Winter break is over. Tonight I say goodbye to 12 days of husband-home, no school, no schedule, days blending into one another, Christmas/New Years bliss.
That other “me” is back, the one who walks around from room to room balancing stacks of laundry on my hands, who picks up clothes and underwear off the floor, and lays out tomorrow’s clothes on the coffee table next to the TV. In the morning, the boys will watch TV for those all-too-important-7am-minutes when I can’t yet face the “me” who I’ve become.
Tomorrow I will wake up alone, in the winter darkness, my husband gone hours before me. I will hear him stir at 5am, and I’ll shiver a little, knowing what his twelve-hour absence means.
It means boys who won’t get dressed, who need 78 different breakfasts, who are too hot in their hats and coats and mittens, but too cold once they step out the door. It means wiping up snot, breaking up fights, cleaning up spills, stepping on legos, tinkertoys, and various plastic fruits and vegetables. It means wiping butts, giving naps, lifting the stroller in and out of the car, lifting the toddler in and out of the stroller, dealing with the after-school hungry/tired meltdowns, cooking dinner while both kids are crying at me and each other.
But it means more than that, more than the work, the lifting, the dragging, the bending, the stressing, the waiting, the headaches, the debilitating exhaustion I never knew it was possible to live through.
No. It is the loneliness. The overwhelming responsibility of caring for these two bright eyed, passionate, needful boys. The loneliness of that responsibility. The feeling that all of it rests on my shoulders. It has the vastness of this cold, black winter night, and the snapping bite of the pond outside our window that is just beginning to freeze over.
Oh, my days are full of joy, of course. Just to have these two lively, sparkling, tender boy-souls in my life is a blessing I never take for granted. But this isn’t about that. This is about the other side, the feelings that aren’t even part of my life as I know it, but which sweep over me suddenly like a sharp panic.
They usually come on days like tomorrow, transition days, where my husband’s absence is most felt. On a Monday, or a day that is jam-packed with activity, with more than I feel I can handle. Usually first thing in the morning, or the hour right before my husband comes home, the witching hour.
But there is something about the passage of time. Today my older son turned 8. Eight years of motherhood under my belt. And I felt–dare I say it?–OK. I felt calm about the days ahead of me. That feeling of dread that I usually have felt going into another marathon of a week just wasn’t there.
I know that the overwhelming lonely panic of Monday morning might still come, but it will feel familiar, like a sad, dysfunctional, funny old friend. You just know she’ll say something dark or dumb or out-of-touch and you have learned to laugh it off. You accept her. You’ve let her go.
Tomorrow will suck, a bit. But it also won’t. My kids will be who they are, kids who need lots of help to get through their days, who won’t need this much help forever. And I will be their mother, tired, happy, moving through the hours, the three of us scurrying about, crying, playing, yelling, chatting, a hush of white winter light encasing us.
Who needs the dread and fear when there is this overflowing richness of ridiculous, awe-inspiring love?