The last day of school and it’s a half day, so I’m sitting in a Target Starbucks, killing time.
I’m in a heightened state- you know when you’re not sure exactly how you’re feeling, but you’re feeling it very strongly? And not just one feeling- it’s 6 of them simultaneously whirling around inside, so you’re jumpy and flustered and not sure how to process anything.
That’s me right now. I don’t remember this morning’s hour-long drive into school from our new house. It was a dream of listening to Harry Potter on Audible, navigating traffic, and disbelief that this is our final day with any real tie to Elmhurst.
In the school line, Beckett’s teacher from last year approached us and said she heard we were moving.
“Oh, we moved already. The commute has been CRAZY” is my go-to answer, with a roll of my eyes to emphasize our suffering.
As she wished us luck, and asked Beckett a few questions, I found myself feeling teary and vulnerable. Raw, I guess. That bunch of emotions had been poked so it was swirling around dangerously.
Here are the emotions:
• Remembering the excitement I felt on my last days of school each year.
• Pride in my children for finishing another grade each – for everything they are learning, school-related and otherwise.
• The massive relief at not having to spend 5 1/2 hours a day in the car any more, to let the kids finish out the year in their current schools.
• The excitement and promises of the beginning of summer!
• The excitement and promises of being in a new house! A house we own as opposed to a neglected rental house.
• The thrill of having a new beautiful work space and much more time to put into my blog again – to focus on growing it as a business.
And this – the strongest emotion here, made up of the intense understanding that we escaped a horrible situation. We climbed out of an environment that has been working to suffocate every bit of optimism and happiness we could muster up. I feel self-consciously melodramatic writing this, but feel this way nonetheless.
The last 6 years have seen us losing our jobs, losing our house – stumbling back to Elmhurst with a 6 year old and a full pregnant belly. We rented a house for a year that had previously been inhabited by a fraternity, and were forced to move a year later when our landlord decided to sell it. (He later wondered aloud that we took the news so matter-of-factly, but that’s how you act while in a prolonged state of shock. We also semi-jokingly refer to that house as “rock-bottom house”.)
Next up was the cheapest house we could find to rent in that expensive suburb. Neglected, weedy, dripping in nicotine, but ours to make of what we could.
Closer to Christian’s kids = good.
Good schools = good.
Christian and a photographer had started a business. A commercial photo studio, born from the leftover equipment from our last jobs and the hopes of relying on the relationships with previous clients. Clients love Christian.
Our food money at first came from selling old view cameras on eBay, and we borrowed rent money from Christian’s parents. We paid some bills at the expense of others. Our taxes owed are outrageous now.
Christian couldn’t pay child support for a bit, but with us having the kids half the time and his ex having re-married a doctor, we assumed this would be tactfully overlooked – until he was taken to court in an attempt to recoup the past money. Illinois screws the fathers in matters of divorce.
Licking our wounds, banding together as a family, we found comfort in love, and focused our efforts on making things and laughing about everything we could laugh about. You must always be able to find humor in things – even the worst things. I will never know how Christian survived those first few years. On top of all of this he was freshly out of rehab. And he still hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in 8 years.
So now along with all of my emotions, vivid memories from these last Elmhurst years keep flashing through my mind and I’m fighting back a complete ugly crying breakdown at this tiny Starbucks table.
Part of me wants to let it flow- to start bawling and hiccuping, snot and tears flowing wildly, howling in release and enjoying the shocked stares of people around me. I’ll spare them this time.
So here’s to newness: to moving forward, plowing through a lot of bullshit because you know you had no other option. Here’s to amazingly strong husbands, and the aforementioned creativity and laughter. But mostly, here’s to our kids.
I hope our kids take only memories of the love and laughter and adventures we shared during this time. Half of what kept Christian and me going was the unwavering cuteness, sweetness, innocence, and of course loud, constant demands of 2 young kids, and awkward, fascinating adventures of 2 middle-schoolers.
Kids have the uncanny, built-in ability to distract you from your woes and help you focus on whatever is going on right then, and I am insanely grateful for all of them.