I figured out early as a newly-widow that if I was going to drive this train, I would need some time exclusively for myself. It happened that my favorite yoga class was on Tuesday, and my therapist had time for me the same day, so Tuesdays became my “Charlotte Shabbat.” My initial Tuesday rule was this: “Unless you are, in fact, on fire AND I gave birth to you, it can wait until Wednesday.”
This standard worked well for me in the initial stages of my grieving process. I used Tuesdays for my own restoration. I did not pay bills or talk to lawyers or do laundry. Tuesdays came to represent my own indulgent, selfish and healing tendencies: yoga, therapy (sometimes retail therapy), and a table for one. I didn’t make lunch plans with anybody else. I would take myself wherever I felt like going at whatever time I was hungry. I was the only one in my family who liked sushi, so that often became my lunch of choice. Hence, Sushi Tuesdays.
I happen to enjoy the table for one. As much as I delight in the chaos and clutter that accompany kids and cats and dogs, I am also remarkably content with quiet time, meditation, yoga, going to the movies alone or eating out by myself. I usually bring a book. Sometimes I read it. I thoroughly enjoy lunch with girlfriends, but I don’t necessarily feel sorry for the person eating at a table by herself because, personally, I cherish that time too.
When Tim and I got married, I revised my Tuesday rule, because at that point I would, in fact, put aside whatever I was doing when my stepsons called. The rule at the boys’ high school, like most schools attempting to nurture responsible young adults, is that mom is not supposed to “save” the kid by delivering forgotten homework assignments or calculators or projects. But between you and me, when my freshman step-son called me for any reason at all, I dropped everything. Even if I missed yoga. Even if it meant that I would violate the school standard. Even if he was calling me a name that rhymes with stitch. Which, by the way, did not refer to my sense of humor. At least he was calling me something, which is better than not calling me at all. It was a place for our relationship to start.
He also happens to like sushi.
When he and I first began our own relationship, we found success in doing things that he hadn’t done with his mother, like baking, skiing and eating sushi. The first year Tim and I were married, we had four kids in two different schools, but ever since the boys have been in at least three schools. This year it’s four. I fear we will never have spring break together again. There are not a lot of advantages to this structure, but one perk has been those “early release” days when I get to take just one of my boys out to lunch. On whichever day of the week that happens to fall.
The kids are amused by the unintended “shit” in the middle of my SushiTuesdays. I think they like the excuse to swear in front of me. Last week my boy called to see if I wanted to go out to lunch for “Su-shit-Friday.” Even if I’ve already eaten lunch, I say yes, because honestly when your 18-year-old son (step or otherwise) asks you to lunch, what else is a girl to do? Even if he’s just hoping that you’ll pick up the tab.
Sushi for two has become our specialty.
Things have changed. Four years ago I was constantly near tears because I was afraid this child would never go away to college and that he would torture me with his teenage ‘tude in perpetuity. This year — his last in high school — I have spent in tears because he is good and ready to go. He has also, in recent months, started calling me “Ma.”
Meanwhile, some things stay the same. When this boy was a freshman and I picked him up from high school, he threw his backpack in to the trunk every afternoon, plopped into the car and exclaimed, “OMG, Charlotte, the teacher is CRAZY!” Which began our refrain, Did you do your homework? What exactly were the instructions? Can I buy you another purple pen? She might be crazy, but she’s still in charge.
As a senior, following his very last final exam (and before our sushi lunch), he bursts into the house, drops his backpack in the kitchen, and exclaims, “OMG, Charlotte, the teacher is CRAZY!” These are the times when my husband and I marvel at the fact that I didn’t, in fact, give birth to this boy. I’m the drama queen, and he’s the drama king.
My son heads off to the great state of Texas for college in less than a month. I am really going to miss the daily-ness of him, his exclamations and our conversations. I am not going to miss his crap lying all over the floor. (Okay, I might. But just a little.) And I am really looking forward to his phone calls, “Hey Ma — Texans are CRAZY!”
So now all my children are teenagers or in college (or both), and my relationship with each one is a priority as well as a challenge. As a result, my Tuesday rule looks more like this: Unless you are in fact on fire and either 1) I gave birth to you, 2) I married you, or 3) I married your father, then it can wait until Wednesday, or at least until after yoga, and possibly after therapy; provided, however, that if you are not quite on fire but you are one of the aforementioned individuals and you have the opportunity and inclination to spend time with me or to talk with me (long distance or in person), then I will drop everything to be with you and answer your call.
Which is altogether too complicated.
Instead, I will say simply that some rules are meant to be broken. Thank goodness.
Wishing you light and strength on your healing path. And a reason to share your Tuesday time.