Okay, so here we go with part three. I should link these posts together, shouldn’t I. Part 1 and Part 2 are required reading before you read this one. (Or not, nonlinear is fine with me.)
No one else came to greet him right away — they gave us time and space to have a few seconds of reconnection. Boy, I needed that. And then I was self-conscious. My ex and my daughter were in the next room, my parents in the kitchen. Eek!
So I pulled him inside and took his coat and hat. He sat down in the living room, where Liana was looking for someone to share yet more doll discoveries with. I dutifully admired the dolls and then sat down next to him. We touched hands, and I was lost again in warmth and happiness. I must’ve looked like someone had poured a calming potion directly down my spine, and I didn’t even mind the oddness of having Rich, my whole family, my ex, and my daughter all in one place and time. (I think the next time that happened was at Liana’s bat mitzvah. You’re going to have to wait a while for that one. We’re in 2006 with this story and her bat mitzvah was in 2016.)
My ex left soon afterward, having seen all that needed to be seen. Liana tried various ploys to get her to stay, and in some ways I was sad to see her go. My world was whole for a moment, in some strange way. Liana’s world was as close to whole as it ever gets for that hour or so that my ex was there. (Not entirely, since my ex’s husband wasn’t there, but as close as it gets.) It doesn’t happen all that often that I long for that wholeness anymore, but it still shows up in bits and pieces, particularly this time of year.
After she left, we worked our way through dinner. What’d we have? Hmm. Oh yes! Ham with a pineapple bourbon glaze that my brother made. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes that my mom did. Canned peas (only mom loves those, but once a year we have them), raw veggies, and various other bits and pieces that I no longer remember. Liana was in seventh heaven with so many people that she enjoys there (which means she shouted at the top of her lungs all the way through dinner). What I remember most clearly was the moment that Rich caught my hand and met my eyes and the entire world faded away.
After supper, there was much cleaning up to do. I’d picked out the good china for dinner (the one decision I made the entire weekend) and that meant washing it all by hand. No one seemed to mind much.
Then there was another round of opening presents — the ones Rich brought and the ones we had for him. He did very well with the gifts he gave — gift cards for my brothers, a handmade serving tray for my parents (from a place near his house), Candyland and a couple of books for Liana. For me, there was a book, a Chris Botti CD, and a Starbucks gift card. What book? I knew you’d ask. It was 1000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List. (Good thing I’m not dead yet, because I don’t think I’ve seen any more of those places now than I had then. Good lord, I really am dull.)
It may surprise you to know that I don’t much enjoy vacation travel (okay, probably not, if you know me, and everyone here knows me), but Rich knows it very well. My idea of a good vacation was a warm climate, a beach, a book, and the ability to sleep for 12 out each 24 hours. When I looked at him in surprise, he said, “Now you can get started on your list.” I asked whether there was a particular trip he had in mind, but he just shrugged and grinned. (Yes, that grin again.) (Since then, my definition of a great vacation has changed to: Spend time with family in Wisconsin. Some time in water is good. And yes, I still need to get some really good sleep.)
During the evening, there were several times when I found myself in his arms. He has a particular fondness for cooking and working in the kitchen together, and more than once I noticed that he had his arms around me again while I worked at this or that. My family seemed quite determined to allow us to connect without interruption during those moments, a surprisingly uncharacteristic behavior for them. They’re usually, uhm, rather opposed to public displays of affection.
It was a bit tough putting Liana to bed. She still had that low-grade fever and cough, and she had a hard time staying asleep even with the children’s Nyquil. My ex and I had decided to take her to the doctor the next day, since she didn’t seem to be getting better and had developed a fever. So she coughed and complained and cried and got out of bed for what seemed like forever and what was probably 45 minutes before she went to sleep. Soon afterwards, Rich and I were headed for bed. (Yes, we slept in the same bed before we were married. I’m so not feeling guilty about that.) . I was exhausted, he’d been driving for large parts of two days, and I really wanted some alone time with him.
We really were going to settle down and go to sleep, I think. Right until I turned over to say good night, and then he kissed me, and there was this electric spark that jumped all the way down my spine in one intense ZING of energy. And then my fingers did a little walking, and, well, we learned that it is possible to be very, very quiet when the house is full of people. (I probably should have warned y’all not to read this post to young kids of any religion. Sorry!)
Liana didn’t let us get too distracted, though. Her coughing and crying spates got closer and closer together until, sometime around 1am, we had to rearrange who was sleeping where. We didn’t get much sleep after that — she must’ve been up three or four times between 1am and 8am, and I was up coughing a couple of times myself. (Again, is anyone wondering why I was overweight those days? And for my brother who’s currently living through this part of his kids’ lives: It does get better. In the meantime, take a nap every. single. day.)
The fact that my bed is hideously uncomfortable didn’t help, either.
Oh, that reminds me of part of what we did on Saturday. After everyone else got home from their shopping trips, my dad took me and Liana out to look at mattresses. Mine was 12 or 13 years old and had become dreadfully uncomfortable. (Liana was just along for the adventure. She didn’t get to pick out a mattress. She’s still sleeping on Mike’s old mattress from college, which I should really do something about.) So we went to look and see what else was available. Because I am who I am, I tested every bed in the store, and then went to lie down on the hand-tufted, lots of extra springs, god-this-feels good mattresses that started at double the cost of the next most expensive ones and went up from there. The king size mattress with six inches of cashmere lining was really a lot of money. And very, very comfortable.
Luckily, I had a tiny bedroom and it barely holds a queen-size bed, much less a king size. So I picked out the least expensive version instead. The floor model, at 50% off, was “only” $700 more than the next most expensive mattress in the store. (Gulp.) Dad didn’t bat an eye.
I love my dad.
But.. they won’t deliver floor models and the rental car dad got didn’t have a carrier roof. The salesman offered to give us another $200 off if we would find a way to get the mattress home. He figured we could rent a truck and a couple of delivery guys for that much. It was December 23, though, and we didn’t do anything about it that day.
So we left without it, and my back was sore when I woke up on December 26. Just like every other morning for the last six or eight months and in spite of regularly turning my old beater of a mattress. (Note from myself from 11 years in the future: The Original Mattress Factory makes far better mattresses than the ones I tested. Just turned the one we have now and slept without pain. Nice. And it figured — they’re not available in DC. You have to go to Ohio for them.)
In spite of all that, Rich seemed to be in a pretty good mood that day. Must’ve been the cuddling we did the night before. And maybe he reacts to seeing me the same way I react to seeing him? I’ll have to ask him about that… (I don’t think I ever did. He’d probably just look at me funny if I asked now.)
To be continued!