I am not working so I’m pulling at this heavy, gold bedspread. It has a seam that needs to align with the top of the mattress. Once I heave that into place, I cram two pillows under one side of the fabric which folds back from the top. I do a lap to the other side of the king -sized bed and cram two more pillows under what I think is brocade but I don’t really even know. The overall overwrought nature of the thing is nothing I would have voluntarily invited into my life. But I am not working. Therefore, it is mine to tug at.
There are some business-y things to do. But laundry left in the dryer seems more immediate so I fold it. After all, there is no arrival or departure time. Therefore, I am available to tidy up.
Lillian and Delilah have been romping around in their new waterfront yard. But they’re staring in the window now, wondering how I could possibly come home from my morning run, to this beautiful place and be crabby. Their puzzled little mugs at the window make me laugh and I let them in and feed them.
After that, I empty the dishwasher. The pit in my stomach returns.
I’m stacking cups and I can feel the little black swirl forming over my head. I try to breathe it away. But it is determined. It sees the reality. It knows I am available. It knows that I am repulsed by my own being. It knows that I am becoming a housewife.
It’s dinner time and I’ve made us a healthy meal. I ask Jon about his day negotiating with real estate owners, sellers and buyers. He tells me what went on in the office. He makes it all seem easy.
He asks about my day. I wrote a few emails. A heron landed in the yard. The girls have been chasing bunnies. They ran circles around the pond then ambushed me when I walked out on the deck. I don’t like that gold brocade bedspread. I hear the words coming out of my mouth. How did I go from, “I interviewed Colin Powell today,” to doing play-by-play of my dogs’ antics? I think that I am not the woman he fell in love with, nor am I the person I used to like.
How in God’s name could this have happened?
If I give myself a break for a second, I know exactly how it happened.
It happened like this. I was working on my own as a writer/producer, running my own company. I met Jon. I had a weak financial moment and took a full time corporate job, rendering me unable to keep up my own business. Jon and I got engaged. In just six months’ time the corporation decided to “go in another direction.” I went back to my own company, which now needs re-building.
We bought a house. Somewhere between combining households, planning a wedding and starting my business almost from scratch, I lost the person who once silenced a room full of Marines with a single phrase, the person who chased an ambassador through the lobby of an embassy, who – long ago – asked then-Senator John Edwards to declare his presidential aspirations to me, on camera. It was a Sunday and I was severely under-dressed. “C’mon, declare your candidacy to the girl in the shorts and the t-shirt,” I said. At least he laughed.
I pray that this house-wifing is only a phase. If you were one of the people annoyed by the Hillary Clinton “stay home and bake cookies” comment, this probably irks you. But know this: I am very, very bad at baking cookies. House-wifing is just not me.
Colonel (ret.) Greg Gadson starts talking about stepping into the unknown.
I hear Greg say this because I am transcribing interviews I did with him and COL (ret.) Chuck Schretzman about their longtime friendship. About how Chuck supported Greg when he lost his legs in Iraq and now Greg is in the rock position, while Chuck learns to cope with a horrible diagnosis. I am typing and typing and it feels futile because this project – this supposed, eventual documentary – has no funding and few prospects. It is labor intensive with no promised reward. It is a great story. But we don’t know, exactly, how it ends.
Greg talks about searching for a “waypoint,” following the loss of his legs. Chuck calls his diagnosis an “opportunity” to say goodbye properly. To do it well. They each have received gifts, they say.
I reach down and scratch Lillian’s head. Delilah gives me her signature poke in the shin. The typing makes me have to stretch my legs. I walk into the bedroom. The gold brocade has vanished.
My gifts, my opportunities, are more subtle, I decide. I have been given love. I have been given time. As I wrestle each to its unfamiliar core, I struggle to pin down the possibilities.
I go back to my desk, and settle into my own unknown.