As Halloween approaches, the sky welcomes back the clouds. The sun paints them orange and red, purple and yellow, and leaves dusky blue for the thick, whipped fog that hugs the ridge on the mountains as it moves east. Those same mountains tumbling west, tapering into dunes that meet the ocean at Limantour. The land between me and the beach shrinks, because I will it to do so, and I imagine the waves meeting the curb that leads to the driveway, bringing to me a sound I crave. I miss the coast.
Fall is in the air and on the ground. The smell of leaves drying underfoot, where they land after parting ways with the limbs that supported them resolutely when water was scarce, and the ever so slow greening of the hills as moisture makes its way to us from the sea. The boys talk of trick-or-treating and Christmas relentlessly. Costume choices change minute by minute, and the list of gifts desired from Santa grows longer by the day.
Grilling makes way for roasting, salads step aside for soups, sweaters aren’t just for nights anymore. Fires in the fireplace, cocoa, adventures to find cider donuts and caramel apples, hands slick with pumpkin guts as the near-toothless grin of a Jack O’ Lantern emerges. Cocooning is instinctual. The lazy days (non-stop swimming, hiking, beach-combing) filled with summer’s heat turn into romantic nights that slowly build toward the holidays, culminating in that midnight kiss that turns the calender from one year to the next.
The memories of this time last year are unlike any fall I’ve ever experienced. Pain and uncertainty, betrayal, and a life lost forever blur the months that used to be magic to me. The stress of that time lays heavy in the air around me. My shoulders are so tight. My head hurts. I spent Saturday losing the battle with tears determined to ride my face.
The park was full of families grilling by the side of a creek that day. The boys played on a rope swing, flying over a bend of water that will soon grow from shallow to deep as the rains come. Children scampered on a play structure, sliding down the fire pole, climbing up the slides, peeling off to hit the swings or a piñata.
The little dude had a few close calls with the mounting of the swing, once nearly sending me off the edge of the bank. I would have survived, but it would have smarted. I was already aching, inside and out, and felt like I was taking away their fun by not being more carefree on the dusty edge of the bank. Being on edge was not playing well with literally being on the edge. Deciding a game of freeze tag was in order, the little dude led the way across the creek and up the other bank. We hopped the fence and joined the half dozen children staking out territory on the playground.
The little dude took one look back and raced off with me in hot pursuit. We weaved around the slides, between the picnic area and the fence, through some trees and back to the sandbox before I tagged him.
He took off running.
Hey! You’re frozen!
No, I’m not…I have super powers! His ocean blue eyes squinted, not from the sunlight, but from the size of his smile as he sped off, taking to a ladder that led him up and out of sight.
I was melancholy. I only get to do this twice a month now. Not every weekend. I don’t have someone I can wrap my arms around as I watch the boys make new friends, invent games and get dirty. When they aren’t with me, I am alone. No insta-family, no big dinner to cook for Thanksgiving. Dating? It goes something like this:
Are you free on Saturday?
No, I have the boys. Free Wednesday?
No, I have the girls.
That’s been the conversations as of late with Mr. Triathlete. We haven’t seen each other since mid-August. Neither one of us are willing to give up time with our children since it’s already so limited. And we don’t believe introducing them is a good idea. So we text and talk occasionally and wait for the schedules to settle.
My active time has been spent in the pool lately. Great for my body, not great for my social life. As an aside, a kitten’s comment to a prior post prompted (peter picked a peck of pickled peppers) me to try on my wedding dress. I’m thinking of donating it to a theater group to be used as a costume (fitting, no?), so I decided to don it one last time. The dress hung off my frame. It could lose 2 inches on each side, in some places three. I was not expecting that. I weigh the same as I did when I got married, but my body is completely different.
Swimming gets all the credit.
But being face down in water is not a great position for encounters, the part of life that brings such joy. I felt lonely as we departed the park. The idea of heading home and making dinner made me cry. I needed to be out among people, I thought. So we went to a local restaurant for dinner. One with TVs visible from the booths so I could lose myself in playoff baseball and college football. Looking up at the TVs mounted near the ceiling helped to keep the tears floating over my eyes, instead of spilling down my cheeks. That worked until it came time to cut the little dude’s food. Tears watered down the tarter sauce for his fish and chips.
The tall dude slid out of his seat and came over to hug me. He gives such a solid bear hug for a seven year old. When he’s 21 and 6’5″, the roles will be reversed and my head will be on his heart, but today he listened to mine beat.
Thank you, honey. So much. I’m okay. Just a little sad. My heart hurts.
What’s making your heart hurt?
I don’t really know. Except that it’s nothing you’ve done. I’m just a little blue today.
He went back to his seat, immediately distracted by a commercial for a Chinese fortune cookie maker, which, upon further reflection, I totally want, while I pondered his question.
I have no idea why I’m sad. The tears are on remote control. I cannot stop them. My goal of soaking in some positive, happy, sports-watching energy failed as I emitted simply too much sadness for bi-directional flow.
That night HGM received a comment from M, with timing as perfect as Pippa’s derriere:
“I love this: “Optimism is the oxygen of life.” As well as the part about you creating your own magic. If everyone realized the power, the opportunity, in creating their own magic — well, what a wonderful, empowered, creative society we’d be.”
I seemed to have forgotten about that whole create your own magic morsel. The beating the tall dude heard when his head was against my chest? It wasn’t my heart beating. It was my heart knocking to be let out.
I expected the anniversary of the Pocket Call to be a day to tough it out, but I didn’t expect the walk down memory lane to be a block by block tour de force.
After a night’s sleep that was interrupted by the little dude wanting to snuggle, my energy was quiet today. Which allowed for some deep reflection. I need a theme. A theme song, for sure, but a theme for my week to help me remain centered. This week the theme is:
Optimism with Action; Making the Magic
Tomorrow I have a date with a girl. And I’m totally getting to second base. How’s that for optimism and action in an effort to make magic?