It is gloriously beautiful outside today. I look out on a yard that is newly tidied up (I spent about three hours out there yesterday after church), and a sky that seems to know it has just a few of these days left, and so is putting on its most brilliant blue for us.
The other day my daughter's iPod was on shuffle, and "Get Out the Map" by the Indigo Girls cycled on. This is where it took me:
About a dozen years or so ago my (then) husband needed to spend nearly the entire summer abroad for his work. We talked about how to negotiate it for months ahead of time. Should the children and I come with him? (Where he was going, I did not speak the language.) I was paralyzed with fear at the possibility of being marooned in a hot flat with my two very young children for 8 weeks. At the same time, the thought of being marooned at home without H. seemed equally devastating. I was not a happy camper. I had no ability to find my way into the adventure it might be for all of us. I was full of insecurity. Finally the decision was made. He would go without us. He was abandoning me. I understood why, but I did not deal with the whole situation well at all. We would visit in the middle of the summer for a week (or was it two? I'm shocked that I can't remember). But I was to stay home with the kids, alone.
He left. I cried the whole way home from the airport. My daughter was too young to know what was going on; my son was confused by the disparity between my reassurances to him ("Daddy won't be gone long! We'll see him soon!") and my obvious distress.
A few days later I decided to pack the kids into the car and head, first, to see college friends in the wonderful Eastern City I so loved; and then, to see my parents, at their summer digs in Fun Town.
As we drove away from our house, I popped in the Shaming of the Sun cassette, and we heard the song "Get Out the Map."
Get out the map, get out the map
and lay your finger anywhere down
We'll leave the figuring to those we pass
on the way out of town.
Don't drink the water; there seems to be something
I'm gonna clear my head
I'm gonna drink that sun
I'm gonna love you good and strong
while our love is good and young.
As I heard the song, that old stirring began... I couldn't hear an Indigo Girls song without being acutely aware that all the love songs were women addressing women. As I heard it, a kind of excitement began to grow in me. I was going to be ok. I was fine (closer to fine, as it turned out). He was gone, and I was not a quivering mass of hysterical sobbing. I was on an adventure of my own, the adventure of being a single mom for the summer.
In Eastern City, various friends hosted us for a few nights at a stretch each. They fussed over my beautiful babies, and after the babies were in bed we drank wine and talked about our lives. My friends drove us to amusement parks and beaches, and we all got sunburned. We left there for my parents' exhilarated, and had another week of being spoiled by doting grandparents, beach jaunts, swimming and amusement parks.
By the time we returned home I was energized. I was having fun. I loved my husband, but I was strangely lighter without him around. And a friend kept coming by, a wonderful friend (described here as Delta Burke). By the end of the summer my feelings for her had deepened into a devastating, painfully romantic love. But, truly, that was a gift of the summer: the part of me that kept returning, that would not go away, no matter how I starved it or hid it or shoved it back in the closet. I was happier without my husband. I longed for the companionship of a woman. I was ok on my own.
Last night Beloved and my daughter and I watched two films, a little end-of-summer festival: "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (selected by my daughter) and "Fried Green Tomatoes" (selected by Beloved). I awoke this morning to the end of a different kind of summer... one with different challenges, but with all the fresh possibilities in the world.