I’m in the bathroom while my youngest two kids are in the shower. They are splashing and giggling together. I’m reading Margaret Bourke-White’s autobiography. Enthralled- I’m lost in the past when I hear,
“Mom, I think the hotdogs need to be turned!”
That’s Payson and I set the book aside for later. A pang of sadness that I only got a few pages in… I walk into the kitchen listening intently at the squeals of the little two; they’re in a shower and not a bath so the risk of drowning is temporarily nonexistent but I can’t stay out long.
“Thanks for reminding me, Payson, I forgot.”
I use a plastic fork to turn the hotdogs in the pan, plastic to save on dishes. I occasionally use disposable and occasionally use washable. Even alone and invisible to the rest of the world in my own home my guilt is touched at the plastic ware.
The smell of the hotdogs mixed with the nostalgia I was feeling while reading hit me hard and my eyes tear up. I am thinking of America and childhood and memories and family… hotdogs in general do that to me. Nothing like a hotdog to make you think, “American.”
I count out 7 paper plates to get ready to dish out hotdogs on pieces of bread. I learned long ago that buns aren’t necessary. Half my kids won’t even eat them; why bother?
The number seven prompts thoughts of my ex husband to flood into my mind. Every time I count out plates I think of him. A family of 7 is what I have and a family of 8 is what I thought I was meant to have. The funny thing about “meant,” though, is it isn’t true.
My stomach churns a bit in sadness thinking about this family I’m surrounded by every single day… this family of me and my six children. A one-parent home. The reality of that often leaves me with a combination of feelings: lucky, free, and fearful mostly. I feel free making my own decisions, safe without the barrage of opinions I used to be accustomed to, and I feel terrified having never planned on plan B being: I support an entire family with nothing more than a high school diploma and exactly zero years of quality work experience.
Oh sure, I did the restaurant employee in my teen years but all that qualifies me for is… more restaurant work. Which is fine if it’s all I can get but it doesn’t cover the bills of 7 people very well.
And still I am thankful. Immersed in history literature and biographies, I am reminded constantly of the difficult plight of most of us. Many more women had it many more times more difficult than I do. Knowing that buoys me. Quotes I read inspire me. Feeling connected with millions of women throughout the world and time inspires me.
So on I go with fear in my chest and perseverance in my soul, squeezing ketchup and mustard onto bread, listening to the sounds of my children. Checking in on droplet-covered, grinning faces and drenched bathroom floors… happy and sad and fearful and thankful and amazed all at once, in all of the minutes that are my life.