Looking for the Goods

First off, sarahmwells.com is broken, and I’m unhappy about it.  I kept hoping it would reset itself or just reappear, and after multiple attempts to contact customer service people at Google and at GoDaddy.com, I have given up, deleted the domain name entirely, and with any luck it’ll become available again in the next couple of days, so I can register it once more for my use.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t written lately.  Another reason is because I’ve had two weeks of vacation over the last three (I wedged in five workdays somewhere in there), and most of this time has been dedicated to my husband and the three little people.  Heavenly, I tell you.  And the last reason is that I actually have been writing, quite a bit, but it’s all super-secret-awesome stuff.  Not really.  It’s for school, though, which means it is hopefully going toward my thesis, which is HOPEFULLY going to turn into a book.  
But before any of that can happen, I need to go yell at the circus animals hooting in the room above me.
Sigh. Okay. Threats of separation delivered.  I don’t know why it is that they respond so well to this threat – I would think it a treat to get the whole room to one’s self while the other one snuggles into my bed.  I like having the bed all to myself… once in a while.
I have the bed all to myself this weekend, a foretaste of things to come.  I admit I’m already panicking about Brandon’s road trip days beginning again in August.  In fact, my heart rate just jumped a little.  It feels like summer is already over now that my vacation days are nearing an end and the MFA residency is approaching.  Before I know it, we’ll be back to soccer games with an angry toddler and the husband out of the house half the week.
The quickened pace of life that will begin in a few short weeks makes me tired already.  I don’t think I’ve had a long enough reprieve.  I don’t want to feel like a single parent for half of the week again.  It is not easy.  
There are times, of course, when it isn’t so bad.  A few weeks ago as Brandon worked to settle back into the full-time dad routine, every. little. thing. I. did. was. wrong.  Every thing.  Not wrong, but different from what he does, I should say.
“Did you put my water glass into the dishwasher, Gary?” he teased one morning after I had prepared breakfast, loaded the dishwasher, and cleared off the counter.  His dad, Gary, is known for the quick snatching and cleansing of the glassware, almost before your lips have left the rim of the cup.  I sighed.  “… The kitchen looks nice,” he said with a smile, reaching to pinch my butt.
“When do you go back to work?!” I squeaked.  “Can’t you call ESPN and ask them for work?”  This, after counting down the days until he was done with work for the summer.  This, after a mental breakdown this spring, after childcare challenges and scheduling conflicts and children who miss him and ME ME ME who missed him over and over again.  Go back to work, I said.  Leave me alone.
We laughed and squeezed each other.  “You have to stop critiquing everything I do, husband of mine. It’s driving me bonkers.”
I had gotten used to running things my way without Brandon around.  And then he was back, full-scale, with not much to distract him from the household and our children except the occasional round of golf and softball.  We had gotten out of step and in turn kept stepping on each other’s toes as we did or did not take out the recycling, did or did not load the dishwasher, did or did not take Henry to the potty fifteen minutes or forty-five minutes after the last time he went.  
The trouble is now that we’ve worked out a few of these kinks, now that we’ve learned how to live together again, kinda, well, now he’s going to go away again.  This is not the norm, this more laid back summer of temperate weather and short-distance road trips, of golf and barbecues and softball and boats and drinks with friends.
No, the norm is more like the last two days alone with the kids after Brandon left for the weekend to spend time with a friend.  The norm is me and my three little people eating pizza on a picnic bench at the park, walking across the lawn for ice cream, home in time for baths and bed.  The norm is me and my three little people on the couch for Saturday morning cartoons, the slow rise for scrambled eggs with cheese, and then a ride around northeast Ohio, to the tall ships in Cleveland with my mom, to the backyard swimming pool at my in-laws.  The norm is the long ride home with Henry sideways slouching in the backseat while the older two watch a movie and I seek through the stations for tunes I can sing to.  The norm is small feet stomping and giggles from the floor above me, empty threats of separation until they are quiet, sound asleep with feet and arms draped broadly across their beds.  The norm is this silent living room, the clicking of my fingernails on the keyboard, the flick of the paper as I turn the page on a memoir, the clock ticking past the time I’d go to bed if Brandon was here.
If Brandon was here, the Indians game would be on, and he’d be yelling at the TV or talking to the commentators about the last play or commenting on the job the stats guys are doing or laughing at the local evening news anchors.  If Brandon was here, the computer would be sitting on the floor charging, my book would be cast aside, and I’d be cradled between his chest and his arm, listening to the sounds of his stomach and heart (because if he had any of that pizza tonight, his stomach would have been talking louder than his heart).  We might be sipping whiskey (oh, who am I kidding, we would definitely be sipping whiskey) and listening to music, or maybe he’d be playing his guitar, or maybe none of that, maybe just us, alone in our living room, being husband and wife, occupying this space we’ve created together.
It is good when he is here.  It is good when he is gone.  Both are good.  In fact, when both are in their best gear, both are very good.
I don’t always see it this way because I want both goods simultaneously and that isn’t possible.  He cannot be here and not here all of the time, and if he was here and not here all of the time I would resent him for not being here when he is here.  You totally get that, right?
It is hard to learn how to balance this life.  How to make room for each other when we’re together.  How to appreciate the space when we’re apart.  How to shore up the foundation when the support beam goes missing.  How to lean into each other when the rain washes everything away.  How to be content – even when I want him near.  Even when I want him gone.  How to love deeply in every season.  It is hard.  But it is very good.
(That’s what she said.)

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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