Our family was reunited last night, as Tessa and Lucy flew into JFK from points west. Through a bizarre criss-cross of the Hudson Valley, I drove 4-5 hours through tornadoes and pounding rain to get them, but seeing li’l Punkinboots at the baggage claim made all of that dreariness seem fathoms away.
We were only apart for a week, but when Lucy saw me, there was an underlying resentment of “where were you?” It has led to this tiny disconnect, the faintest feeling that we are not exactly tuned to the same megahertz as we were before, when I was with her in those mystical seconds before sleep every other night.
Today, we were on my bed, where we usually play fortress games inside the pillows, but she just said “don’t want to” and climbed onto her babysitter instead. Normally, this sort of insouciance is par for the course; Lucy is an absolute sensualist and abandons pretty much everything if she thinks there might be new kinds of sensory input across the room.
But this tiny snub left me heartbroken, as if that week I was gone somehow relegated me to temporary cargo status, and I can’t tell you how sad it feels. Sure, she’s a 2-year-old and incapable of grudges, but it does feel like it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to gain her best graces.
I can’t imagine the pain fathers or mothers must feel when they have newly-divorced families, watching their own children grow up outside their purview, with very little power – short of a court order – to do anything about it. Shame and condemnation should befall the divorced parent who manipulates the alienation of the other parent; everyone has their faults, but short of criminal behavior, turning a kid against their mother or father is cruelty made incarnate.
As for me, I just need to take Lucy swimming. There is no greater pleasure in the Garden of Earthly Delights than to swim in the kiddie pool at the Santa Monica YMCA with the Lulubeans – when we’re both floating and laughing, I have to close my eyes and think back to all the times when I was feeling so low that I wondered why I bothered putting one foot in front of the other.
There were times so dark that I felt compelled to list the reasons I should stick around, and always, there was a sense that I must remain in control, just tread thick water, because something oddly luminous was ahead. I never wrote down this feeling, always kept my list very mundane as to be practical, but I was always sensed a distant white-blue light in my peripheral vision. Maybe it was just simple survivalism, or maybe just a few misfiring neurons, but there’s always a chance it was something altogether more amazing.