K– had her first tennis lesson and her third meltdown (not bad for 10 days) last night. The lesson was great–especially since our friend, the best tennis player we know, slept through the scheduled time and gave us the lesson free. K– did well and then tried to accelerate from ball tossed to her to ball hit to her and then had a bunch of failures. I was afraid that it’d be like swimming, that she would just announce, “I hate that. I don’t want to.” But, she said instead, “I’m not quitting,” which is the kind of thing when it comes out of the mouth of a little kid with a mane of black braids that makes you hear swelling, “God Bless America” music. At least, it has that effect on me, which is why I’m not as tired of raising children as most normal people at this point (two launched, one almost).
The meltdown was over dinner. She was hyped-up from the lesson and wanted to go back to the court to play. I promised we could before dark, but after dinner. Joy made pork chops, at K–‘s request. Excellent pork chops. (I don’t have much of a standard, it’s true, having never eaten a pork chop until I was 18, and still never, for whatever odd reason, ordering pig in chop form–bacon, yes, Italian sausage, fabulous, Chinese pork anything, of course, but no chops, please, we’re Jewish.) So she stuffed four pieces of pork chop into her mouth and just smooshed it around, as little bits bulged out. Disgusting, of course, also dangerous, also irritating, also wasteful. When I could not cajole or coax her into chewing and swallowing and she stuffed in a fifth piece of pork, I put her plate off the table. Terrible weeping, gnashing of teeth, head down, lamentations like you wouldn’t believe. And not crocodile tears at all. I was accused of taking rice off her plate and eating it, under the pretext of removing her plate as an act of discipline. I defended myself (vigorously, insanely). We both sat with her and Joy suggested that if she stopped crying before dark, there would be time for volleyball and fireflies. Joy went out to close the grill, looking sympathetic and concerned. More weeping, more recriminations. I didn’t care. We could sit, weeping or not, till the cows came home. I think this must be the legacy of 24 years of child-rearing. I knew we’d ride it out and get over it and that she would be better off in the long run (forgetting, of course, that I am not raising her, and that we have no expectation of a long run, as much as we’d like one). Finally, dismally, she swallowed the stupid bits of pork chop and went outside. When they came back in, there were many hugs and big, smoochy kisses. One more meltdown to go, a last reading of Horton Hears a Who, a completely wonderful book, as good as the Georges and Marthas (which are more clever, but less moving) and as good as most short fiction. I may teach Horton and George and Martha next spring at Yale.
Caught up with my ex-husband, home after a holiday, the tanned and relaxed-looking owner of the pool we tried to teach K– to swim in. I’m glad he lent us use of the pool, gave us the code to his house, glad I watered his geraniums, and feel deeply glad that after all our pain, I’m happy to see his face when I do and very happy that we have been and are parents together–just as I’m so glad that Joy and I have spent this time with K–. It seems to me that although it is not always possible, if you can remember and even salvage some good pieces (even though they are not enough to make a marriage happy), you have not failed, you have suffered, but you have not given away your past.
I leave this afternoon for a couple of days of spa-going with my sister. We promised each other this time long ago, long before K–, and I feel terrible to be going. But Sarah and Joy have lots of stuff planned, and my sister and I have waited two years for this getaway. And, as much as I feel, Oh, dear, too much for Joy? Oh, dear, how hard on K–, I actually feel, Rats, I’m going to miss the glow-in-the-dark fish at Mystic Aquarium and the Ferris wheel at Lake Compounce and K–‘s wide-eyed delight. And instead, I’ll sit with my sister and play gin and laugh ourselves sick and wonder whether or not the three pounds we lose drinking juice for lunch will really make a difference, once we get home. (Just as I know that “please” and “thank you” are important things and that sticking K–‘s braids back off her face–which I like and she doesn’t–is stupid, I know that juice fasts are even stupider. Funny how that doesn’t change anything.)
I miss my darling Joy, my beloved Sarah, and now my dear K– already.