Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Step to the Side

The manicure place was nearly empty.
Except for the one other lady.
We ended up across from each other on the drying table.

"So, do you have kids?" she asks me.

I pause. She didn't ask the question the way I've been dreading:
"How many kids do you have?"
She didn't ask that.
So I froze. What do I do? 
This has always been a known landmine for parents like me.

"So, do you have kids?"

"Yes," I say, hesitantly, not sure what's coming next but bracing myself.

"What grades are they in?"

I breathe.
Can I answer this one? 
Do I want to have a desperately difficult and very sad conversation here at the manicure place?

"I have a sixth grader and a first grader...and a preschooler," I answer, screaming inside my head about my forever-and-never-second-grader but calmly drying my nails on the outside.

I don't want to lie.
I don't want to pretend that I have only three kids.
Four, dammit. I have four kids.
But I'm okay, at this moment, on a technicality. 
I'm living in the gray area here.
Because I just want to get through the drying...I just want to make it out of here without crying.

And then I use the best trick in my arsenal:
"How about you?" I ask.

And she talked.
She told me about her kids, and their story.
I listened.
I responded to her.
We had a nice conversation.

I totally sidestepped it.
I didn't answer the question, I didn't break down, I didn't talk about it at all.

Sometimes avoidance is a bad thing.
And sometimes it works.

And that's okay for today.
First day of first grade
FOUR forever


  1. This had to be very hard to write, as difficult as it was to experience. You didn't "avoid" anything; you just opened the door, she could have come in, with one more word. (Perhaps, "I'm sorry, you seem upset.") This all makes your openness with us, someone like me, a perfect stranger, so very kind.

  2. Whew, yes, you don't have to give the full version. The first time is the toughest with roller coaster waves.

  3. You are the mother of four; you will always be the mother of four.

    And, I'm so glad you were able to get through the manicure without weeping.

    Sending love from the Rabbis Without Borders alumni retreat in Maryland.

  4. And that's ok for today. And it is. And each day whatever it is will be ok for that day.

  5. It's your truth to tell and your choice to tell it. However you do, it will never negate Sam and his life with you. But you're in charge of how to answer, and it will change from day to day, listener to listener...and that's ok.

  6. I'm sure it was hard to answer. but you did it. sammy will always be in your hearts, very close by.

  7. I've actually gotten to the point (2.5 years later) where I have answers.
    Sometimes I just say "I have 2 sons" (because I do).
    If they ask how old they are, I say "One is 18 months and the other is 3 years" (because Max should be 3 years old and the person in the nail salon doesn't need to know anyway)
    Sometimes I say "I have one at home" - because I do.
    The tricky part is if they ask anything more.....like "Where is the 3 year old in school?" or if they are someone that I am going to be seeing regularly....
    I hate that the loss produces such a ripple effect that permeates every other part of our life - every trip to the market or the nail salon - every conversation. Sometimes we need and DESERVE a break. It doesn't ever really come - you just get used to it.