"Mommy, you're so strong."

Myriad situations arise in which it sucks to be a single mom. It's just as likely to be a good time as a bad time that sets me to moping, complaining to the universe, that dammit, this is NOT the gig I signed up for.

Early this evening, for instance, Eliot wanted to eat supper outside, so I figured, sure, why not? We sat together on the deck overlooking the new spring green of our two acres of yard. We sat in deck chairs, plates in our lap, munching sandwiches. The breeze ruffled Eliot's hair as the shadows began to lengthen, and all was right with the world. Except...I desperately wanted someone to share that moment with. Another adult with whom I could share a knowing glance over Eliot's head, a moment of recognition, that yeah, sometimes this whole parenting thing is awesome. Sometimes this whole life thing is awesome. But it was just me. Me, my son, and a wide open space...

And then the wind picked up and blew Eliot's red plastic picnic plate out of his lap, lifted it and the pieces of his sandwich up over the railing of the deck and into the yard. I tried to hold back the laughter at the ridiculousness of it all as his sweet face crumpled and reddened and the tears quickly welled in those wide little boy eyes, and he began to wail, "My sandwich! My sandwich!"

"This!" I thought. This is more like my real life. This is the two of us blundering about.

At other times, I wish...well, not that my ex were still here, but that SOMEONE were, someone ELSE, other than me, who could be relied upon to scoop the dead voles off my sidewalk and out of my garage, the furry little masses that our cat insists upon presenting as love offerings.

"What is THAT?!" Eliot points, indicating yet another rodent carcass.

"Ugh," I groan, "Don't get any closer, and DO NOT TOUCH IT."

"Why, Mommy?"

"Because it has dead mouse germs."

"Dead mouse germs?"


"Okay, okay, okay," he complains, as he squats down close to inspect the disheveled body.

I grab a shovel and gingerly scrap the thing up off the garage floor. It feels much too squishy for my comfort. I carry the little body down the driveway toward the ditch on the other side of the road.

Eliot yells, from back in the garage, "Throw it hard, Mom! Throw that mouse like Hee-YaW!" accompanied with full body gestures indicating how I should wing the little mass at the end of my shovel as hard as I can so that my almost-three-year-old can have the morbid satisfaction of watching it go flying head over tail into the woods.

Ugh. This, as well as the endless loads of laundry and dishes, is my job now.

As we go inside, Eliot remarks, "I LIKE mouse germs. When I get big, I'm gonna get the mouse germs."

I assure him that when he gets big, he's entitled to all the mouse germs his heart desires. I'll be happy to hand the chore of carcass disposal over to Eliot. You know, when he gets big.

Later in the evening, after surviving the trauma of the flying sandwich plate and the carcass removal, I decide to open a bottle of wine to go with my dinner. I'm struggling with the corkscrew, yanking as hard as my feeble upper body will allow, when Eliot suggests, "Mom. I think you're gonna need a bowl. That might spill."

He grabs a Tupperware out of the cabinet and places it on the floor at my feet. I find this "help" incredibly endearing. I swear I will open this fucking bottle if it kills me. I do not need anyone to open this bottle for me. I can scoop a vole carcass, by god, and I can uncork a bottle of wine. Didn't I just pry the lid off a stubborn bottle of laundry detergent last week using a belt as a tool? Yeah, that's right. I thought so.

So I work and work on the bottle, Eliot looking on all the while.

As the cork finally pops, and I grin in sweet triumph, my son looks up at me with wonder and says, "Wow, Mommy. You're SO strong!"

"Kiddo..." I want to say (but don't), "...you don't even know the half of it!" ;)

This ISN'T the gig I signed up for. But you know, it's a pretty sweet one anyway. I think I'll take it. Because I AM strong.

I've got a sleeping boy with a belly full of freshly fixed sandwich, a garage free of dead voles, and a half-drunk bottle of wine sitting here by my side to prove it.


It's just that we stayed, too long.

I couldn't find a decent YouTube video for this song, but I've had it on repeat lately...

"Full of Grace" Sarah McLachlan

The winter here's cold, and bitter.
It's chilled us to the bone.
We haven't seen the sun for weeks.
Too long too far from home.
I feel just like I'm sinking,
and I claw for solid ground.
I'm pulled down by the undertow.
I never thought I could feel so low.
Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go.

If all of the strength and all of the courage
come and lift me from this place...
I know I can love you much better than this,
full of grace.

Full of grace,
my love.

It's better this way, I said,
Having seen this place before.
Where everything we say and do
hurts us all the more.

It's just that we stayed
too long
in the same old sickly skin.
Pulled down by the undertow,
I never thought I could feel so low.
And oh, darkness, I feel like letting go...

If all of the strength and all of the courage
come and lift me from this place...
I know I can love you much better than this,
full of grace.

I know I can love you much better than this.
It's better this way.


I'm okay; really, I am. When I feel like letting go, I look down at my right wrist, at the words tattooed there, and I think of Molly. And because she let go, I refuse to. It's better this way.



"Once upon a times, there was an Elecia named Elecia, and she was in a tent, and Zayda comed to the tent. But one thing! There were a dragon! First they got their guns and took that dragon...

Is that cool, Mommy?

Let's get our guns and shoot that dragon away!"




A few days ago, Eliot and I were in the car on the way to town and he said, slowly and carefully, in the manner he uses when relating a piece of information he's been chewing on for some time, "Mommy...I know you like me...but I like my daddy."

 I smiled into the rear view mirror, and I assured him, "That's okay, sweetie. You can like Mommy and Daddy at the same time. We both love you."

He replied, "No. Not you. I only just like my daddy."


I found this admission so touching. For one thing, his words reveal that he is a very perceptive little boy. He's no fool. He knows Daddy doesn't come home anymore. He senses that there is more to this new development than just a physical absence. He feels the rift between his parents. And sadly, he already feels the need to profess some kind of allegiance to one of us.

From that perspective, his words sadden me. He is too young to worry about this, too young to take on the cares of his parents. (As his momma, there is a huge part of me that wants to shoulder every burden for him, though I know to do so would be folly.)

On the other hand, my son's words tell me that he is confident of my love. My love is a constant (his North star), unchanging. My love is not something he has to earn. Right now, at the age of almost-but-not-quite-three, he has that knowledge; it has formed with him, knit into his very bones. I will always love him, even if he doesn't even like me back. (In hindsight, this might very well have been true of my marriage, also...No wonder THAT didn't work out.)

I was reminded of a conversation I'd had with my therapist a couple of months back. (Yes, I have a therapist. Everyone should. Engaging in talk therapy is like getting a pedicure for the soul.)

Anyway, I was, in garbled, tortured words clawing their way out of my throat, admitting my belief that everything good in my life is completely unearned. My job, my son, my friends, my family, all have been dropped into my lap. I've never done anything to deserve this wonderful life. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise to me when it all falls apart. I've been expecting it.

He said, in his quiet way, "Give me an example. Tell me about something you have that is good and why you think you don't deserve it."

"Eliot!" I said, immediately. "He is the sweetest, smartest, coolest kid on the planet, and I don't deserve to be his mother because I am a crappy parent. I've done nothing, nothing, nothing to cause him to be so wonderfully well behaved and chill. He just IS that way. Luck of the draw."

And Dr. ____, not to be persuaded by my self-defeating logic, replied, "Rachel. Your son is the way he is in large part because of the way you treat him. You are loving and calm and patient with him. His demeanor reflects that. He is a child who knows he is loved. You have done that."

And the tiniest crack appeared in my defeatist resolve as I pondered that new perspective. Maybe...nah....

"You don't give yourself enough credit," Dr. _____ said.

"I'm paying you to say that," I replied.


"No. Not you. I only just like my daddy."

I turned to smile at Eliot, who was strapped securely into his little car seat. He paused for a moment in his contemplation of the miniature, 1/64 scale John Deere 9870 STS combine clutched in both of his hands. He looked up at me. I said, "Buddy, that's okay too. That's perfectly okay."

And we drove on.



There are a lot of things I enjoy about being single, all of which are a total revelation to me, because I've never BEEN single. I met my husband when I was 16 years old. Sure, we had an on-again, off-again relationship for many years before we were married, but even during those years I never lived on my own. I moved straight from my childhood home, in which I slept for the most part with one or more sisters in the same room, if not in the same bed, to a dorm room with a roommate lying under me in our bunks every night, to an apartment with three roommates and constant overnight visitors sprawled on the couch, to a home and bed with Eli. Never was I alone. It occurs to me that I do not know how to be alone.

And I am not alone, not really. Most days and nights I have my insistent little shadow, following me even into the bathroom when I have to pee, demanding that I play "crashing darbies" or farm tractors, or sit and watch Dora the Explorer next to him on the couch. His toes dig into my stomach at night as he sleeps in my bed and I lie there not sleeping, listening to the marble-crunching sound of his grinding teeth.

So this weekend, while my son is with his father, I have been pretty much unprecedentedly alone. My time has been my own, which is nothing but strange to me. After work yesterday afternoon, I felt the panic of being set adrift, of not having anywhere in particular to be and no one to be responsible to. The simple fact of my presence not being expected or required anywhere was a most foreign, and a frightening feeling.

I woke up this morning, at 2:30 almost on the dot (no matter what time I retire or what medication I take before doing so, I always wake at 2:30 a.m. with no hope of getting any more rest), all alone in my bed in my quiet house that isn't really my house, this place of limbo and uncertainty. I lay there awake, staring at my pillow or the ceiling. It took me probably a good half hour of lying there before I realized that my insomnia wasn't disturbing anyone. There wasn't anyone but me there for it to disturb. I could get up. I could turn on all the lights in the house, crank up MY music, dance like mad. I could grab the nearest paperback and read until the sun came up and then sleep all day. I giggled out loud at the thought, and the volume of my laughter didn't matter either.

This morning I crawled out of bed at 8:30 and took a long shower while listening to the Shins. This evening I'm going out on the town, to eat and drink and see a production of Rent with a friend. It's exhilarating to discover that I have my own set of likes and dislikes and that I don't ever have to watch HG TV again if I don't want to.

A new friend asked me last week what my plans are now that I'm on my own. "What do you want to do?" he inquired. I thought about it for a moment, and said, "You know...I haven't the slightest idea. I guess the world is my oyster..."

He smiled and tilted his head a little confusedly and replied, "Of course it is, Rachel. It always has been."



I threw up guacamole last night.
I will probably never eat guacamole again.
I just felt the need the inexplicable need to share that.
That is all.
Peace, out!