All he wanted

I had grown so used to returning from trips to find the house in a state of chaos–dishes piled up in the kitchen, toys scattered about the living room…that sort of thing. On the flight back home from New York, I reminded myself that no matter what state the house was in when I returned, the kids had been cared for. It wasn’t that my husband didn’t want to keep house, he probably just didn’t mind the mess as long as the children were happy.

In a rare instance, I arrived at Schiphol to find husband and kids waiting for me in arrivals–most times, I would journey home by myself or would find myself sitting in Starbucks waiting for them to arrive.

I hugged my kids, embraced their father, and indulged in a little PDA.

My youngest son bubbled with excitement and begged for us to stop by a cake shop with pretty little petit fours on display.

Oh, why not? I thought.

They looked perfect for celebrating our reunion.

My sons took turns with my bag, our conversation was lighthearted and happy. They’d been to the town fair while I was gone. They had seen a movie. Youngest son told me he didn’t spend a single cent of the pocket money I gave him before I went to New York.

Back home, when I saw the kitchen window in the same state it had been when I left for New York. I was prepared to open the door to chaos. Except, I didn’t.

If you’re like me, there’s nothing more amazing than coming home to a house that’s spic and span. The toys had been kept away, the coffee table cleared. There were no dirty dishes on the table, no cups and saucers stocked up in the sink.

We worked so hard, my youngest son says.

And look outside, my eldest son prompts.

My beautiful new grass had been trimmed to the proper length.

See, my husband said. You can come and you can go wherever you want and do what you need to do for your art. You can be at ease. I will be here to take care of things.

In the week that followed, we had long conversations about art and art practice. I reminded him of his own art–the photography that he let lie, the writing he no longer excercised, his love of flight, and I told him that life was too short for us to be concerned only about practicalities.

I want us to change, I said. Life is too short not to pursue your passion.

I wanted the same freedom for him that he had given me.

As if they could sense the change, our children blossomed with joyfulness. We laughed a lot, we teased each other. My youngest son studied songs during the day that he sang as a welcome when his father came home. We talked about the future, what we would do, where we would go, how we would make it possible for us to travel more, to see the world, to explore and grow our various creative passions.

In New York, I had said to Janis, that I felt as if I was on the brink of change. I didn’t know what kind of change, but I knew it was coming.

I touch the rings that hang together on a chain around my neck and think of all the things I will miss.

I think of how he eased the stress of packing by making sure I had my chargers and adaptors and multi-plugs. Of how he would tick off a checklist of things I needed to take with me–my laptop, my phone, a camera. My passport, my tickets, my credit card, my toothbrush.

I think of the years–of how he gave me the freedom to venture out into the world and discover and become everything that I could be.

Did I love him enough? Did I make him happy? Did his heart rejoice when he came home from work to find me?

He loved you so much, a dear friend tells me. He was proud of you. He was happy.

We hug each other and hold each other close, my children and I.

We’ll make it, I tell them. We have each other. Your father would want you to have good lives. He worked hard. He loved us. He wanted us to be happy.

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