I just passed the four and half month mark of living apart from my children. In our new arrangement, I spend Sunday to Thursday in DC for my new job. I plow through DC and Baltimore traffic to return to Harrisburg to be home on Fridays and then a short weekend together. Sometimes I feel like Laura Ingalls spending miserable weekdays lodging with a cold and stingy family during her first teaching job, pining for Friday when Almanzo Wilder would pick her up in his sleigh and take her home to her real life with Ma and Pa and the rest of her family.
The arrangement is made possible only by our generous pastors who are hosting Helen and Mei. They drop off and pick up, drive to track and field meets, play practice, special events. They feed them, nurture them and claim to enjoy them, particularly Helen’s fierce political sentiments and Mei’s perpetual energy. They report the girls get along and are well-behaved, so maybe they have someone else’s kids after all.
And I’ve been taken in by a new friend in DC who welcomed me inter her spare room and shares her home, her son, her cats and the occasional glass of wine with me. What wonderful gifts as I adjust to a new job and continue the near impossible search to find a new home that will check off the boxes of good schools, decent commute and what turns out to be the biggest challenge…affordability.
I’ll be honest. There have been some moments of giddiness. No need to look after anyone but myself! No grumpy children to get out the door in the morning! No dinner prepared? No problem. Stay after work and go out? No worries.
But other parts are a trial. Mei has a meltdown every Thursday night after I pick them up to bring home. She acts out whatever she’s been holding in all week and aims it all at me. Helens grades have all slipped. I’ve missed school events and track meets and teacher conferences. I’ve lost 18 weeks of dinner time chatter, bedtime stories, teenage drama and bickering over who gets the computer.
Last night I called Mei after her 4th grade concert only to hear her whisper, “It was awesome. And awful. There was no one there to clap for me”. That’s when I knew. Time to end this trial separation. It has been a chance for all of us to grow in some ways. It’s been a time to receive the kindness of others. But it has also been a trial of endurance and split lives and the ache of absence. Time for it to end. Time to be there in person to clap one another.