Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm Rick James B@#%*!

"We should go to a Chappelle show," he said.
I looked up from my book (for the 3rd time) to find him staring at me. We were both laying across my bed width-wise. Our bare ankles were intertwined, hanging off the bed's edge. It was a typical Sunday afternoon. I was reading ​Eat Pray Love​, he was playing around on his laptop.

I turned my head back toward the book but I could still see him out of the corner of my eye. "What did you say?"
"Dave Chappelle, do you like him?"
Even without peeking up at him, I could tell that he was inspecting me with that mildly amused look that he gave me when I regarded him with suspicion. I shifted so that I could sit up and face him.
"Yes...." I said slowly. "Do YOU?"
I said YOU like it was his name.
Why is he asking me about Dave Chappelle?!
The truth was that I did like Dave Chappelle. At least I thought I did. Suddenly I couldn't remember if I'd ever seen anything that he'd done. Everyone knows he is a pillar of the Black comedy world. I had always heard people say that he's a comedic giant, like Murphy or Pryor. "Do I like Dave Chappelle?" he asked with mock-seriousness. "I love Dave Chappelle," he replied, closing his lap top. "Did you ever watch his show?"

"​You​ love Dave Chappelle?" I repeated as I raised my right eyebrow.
I didn't mean for it sound so much like an accusation. But hey, here was this golden-skinned, Dave Matthew's Band-listening, fly fishing, rock-climbing, blond guy from Park City, Utah (via Richmond, Virginia). And I thought I knew enough about him to gage pretty accurately that he didn't know much about Dave Chappelle, or any other Black comedian. But you see, our relationship was brand new. And we were at that stage when we were eager to learn everything about the other. I knew Scottie was different. There was something soulful about him that made him unlike anybody else I'd ever encountered. He told me on our first official "date" that he was certain that he had known me in a past life. "I don't know how I lost you then, but I'm never going to lose you again," he would say. "I don't want to waste all this time in the next life. I will find you sooner, but I will always find you". That's how it's always been with him.
But back then, in 2008, our new love was like an exciting game — every similarity was a sure sign that we were meant to be together;

"You have two kids? So do I!"
"You're recently divorced? So am I?"
"You watch 'Weeds' too? Oh my God! That's my favorite show!"
"You love the new, vintage Spree's candy? Me too!"
"You're in recovery? too."

Recovery is, obviously, the big one. It is the thing that really connects us. All of our dissimilarities (music, background, race, culture) seemed to dissipate after we connected on that level. But he and I had both seen enough episodes of Celebrity Rehab and Intervention to know that recovery couldn't be the only thing we had in common if we hoped to survive as a couple. So while we were both digging deep to make sure that we poured a proper foundation for our relationship, we were also continuing to delight in surprising each other with things that the other didn't know — and maybe wouldn't have guessed.
Most of the time, we were pretty evenly matched when it came to the subject of anything related to or concerning White (or mainstream) America (although he did/does occasionally educate me about a few of his culture's "mysteries" (such as camping, "The Big Lebowski" and Jerry Garcia). However, when it came to Black American culture, I was pretty sure (smug) in the knowledge that anything that Scottie knew were things that I had taught him. So yes, I was surprised when he brought up the idea of him taking me to see Dave Chappelle.

"You - at a Dave Chappelle show?" I said with a smile. "I'm really surprised you even know who he is."
He got off of the bed and grinned.
Standing up, he held both his arms to the side and said, "Whaat? Surprised I know who he is?!?
Don't you know? I'm Rick James, Bitch!"

Turns out that Scottie really did know a lot about Dave Chappelle. In fact, he knew most of his jokes by heart. He was actually incredulous about how little I knew about Dave Chappelle. "I'd really like to take you to see him live," he said with that same, endearing smile.
"Let me show you a few of his skits." He opened his lap top again. Reluctantly (or like my Aunt Ruth would say — with an "attitude") I set Eat Pray Love face down on the bed and allowed him to educate me.

With some occasional teeth-sucking (mine), both of us huddled around his laptop screen and watched skit after skit. I suppressed a smile as I watched Chappelle meme Lil Jon (YEAHHH!). I couldn't help but giggle a little when Tyrone Biggums the crack-head scratched his neck like a rabid dog. And I actually had to laugh out loud when the 1950s white sitcom-family the "Niggars," invited their Black milkman to stay for breakfast. But by the time we got to Chappelle's infamous Rick James "True Hollywood Story" skit, Scottie and I were both rolling around the bed laughing. I looked at him as I wiped tears off my cheeks. I was hooked.

But as it happens, I had discovered Dave Chappelle too late. He had disappeared. And no one knew where he was (although it was rumored that he had turned down a $50 million check from Comedy Central and jumped on a flight to South Africa). Wherever Dave was, he wasn't performing anymore. Scottie and I could love him on Youtube, but I had to put the idea of us going to see him "live" out of my head.

7 years later...

"Sorry my brother! We're not giving away those Dave Chapelle tickets until the noon hour," said Big Boy on 92.3FM. "Make sure you stay tuned."
I was just about to turn on my iPhone playlist when some unseen force caused my finger to hover above the touch screen.

Did he say Dave Chappelle tickets?

I turned up the volume and gripped the steering wheel while I stared at the car radio, willing Big Boy to say more.
Dave Chappelle is performing again? When?? Is he coming to Los Angeles? How did I not know about this?

"That's right! Leave it right here for your Dave Chappelle tickets," said Big Boy as though he had heard my thoughts. "It was just announced TODAY that Mr. Chappelle will be gracing the City of Angels with his presence this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Hollywood Palladium. Tickets go on sale today at noon, but if you keep it right here on 92.3, you have a chance to win..."

I wasn't listening anymore. I pulled over on Valley Vista Blvd and got out my phone.

11:47! Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!

I called Ticketmaster and waited on hold for what seemed like forever. When the operator came on I blurted out my order:
"I need two tickets to see Dave Chappelle this week in Hollywood! Please!!"
He laughed and agreed with me that it was a matter of great urgency. I wish I'd gotten his name, because he was the nicest guy. He waited on the line with me for 8 minutes, chatting me up about the advantages of living in Los Angeles until they released the tickets at 12:01. When we hung up, Scottie and I had two tickets to go see Dave Chappelle live that Friday night.


Friday Night...

I followed his eyes and saw it. There it was — the longest line I'd ever seen. There were ten people deep along the side the theater wall. 5 going one way, 5 going the other. I had never seen anything like it. It started on the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd and stretched around two corners and then wrapped back around to where it began. I was too stunned to move. I could hear people talking through a haze. All I could think of was, ​how did I let this happen? I knew it was open seating! Why didn't I follow my first instinct to get here at 3:00? Why...
Scottie grabbed my hand and began fast walking toward the line, jolting me out of my reverie. "We'd better move. We're going to get shitty seats!"
I was completely out of breath by the time we'd reached the end of the line. It was only then that I noticed that everyone seemed to be wearing bright yellow wristbands.
"Do I need to get those somewhere first?" I asked the woman in sky-high wedges with bright pink hair in front of me.
"Umm Hmmm," she nodded. "First you need to stand at the end of that line (she pointed toward a line of people that stretched up into the next block) "for these," she held up her wrist. "Then you come and get back in this line."

Once we got wristbands, the line moved quickly. As we got closer to the door, my anxiety level went from a level four to a nine.

Jesus Christ! Maybe two thousand people have already gone in ahead of us, I calculated in my head.
What if we can't see the stage? What if we can't sit together?!

When we got to the front of the theater, I saw people surrendering their cell phones.
So it was true! Scottie said that Chappelle didn't allow cell phones in his shows. ​What happens if my kids need me?
I didn't have much time to worry about it, because it was already our turn and a bored-looking teenager was holding her hand out for my cellphone. Once I surrendered it, she dropped it inside of this curious looking orange, metallic-mesh bag and locked the top before handing it back to me. Scottie held his up for me to see after we'd gone through. "Crazy," he said. "So we have the phones but we just can't use them." Next we stood in a line to be searched.

Dave Chappelle does NOT mess around!
I put my useless cell phone in my purse and pulled out Scottie's glasses. "Do you need these, Hon?"
Just as he took the glasses from me, they began to divide the men from the women. There were several male security guards to frisk the men and only two female guards to pat down the women. I scampered over to what I thought was a shorter line before I realized that it was also a men's line. Normally I would call or text him and see where he had found seats. But without cell phones none of that was possible.
I ran frantically inside and looked around the theater. I was immediately hit by the stale smell of beer-stained carpeting. As my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, I could see that I was standing in yet another line.
This is a line for the bar!
Skirting the bar crowd like a running back, I burst into the cavernous, crowded and dimly lit auditorium. There were several bleachers surrounding what looked like a catwalk, which I decided was the stage. I shielded my eyes with my hand from the overhead lighting and scanned the large floor level.

Where are you, Scottie?
I jumped up on a bleacher near the stage and found that I could see the whole room pretty well. I also found two empty AMAZING seats. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. From these two seats I was about 15-unobstructed feet from the stage where the microphone was set-up. I couldn't believe my luck. They were empty and no one seemed to be checking for them. Where are you, Hon?? I found these AMAZING seats!

I sat down for a moment and placed my purse in the seat next to me. People were streaming in now. The lights were flickering off and on signifying the start of the show. I looked across the room and strained my eyes, willing them to pick him out from the crowd.
Oh man! There's a balcony. He could be up there waiting for me!

Now there were people sitting on either side of me. The couple on my left smelled like garlic and were arguing about who should leave the seats to should go get popcorn. The two guys on my right were sitting facing each other, engaged in an intense conversation. The gentleman next to me had his back to me.
"Excuse me," I said as unobtrusively as I could, while I gently tapped his shoulder. "Can you please watch these seats for me? I have to go find my boyfriend." I heard the tremor in my voice, I knew I sounded desperate.
He half turned toward me and pushed his glasses up on his nose.
"I don't think we're allowed to, sorry."
My heart sunk.
I opened my mouth to plead with him, when the announcer came on the sound system and told people to leave the restrooms and head for the auditorium.

I can't believe that Scottie and I waited 7 years to see Dave Chappelle together and now I may not even get to sit with him!

Self-pity hit me like a stomach punch as I pictured Scottie's face that day in the bedroom.
"I'd really like to take you to see Dave Chappelle live."

I knew it was silly to cry. I was here where I'd wanted to be for 7 years (and with the most amazing seats)!
Nothing should get in the way of my enjoying this moment...
But I just couldn't enjoy it without Scottie. 7 year's later, he was still the yin to my yang. We had to watch it together or not at all. I lowered my head and sighed as I scanned the crowd again. With a reproachful look to the guy who's back was still facing me, I whispered a pitiful goodbye to my seats. Then I leapt off of the bleachers again and dashed over to the nearest balcony-staircase, taking them two at a time.

All of the seats up here are filled! ​Where did all of these people come from?!
I stood near the front so he could see me if he were looking toward the stage.
He's not here!
I turned and ran down the opposite staircase and re-entered the floor level.
Scottie! Where could you be?!
My heart was pounding in my chest. I ran around the circumference of the floor like a mad woman looking for him in every seat. I wanted to shout out for him, but I knew my voice would be instantly absorbed into the deafening din of the other 4000 people talking excitedly.
Where are you, Hon?
I was doing a second lap around the floor when I ran past "my" seats. I almost didn't recognize them because the garlicky people had been replaced by two thin, brown-skinned women with braids. But the rude guy with glasses was still there in his seat talking to his friend. And...
Glory hallelujah! My seats are still here!
My heart soared with hope at what I took to be a good omen.
Breathing heavily, I hopped back up on the bleachers and scanned the room again.
Come on Honey, I closed my eyes and willed him silently. C​ome and find me here.
The room lights were so low now that everyone was outlined against the stage lights. I HAD to try and spot Scottie's silhouette before the show started. I put my purse down in the open seat next to me and stood on my tip-toes, opening my eyes as wide as I could. I saw a man entering from the lobby just as they shut the doors. I kept my eyes glued on him as I watched him spin slowly around in a circle.
That guy is looking for someone!!
As he completed the circle I could see the outline of Scottie's glasses and hair perfectly backlit by the stage light -- like a halo.

​I jumped up and down on the bleachers knocking my purse to the floor. Ignoring it I kept jumping and shouting,
"Hon! Scottie!!! Over here!!!!!"
He turned toward me and I saw his body language change from defeated to excited as he headed my way. I stood there vibrating with my arms out until he'd crossed the room.
I jumped down and picked up my purse before hugging and kissing him. As I held on to him with all of my might, I closed my eyes and nodded my head toward the ceiling and smiled.
It's all right. He's here. Everything is all right!
Suddenly, we were like teenagers on a first date. We kept laughing and talking over each other, holding on to each other's hands, touching the other's faces.
"Where were you?"
"I looked for you upstairs."
"Me too!"
"I waited by the bar for a while."
"Me too!"
​"I was so scared" he said.
"Yeah - me too," I said. "Thank God you have your glasses on! That's how I spotted you!"
He kissed me again and held my eyes with that endearing look.
"I'll always find you," he said. "I told you, I lost you once, I'm not ever going to do it again."

Just then the lights went out completely and I smiled and bounced in my seat with excitement. As the crowd erupted into applause, Scottie turned to me and shouted in my ear - "Hey, how did you get these great seats?" 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

And The Survey Says....!

For almost 15 years, my friend "Lucy" had been married to a well-known singer/musician. She and I had known each other since our early twenties. Our friendship had survived dating, marriages, pregnancies, kids, my career ending and her's beginning — and oh! our respective, divorces. Lucy was maybe one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen, so I was flummoxed when her husband ended their marriage by having a very public affair with his backup dancer. When news of the divorce hit the tabloids, she never said a word about the affair. Actually, she didn't say much to me about it either. She refused to condemn him, publicly or privately. At the time, I viewed this as a serious character flaw.

In March of 2010, my kids and I had been at her younger son, "Jack's" 6th birthday party. Front and center, right next to Lucy and her ex-husband, "Albert" was "Alison," his former mistress/back-up dancer/now-girlfriend!

As the 3 of them huddled together to light the candles on Jack's birthday cake, I, along with a few of the other moms, sipped sparkling water with lemon and watched in horror from a small table in the shade. Shaking our heads, we clucked our tongues as we observed what we considered to be a spectacle of disrespectful behavior (his) and lack of self-esteem (hers).
There were lots of "UMMM, UMMM, UMMM's" and sarcastic, whispers like:

"Well, I guess Lucy is a better woman than me!"
And "I wish my ex-husband would..."
And "damn, that little girl has got some nerve smiling for the 'FAMILY' pictures with Lucy, Albert and the babies."
I watched the whole thing with a mixture of amazement and pity.

Poor Lucy. How humiliating for her. I never took her for the type to "roll over" and let this kind of thing happen.
In other words, I was firmly on the side of the "cluckers."
How could she allow this to happen? How could she stand it? Didn't she care?

I hadn't seen Lucy since that infamous party two-month's earlier, but without looking up, I could tell she had arrived for our lunch date. I could hear the cacophony of shallow conversations stopping one by one as she made her way through the narrow tables at the Fred Segal Cafe. She kissed my cheek before sitting down.

"So good to see you," she breathed as she signaled for our waitress.
"Hey!" I hugged her and smiled expectantly as she settled in to her seat.
"Let's order," she purred. "I'm starving."
Her long, shiny mane framed her heart-shaped face. She used her recently manicured fingers to push a lock of chestnut hair out of her eyes as she watched the busboy place a bread basket on the table. Suddenly the air was filled with the mouth-watering fragrance of fresh-from-the-oven-bread. The smell made my stomach growl. I didn't realize how hungry I was. Lucy picked up a roll and broke it in half as the busboy pooled olive oil in our respective bread plates.

"So what's going on with you guys?"
As she brought a glistening morsel of bread up to her mouth, she left a trail of olive oil-dots that made a pathway from her bread plate to the edge of the table. She seemed to be unaware of the fact that her napkin sat folded next to her plate.
"Going on with me and the boys?" I said trying not to be distracted by the droplet's proximity to her dress.
"Going on with all of you. Our friend told me something about Brian and Tracy living together now?"
I exhaled and closed my eyes for a second before answering. I was tired of talking about it. It had been over a month since Miles's Bar Mitzvah and the boys were out of school for the summer. I love my summers with my kids. Lazy days, late mornings, afternoon movies and dinners in front of the TV. So, I didn't want to discuss the fact that when my kids went to their dad's house, they spent time with HER because, yes, she lived there now. And after that incident at Mr. Chow, I didn't expect to have to see her for a long time. There was really no reason for our paths to cross. Brian picked them up from my house and he brought them home afterward. I never, ever went there, which was fine by me. My boys seemed happy and carefree. I was cool.

"Yep, for a while now," I answered with what I hoped was a unfazed-sounding voice. "And you don't ever see her?"
"Nope," I salted my olive oil with more concentration than was required.

Can we change the subject?

"Hmm," she said re-crossing her silky, brown legs, flashing the red soles of her taupe pumps. "So then what do you guys do for holidays?"
"What do you mean?" I looked up at her with a slight startle.
"I mean do they spend Thanksgiving with you and then Christmas with him, or what?"

"Oh! They always spend Thanksgiving with both of us at the Malibu House. He has a huge family; lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. They all come up for it. I wouldn't want to take that away from them. It's the tradition."
"Tracy too?"


What a ridiculous question! Of course not!

"So Brian hosts and you...?"
"Well, I always go too. It's how it's worked out best. Even since the divorce, I said proudly." "So, for the past two years?"
"Yes..." I felt a set-up coming.
What was she getting at?
"And this took place at the Malibu house."
"Correct." My eyes narrowed as I caught her use of the past-tense.
"The same one you told me that was sold this spring when Brian bought the house in Encino?"
"Um, well -- yeah." I felt a vague panic rising inside of me. I was staring at the olive oil drops on the tablecloth again.
"The house in Encino where he and Tracy live currently?"
I couldn't meet her gaze.

She was right! Why didn't I think of this before? The Malibu house was gone! Brian would be hosting Thanksgiving in his new house this year — with HER! I couldn't possibly go. ​Oh my God.
She unfolded her napkin and placed it on the lap of her turquoise Herve Leger bandage dress.

"Are you okay...?" Her dark eyelashes looked like Bambi's. I was momentarily hypnotized.
I shook my head and refocused.
"You're right," I began to ramble. "I don't know how I didn't think of that when he sold the house. I think I'm in shock. I don't know what to do! I don't know how you do it. What do you guys do?"

"For Thanksgiving?"
"Yes, and for all holidays."
"Can we order first?"
"Uh...of course." I placed my hands palm down under my thighs against the seat of the chair to quiet them.
"What do you usually have here?" She bit her perfectly lined, burgundy lower lip as she studied the menu. Two open-mouthed thirty-somethings in business suits at the next table stared at her like they were watching television. I wanted to jump across the table and slam her menu down and force her to pay attention to me.

Don't you understand that this is a CRISIS?!? How can you sit there and casually look at the menu??
"I've been eating too much red meat," she sighed and turned the back-page of the menu. "A salad sounds good..."
She seemed oblivious to my attempt to incite her telepathically.
"I'm going to get the chicken salad," she said finally, placing her menu in front of her.
"Good!" My voice was over-enthusiastic.

All at once my bread-fragrance intoxication wore off and I discovered that I had no appetite. When the waitress came over I ordered the chicken salad too, just to keep things moving. "So?"
Now she was looking at her phone. I raised my eyebrows at her while I made fists with my hands under the table to keep from snatching it from her.

"Oh yeah," she said dreamily without looking up from the screen.
"You want to know what we do..."
"Lucy? Holidays?" I tried to keep my voice level, but she must have heard the tone of desperation. She put down her phone (face down) on the table and looked at me with compassion.
"Sorry, girl. Work," she said nodding toward the phone.
"So anyway, we all spend Thanksgiving together when we're both in town. Although, last year you remember the boys and I spent Thanksgiving in Turks and Caicos by ourselves."

I vaguely recalled her saying something about how "everyone" was going to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving that year.
"Oh yeah, right."
"But," she moved the bread-bite to the side of her mouth while she chewed. "We always spend Christmas together."
"All of you?"
"Yes," she laughed out loud. "Don't look so shocked. It's actually fine."
"Alison too?"
She laughed. "Oh yeah." She shook her head and looked at me like "​ Guuurl."
"He would't have it any other way."
"Well, that's great for him. But what about you? How do you do it? How can you stand it?"
"It's the best thing for our kids," she said simply. "Once I wrapped my head around that — the rest wasn't so hard."

I arrived home in a full panic. I paced around in circles and looked at my phone. I checked my calendar over and over again.
It can't be. It can't be
Justin's birthday is on Thanksgiving this year.

How did I not know this?

I couldn't NOT be with my baby on his birthday. I was a​lways​ with both Miles and Justin on their birthdays. I had planned every birthday party. I greeted very guest. Handed out every gift bag. Wrote every thank you note.
I had to call Brian and tell him. I needed to let him know what was happening.

Maybe he wouldn't want her there. Maybe he would say, "Don't worry, I'll ask Tracy to spend Thanksgiving Day with her family up north. We shouldn't change what we've been doing." Otherwise I would have to tell him that I couldn't be a part of Thanksgiving this year — or any year.

But maybe he won't want me there. Maybe this year he'll say, "Let's do what most divorced couples do. I'll take them on Thanksgiving and you can have them Christmas Day." He'll probably be relieved.
My stomach was in knots. The truth was that even though we were divorced I didn't want anything to change. I couldn't not spend Justin's birthday with him. I didn't want to have the kids over to my house for a lonely 3-person Thanksgiving dinner/birthday party. And I didn't want to picture myself trying to find a family to invite me to their table while my kids went over to Brian and Tracy's and celebrated Justin's birthday without me. The phone in my hand grew blurry as my eyes filled with tears.

Instead of dialing his number, I called my friend "Kay." Kay was also newly divorced. Her son "Caleb" was the same age as Miles. Kay and I had been pregnant together and did all of the "Mommy and Me" classes together before enrolling our sons at the same school for kindergarten. She was a well-known actress/producer and had been married for more than 10-years to "Eric Woodard," a newly successful manager/filmmaker. Right after their divorce was final, her career stalled and she and Caleb moved into an apartment in Sherman Oaks.

Meanwhile, a small independent film that Eric had produced was purchased by a major distributor and turned into one of the biggest movie-franchises in history. That very same year, Eric fell in love with one of his actress-clients, "Katarina". He courted her by purchasing one of Los Angeles's most expensive homes for the two of them. Occasionally, when Eric was shooting one of his many movie-sequels on "his weekend" with Caleb, Katarina would roar in to the pick-up line at our son's school in her black Maserati and hand Caleb a large strawberry Jamba Juice as he got into the car.

Again, we all watched with pity from the sidelines. I had heard that Kay went to their wedding, but when a mutual friend told me that she'd moved in to their guest house, I decided that Kay had lost her natural mind. But now I needed the "T". So I decided to invite her to tea.

I buzzed her in and saw a dark blue Range Rover with paper plates pull in to the driveway. "Hey!" I said. "You got a new car?"
"Eric bought it for me yesterday" she smiled as she jumped expertly from the driver's door landed solidly on the ground in her running shoes.

Kay is gorgeous, but in a different, less "obvious" way from Lucy. Kay is light-skinned with short, curly, light brown hair and freckles. Her stature is that of a pixie. She's maybe 5-feet tall and 90 pounds soaking wet.

I steeped her favorite peach tea and swirled in sugar crystals until they melted. When we sat down at the kitchen counter we talked about our sons. Caleb's broken leg was healing nicely. I was thinking of placing Miles in another school. Justin had made his All-Star team this summer. We talked like this for while before I told her I needed her advice on something.
She listened keenly as I told her of my dilemma.
"So, I'm confused," she said finally, blowing the steaming liquid in her clear, glass Teavana cup. "Are you're worried about being invited there for Justin's birthday/Thanksgiving or not being invited"?

"I'm not sure," I laughed. "I guess I'm confused too."
I watched her as she twirled a diamond ring on her middle finger that looked suspiciously like her wedding ring. I decided to switch topics.
"Are you really living in their guest house?" I had tried to keep the judgment out of my voice, but some of it might have seeped through. "Please help me understand."

"There's not much to understand. Eric is still my best friend," she said solemnly. "We will always be each others' family. Caleb is better when we're all together and honestly, right now my money isn't too right. It's really helping me out. And It's not like I sleep with them," she laughed as she tossed her head back.
I turned my head sideways and shot her a look with a slight smile.
"Girl, please," she said giving me back my look.
"It's just not like that. I'm not all up in their business all the time. It's a big property. Caleb comes and goes from my house to theirs," she continued. "And there isn't that big hassle of the dreaded 'transition' (she made finger quotes in the air) of him going from their mansion in Beverly Park and then back to our little two-bedroom duplex on Moorpark, you know?"
I shook my head while I held her gaze.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't. I mean, I can't. I just can't imagine living with Brian and Tracy."
She smiled knowingly at me. "I totally get how it would seem to you".
She grabbed my hands and held them in hers. "But this just works for me. It works for us. You have to find what works for you."

"Justin's birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year!" I blurted out to Brian on the phone after she left. I felt like my head was filled with helium. Everything looked slightly blurry. My head was pounding in sync with my heartbeat.
"Oh wow," said Brian. "Okay cool."

He doesn't get it!

"What can I do?" I pleaded. "I can't NOT be with him on his birthday, but I don't want to keep them from their Thanksgiving tradition."

I felt my eyes filling with tears again. I struggled to keep them out of my voice.
"Don't worry," he said in a soothing voice. "We'll figure it out."
"How?" "I've been trying to figure it out. I sat down with both Lucy and Kay to have them help me figure it out."
He laughed. "Lucy and Kay?! And what did the survey say?"
"Nothing really helpful." I pouted, ignoring his attempt at humor. "Either way, I'm sure Tracy won't want me at her first official family Thanksgiving."
I hated myself for saying it as soon as it came out of my mouth.

Pathetic! What's wrong with you? Why did you say that?!?

"What would you like to do?" he asked calmly.
"I don't know," I started to hiccup, like I do every time I cry. "Maybe split the day?"
"What do you mean?"
My mind started to clear as I spoke. "I mean like, the boys will send the night with me on Wednesday and I'll keep them until Thursday afternoon and then I'll bring them to your house. My mom and I can do a birthday breakfast with them and hang out for a while."

"We could do that," he said carefully. "But let's think about it. Let me talk to Tracy. There may be a better way."
I was barely listening to him. As far I was concerned I had found my solution.
I felt lighter. As though a burden had been lifted. Never mind about the actual Thanksgiving dinner. I could figure that out. I could be with my baby on his birthday and that's all that mattered.

As we hung up I held on to feeling that it was all over and settled. Little did I know that come November, I would see that this conversation with Brian was just the beginning. It didn't occur to me at the time that there were three more very important opinions that needed to be considered before anything could be settled.