I drive to Lisa's house for a homeschool artgroup, watching the sky. It is lavender and grey, looking like the mountains in the distance. My phone rings. Joy! Hawk is calling to say he might be home this weekend, but don't tell the children yet. The sun shines in a sudden way, warming me outside, as I am warmed within.
Artgroup is good, and I meet Anita and Susan. Alaina takes to Susan instantly. I am not sure I like Anita, though she seems very nice. No reason not to, yet I reserve. Lisa enters, after working Vaughan's early shift, as he is out of town. We talk about a field trip, knitting, cooking. Lisa asks how I manage to feed the children. She hates to cook as much as I do. I tell her, canned soup, mac and cheese, that sort of thing. "I do that, but I feel guilty," she says. "I don’t have enough energy to feel guilty AND cook dinner," I quip. She laughs and keeps saying, "I can’t believe you’re here!" We've been planning for our children to spend time together since they were born, and here it is eight years later, and we're doing it…just as we always planned. The children took to one another immediately when they met on Thursday, and I can easily see them becoming fast friends. Yet another blessing garnered from my fall.
After artgroup, therapy. Chris is as wonderful as Pete, in a quiet gentle way. He is concerned about my swelling, and tries to disguise dismay that Pete set such an ambitious regimen of exercises for me. He asks if I ice. I truthfully tell him that I can’t be still long enough for ice. He asks about heat, and I ask if the shower counts. Yes. Let's do some today. Can you sit for ten minutes? The real answer is no, since within the first fourty five seconds I am leaning to drag my purse near, digging for my therapy putty, to work on my hand and wrist strength. If at all possible, I should try to heat ten minutes and have someone massage my ankle, towards the knee, to reduce the swelling, then do the stretches. There’s no one but me, I say. Chris turns to Garrett, sitting with his book, and asks, "Could you do this for your mom? It’s important to her recovery," as he works my ankle and calf. Garrett guesses so, without any visible sign of commitment. Sent home with a wimpier Theraband and a modified exercise schedule, we head out.
The children want to go shopping. We did for me most of Thursday, so my sense of fairness wrings a reluctant yes. We find parking just as the phone rings. Hawk's voice does not sound encouraging. My voice breaks on "Where are they sending you?" and the tears begin when I try to put a good spin on the answer of Municing, Michigan, saying, "At least it’s good money." I apologize for going to pieces. I tell him I will be too busy to see him this weekend anyway. I blame my emotional state on being premenstrual. Bless his heart, he buys none of it. Twenty years has taught him a thing or two, I guess.
I regain enough control to go inside the store. It has not started well, the store is crowded, and my mood is heavy, not at all prepared to smile at strangers, though I hate to be the stereotypic grouchy holiday shopper. I find an item or two of interest, and help the children with their choices. Alaina is nearly in meltdown mode by the time we exit the checkout. Entering the car, they recall my tears and I am forced to answer their questions while struggling against a fresh bout. Look out the window, kids, and see how beautiful: creature clouds swim about the sky, their bellies lit luminous neon pink and their backs brushed lavender blue. We, or perhaps only I, marvel at them all the way home.
Time for a nap before Garrett's dance class and Hans Brinker. It is dark now. We arrive late for class, having had a hasty meal of spaghetti in the car. Even twenty five minutes, though, did them good. They feel much better, as do I, when I head into the bosom of my new village and all the wonderful folk there. I get the kids settled in their separate spots, and ride with Tim for a coffee run. Jose reminds us when we return that we need to break down the set before going to the Double T with the cast, an Opening Night tradition that was postponed last week in deference to weather-related safety.
The show is being taped, and the kids, especially mine, ape to the camera, becoming even more porcine than usual. I shadow Kelly, the stage manager, as I will do her job tomorrow so she may see the show. I do what I can for strike afterwards, and head to the diner, bringing Tim in my car, along with Garrett, as Tim's wife Lisa has gone ahead with their boys, and Alaina insists on riding with the Peacos. She does not leave Angelica's side the rest of the evening, until the Peacos go home, and she is forced to return to me. Rhonda generously scoots down the bench seat, leaving room enough for me to sit on Jose's other side while we order food but no beer.
We pull up to our house, and it is nearly midnight. A familiar truck sits in front of the drive. Hawk is home. He carries his sleeping daughter to bed, and cuddles his son, telling them a story while tucking them in. He was in Georgia this morning. He has driven eighteen hours in order to be home overnight, "because you sounded so sad," he tells me. More tears, this time joy. He should have stopped for an eight hour break from ten hours driving at about the time he called this afternoon.
He is exhausted. We head upstairs to burrow into the waterbed, cozy and companionable. I massage his back with my good hand. "You’re poking at it with your tongue, aren’t you?" he accuses, referencing my missing tooth.
"How did you know?"
"I could tell by the sound of your silence."
Twenty years has taught him many things, apparently.
I wake reluctant to leave the cozy nest created by a sleeping husband, a waterbed, and a down comforter, though his tigerpurr snoring prohibits further sleep, as does a ten AM call time for a video shoot with the kids. We are a lot late leaving, though only a little late arriving. Having left Hawk with requests to put together the tree and make the guest bed, I am confident that I am prepared with the proper clothes, makeup, and snacks and activities for the children. Sam brings me coffee and arranges my hair as we swap men gripes. She thinks the story of the eighteen hour drive is the most romantic thing she's ever heard. I suppose it makes up for the day-to-day loneliness, these sporadic fairy-tale magnitude gestures. Or they ought to.
The shoot goes well, clean, and David Jones, the director (and our Murder Mystery co-actor) seems satisfied, takes us all out to lunch. We toast one another’s company, and Jose complains, "Aw, no, man, I was just gonna say, 'to beer!'"
I had promised Jason Brown to stop by the Center, where he has rehearsal, to work on music for Autobiography, though he'd sent a message saying that he'd got it, but if I still wanted to stop, he'd play it for me. I stop, and he plays. Brilliant, as usual.
Home for pre-show napping. A familiar truck is parked. He has gone to fetch the load and come back, four hours round trip. I get to spend fifteen minutes with him before heading out to get tonight's sitter…but instead of waking the children and taking them, I leave them sleeping awhile longer. He gives them dinner, and then the four of us, I, the two kids and the sitter, bid him goodbye, and go to the theater. I do better than I expected as stage manager, with just one fairly stupid looking bit that was only partly my fault.
Afterwards, I take the kids home and go back to the Center. I ride in Dan's car, along with Pat, to Spotlighter's, to see Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, a very twisted but fun version of a classic holiday tale. A woman's face baffles me towards the end of the show. I know her face well. Her name in the program is unfamiliar. How do I know this woman? Finally, I decide to ask her about the Renaissance Festival. I do, and she seems confused. Realization begins to dawn on her, and as her face lights up and she squeals, "Chris is not going to believe this," I figure out who she is. She and her now-fiancee are two of my Most Favored Patrons. Her name is Michelle. His name is Chris. They have each participated in the Mimi Flambe show. Wow. I’ve had a relationship with this woman for probably ten years, and never spoken to her. We embrace enthusiastically, then she hurries off to find her parents, who are in the audience.
Dan is hungry, and Jose suggests a diner as opposed to the bar, citing interesting entrees so varied that "even Cybbie will find something to eat." Off we go, to the Paper Moon Diner, which is better than promised. Leaving, Jose sends Dan home to Towson, volunteering to drive Pat and me back to our cars at CAC to save Dan some drive time. Then it's a tour of Jose's old neighborhood, which is well lit for two-thirty AM. After some weirdness with a semi tanker empty, save of a stressed driver, we have traversed the salt-covered city streets back "home" again to the Center. I park my car at the top of my hill, instead of in front of the house, in case of weather.
Here I sit at four thirty in the morning, knowing I've a full day, bringing Tierra The Babysitter home again, cleaning house, show, strike, cast party, and rehearsal for a murder ahead of me, because I hold my breath along with the still quiet of the winter night, waiting for snow to begin to fall. And now that it has, how can I possibly sleep?
I did sleep, though, from six am until eight-thirty, at which point I change tenses and grab my shovel to scoop a path from doorstep to cardoor, all the way up the hill, where I've parked. The snow has switched to rain by this time, and not only is the snow heavy, but I am soggy and stiff-jointed most of the day. On the way, I shovel off the steps, walk and drive of my neighbors Ms. Leona, Mr. Howard and Mr. Howard’s Brother. I don't know which of them Ms. Leona is married to, but all three of them top eighty by a good bit.
Tierra is appreciative, as she's wearing white sneakers and has plans to shop with her friends at the mall. We drop her, drive to Muzzy’s (quick phone call, Mom, can we come over?) where we snuggle puppies who yip and lick and take tiny steps and are in every way just as adorable as two week old baby animals can be. Alaina is coaxed from the puppy box where she's taken up residence for a bite of lunch, and it's off to the theater for Garrett.
On the way home for housecleaning, I get a call from CJ, who is canceling rehearsal, ostensibly due to a possible freeze and the treachery of my hill, but I imagine her fractured tailbone is a factor as well. I still spend an hour rearranging furniture to accommodate a six foot white tree (if I'm going to have a fake tree, it may as well look like a fake tree), sweeping and dusting, then back to the theater for the show, which is surprise, surprise, well attended, given the weather. My seat is way in the back, unfortunately, as I've been popping around trying to be useful and failing miserably.
Post- show strike, and Jose finds things for me to do that do not require much walking. After the cast party, his voice stops me. "Cyb."
He stands with his arm around Alicia, who literally saved the show with her enthusiastic and creative musical direction after the desertion of Paul, who hadn't done much anyway. She's more attractive and mature than a seventeen year old has any right to be.
And in those words, I hear what I hear every time my former partner tells me "Be careful," or "You have a good day, now." In three years, I have learned to speak Jose.
I don't plan on telling him, though.