Yesterday was weird.
Which was weird because the night before had been so much fun. Seven of us celebrated the birthday of one of my very best friends at the new Italian restaurant across the street where the staff is beginning to know us and the service is warm and neighborly. The little girl who lives upstairs and who my daughter babysits sometimes, made a festive crown with streamers and huge tissue flowers and paint and glitter gel for the birthday girl who is also her mother's best friend. The Movie Star was there. Our birthday girl is his best friend too. My friend whose birthday it was has a gift for bringing people together, which is how we came to be two social workers (not surprisingly, my friend's vocation), a documentary filmmaker, a ceramic artist, a magazine editor, an ichthyologist and a movie star at the same table.
This new restaurant doesn't yet have its liquor license so we brought in our own bottles, and my upstairs neighbor brought a chocolate cake and we all talked and laughed and ate good Italian food and drank good wine and had a lovely time. The people next to us kept watching our table and I thought it was because we were having so much fun, and because we were visually such a curious assembly of people and maybe they wondered how this group got together and maybe they also looked at the Movie Star with his Hollywood handsome self and thought "Isn't that....?" and then maybe they decided we were Glamorous People instead of a just a bunch of fellow travelers trying to make ends meet and make everything the way we think it should be but really never is. When we got up to leave the woman at the next table said to me, "That looked like a lot of fun," and it was, indeed it was. And she had the warmest most openhearted face and I had a strange desire to know who she was and to be friends with her and isn't it true that we never really leave high school.
And then on Sunday morning, everything started out perfectly normal and then in a moment when my husband and I weren't paying attention, we squabbled, neither of us listening to what the other was saying and the whole day just skidded off the rails after that. Maybe it was because I drank wine last night. I am not much of a drinker. I think it sends me to a dark place, not in the moment, but I'm starting to realize that the day after I can fall into a funk.
In any case, I didn't want to be around my husband because he was acting like he didn't want to be around me, so I went over to my mother's studio for a while, thinking I would sit there and watch a movie in the empty apartment while back at my house my husband yelled at the playoff football game on TV. But when I walked in I realized that I hadn't really been over to my mom's apartment since my cousin and her kids stayed there over Thanksgiving and so many little details were out of place, not the way my mother likes them, so then I started to put things back in their place and wipe down the windowsills and dust the furniture and scrub down the bathroom and the kitchen and arrange the cushions and change the pretty cloth doilies and change the sheets on the bed and stuff all the towels my cousin and her children used into the hamper for laundering, and I just kept going and going and couldn't stop doing, because if I stopped it would just assail me how much I missed my mother who is warm in Jamaica right now in my brother's house, and who might never come back to this little apartment across the way from me. She took everything with her this last time. Even her rolling walker, which is usually parked in the far right corner. It looked so empty, that corner. So I moved the antique chair that used to belong to my long dead grand aunt into that corner and folded my mother's red blanket, the one she loves so much because it is perfectly soft and never makes her feel too hot, and I placed the blanket carefully on the chair and now the corner looked occupied and not so sad. When I was done fixing everything I went to wash my hands in the bathroom and I used her bath gel and it was so much her smell, and I could remember the way she smells when I hug her and that's when I cried.
I went to sit in her recliner but instead of trying to find a movie to watch I called home. My husband answered. "Why are you still mad?" I asked him. "It was just a little stupid thing." In a mad sounding voice he said, "I am not mad, I am just watching the game." So I asked to speak to my daughter and she was pure light, pure music, the way she so often is, and she was browsing recipes on her laptop instead of studying for the midterms she has this week, and she told me about an onion and gruyere tart she found that I would absolutely love, and she made my heart feel tender and grateful and I started to miss her sweet face and so I decided to go home.
By the time I got there she had sorted the dirty clothes and towels and was gathering up the detergent and bleach to do laundry. I decided to go downstairs to the laundry room with her, just because I wanted to be with her some more, even though I hate doing laundry and have hired my daughter to do it like a real job, with weekly pay and everything. I started to help her put the clothes in the different washing machines, but she laughed and said, "Mom, you're mixing them up," so I laughed too and shrugged and left her to it and wandered over to the bookshelf where people leave the books they no longer want because we live in apartments and these small spaces easily get cluttered and sometimes you just have to make breathing room. And sitting on the bookshelf, dusty and coverless and waterstained was that classic deconstruction of transactional analysis, I'm Okay, You're Okay by Thomas Harris. It was written in 1967 and the language seemed already archaic. But perusing the table of contents I saw a chapter titled "P-A-C- and Marriage" and I turned to it. I soon learned that P-A-C stands for the Parent-Adult-Child aspects we habitually express. And the first thing my eye landed on was this:
"Marriage is the most complicated of all human relationships. Few alliances produce such extremes of emotions or can so quickly travel from professions of the utmost bliss to that cold, terminal legal write-off, mental cruelty."
And this: "Yet the average marriage contract is made by the Child, which understands love as something you feel and not something you do, and which sees happiness as something you pursue rather than as a by-product of working towards the happiness of someone other than yourself."
Those words, presenting themselves right at that moment, made all the difference. I decided right then and there to stop acting from my sulky wounded Child place, to try to get to my more generous and forgiving Adult place and let my husband off the hook. It was a petty thing anyway, and my mood was totally prolonging it. So I went back upstairs with my daughter, who appeared to have no idea that anything was amiss, and I behaved as if nothing was in fact amiss and soon enough, nothing was.