Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Raising Eyebrows in Arizona

"What if he hurts you, Mom? I'll have to kill him." Miles wasn't blinking. He wasn't smiling. He wasn't playing. I reached for his shoulders, meeting his intense gaze. "I love you very much. And I don't want you to worry about that. I don't think he's going to hurt me, but if he does, I can take care of myself. I promise, Sweetie. Now let me finish packing ok?"

"Why are the Slaughters coming? It's our trip."
I took a deep breath. He and I had been over this. He didn't really I care that I had a boyfriend whom I spent time with when he and his brother were at their dad's house. But Miles didn't want to share any of "his time" with Scottie. As far as he was concerned, I could see Scottie on my own time.

"I told you" I said for the 3rd or fourth time, "they're coming, but they have their own room. It's only two nights. If you don't feel like hanging out with them, that's okay."
"I won't feel like hanging out with them."
"Okay" I said, feeling defeated. "We'll see how it goes."

We met Scottie and his daughters at the Burbank airport that morning. Lily was 9 and Justin was 10, Nora was 5 and Miles was 11. I tried to take a group photo with Justin, Miles and the Slaughter-daughters but Miles got angry moved away from us to an empty seat by the gigantic airport window. When we landed in Phoenix, Arizona, Miles fast-walked off the plane ahead of everyone, calling for me and Justin to "hurry up". I looked up and gave a little silent prayer.

Please let this weekend work.

Nora was little enough to actually "ride" Scottie's carry-on as he rolled it through the airport down to baggage claim. Justin and Lily were exploring the beginnings of a friendship, talking and joking shyly. Miles was finally walking next to me and Scottie. Looking around, I was struck by the fact that everyone seem to be wearing cowboy boots and jeans. People stared at us as we passed by. One little boy actually pointed at us with wonder. I felt as though were an exhibit on display. ​And here you can observe the interracial, blended family outside of their natural Los Angeles habitat. Don't get too close! They might bite!

When we got down baggage claim Scott's phone rang. "Where are you?" asked his friend Peter.
"Arizona" said Scott.
"What are you doing there?" asked Peter
"Raising eyebrows" answered Scottie with a smile.
I just loved him.

Miles wouldn't ride in a cab with the Slaughters so we rode in two separate cabs to the waterpark-hotel. A good friend had told me that it was an amazing little vacation spot for kids. Only open to hotel guests, was a water park, complete with water slides, wave-pool and a lazy river. An hour after we arrived we joined the Slaughters down at the main pool. Nora was at table drinking a virgin pina colada. We were starving, but it was too hot to eat much. Soon our umbrella'd table (complete with cooling misters) was abandoned and littered with cheeseburger  wrappers, puddles of ketchup and half finished cokes. They were all in the pool. I found myself holding my breath as I watched. Justin and Lily were playing together in the wave pool, Scottie and Nora were on the lazy river. Miles was by himself in the main pool near the volleyball net, hunting down a gigantic beach ball. I swallowed hard and tried to accept the fact that maybe this wouldn't ever happen. Maybe I was forcing it. Maybe I wouldn't ever be able to be with my boys and my boyfriend at the same time.

I let Miles choose the restaurant for dinner that night. The moment we walked in I felt as if the air had been sucked out of the room. All the men, women and children (most of them in cowboy hats) stopped talking and stared at our little crew. First there was Nora, a 37-pound, blond, pixie of a girl. Then Lily, who looked like a younger, blond Scarlett Johansen. Miles and Justin looked tall and athletic next to the girls. Their brown skin was sun-kissed from the day. Their curls were still wet from their after-pool shower. Lastly, Scottie and I strolled hand-in-hand behind them. Raising eyebrows indeed. I didn't care if they stared. But I certainly didn't want to have to "check" anyone out here in the "old west". If the kids noticed the staring they didn't seem to mind it. They went outside on the patio and hung out with a balloon artist until the food came. Miles went reluctantly because Justin was out there. But he kept coming back to the table to check on me. I hugged him and put my cheek next to his. I whispered "I love you's" to him and kissed his forehead.

Walking back to our rooms after dinner I felt the tentative beginnings of hope. The warm evening breeze brought the temperature down to about 80 degrees. The sky was a black velvet painting with a frosting of pin lights. Shooting stars were everywhere. I made a wish on one of them. ​Please let him give it a chance. I looked down from the sky and saw that all four of our kids were now walking ahead of us and joking around. Miles had just discovered how easy it was to pick up Nora. He carried her (amid her protests) almost all the way back to our suites. I did a happy dance inside, but didn't want to push my luck.
"Goodnight Slaughters" I said when we got the door.
"Good night!?" said Miles. "Doesn't anyone want to go for a night swim?"

10 minutes later, Scottie and I sat on the edge of the downstairs pool watching our kids play. Their laughter echoed off the walls of the hotel. The blue-green pool-lights danced around their faces. Nora and Miles swam up to Scottie and I. Nora, who sounded just like Alvin (of The chipmunks) looked like summer; tan, with water-slicked hair and long, wet, spiky eyelashes.
"Can we stay in longer?" she asked, Miles nodding in agreement.
After they swam away, I raised my eyes to the sky again and mouthed "thank you."

Two days later, I was packing to leave for the airport. The boys were next door at "the Slaughter house". Suddenly there was a banging at the door. Alarmed, I stopped packing and ran to open it. All four kids tumbled inside, perfuming the air with the smell of chlorine and freshly applied sunscreen. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Mom" said Miles with a very serious voice. "We need to talk to you."

"What is it?"
"Can you delay our flight? WE REALLY want to stay. Please?"
"Please, Please!" They all took up the cry. I looked from one suntanned/burned face to the other.
My mind raced. ​Could I?
"Really?" I asked. "You want to stay, what one more night?"
"Actually, till the end of the week" said Miles. Please mom. We're having so much fun."

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