Toys, mostly just to pass some time before dinner. After much contemplation she settled on a little tiny giraffe. She's very into zoo animals lately.
We braved the rain for dinner at Doc Chey's, the first time we've taken Dora there since she's started doing well in restaurants (especially ones that serve edamame). The giraffe sat with us and ate some edamame, too. Dora is in the midst of potty training - and doing really well with it, I might add - so when she asks to go potty we take it seriously. Brian took her to the men's room to try. I sat at the table alone, looking out into the street at the rain, at the lights of the Fine Arts Theater shining against the wet pavement on Biltmore Avenue. My family was together and all felt right with the world. I thought, "we are going to be ok". Sometimes, with our crazy schedules and all the stress we're both under, it doesn't feel like we're going to be ok. But there are moments - when the rain is falling but we're warm and dry - that it does feel like we're going to be ok.
Life goes on, though. Yesterday I learned of yet another thoughtful, kind, lovely person who is facing a cancer diagnosis. The disease certainly likes to pick on our best and brightest, doesn't it? This morning, the furnace broke. January is a slim month for musicians - not a good time to get hit with a $300 unexpected repair. Tomorrow, I leave for Raleigh - on the road again, as our friend Willie Nelson would say. Once again, my family will not be together.
About a year and a half ago, when I was dealing with intense post-partum anxiety, worrying about everything - worrying even about worrying - my friend Susie gave me a quote she had written down. It was about optimism - about how we, as parents, have a responsibility to be optimistic for our children. They need us as that positive force in their lives.
I'm not necessarily a natural optimist - nor is my lovely, sweet husband - but it is true that children bring out optimism in us. Who else can bring us out of the house on a rainy cold day to go bowling? Who else would get two adults to pretend to feed edamame and rice to a plastic giraffe? Who else can run through the house with arms outstretched, with a welcome home like no other? You do things for your children you wouldn't - even couldn't - do for anyone else. For her - for us - I'll believe that all is right with the world. I'll remember that life is messy and difficult but also very good. For her, I'll believe that we are going to be ok.