I don’t know if he’s even fully aware of it yet, but Ben is back. I don’t take him for granted, because June was back once, and we all know how that turned out. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe I forgot to write about it.
In short, June and I made up several months after she moved out two summers ago, but by last July, she was gone again. She disappeared after a silly little fight about babysitting. Or maybe it wasn’t so silly.
She asked me to babysit on a day she and I were supposed to hang out so she could pick up an extra shift at work. She knew I was available, so she knew I didn’t really have any excuse to back out. Or so she thought.
I had what I considered to be a pretty legitimate reason not to babysit her three amazing offspring that day — work.
Of course, it might not have appeared to June that I had work to do. When you work from home, no one considers it to be a real job.
But I did have work to do… piles of it, as usual. I had all the food truck dishes to wash… watermelon balls to prepare… a house to keep clean, a kid to keep fed, entertained and cleaned up after… and two blogs that always got put on the back burner.
“Why did you invite me over if you had all that work to do?” She asked. “How were you going to hang out with me and the kids if you had all that work to do?”
“The same as I do every Thursday, June,” I texted back. “With your help.”
Usually, on the Thursdays she came over with the kids, we’d let the kids play in the back yard, while she messed around with her photography on her computer, while I did dishes or folded the laundry.
We’d smoke our brains out and talk about everything under the sun. I loved her so much, I didn’t care what she talked about, or how ridiculous it sounded to other people. To me, it all made sense… especially during the brief periods of time I could afford to slow down and get on her wavelength.
I was able to get my mindless work done while we talked about nonsense, and that’s why her Thursday visits worked for me. Two birds, one stone – social time and work time, spent simultaneously.
Having her kids over was usually a big job for me, whether June was with them or not. They are the three most magical children you will ever meet, but combine a mischeivous 3-year-old, two sometimes-quarreling-sometimes-kissing 5-year-olds and a 7-year-old who just wants to hang out with the grown ups, and you have a recipe for a house that looks like a hurricane just came through along with getting nothing accomplished.
But when June was part of the package, it made it all more worthwhile.
She helped settle the disputes, so I didn’t have to every 3 minutes. She’d DJ a spontaneous dance party or photograph and impromptu fashion show. And she’d usually bring and prepare some food for them, so I didn’t have to.
Plus, she was there. It didn’t seem to matter how high the dishes or laundry piled up when she was there. The burden of being a stay-at-home mom was lightened when I didn’t have to do it alone.
I hung on her every word, got caught in her every gaze. Time stood still. Nothing mattered. Except her and I getting lost in the longest moments together… moments the men in our lives were afraid to enter with us, for fear we’d keep them trapped there for eternity like the sirens of ancient Greece.
The trouble was, whenever I’d come crashing back down from those moments, like Jack from the Beanstalk, and realize my 5 magical beans weren’t going to feed us, I blamed her for taking me to a place I couldn’t stay.
I was angry at her for giving me a glimpse into the paradise I didn’t have time to live in. Angry I had to come back to regular, boring, 3D life, where the bills were not paid and the dishes were not done.
Maybe, if she hadn’t kept me there so long, I would’ve made enough money to get to that fairy-tale life by now, or so I thought.
So I told her no, I wouldn’t have the energy to watch her kids and get all my work done, and then proceeded to give her a small piece of my mind.
I told her I was bitter that I’d watched her children so often, without her ever offering to watch mine in return. I told her it was ridiculous of her to offer to pay me, as it would cost more than she made per hour to make it worth my time. I wanted time to work — time to write — I told her, so I didn’t end up a dish-washing babysitter the rest of my life.
I didn’t hear from her for a long time.
Re-reading the messages now, I can see it really was all a stupid misunderstanding.
I’ve since made a couple of half-hearted apologies, to which she responded “we’re not compatible, and that’s ok.”
Over the holidays, I sent a couple of “I miss you” messages. “Imperfect allies,” was all she wrote.
I’ve totally gotten off track on a post that was intended to be about Ben. Will have to save that story for the next post.
As for June, I’ve just realized it’s time for a proper apology.