Flora: Did you know that when my daddy was a little boy, my grandpa was *his* daddy?
Austen: Mom, S, J, L, T, M, Flora and I are all making this reality tv show, called Who’s the Craziest Person. So we’re taking the crash mats.
File the above under: “Things 20th Century Parents Never Heard.”
File under “Daddy’s son”: Austen: I get to be the cameraman, isn’t that great? But I was really the only one qualified to do that.
File under “Babi’s granddaughter”: Flora: The Craziest Person? It’s probably going to be me.
I’m cuddled in bed with Flora on one side, Cinder on the other, and Ender on the belly, reading Horrible Science, when suddenly, Flora turns up her face and says, “I still haven’t decided if I can forgive you for leaving us for 10 whole days.” I shower her face with kisses. “If you left for three weeks,” she says, “I’d definitely never forgive you.” And tears. “I love you so much mommy, and you’re always with me. How will I sleep without you?”
We talk. We make promises that I will call every day, that we will Skype. Sean sits on the side of the bed and reminds her that Daddy and Cinder will be with her. And first, Grandma and Grandpa will be here too, and then they will drive back to Calgary, and Nana will be there, and Babi and Dziadzia… She nuzzles into my armpit. Soothed, but not relieved; resigned but not consoled.
I’ve never been away from my kids for 10 days. Not for a week. Once for three days, once for two. And I’m struck, suddenly,
by what a rare thing that is these days.
It makes me sad… then, overwhelmingly, incredibly happy. Sad that it’s a rare thing—that between broken marriages, shared holidays, demanding jobs and the general whacky scheduling that defines our culture what my kids take for granted, having both of their parents present in their lives most of the time is a rarity for most children. And outrageously happy that this rare thing is true for my children, that it is their “normal,” that they take it for granted—that they don’t have a sense that they are lucky or unusual or privileged, but that they think this is the way things are and ought to be.
(When do I write? As almost always, when they are asleep, this time, uncharacteristically, before they wake. And this piece, which was to be much longer, ends here, interrupted by a hug—Cinder wandered out of bed, looked out the window at the blackbirds feeding en masse on the lawn, took a picture, climbed into my lap for a cuddle, asked where his siblings were—“They’re still sleeping, you’re the first one up today”—and went back to bed. But my train of thought is broken, I type out a couple of lame paragraphs that don’t follow through on the beginning, delete them. Just as well, here comes Flora, displacing the computer in my lap. She cuddles into me and starts singing the Transformers’ song. And now I hear Ender making “I’m about to wake up noises… the morning interlude is over.)