Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gumball Machine Rings, Old Letters, and Lip-Synching Midgets

Brought Sean to ninja training (aka Tae Kwon Do) tonight, where I ran into a blast from the past: An old boyfriend of Renee's showed up with his six year old son, who is also in the class. We hadn't seen each other in years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. He and his wife are expecting their second child this year. I am so happy for all of them--especially considering the whole story. He recently adopted his wife's son, with whom his wife was five months pregnant when her first husband died in a car accident.

What a crazy, thrilling, sometimes awful and usually beautiful adventure of choice and chance that leads us to one another in life. I'm glad they found each other. (And the fact that Renee is in a really great relationship now makes it even easier to be happy for him.)

After class, off we went. I was tired. Sean and I came home and ate dinner, a veritable second shift at the kitchen table, since Nolan and his dad, Keith, had already eaten. (Keith usually comes by twice a week to hang with the boys while I do "whatever" -- which is usually laundry, making the next day's lunches, and doing some yoga before bed. How rockin'. Thursday I'll go out...) Sean and I quietly munched away, two starving bunnies, cracking the occasional joke and staring together at the twilight through the French doors that lead to the deck, our reflections faint in the panes of glass.

After dinner, the kids did the usual horsing around with Dad while I decided to hunt for something I hadn't seen in a while. I have box of autographs, and I'm not sure what I did with it. I was pretty certain it wasn't in my hat boxes, but I checked anyway.

I pulled two hat boxes down from the highest shelf in my enormous closet (ah, the joys of renting a newly renovated house...). The first box was full of more recent memories: I found letters from relatives and close family friends, dead and alive. I found old drawings penned by my sister for me when she in grade school. I rifled through ticket stubs and playbills and photos and newspaper clippings. And between every layer of paper I found small notes from Keith throughout the years. Notes that read, "Back after practice!" Or, "See you after my soccer game!" or, "Hope you had a great day! See you later tonight!" Evidence of what I already knew: Keith had a free pass to do whatever he wanted with his life, before and after marriage and children. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

The second box was a portal to an earlier era, back in the first few years after moving out of my home. It too was packed with notes from Keith promising a quick return. It also contained temporary tattoos and gumball machine rings, funny notes from people I haven't seen since the Daily Caffe was around, an employee review from my job at Inland Book Co., senior class photos from high school, photos of Cats I Have Known, and a letter from City University of New York.

Life is like a choose your own adventure book from childhood. Remember those? When you would choose what would happen next in the book and flip to the chapter that corresponded with your chosen plot line? I would try to read those books straight through, but it never worked. They adhered to a strict formula that required you to stick with your choice once you made it, otherwise the story simply didn't work.

This letter from CUNY was dated April 11, 1995 (the year I should have finished undergrad...I took a while to get the job done). And it was a great big flashing yellow light at the first major fork in my life's road. Man, did I ever choose the one most traveled. Accepted to CUNY as a transfer from Southern, my only accomplishment as of that moment being laid off from a failing and now defunct book distributor, I opted NOT to go to the city for school. Why? Well, it would have been reallllllllllly expensive to live there, and I was daunted by the prospect of coked-up roommates on 14th Street. And, of course, there was my Boyfriend. How could I leave him? And my little sister, who was only three...and, and...

The excuses were endless. Suffice to say, I chose a different adventure. For a long time I regretted it. Three years later, while I worked for a midtown PR firm after graduating Southern, I still didn't want to move to NY. I LOVE NY. I mean, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT. But it's so freaking expensive. And, well, my Boyfriend was in CT.

See the pattern?

So I married the college boyfriend. And it was only after my divorce from him, as I leaned against the chain-link fence at Sean's first little league game last year here in New Haven, just seconds from my single mom seaside rental in the Cove, did I realize--out of the blue: If I had ever moved to NY, I wouldn't have had these amazing little boys. Of that I was certain.

I'll take these kids over any missed opportunity. Ever. I can imagine how it might have felt to live in NY, at least for a while. But I cannot imagine life without these kids. Not for a second. Not for half a second.

I put away the boxes. I never did find the autographs.

Keith finished reading the boys their bedtime stories, said goodbye, and took off until next time.

"Mommy, will you snuggle with me?" said Nolan in his little mouse voice.

"Of course, monkey," I replied. Before long, the three of us were all piled into Sean's bed, one big mass of bedtime hugs and kisses.

Tomorrow I'll head out for my third run of the week. As I pulled my hair back for yesterday's neighborhood trot, I noticed my hair is the longest it's been in three years. I should get it trimmed, at least. But I like it long. For a change. Until I get sick of it and cut it all off again.

I'm babbling. Time to end this and go to bed.

Here's tonight's lullaby:

Sweet dreams!

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