Today should have been exciting and good. Audrey’s preschool class had a playgroup at someone’s house. It was our first time meeting the other little children that will be in her class. Instead, it was quite terrible really.
I guess I will soon become accustomed to it- anticipating that I will feel sad and awkward when gathered with other moms instead of excited and “one of them,” as I mistakenly keep thinking I will.
The playdate was supposed to be at a park actually- one that I have not been to since the last time with you and Audrey at about 19 months- maybe a month or so before…I wound up sitting chatting with a mom by the sandbox about nursing while you followed Audrey around having such a good time. It was moved to someone’s house because of the rain we had, but it was a few blocks from the park, so I still had to drive by. I drove slowly in disbelief that there it was- exactly the same.
Young mothers who don’t know each other mostly wind up talking about pregnancy, second pregnancies, and parenting in general. Three or four moms had little siblings along with their child and a few were pregnant. “Does Audrey have any siblings?” I got asked while they were discussing when to have the second. “No.” Then she follows up with something about how it’s good to space it out to the other moms.
And then during small talk with another mom, when I’m talking about where I’ve lived before here, is it odd or untruthful when I say, “We lived in Brooklyn” and “we moved here almost three years ago?” because it feels like I’m creating this picture of my present life that isn’t congruent. “Where do you guys live now?” they ask. I know they mean my family- Audrey’s father and myself. But I answer for just Audrey and myself.
It is all I can do while Audrey plays in the sandbox, eats her snack, and later discovers Barbie dolls for the first time in their basement- to not cry. By the time we leave, I am absolutely drained from holding a lump in my throat and moving my cheeks upward into what I hoped looked like a smile. You always told me I wasn’t good at hiding how I felt about others and I should work on that. I kept thinking about that, and I did my best for Audrey’s sake not to appear the “unfriendly” or “unhappy” mom.
The car ride home lets me cry a little bit while Audrey is buckled in in the back seat.
I realize while I’m driving that I have been living in grief for the last thirteen months or so, but now I am grieving in life…actually living out all of the future pain and emptiness I knew was awaiting me the second I heard the words that you were gone.
By the time we arrive home, I am more composed. I want to scream and curse over the unfairness of it all, but instead, I make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sing the song she likes that her dad made up when he was just a little boy. “Peanut butter and jelly- put it in my belly…yum yum yum yum yum yum…Oh, ham.” She sings along. Sometimes though, I wonder how long I can keep this up- this huge discrepancy between what I feel like doing and what I do. Sometimes it seems like something in my brain or body might eventually snap.
Later in the day, Audrey accompanied me to my physical therapy consultation for the herniated disc/sciatica that’s been causing me such pain and the office just happened to be in the gym of a big complex that also does catering and hosts weddings. One that we drove to and priced when we were shopping around for our own wedding.
I leave there heading back to the car past the doors that actually look familiar still. I can picture you speaking Korean to the woman who showed us around and gave us the pricing (it was a Korean catering place) and both of us looking around at the ballroom together. I can remember and feel the excitement of that season of my life so clearly.
And then…here. Back in that same parking lot, thirty-five year old widow walking our almost three year old daughter to the car.
The juxtaposition of time and places and memories and moving is maddening.