Old life: sleep in until 11 am, hustle down to the local brunch spot in time to grab a table and a pomegranate mimosa. Or three. Eat way too many fries and eggs and fried eggs. Head home for a nap in front of the TV.
Now life: Wake up at 6:30 with two kids in the bed. Hand them screens to get 30 more minutes’ sleep. Fill the time until 10 am. Head to local cinema and meet friends there with their kids. Occupy two rows and watch/belt out Moana for two hours. No alcohol involved. Or naps, for that matter.
Maybe I’m polishing a turd here, or maybe I was just on a non-hangover high, but I’ll tell you something: the singalong was actually fun.
Our two familiar families took up rows in front of and behind each other, and our kids traversed these rows at will. I held all four of them on my lap at some point, as did The Husband. The kid in front of us, with his dad and sister, kept turning around and making exclamations like, “This film is GREAT!” and “I love this song.” There was no order, except the dictated chronology onscreen. And yeah, I sang. I sang like a mofo.
It’s no pomegranate mimosa (#RIP Penelope), but it ain’t nothing either.
Another favourite film of the kids’ is Inside Out, which I will take over Transformers any day, thank you, and The Kid has been quite into feelings lately. Maybe it’s the movie, maybe it’s all the talking I encourage about emotions on the sly since TH tries to avoid it like the plague (#submissivewife), likely it’s a combination of both and just…everything else in life. He’s been going through a period of fear and worry when it comes to our family’s safety and health. He’s afraid we’re going to disappear, though I’ve made him countless unkeepable promises to the contrary. When he asks if our Family Island, like the one in the film, could ever fall apart, he already knows the answer: No. And he also knows the answer to the next question, why: Because the love is too strong. But he still likes to hear it. Over and over and over. So I tell him. Over and over and over. Maybe I need to hear it too.
“There is nowhere you could go that I won’t be with you,” Moana’s grandmother said to her, and maybe I’d been looking at my phone the last time I heard the words, because this weekend it was like hearing them for the first time. I whispered into TK’s ear: “Did you hear that? Remember what’s true,” the thing I say to him so often as he’s drifting off to sleep and the fears arise, as they so often do in exhaustion and darkness. Remember what’s true.
Because here’s what is true: eight weeks into the school year, he’s finally settling. Re-settling, after last year. The fearsome changes are beginning to take their rightful shape as blessings, new people sitting around our table over champagne while their kids bound up and down the stairs with mine, old people knowing us and being known by us even better than before. I told it to TK, how new things can feel hard but get easier as you get used to them, and the other night he said it while drifting off: “Mom, I’m getting used to it now.” And I let out an eight-week breath.
What is true happens while we’re standing around a pool in which our kids swim, and I tell the story of James’s diagnosis and my denial afterward, and one of the new people who’s feeling less and less new, she reframes it: it wasn’t denial. I was refusing to let him be defined by it. I was fighting for him. And I see the grace that passes through people, through friendships, through the places where we’re put that can feel so wrong at first but become so right.
This is our community, these family islands that coalesce with ours to cover a map called Home. These moments in the foyer, when a friend comes by to grab the things her kids left, and I tell her about the kid in TK’s class who seems fixated on the word autism, and she cries and hugs me. These are our people, and we were put among them by grace.
“Tomorrow there’ll be more of us,” the song says, and there are moments when the loneliness seeps in and I look around, waiting for it, welcoming it. But so often now, one year and more in, here and across the ocean, I hear those words and think…more? How could there possibly be?