This year, for the first time, I spent the Fourth with John and his daughter. We fed the little one ice cream for breakfast and took her swimming at midday, the sun scorching hot where I sat on the only towel we brought and dangled my feet in the water, watching how how intimately she and John worked together to help her practice swimming, and then later I watched her wearied form draped over his strong arms slicing through the water, a cut healed instantly. And they were a they. I didn’t have much to do with it. With them. But I cheered her on poolside as she faced her fears and jumped into the deep end, into her father’s arms, although I am still the girl who only comes over on weekends to snarfle fuzzy cat bellies and draw decorations to tape on walls for the little one’s imaginary parties and hold hands with John while we watch Leverage.
I felt…so foreignthere. That’s the best word to describe it. Because they were a they, contained in two, complete and perfect in themselves.
Twilight came, as it does (although never soon enough on the Fourth of July) and we rushed to see fireworks back in town. A thirty minute drive. It was already 9:00. We weren’t going to make it.
Halfway there at an exit onto a major road I see a brilliant burst of color and a bit of open land. Here, I said. Here is good. So we parked and tumbled out and John grabbed the provisions from the back that I’d begged him to get at Kroger and we hefted the little one onto the truck bed and shared a pack of Nutter Butters between the three of us, just like my parents and I did as a child, and then suddenly, fleetingly all of us were a we, a fragile nucleus of joy forged from darkness and fire.
I don’t know quite how this happened but
I’ll take it.
The one year anniversary of that Fourth has crept up on me and I find myself going back to my dog-eared bookmark of that memory. That day was the first time that I really felt that I could have a family, this family, this small and mighty thing.
A lot changes in a year.
You know when you hear something and something inside you, some bearing that you have, just...shifts?
He said he didn't want more children. Shift.
Because as much as I wanted her to be enough, she wasn't enough. I wanted a baby. Our baby. To complete our family. I dreamt of a little boy with his smile. I dreamt of the four of us eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings. I dreamt that John would sing our children to sleep, his low, soft voice stirring all the strings of my heart.
I wanted a baby so badly I would pluck the stars from the sky.
I wanted a life with him so badly I would move all of the planets in all of the heavens to have it be so.
No, he said. I do not want more children. Shift.
And there, in that crux of a moment, I had to choose.
I wanted her to be enough so, so badly.
But she wasn't enough.
I have tried to run. I have tried to hide from it, from myself and what I find in front of me. I have denied and fled and flung myself at everything but the problem at hand. I have tamped myself down tight, so tight, in the hopes that if I make everything smaller inside me, it will disappear altogether. (Because, obviously, that has worked so well in the past.)