There’s a wall in my house near the frame of a kitchen door, where I’ve been making notches to mark the growth of my children ever since my youngest, Fletch, was 2 and a half years old.
He’s 8 now.
Last week, we met with his father and our realtor to do a walk-through of our marital home to get it market ready. Fletch and I arrived a bit early.
“Ah, the house where I was raised,” he recalled.
It made me laugh, because he said it in a way that expressed a lifetime of memories. But, when you’re only 8, I guess it would be.
As we walked through the back door, which leads to the kitchen, I was reminded of a very different time of seeing my daughter’s annoyed teenage face (she moved to California for college two years ago) and practicing with my son on the piano my Aunt Melonie and Uncle Paul (now deceased) gave to me. Homework. Dinner. Lazy Sunday mornings. Failed attempts at gardening and raising chickens. An open door policy with friends and neighbors.
As we walked in, I knew it would happen – Fletch would start asking me if we could move back. And he did, but just once. He ran through the house – room to room – as children do with excitement upon seeing their new family home for the very first time. Except, Fletcher’s excitement was purely based on what he remembered.
I know that feeling, too.
When we bought that house, I remembered thinking, “I finally have a home big enough to host family gatherings,” yet that was rare. As we walked through,, I remembered sitting on the porch swing with my then husband, and as we revelled in our new purchase, he said to me, “we finally made it.” As I peeked through the blinds, I remembered that day. I also remembered sitting on that porch swing with him as we worked through the details of our divorce. In retrospect, it was necessary and I don’t regret it. But, divorce was never my intent.
That was the house I wanted to raise my family in. The notches on the wall indicate that. Permanency. I remember daydreaming of holding a granddaughter around the belly, and as I point up, we marvel at how tall her mother – my daughter – once was at her age.
As I traced my fingers down that column of notches next to the door jam, remembering how tall my daughter was/is, I was saddened by the thought of how seldom I see her. We don’t talk nearly enough, and I miss her every day.
For nearly a decade, it was just the two of us. Then I met him and it was three. Then Fletch arrived and it was four.
Now, I see my daughter once a year when I visit “the best coast” and I pretty much only see my son on the weekends, because, for our arrangement, I chose to spend my waking – not working – hours with him.
There was nothing more in life I wanted more than to be a wife and mother. And, somehow, staring at those notches on the wall turned from mementos of growth to reminders of how I sabotaged all that.
I teared up a bit thinking about it and how I’ve moved five times in two years. I’m a terrible mother, I thought. That’s when he looked at me and said, “It’s okay.”
“I’m sorry,” I responded simply. “You deserve better. You deserve a home.”
“So do you. But, I’m home whenever we are together,” he said.