I take the kids to tennis camp every morning on the subway.
Their school is walking distance from us, so this time together on the summer-pungent NYC subway is a treat. A time when we can talk. I’m guessing that the people who don’t have kids are thinking, what do you mean? You can talk to your kids any time. And the parents recognize the opportunity–the kids are trapped. And they have to talk to you.
And on Monday, my daughter asks me– how many times have you been to your parents’ house in Queens, mommy?
It’s a fair question, my parents moved to Queens after I graduated from college, their apartment was never my home.
“I’d been to their house many times,”I tell them over the subway din. “Once I even lived with them for a week.”
My kids are excited.
“Why?” they ask, united.
“It’s complicated,” I tell them.
“I know,” Young Ladrinka is confident. “You were poor.”
“No,” I say. Although I sort of was.
They quiz me further, asking me for details. By the time we pass the Rockefeller Center stop, I relent.
“I had a boyfriend,” I tell them.
“Daddy?” my daughter asks.
I shake my head. They know so little of my life as an adult, before their father. Surely the morning commute is a great time to fill them in.
“I had a boyfriend and we lived together,” I start. I wonder whether this is one of those teachable moments that everyone keeps harping about. Should I inject a little living together in sin, like savages or but only because we had both graduated from college and had jobs.
But I don’t.
“And then we broke up,” I tell them. “And while he was moving out, I stayed at my parents.”
My daughter takes it in.
“Did he dump you?” Young Ladrinka asks.
“No,” I tell him. Although he sort of did.
“Did he cheat on you?” Young Ladrinka suggests.
“No, he didn’t cheat on me.”
“Were you sad?” my daughter asks me.
And I tell them that I was.
“Like crying sad?”
“I was sad,” I say. “I was sad that a relationship with someone I loved didn’t work out. It hurt my heart.”
They are watching me closely and I can see what they’re thinking.
Our mother has a history. Our mother had heartbreak. Our mother is a person.
In a few minutes we will get off the subway and they’ll be off to tennis camp, laughing with their friends, working on their serves, being kids.
But until then they’re mine.
And I try to steel them for what’s inevitably to come.
“You’ll have heartbreak too,” I tell them. “And it will hurt and you will cry. But it always get better. Always.”
“Because you met daddy,” my daughter says.
“Duh,” Young Ladrinka says.
I got my teachable moment after all.
One year ago ...
- Texts From Son - 2012