It was the first night this year that didn’t fall so hard. If it had been a theater production and a light cue, they changed the fadeout from 30 seconds to 60. Though unseen, hope stirred underground and you could remember what spring felt like still, it was there with all the other seasons on the bench, warming up. And in the morning the sky went from gray to pink like it was blushing, and then back to gray again.
Those vignettes from the weekend you scan through and edit on your phone, where you went, what you did: Charlotte swinging her legs underneath the table at a food court in the mall, her feet still not touching the ground when she sits. Time gives no warning when it’s come to the edges of things; it crosses over without notice, keeps its own schedule.
For a while we tried to pretend with our house it was still a grown-up house, that kids didn’t really live there, that we could put everything in a box at the end of the day and stow it. I worked to enforce rules about how shoes get arranged by the front door…the importance of putting things away…and then this January I just stopped, and now everything’s crooked and beaten up, and I don’t care. There’s probably popcorn kernels in the sofa still from Saturday night.
Now with all the hustle and bustle of kids coming and going at our house, the real sense it’s like a TV sitcom, I’ll sometimes step out of the frame and regard myself, and think I should be more fatherly, like I don’t quite fit the role, I’m not right for it. I flicker between feeling not grown up enough or that I’m aging too fast, but maybe that’s the discomfort of middle age, sitting on the seam between youth and what’s coming next, feeling it stretch beneath you.
After the mall I took Charlotte to Starbucks for a cookie and it was warm enough we could sit outside for a bit, but when the clouds took over it went right back to winter and we finished up, drove home, I collected branches and twigs for a fire but never got around to it (making a fire can be like starting a writing project, it demands all your attention and once I start, I can’t stop fiddling with it).
And I had a moment at the Starbucks where I settled back in the sun and smiled, thought “I live here, this is my neighborhood,” and for all the time I resisted identifying with the suburbs and people with money, I relaxed into it, hoped I’d see someone I knew, and we could make small talk, talk about our jobs.