I've found that browsing the internet for Paris apartments while sipping a glass of red is a lovely way to spend a spring evening.
I did that last night, after Max and Claire had finally quieted, both buried under sheets and quilts, breathing loudly. J. has an especially hard case right now and, while I stretched out on the couch clicking away, he sat at the table with his big, black, legal binders and laptop, getting ready for court today. I felt only a little guilty drinking wine and fantasizing about our upcoming week in France. Research, I told myself. I'm doing essential research.
Lately I've been feeling much like a single parent. J.'s gone before the kids and I get up in the morning. He usually returns home between 6:30 and 7, not long before Max and Claire's bedtime. Often when he is here, he's mentally elsewhere. I know that I don't get to have him right now, while he gives himself to this other project. It's painful. More than painful, it's damaging. He tries hard to be available to us. So, so hard. But when he's wrapped up in a case, he rarely reaches for me. His eyes fix glumly somewhere in the middle distance instead of alighting on me or the kids. And he's more frequently short-tempered. (I think I've written this exact paragraph in a previous blog post. Forgive me.)
He's come right out and asked me not to forward job openings or encourage him to brush up his resumé. The only way I can think of to help, then, is to spend less money so he can retire sooner. This is hard to do while planning a trip to France.
It will be our 10th anniversary voyage, to celebrate a decade of marriage. This is how much J. loves me: he's already been to Paris and doesn't especially want to go again. He'd prefer something more rustic and exotic. (He's spent a good chunk of time in Africa, and loved it. He likes the idea of Indonesia.) But he knows I've dreamed of France for a long time. When we first met, I was taking a French class, broke and with no real plans to travel there, but a desire to be familiar with the language (How stupid I was not to traverse the globe before having children!)
So, now, in 2011, I plan the trip and he makes the money to send us there. I drink the wine and he attends to the binders and laptop. I take care of the kids and he makes appearances at Little League games and to help put them to bed and do multiplication flashcards. It's our division of labor right now.
I'm reading Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. My mom brought it to me when she came last month. I love Anna Quindlen novels. I love her politics. I saw her speak at Elliott Bay Bookstore once and loved her. Recently, a site I used to write for, Momicillin, recruited her to live chat with readers about Every Last One. But that's all beside the point.
I'm reading this novel and it's clipping along at a nice pace: enough tension, slightly rocky family issues, exemplary writing (of course), and then this big horrible tragedy happens and, despite skillful foreshadowing, I didn't see the magnitude of such a disaster coming. It's 11:30 at night (after my pleasant time looking for Paris apartments), and I'm wide awake in the dark, a little reading light illuminating my stricken face. I'm so upset by what I've read, I want to curl into J., but he's asleep and not very receptive when he's immersed in a big case anyway.
And holy shit, everything falls away. The small issues with the kids, my petty grievances about J.'s work, fears about never getting my writing published. It's nothing, I think. Look what can happen.
This fiction is so good, so believable, that I am shaken. And I can't lay the book aside and close my eyes because I need some sort of resolution, some sort of peace to come out of this crazy awful event so I can sleep. So I read and read and read, searching and hoping.
And when Max comes in at 6:50 the next morning and climbs into bed and pats my head, asking me to go get him some food, I'm exhausted but also profoundly grateful. He's here. He's boisterous. Claire is slumbering down the hall surrounded by stuffed animals with the book A Barbie Pet Vet next to her bed. J. is on his way to a courthouse in Tacoma and I have a day of bland errands and work in front of me.
What more could I ask for? I think. This division of labor is doable for now. Completely doable.