They knew it would never be like new again, but they would live the rest of their lives making sure they worked on keeping it together, strengthening and working on that which had taken such hard work…
There was so much running through her mind as she stood at the steps watching him hold her son. Here was the person who had caused her so much grief, the person who had decided when he could be in and out of her life. Here he was wanting an in again.
Holding. Her. Child. (Their child, but more her child if she took into consideration his abandonment.)
She felt the insults burning at her throat, the tears starting again, and her hand itched to throw things at him. The sixteen year old child in her, forced to grow up, was back in childish mode and ready for a fight. He could see her rage, and held out the baby as a peace offering.
She snatched her sleeping son and stalked into her room. In there, she lay him on the bed. He snuffled and grumbled in his sleep, and she soothed him until his breathing evened out again. Then she sat beside him, watching as he slept and breathing deeply, trying to calm her mind down. She did not want him to be near them.
Outside, her mother spoke in low but determined tones. He listened, he hung his head, accepting what she said, not arguing or defending himself. He left when her diatribe was over, promising to try and come by again. …
That evening, mother and daughter talked. There was much talk about forgiveness, of accepting that the situation was not ideal. After years of not listening to her mother, she finally did. There was much guidance she would need, and the first step was to let him back into their child’s life. He had made his decisions, whatever they were that had led him away, there had to have been something to bring him back. Her heart however, it was battered and bruised, and it could not tolerate more pain. She knew now the words sacrifice, and willingness to suffer to ensure a child’s happiness.
A routine once again evolved, and at some point throughout the initial weeks, conversation picked up again. It was easy to share a smile, or a story about the newest antics of a now-running child. Smiling and laughing became normal, and any tension that had built up in the months apart slowly melted away. Their dysfunctional family unit grew strong, even if they spent only a few hours a week together.
Her solo beach jaunts no longer involved fire or tears. Instead, she brought her son along, and together they walked in the soft, squishy sand, chasing crabs and waves while the afternoon sun warmed their faces. Together, they held hands and kicked wet sand. They plopped down and dug piles and piles of the gritty beach, building nothing in particular, but being happy doing exactly that.
It was just after baby’s second birthday when things changed again.
He showed up in a rented golf cart, happy to share some good news about his promotion, his raise, and his plans.
They drove around aimlessly for an hour, listening to their child’s babble, pointing out all the funny things they saw on the drive. They were friends, sharing moments that any outsider looking in would call a normal, everyday family. The cart suddenly had a purpose it seemed, as it kept to a specific route, taking her far away from her childhood home, and into a neighborhood she had never spent time in. When he stopped driving, she could only look. They had stopped in front of a house; a tiny house that needed some work, but with a yard, and a few coconut trees swaying in the wind. The yard was overgrown, and in some places, the fence needed to be replaced, but inside it stood a small yellow house with windows like eyes, and a big brown door in the middle like the classic nose. She held her son close, breathing in his fleeting baby scent, and looked at his father, knowing what was before her, but wondering what it all meant.
She got off the cart, helped her son off as well, and she walked up to the fence. At almost eighteen, she had the first opportunity to make a decision for herself, and for their future.
He stayed behind the wheel, unsure of himself. He had decided to rent a house for himself, removing the last vestiges of childhood, and the ties that dragged him away from where he should be: with his own child. On his own, he could work on making a life with his family. If she would let him. Now, he wondered if he had been too bold.
She picked her child up against her hip, pushed the gate open and walked into the yard. There was a pull, a tug at her heart. Her head said “do it”. Her heart simply beat, like it always had. The farther she walked into the yard, the better she felt about everything. The peeling paint on the rickety porch railings faded as she envisioned swinging on a hammock strung out to catch the breeze. The yard could be neatly trimmed, or maybe she would try her hand at gardening. She could see herself enjoying the house, and her baby growing up in a real home.
She turned to him and said, “Are you coming?”
He followed, one hand in pocket, jangling the keys.
They rented for a year before they decided to buy. By then, she was well on her way to having their second baby. But this time, she was not alone. There were still hard times coming. She couldn’t look ahead and see when he would leave for nearly a month. He couldn’t see how everywhere he turned, a roadblock would pop up. All he felt was the desire to change, to be a different man than the one who had engendered him.
Neither of them could see into the future that eventually evened out and became harmonious, but they each felt that pull - that draw - that made the fights, the separations, the anxiety and the hurts disappear at the end of the day when they sat out on their small porch, waiting for the fireflies to show up in the overgrown yard next door. When they looked at their child, and eventually, their children, and saw the kind of unconditional love that could be – the connection renewed itself, ready to handle another hurdle.
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