I am trapped under the stairs in a blanket fort of my own making.
There are twinkle lights hung above my head and shafts of morning sunlight pierce through the 1970’s Brady Bunch stairs. I have endless chores and tasks and items on my ever-growing to do list.
But I am in no rush to escape my captors.
The boy, four, is heavily unconscious on my chest, snoring. The girl, six, is curled against my side, her head on my shoulder, her mouth agape. We are late. But I, who am never late, am going to let us be late.
It is our first morning in the new house.
Last night was their first night here and they stayed in their rooms all night. In the old house, one or both slept in bed with me or on the makeshift “nest” on the floor. Last night I slept alone, but with my whole family with me.
You may notice I didn’t mention their father. That’s because he doesn’t live here.
He declared two and a half months earlier, with no warning, that he was filing for divorce. I think none of us have rested since then, until now, curled under the stairs in our new, three person house.
I am trapped. I have sole custody and all decisions are mine to make.
Their father won’t be taking them for a sleepover for a week. I will be the sole parent for a full week in a house where I am the sole adult.
I have to take out the trash, do the dishes, grocery shop, meal prep and plan, cook, clean, launder, wipe butts, pay bills, tame the wild yard, educate them because school is digital, of course, entertain them because everything is closed, of course.
I have to update my billing address, contact the DMV, and change insurance. I do not have a couch.
There are boxes overtaking the fourth bedroom, the one I will use as an “office” if I ever get a job. I haven’t met the neighbors or even told many of my personal contacts I’ve moved.
My brain is broken. I am traumatized and have been having memory issues.
I take anxiety medication that was recently prescribed, but don’t like to take it when I’m parenting unless necessary because I need to stay on my toes.
I have trouble making even the smallest decisions because I’ve had to make so many giant ones in such a short period of time.
Don’t ask me what I want for dinner. I don’t have an appetite anyway, but I have no idea what I want for dinner, even if I was hungry.
My heart is broken.
I have been rejected as a person and have left the home I called mine for the last seven years and the person I called mine for the last seventeen. I miss my neighbors. I miss being hugged. Stupid virus.
I didn’t throw away my wedding albums or my love notes. I packed them in a carefully labeled box. I stashed them on the highest shelf in the office, where I don’t have to see them.
I can decide what to do about them when I’m ready. It feels wrong to erase the letters, to burn them like Eliza Hamilton. I think the kids might want to see my wedding someday, even though I didn’t stay married to their dad.
My kids are broken. They are resilient and strong. But they are sad.
They are confused. They are scared and everything they knew is gone. They already lost their school earlier this year, and, along with it, their social lives.
They lost their cat a few months later. Then we told them about the divorce.
Then we sold their home while they were still living in it, unable to escape because, where was there to go? Now we’re taking them to not one but TWO new, unfamiliar places.
So I made it as cozy as I could. I found a house with a magical yard backing up to a natural area.
Our bedrooms are all tucked upstairs, right next to each other.
I bought warm lamps and let them pick out pretty bedding and choose their wall art. Lots of friends somewhat literally risked their lives by entering my house in a pandemic to help me hang curtains, put up ceiling stars, set up the TV and wifi, and generally make the house a home so that, when they arrived yesterday, they had rooms to sleep in, full of toys and pillows.
I hung the twinkle lights under the stairs and filled it with comforters and oversized pillows.
Their dad dropped them off and went home.
I am alone in this.
I am trapped with these stressed out, passed out kids.
I am unsure what’s going to happen next.
I am free.