The four of us sat around a bar, two on one corner and two on the other, because there was no room for us in the inn…or at least at the table one of us had reserved for the occasion, where four other women remained, lingering over a gift exchange. No worries, though, as the restaurant provided us with free cocktails for our trouble, and now, an hour into our time together, it was as though no time had passed since we saw each other months ago. The only thing that had changed, besides hairstyles and a delivered baby among our lot, was that we’d grown closer. So we talked, about family and friends and our favourite antidepressants, as always, and it could have been the same dinner as last year.
It could have been the same sendoff as last year, too, when our exit to America from Sydney for the holidays coincided with the end of The Kid’s school year and he and I stood in the schoolyard among friends, tears welling up in my eyes as they poured down the face of his therapist, a grown man who’s moving on to have his own kids, and I embraced the women who have become my friends, my life, their children an extension of my own. It could have been last year because we left feeling loved, feeling known. In two places now.
There are these reminders all around, repeats really, that pop up and each in their own way convince me further that there is design in this grand, beautiful mess of life. There is TK telling me he wants a dog named Max and one day, I’ll tell him that I had one–for one night during my residency–and that the next morning I was so sleepless and overwhelmed with the not-being-ready-for-it that I drove to the breeder and gave him back, my tears sourced by both grief and guilt, a fitting reaction and prelude to becoming a mother of anything. There is the trip to the grocery with TK while Little Brother, my usual companion, is at school, but on this afternoon TK has absconded early due to a Christmas assembly and early pickup, and as we amble conversationally through the aisles I remember trips here before that were not so similar, meltdowns barely managed and anger not even concealed, and I think that the repeats also serve to show us how far we’ve all come. How different things can be. Like the morning after a rough night with LB, when I left him to The Husband and exited his room to the sound of his crying and my seething after an hour spent lying beside him, trying to get him to sleep, and upon waking a few hours later I hear his tiny feet padding up the stairs. Next he’s at my bedside, holding his hands out, and I lift him and place him beside me, where he nestles in: all is forgiven. All is different.
Then TK enters the scene, grabs the iPad and lies down with us, and the familiar strains of Super Mario reach my ears both from this moment and from my own childhood. Everything old is new again. I read about the miracle of the loaves and fish, how Jesus snuck that one through management twice, the second time to a lesser degree, and after a moment I wonder, instead of why, if: if maybe these reminders are themselves acts of grace; there’s a reason the words assurance and reassurance both exist. I so need the re. The fact that it is given–through fish or moments–is a gift that feels made for me.
And at our Atlanta home, we’re lying in the same beds we were a year ago, yet so much is different. Outside the air is cooling and the day darkens and it’s Christmas once again, this season of second acts, and chances.