Yesterday was a long day between my “freelance job” and the way demands from it pecked away at me from my first cup of coffee to bedtime; my “regular job” which had impossible situations highlighting how despite my best efforts there are some things that I cannot fix; and my “dream job” sitting off to the side receiving unacceptable-to-me bursts of attention as the hours allowed. I found myself growing more aware with each tick of the clock of how many dishes sat at home, how empty the cupboards were, and how I longed to be with Sean and the girls.
They had all been napping as I dressed. The entire upstairs was closed in from the cold, curtains drawn, blankets stacked high and lights dimmed. I left no note, made no preparations for dinner, the idea of them eating without me sliced too deep to address with a cheery note and a gaily colored stack of dishes. The world outside was dark, the air biting and the terrain treacherous from the ice storm, as I made my way to an event that required my time, but had none of my heart.
I tried not to imagine what I was missing, how the girls, so accustomed to having me home at night, must have been asking after me. I ached for the time usually spent catching up on the day with Sean, knowing it would be lost in a blur of bedtime (if I made it) and trying to get dishes done and laundry set for the morning.
Dinner was a torturous affair as I sat with three engineers and four empty chairs. My cheeks burned as I wracked my brain for small talk that did not involve potty training, time outs or my increasingly ripe and in the way breasts and belly, which seemed to be the fifth person at the table. We discussed at length whether the white vegetables on the plates were parsnips or turnips, the merits of hockey and, yes, potty training.
Blessedly the moment came when the evening’s festivities were officially drawn to a close with a quick round of applause. I hovered for fifteen minutes making sure the loose ends were all neatly tied into pretty bows and then bolted. I pulled into our driveway just shy of eight o’clock. I shuffled wearily up the cement steps in our garage and cleaned the ice from my shoes before walking inside.
Walking into the front part of the house I could hear the sounds of Mulan coming from the computer. I tiptoed in to see the three of them cuddling in the chair by the computer. Briar was curled in Sean’s lap, while Avery sat perched on his hip. I stood behind the chair watching this perfect tableau, slowly making my way closer and slipping my hand over the chair back and into Avery’s hair.
She leaned back at my touch and her head rested in my palm. I tousled her hair and held her hand for a moment before Sean turned and looked at me. His eyes were drowsy and he gave me a love-drunk smile. Avery turned, finally realizing it was me who had been touching her, and climbed in my arms. Briar turned, smiled and then snuggled in closer to Sean. We stayed that way until the credits began to roll.
“Daddy, it’s a slow song. Will you dance with me?” She asked as she stretched to a standing position. He scooped her in his arms and caught Avery as she too, leapt in his arms. I settled in the chair as they twirled to the music. The girls faces bobbed, leaning into tickle his whiskers and then out again, noses crinkled and eyes twinkling. The house rang with peals of pure joy.
The tension of the day slid from my limbs and landed on either side of the chair, out of sight and all but forgotten. The credits ended and a new song began.
“Dance more Daddy? You dance more wif us?” Avery asked holding his face in her hands while Briar looked on in delight. I felt as much a part of the activity as if I’d been dancing myself. Realization and emotion collided, a simultaneously jarring and soothing clap.
They are complete.
We are complete.
Even when apart.
Not together. There it was. The girls had passed an evening with Sean. Daddy. They had danced and wrestled, feasted on macaroni and watched a movie together. On a night while I had imagined them missing out, they had, in actuality, been getting more than if I’d been there. This was not a situation of missing mom, but of getting dad.
Their hair fanned out behind them as Sean dipped them, their hands, with fingers still ever so plump, clutched his arms while they careened around his strong torso. His face was as trouble free and open as I’ve seen it in ages. The tears scorched my eyes and the lump in my throat threatened to make me whimper as wave upon wave of emotion engulfed me. I hadn’t the energy to hold them. I wanted him to hold them, wanted them to want it, and they did. I watched them dance, absolutely dazzled by their rapture. And his.
I wept the happiest tears of my life as I realized that the girls were better off for having Sean and this time. Tonight as I type this on the tail end of Valentine’s Day I smile knowing that I am better off for having Sean too.
I love you, baby.