Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Origin Story

"Up here."
"Are you ready...?"
My friend stopped in the doorway. I was sitting on the bedroom floor surrounded by photo albums and boxes. Scattered in a circle around me were hundreds of pictures of Miles. I was sitting in a sun-warmed spot on the soft, brown carpet, weeping as I dug into the overfull hatbox in front of me. I pulled out a "first day of pre-school" picture and bit my lower lip.
"Look at him!" I wailed, shoving the picture towards her.
"This is for the Bar Mitzvah video?"

"Yes," I dabbed my eyes with a tissue and sniffed loudly. "I just need about 10 more baby pictures. I've got enough of his school years."
I dug further into the hatbox and my hand froze above a black and white photo-border.
There are wedding day photos in here.

I peered into the box and saw that it was of a picture of me looking solemn in my wedding dress, surrounded by my bridesmaids. I knew what I would find if I dug any deeper. "There are probably pictures of HER in here," I said. But my voice sounded like, "There's probably a live snake in here!"

I also noticed that I had taken to calling Tracy "HER," like it was her name.
"Good! I'm dying to see what she looks like!" Her eyes were wide with excitement.
I shook my head and pulled the out the photo and looked at it.
Why did I look so sad? What was I thinking?
"So, Laur, you're really going to see her tomorrow?!? Tell me everything, Sweetie! How long has it been?"
"Years," I said, looking back at the hatbox. "Maybe, not since my wedding, I don't know."
I set the photo down and continued digging in the box. Here was a picture of the me laughing with my beautiful row of bridesmaids. Next I pulled out a picture of my Dad and I doing the Macarena.
"Everyone looked so young, Sweetie!"
"I know!"
My heart thumped in my ears as my fingers found the next photo. I could tell just from the edge that it was "the picture". All at once I was filled with a combination of dread and curiosity.
Oh my God, here she is.

Slowly, I held up the photo of Tracy. She was wearing a white, silk, slip dress and staring right at the camera, holding a microphone.

I flashed back to our wedding video. Tracy was laughing and told her friend to hold her apple martini. She looked right in to the camera.
"Congratulations guys!" She said with a raucous laugh. "This is the best wedding I've ever been to."

"We've ever been to!" her friend cut in, putting her face in to frame with Tracy's. More laughter, there was a toast to us. Then they both smiled for too long, as if the videographer had asked them to pose for a still photo.
I shook my head to clear the memory.

"Laur! Is that her?"
She grabbed the picture from me and held it like it was a developing-Polaroid, delicately and by the edges.
I managed a nod
"She's a kid, Laur!"
"She was a kid" I agreed. "She must have been what? 19, 20?"
"Okay, so you two were more like social girlfriends than actual friends."
"Exactly, we just hung around in the same circles." I took the photo back from her.
She actually looks like she could have been one of my bridesmaids...
"Okay, Laur" she interrupted my reverie. "So you called Bri and asked him to arrange a meeting between you two?"
I put the photo down and looked up at her as if I were seeing her for the first time.
"Yes, well, less like 'a meeting' and more like 'a coffee'".
"But why, Sweetie?"
I felt the beginnings of tears again.

"Because," I said decidedly, not allowing the tears to interrupt me. "He wants her to be with him at Miles's bar mitzvah."
"Really Sweetie? That's insane!! How long have you been divorced? Isn't it too soon!?"

"Yes - and thank you!! I think so. I think it's way too soon. But clearly it's not way too soon, because it's happening!" I heard the emotion in my voice and decided to just let the tears fall, it hurt my throat too much to stifle them.

"I need to sit down with her," I continued, "because I don't think it's a good idea for us to be in room together for the first time in 12-years without having had some kind of conversation first." I wiped my nose on my sleeve and sat there looking down. She scooched over and put her arms around me, rocking me back and forth.
"Okay," she turned her attention to the notebook on the floor next to me.
"Sweetie, what's all of this?"
"My work" I said pitifully.
I looked down at the notebook pages of barely legible scribble.

My work.

I’d prepared for this conversation for over 3-months with my sponsor. Together we whittled down all of the stuff I wanted to say.
“Self righteous anger should be left to those better qualified to handle it,” she advised. "So I’m going to ask you, what do you need her to know? What needs to happen during this meeting?"

What NEEDS to happen?
I thought. And suddenly I felt like a giant balloon with a gash in its side.
What needs to happen here is much, much different than what I want happen. I want her to feel bad for making me feel bad. I want her to know that she can never replace me with my children. I want her to say, "I actually don't feel right going to the Bar Mitzvah , so you don't have to worry about me being there."

But that wasn’t what my sponsor had asked me. She asked me what needed to happen. The truth was, the only thing that needed to happen, was that I needed to make sure that nothing popped off between her and I at Miles’s Bar Mitzvah. I needed to be able to be in a room with her and not feel overwhelmed by anger, resentment and confusion.

"So yeah" I said, taking a deep breath. "This is my work. My 'lines', as it were." I picked up the notebook and pointed to a section at the end of the page. "When she and I meet for coffee tomorrow, I'm going to try not to go 'off script'. I'm going to say what I need to say and get out."
"What do you need to say to Tracy, Laur?"

I looked straight ahead as if I were actually talking to Tracy.
"That I'm working really hard to put everything behind us. And that I'd really like for us to move forward for the sake of my children."
She regarding me for a moment with a look of intrigue.
"Wow, Laur. That's really impressive, Sweetie. Do you know how brave that is?"
I watched with a mild curiosity as the tears falling from my face bounced off the blue notebook cover.
"Laur, do you want me to come with you?"
I felt my heart pounding. The hand holding the notebook was trembling.
"I do," I said, putting my head on her shoulder. "Actually, I wish you could go instead of me."
I tucked my bare feet underneath me and set the notebook down. The late afternoon sun had moved and suddenly I was cold.
"But I need to do this by myself."
We sat like that for a while . My head on her shoulder, her left arm around me. Her hair smelled clean, and freshly pressed. I ran my fingers through it like a comb down her back. "I'm scared." I said finally.
"I know, Sweetie."
"I hate being a grown up," I said lifting my head up and smiling.
She laughed a little. "I know."
I sighed as I surveyed the mess that I had created all around me. I kissed her cheek and slowly got to my feet.
"Let's clean this up" I said. "I'm ready to go."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mother's Day 2011

"So you finally want to talk about the brownies..." (picture a well put-together 70-ish woman with a thick, Greek accent).
"I don't want to talk about the brownies," I protested. "But I think I need to talk about the brownies."
"Okay," she clasped her hands in front of her. "Tell me about the maker of these brownies." I took a deep breath.

"Her name is Tracy," I said. "I'm pretty sure she's over at their father's house a lot. She might even be living there. The brownies come home with the boys in a Tupperware container every week."
I felt stupid, angry tears pushing their way into my eyes. I blinked hard to hold them back.
"What are you feeling?"
"I don't know," I said, trying to get a hold of myself. "I know it's not the brownies. That would be so stupid!"
"No" she agreed with a nod. "It's not the brownies. But tell me what do the brownies mean to you? What do they represent?"
"I don't know," I said shaking my head. "Someone else gets to bake for my kids? But that's so silly! It's not like I bake them brownies with any regularity."
"I think the key is — there is 'someone else'" (but with her accent it sounded more like, "I think da key is dare is sum-whan else").
She gently placed her index finger under my chin and lifted my face 'till our eyes were level. "What does this mean if there is someone else?"

I fumbled with a new tissue that was partially sticking out of freshly opened tissue box on the coffee table in front of me and finally managed to rip the tissue in half.
"I guess it's like," I was interrupted by a teary hiccup. "Well, Mother's Day is in a few days, you know? And I thought, I mean I guess I always thought that I would be the only mother they would have until they were grown up. It really didn't occur to me that another woman would ever be spending time with them and their dad — family time. I don't know what that makes me if someone else is filling that role too."

"Ahhh!" (Marguerita made the "Eureka!" face). "But no one can ever replace you. You are their mother."
I plied more tissue fragments out of the box and mopped my face with them. "But that's how I feel, so what do I do?"
"There may be nothing to do," she said calmly. "Do they talk about her? Do you have any indication of how they feel about her presence in their father's life?"
I shook my head."No, not really. Should I ask them?"
"NO," she said sternly. "If there is something wrong, you will know. They will tell you either with their words or with their actions. If there is anything you need to know now, you must ask Brian, never the children!"
I shifted on the old sofa. It had a deep spot in the middle. I always thought that she and the sofa must have been around the same age.

"How long have you been divorced?" Marguerita's voice was more commanding now.
"Almost two years."
"And how old are they - Miles and Justin?"
"9 and 11" I was starting to feel cornered. What? Was she implying that it had been long enough? That it was appropriate for there to be someone else in the home they shared with their dad now because it had been almost two years?

"And what," she said, "does Brian say about your Scottie being there in your home with the children?"
"Scottie's almost never there when my kids are home," I said self-righteously. "He comes when they go to their dads."

"Hmmm." She took her glasses off and leaned toward me.
"What?" Using my heels, I pushed back against the back sofa cushion a little.
"Maybe, this way, they don't get to see that you're happy too, with someone new. Maybe they see dad is happy with someone else and maybe they worry about you?"
I shrugged with a sullen expression. I was beginning to feel defeated. I felt like she was missing the point.
"You mentioned Mother's day is coming," she said.
"Yes?" I glanced at the wall clock. We have 22 minutes left.
"Maybe on this day, you could thank this woman for baking the brownies for your children. After all, she is helping to make them feel at home. This could be part of the healing."
I laughed out loud through my tears. "What?!"

Marguerita laughed a little too. "But it's not so funny," she said trying to recoup her therapist face.
"This woman, she is making an effort to make your kids happy. It is probably not an easy situation to be in, you know? You and your boys are so close. A gesture from you could mean a great deal."

I felt the sharp edge of anger piercing the flesh of my throat. "I don't think I'm ready for that."
"Okay," said Marguerita lovingly. She leaned forward and cupped my face with her hands. "You will feel differently with time. Just don't do or say anything you'll regret in the meantime. Remember this is a transition for all of you. You are grieving the loss of an old idea. This is a thing you must do, grieve. But after the grief must come the healing. And the healing must begin with you. You can be angry about the brownies, you can be angry at Tracy. But you know it's not the brownies that anger you — and it is not Tracy either."

"Grief?" I said incredulously. "That's what this feeling is? I thought it was jealousy."
Marguerita smiled wryly. "I would agree there is jealousy. Certainly, there must be if you are so angry at some innocent pastry."
The corners of my mouth twitched with the sudden invasion of a smile.
"But, my question to you is, what is underneath the jealousy?"
"What's underneath the jealousy? " I stopped smiling and narrowed my eyes to show her that I was focusing.
She nodded.
"Grief?" It was a guess, not a statement.
"You are scared!" she said triumphantly. "Fear is under the jealousy and the grief. You are scared of losing what you have. So you must connect with this fact: Not this woman — or any other woman can take away what you have!"

Marguerita raised herself from her armchair and moved to the middle of the sofa next to me, causing me to slide toward her. All at once, the air was filled with the scent of the jasmine oil she wore. I leaned back until my head was resting against the wall and exhaled loudly. She gripped my arm with impressive strength.

"Laura, do you understand that the only one that can take your children away from you is YOU? You!" She started ticking things off with her fingers, "you stay on track with your recovery and then you and I will begin this grief work."

I was crying again. She handed me full-sized tissue from the pocket of her suit jacket.
"Healing is what we want. Forgiveness is what is needed."
"Okay," I sniffed. "So now I have to forgive too? How do I do that?" If she heard the sarcasm in my voice she didn't react to it.

"You know what begets forgiveness, my love?" She cupped my face again. "Look at me, Laura. Kindness. Whether you mean it or not, a little kindness goes a long way toward forgiveness and healing. A little kindness toward Tracy and her brownies can go along way to help your children feel safe." She pointed her index finger in the air for emphasis. "This is the most important thing. That the children feel safe!"

And there it was.

For the next few days, I found myself staring at the brownies with a mixture of anger and sorrow. "I am not angry with the brownies or with Tracy" I would say mechanically. "I am grieving the loss of an old idea."
And every time I thought about dumping the brownies in the trash (Tupperware and all!), I remembered her words; "the most important thing is that the children feel safe." And slowly the edge of anger in my throat became a little less sharp.

On Sunday, there came the expected morning call from Brian, wishing me a happy Mother's Day. There was a moment during the call when it felt like maybe it might be ok to ask him to thank Tracy for the weekly brownie-batch, but I stopped just short and chickened out. Later on that day, I found myself looking at my phone several times and thought about what it might feel like to call Brian back and ask him to thank her for those brownies. Every time I tried to picture the call, I was overwhelmed by waves of fatigue. Grief, I decided, is exhausting. But I didn't know if I was ready to begin the work toward healing. I would, as Marguerita said, have to "give myself some time". But at that very moment, there in my kitchen at 9:00pm on Mother's day, I just felt tired. I felt like I needed something to lift me up. And since anything "head changing" was off the table (my being in recovery and all) I found myself looking at that brownie container with new eyes.

Maybe I wasn't ready to be kind to Tracy yet. But maybe I could be kind to the brownies.
I lifted the Tupperware and held it at eye level. There are still 3 or 4 in there. I popped the stiff red top and took one of them out. Holding it close enough to smell, I stared at the dark, moist cake in my hand for a minute, before taking a tentative nibble. The sweet, full flavor of dark chocolate enveloped my senses. I breathed a sigh of relief as I swallowed the first bite.

I'm being kind to the brownies.

I felt my fatigue dissipating as I chewed the second bite. Scanning myself inwardly, I tried to summon the brownie-anger that had hijacked my soul for the past year or so. I could still access it, but it felt much further away.

I am forgiving the brownies.

Baby steps. This Mother's Day, I worked on forgiving the brownies. We'll see where I am next Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Saxophone Solo

For the second time during my conversation, the air was filled with the mournful wail of a wounded brass instrument. I stopped talking and braced myself for the second series of "notes".
"Can you hold on for a second?"
Screech - ahhhh - screeeech!

"Okay, I'm back. Sorry, Miles is practicing the saxophone. He has a solo at his school's winter 'Blues Brothers' concert on Monday."
She laughed. "You have a lot going on this Monday".
Our divorce-mediation was scheduled for 10:00am that same Monday. The entire lower school was performing, grade by grade from 11:00-2:00pm. One of us was going to have to probably going to have to leave the mediation early in order to make it there for his performance on time. He ​had to have at least one of us there. He'd had both of his parents at every single concert so far. We'd always each built our schedules around our son's school events.

My mediation prep was a shock.
"You don't address him directly" she advised. "He won't address you directly either. I know his attorney, he's a sharp lawyer. He'll give him the same advice."
"You do realize that we still live in the same house, right?" I said. "I can't actually not speak to him."
"I would encourage you not to discuss anything having to do with the divorce until after the mediation. Especially in case it goes to trial."

Trial! I didn't want a trial!
"I told you". ​My voice sounded so small. ​What was it about my attorney that made me feel like a little kid?
"I don't want to go to trial. I can't go to trial. I have more at stake than -- most people."
"Your children?" She said lightly. "Most divorcing-people have children."
"Yes, of course, my children. But that wasn't what I meant."
"What then? Money? I told you, anything regarding finances, just leave it to me."
"Not the money" I said. I felt anger and frustration filtering into my voice.
"What then?"
I reached into my purse and fished out the 90-day medallion on my keychain and held it up for her to see.
"Oh that" she said, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Your sobriety? I'll do everything to make sure that he doesn't use that against you." She winked at me. "I'll ensure that you're seen as very sympathetic. Don't worry you'll be the victim."
I steeled myself and raised my voice a little. "No, I mean I can't go to trial, because I can't risk my sobriety. I need to make sure that I don't make any of this a bigger mess."
She studied me silently and then snapped her fingers and pointed to me. "Okay," she said craftily. "Maybe we can use that! The mediator might see your reluctance to go to trial for the sake of preserving you sobriety as virtuous."

I closed my eyes and willed myself to breathe.

I just want it to be over with. This whole thing is a nightmare.

Miles was practicing again when I got home that afternoon. He ran to the door, sax in hand, to serenade me with the latest production of his solo.
"Ready, mom?"
It was earsplitting. Every note was an electric shock-current running through my brain. It was positively unbearable.

I felt unkind words rising into my mouth.
"Miles" I said sharply.
He lowered the sax, a string of saliva connecting him to the mouth bit.
"Yeah mom?" ​Those eyes.
I took another breath.
What was I doing? My son was excited to play his solo for me. This could have gone so many other ways, but it didn't. Today my son wants to play for me.
I sat down on the tangerine, semi-circle bench in the foyer.
"Ok Sweetie. Let's hear it."
Monday morning I packed Miles's black suit jacket, white t-shirt, sunglasses and black satin tie in his backpack.
"Your teacher is going to help you put the tie on" I said. "And either Daddy or I will be there in time to see you play, okay?"
"Not both of you?"
My heart felt like it was rising in to my throat. I swallowed hard.
"Maybe both of us. We'll try. But one of us for sure."
The pout on his face filled me with a sense of dread.

This whole thing was crazy. What were we doing?"

My attorney's offices were on the 37th floor. Every conference room had a 4th glass wall from which you could see a sweeping view of the city or the ocean. I was shown in to the rear conference room, which had a city-view. Everyone was seated on opposite sides of the large glass table. I sat in the open chair next to my attorney. Brian and I barely looked at each other. The mediator, a retired judge, started to explain how it would go. I tried to fix my gaze on her since it was uncomfortable to look anywhere else. She had a generous face and kind eyes. I liked her voice. It was soft, but smart. She said my name gently.

"Do you understand, Laura? We're just going to go through things, line by line and see if we can come an agreement."
I nodded, "I understand."
It went on for over an hour. My lawyer raised objections, his lawyer raised objections. My stomach was a knotted mess. I was so relieved when they called for a break. I walked down the hall toward the restrooms, looking at my watch.

12:45! One of us was going to have to miss it.

I dragged my feet on the way back to the conference room. I didn't want to go back in.
I looked up and saw Brian coming down the hallway from the other direction. We both regarded each other for a moment.
I leaned against the wall with my hands clasped behind my back.
"This is insane" he said.
"I know. I hate it."
"Me too."
I slid down to a seated position on the floor.
"What would you say to..."
He slid down and sat on the floor opposite me. Paralegals regarded us warily as they scooted by us.

I asked him about a few things in the agreement. He listened and offered a slight variation toward a solution.  The whole thing took all of two minutes. We looked at each other. I saw him smile as he looked at his watch.

"Maybe we can still make it!" He said.
We rushed down the hallway. Our lawyer's mouths fell open as we burst in together. Each of them called each of us to their side of the table in a panic.
"Sit down, sit down" said Brian motioning them with his outstretched hand. "We settled everything."
"Can you write this down?" I said hurriedly, speaking directly to the mediator.
"I need a word with my client!" shouted both of our attorneys at the same time.
"Actually, no. No, you don't" said Brian calmly, sitting in the chair next to me. "We need to finish this now. We have a performance to make."
The mediator broke into a wide grin and opened her laptop.
"I'm ready."

At 1:47 Brian and I threw open the doors to the auditorium.
Miles was on stage! I listened for where they were in the piece. The music was deafening, a cacophony of off-key strings and horns.
I couldn't tell, I couldn't tell! Had he already done his solo? Did we make it in time?
Miles was scanning the crowd in his dark "Blues Brothers" glasses, looking for us. Brian and I ran up to the stage and stood right in front, blocking the view of the sea of parent-videographers who were crowding the aisle. Miles took off his glasses when he saw us and burst in to the biggest, happiest grin, waving to us with the hand that wasn't holding the sax.
"Did we miss it"? Brian stage whispered to me.
"God I hope not."
Just then Miles put his glasses back on and lifted the saxophone to his lips as the rest of the band silenced their instruments.
It was the most brilliant saxophone solo ever.

I cried and clapped till my hands hurt. When they were taking their bows, Brian nodded to me and grabbed my hand for a second.
I looked at him and then looked at our son up there on the stage.

We did it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Four Houses Down - Part Two

I could hear him talking before I got the phone up to my ear. "Laura?"

"Yeah?" I was out of breath. I sat up in bed and tried to clear my throat.
"Is everything ok?" I asked.
The ambient light from the phone-display on my nightstand emitted a halo of blue around my bed. I actually could see my heart beating under my thin, white t-shirt.

He laughed. "Yes, I'm really sorry to call so early, but something just didn't make sense to me yesterday. I felt like we missed something when we were running the numbers."

My house!!
I jumped out of bed and started to pace in a circle, the stretchy land-line phone-cord tethering me to the nightstand.
"I got up early this morning and ran the numbers again" he continued. "Then I sent the results over to my associate so she could double-check before I called you."
I sucked in my breath and held it.
And???  I screamed in my head.
"We did miss something."
What came next was a barrage of words like "tax-provisions" and "estimate-liabilities." While he reeled things off, I tried to sift through all of the real estate and tax language.

Could I buy the house?

"You can buy the house" he said finally.
I leapt into the air and screamed "Yes!"
He laughed out loud.
"Really!?" I said. "Listen, I really, really want this house, but I've had a night to think about it and I want to be smart about this. I don't want to put myself in a hole."
"You won't put yourself in a hole." I could hear him smiling. "You can buy the house".


I buzzed around my bedroom happy-dancing and singing Crosby Stills Nash's "Our House" and Aretha Franklin's "The House that Jack Built" until 7:30am.

Is it still too early to call Brian?
I was staring at my cell phone with my blood pounding in my ears when it rang​ in my hand. Brian!
I don't remember all the words that were said. I know there was an immense feeling of gratitude when he told me that they'd talked it over and they both agreed that the benefits of my living four houses away outweighed the drawbacks. He said they both thought it would be great for the kids. "In fact" he said, "I walked over and saw the house. I think it's a perfect house for you. The bedrooms are really nice-sized. And it's a really great price for this neighborhood."

The longer we spoke, it started to sink in. H​e was excited for me! Now I ​knew that this was a good thing. I felt like I'd just found the next "spiritual breadcrumb" on this leg of my journey. ​ I could afford it and Brian and his wife were okay with it. Now, I had to see if I could get them to sell it to me and not the four other potential buyers who had already put their offers down! Hours later, my mom, Linda, my sons, Miles and Justin and I were pulling up in front of the house. Scottie and his daughters Lily and Nora and our friend Livius were already parked in front. It was 6:00pm and the sun was beginning it's descent in to the horizon, turning the sky above us a pastelish-pink. This was my third trip to the house that day. Scottie and I had come at 10:30 that morning with my broker to present the offer. I came back again an hour later with my friend to get her opinion on the renovation-cost and now I was here for a third time with my family. My kids hadn't seen the house yet. I needed them to be okay with it.

Miles and Justin sailed up the oak tree-lined driveway through the front door looking for "their rooms". Lily and Nora followed closely behind them, gliding their freshly manicured fingers over the moldings and window sills. Lily "oohed and aahed" over the fireplaces. Nora ran from room to room with her arms behind her as if she were in flight. The owners, "John" and "Jenny" were in the kitchen. My stomach growled, alerting me to some amazing smell coming from their oven. ​When is the last time I ate? I had been so busy all day!

I had been to the house so many times already that day it felt like I already lived there, but I faltered before we entered the kitchen. I didn't want to intrude on their dinner time. They welcomed us in and asked us to sit down in the breakfast nook. Scottie and I took a seat and spoke with "John" while Livius (always curious about anything culinary) asked "Jenny" about her preparation-method for her roasted brussel sprouts (​ that's what smelled so delicious!). Through a series of French-style, sliding glass doors, we could see my mom and the kids exploring the backyard. Scottie was explaining to "John" that we started looking in this neighborhood because I wanted the boys to be closer to their dad. "In fact" he said, "their dad and his wife lives four houses up from here!"

John started laughing until he realized that we were serious. He called "Jenny" over to hear Scottie tell it again. She sat down in the nook with us, listening, nodding and laughing. Suddenly she turned toward me, "This is a great kitchen, Laura" she said, her eyes welling up. "We've raised our family right here at this table."

"I love this kitchen" I said, meeting her gaze. "I love this house."

The kids and my mom came piling back into the house. The kids were wide-eyed, with moist skin and bits of leaves in their hair from investigating the giant fig-vine that formed a cave near the back of the property. "We love it" they all said at once. "Miles wants the room on the other side of the house and I want this one," said Justin pointing away from the kitchen. "We love it, mom."

After we'd said our goodbyes, Art, our realtor, walked us back to our cars. "Well," he said "We'll see how it goes. The other offers are all over the asking-price. But they're all from developers who want to flip the house. I think you're the only family who wants to buy it to live in themselves. They said we'll hear from them by noon tomorrow."

I looked at the house once more before I got in my car. Everything felt aligned. I knew that if I got this house it was because it was meant to be mine. I hadn't taken any short cuts, I hadn't manipulated or deceived anyone (including myself). I could honestly do at that moment what I couldn't allow myself to do the night before. I looked up to the now-bluish/black sky and I let the house go.

Later that night, once the kids were in bed, I stood in front on one of my kitchen cabinets with a partially "peeled" string cheese sticking out of my mouth and was grabbing a handful of butter crackers when my cell phone rang.

I looked at the kitchen clock. It was a little after 10:00pm. I gulped a piece of the string cheese whole.
My finger hovered above my phone for a second before I accepted the call.

Was it my house?

"Hi!" I felt like I sounded cheerful but balanced. I hoped he could deduce from my tone that I was prepared for either good news or bad.
"Are you ready for this?" he said. "You've got the house."
"Really, Art?!"

"You've got the house!" His voice was full of joy.
"But how? I thought they weren't going to make a decision until tomorrow?"
"They weren't. But a couple of things put it over the edge for them: first-off, his wife really liked your friend and his advice about her brussel sprouts."

"And two, they loved the fact that your whole family came and you w​ant to live four doors down from your ex-husband and his wife. They want the house to be used and loved. They think you're the family to do it."