Two years ago today I woke up in my bed alone and shell-shocked. The day before, I had discovered thousands of dollars of unauthorized charges on my Amex account, traced them back to my girls' dad, and unceremoniously kicked him out of the house. Yes, you read that right: the day before Mother's Day, when I was having my "break," aka an hour of paying bills online at the Starbucks down the street, I discovered my partner, my boyfriend of nearly 5 years, the father of my children, was stealing from me. This, a few days after he accused me of cheating on him, because I wouldn't have sex with him. A few weeks after I had received a letter at my office from his business landlord, stating that he owed thousands of dollars to HER and was facing eviction. A few months after he had spent the night of our second daughter's birthday in jail for stumbling to his parked car after a pub crawl and putting the key in the ignition. A few years after he had promised I would be able to stay at home with my babies and then promptly quit his job.
This is, of course, a one-sided picture: I know well my part in the dissolution. I took him for granted. Was passive-aggressive. Withheld affection. Withdrew into myself and became unable to speak to him in any sort of productive way. In the months before our separation, he was living 4 nights a week in a city 2 hours away, in an attempt to take advantage of big city prices (hence the big city eviction notice). On the nights he drove home, as soon as I heard his car pull in the driveway I would race to the bedroom, dive into the bed, and pretend to be asleep. I couldn't bear the reunion scene. It was hell for both of us, I know this.
But then. There was the theft, and the kicking-out, and the waking up in the bed alone in the light of day. On THAT Hallmark holiday: mothers are to be exalted, fed brunch in bed, given flowers, etc.
I never expected quite all that, but I never expected THAT day to be my first day as a single mom, either.
But I woke up, then the girls woke up. Daddy was gone, but that wasn't that unusual. I made some excuse about work or something, I can't even remember now. I made our usual Sunday morning pancakes. We all got ready and drove to my mother's house for lunch. In the afternoon I built a fort for us out of Adirondack chairs and sheets and blankets and we laid on the grass together and I told stories of princesses who saved themselves from dragons. And then we had a simple supper and I put the girls to bed and after they were well asleep I stood in the shower and cried. How the fuck am I going to do this? How am I going to do this alone?
(In a drafty-ass 1800s-era farmhouse on more than an acre with a fish a cat a dog six chickens and two girls under age 5.)
Here's how: Go to bed alone, wake up alone, make the breakfasts, make the lunches, get everyone ready, have a day. Play. A lot. Get a lawyer, get the papers. Get on OKCupid. Get a boyfriend. (For a while). Go to work. Dance. A lot. Play. A lot. Cuddle and tickle and fall asleep too late or too early. Shout. Shriek. Get overwhelmed. Find a therapist. Make doctor's appointments. Make teacher conference appointments. Make daycare arrangements. Get new shoes for everyone. Get groceries. Get a really good fish tank. Learn how to fix the toilet. Learn how to order fuel oil. Learn how to light the pellet stove. Learn how to make pancakes in the shape of a horse. Learn how to enjoy your rare precious time alone. Take your vitamins. Meditate. Cry in the shower. Cry in the car. Cry in the office. Cry to your friends on the phone. Make them come visit you. Go visit them. Learn how to pack for yourself and two kids. Take road trips. Take airplanes. Test your safety nets. Go to bed alone.
Well. Sometimes I don't wake up alone. Sometimes, like this morning. I wake up between two blonde girls. Who have stolen my pillows and covers. This morning these two, not-so-little blonde girls woke up as soon as I opened my eyes. I was given strict instructions to go back to sleep and "sleep in as long as I wanted!" Ten minutes later a very proud 6 year old appeared carrying a mug of coffee made just how I like it. Five minutes after that two very proud girls appeared carrying plates of strawberries and untoasted sunbutter and jelly toast. And then I got cards and presents. The girls did this ALL by themselves, unprompted and unassisted and six and three years old. And we spent a harmonious day and hosted our own supper.
(Lest we get too rosy a picture: ok. Bedtime was rocky but I blame that squarely on the chocolate pie I insisted we make. Sometimes we make our own beds.)
Single mom, sure. Alone? Not even close.
Just like that, we take back THIS day.