He said it as he was leaving, one hand one the door, his face expressionless in the dark. Another late night, back to work after another long day. “Next week will be better. I promise,” and his head sank as he walked away looking defeated. I put my own face down, burrowing in the blanket wrapped around Fin, her little hands pressing hungrily as she nursed, reclaiming me as her own after the nightly bedtime cacophony and sibling clamoring for mom.
We rocked as Sean slipped downstairs. I tried to bite back my anger, seemed no use to save it as there was nowhere to point it. He worked every night leading up to Thanksgiving. He worked Thanksgiving morning. He worked Thanksgiving night. He worked the next day and the next night. We worked together the next day. Work, work, work and still the ends don’t meet. And when I say ends I mean the dollars and the spaces, sleep never reaches its completion, the day never really ends. And the dollars, oh how they refuse to meet the demands of the bills, making me feel furtive as I make purchases of organic foods and non-toxic cleaners.
We are up before dawn, dashing from one thing to the next. Sitter at 8:30, preschool at 9, pump at 10, pick up at 11:15, make lunches, back to sitter, back to work, eat, work, pump. Back to sitter, home, nurse, play, emails, nurse, do a project, work, email, dinner, nurse. Then it’s off to the office to get Sean, home to do dinner, then play, then bed, Sean goes back to work and I stay home, tending to the girls as they pop up like some sort of endless carnival challenge, and then I work. If we’re lucky we meet up for a moment in bed, Sean needing to read to unwind, and me needing to work at falling asleep. Before we are ready and before it seems fair, it begins anew.
Finley stirs, her face moves side to side as if my thoughts are intruding her own. My face burns with guilt for being exhausted, for wanting a break. Closing my eyes I lose myself in the moment, I shush her, my fingers skimming her tousled hair and then pausing at her neck as she takes them in her hand. We rock, the worry of another lonely night followed by a resented dawn start to fade. We sit like this, just rocking and letting go until we both drift off—I start as my head falls off the chair. I gasp and look down—she’s fine.
Her little head, safe in the crook of my arm, reflects bits of moonlight and a life so filled with blessings that again, I swallow back the guilt of wanting more, or less. I suppose the best I can hope for is to end each day feeling more in tune with the good in my life than the things I wish would change.
I met Sean in the kitchen just before midnight as our three beautiful girls slept upstairs. I had arranged four fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cookies, made with leftover dough from a family baking project that we did with the girls. The cookies spelled I love you and as he smiled at me and took me in his arms I heard the echo of his voice saying, “Next week will be better, I promise,” and I pushed it away with a soft, “When it’s all said and done, today is pretty damn perfect.”