It was Sunday, which meant that it was "switch" day. I would finish some laundry in the morning, then drive across town to pick up the kids at his place. He had them every other weekend and although it had been awkward the first year after awhile it had become as routine as dentist
visits and ice hockey
practice at 5 am.
Amy, the youngest, was a spunky redhead. A superball
that bounced around the house with bracesand pink Skechers. John, the boy, tall and tow headed, was studious and quiet, just like his father ("Don't say that, everybody says that.") When I picked them up, waiting at the curb in the van, they made their usual exits: Amy, bouncing down the steps on one foot, trailing her suitcase behind her, slamming down each step, half opened. John, slunk after her,staring at his feet, backpack on his shoulders and a series of paperbacks under his arm.
Hi, Hi, Hi this was Amy's greeting as she hugged her and reached over to turn on the radio- Let's Jam! In the back seat John took his place too, squeezed against one door, staring out the window at the curb.
Almost home and Amy saw a friend rollerblading on the sidewalk- Hey! Hey! It's Jennifer! Lemmeout! I stopped the van and gave her a quick stare and put the number 5 in the air- "Hey, I'm serious!" She smiled, winked and hopped away, again on one leg.
From the backseat-"It's a new thing, this one foot nonsense, she's gonna kill herself" I glanced in the rearview at John, who I caught smiling to himself as his sister was succesfully talking her friend out of her blades. "John, how was your visit? "- Long pause, considering his choices.
"What do you want to hear?" he whispered, back into dark tones and averted glances.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe the truth? How would that be- what do you really think of these visits?"
He leaned forward, staring straight ahead. Pondering, I am sure whether this was the right time,considering the moment. I had played out this scene before, but it was 15 years earlier, and it was his father.
"I think, I mean, I sorta think... well, I think that it's a good thing. You guys being divorced. I didn't use to think that but I do now. I think so. I think the distance suits you." And then silence, mixed with satisfaction.
"How so, suiting us? What's that mean?" trying not to sound testy, though I am.
"You're just not the same, not really the right mix, I think. He said something this weekend about my clothes being 'yours' about how they have your 'look to them' I asked him what he meant by that and he just winced and looked at the floor. But I knew, I knew what he meant. He really can't explain those things, that's why it didn't work with you guys."
"Well," blushing I am sure. "That's a lot to think about John...what do you think about me then, do I dress you strangely, do I expect too much of you?"
"No," he slumped back down into his seat, "I think you're OK. You're just a mom. I think it's fine with Amy and me. It's just him, or at least him and you. The connection is bad, that's what I think. What's for supper?"
I had to wait to answer. I knew it was frozen pizza, but if I cried while I was talking he would get irritated. I would wait a minute and he would get the idea.